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Commitment to excellence

  • The Doughboy Wrestling Club in Lowell, Massachusetts brings a slew of elite grapplers to its practices a few times a week, like ConVal’s Daniel Curran, center.    Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Doughboy Wrestling Club in Lowell, Massachusetts brings a slew of elite grapplers to its practices a few times a week. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Doughboy Wrestling Club in Lowell, Massachusetts brings a slew of elite grapplers to its practices a few times a week. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Doughboy Wrestling Club in Lowell, Massachusetts brings a slew of elite grapplers to its practices a few times a week. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Doughboy Wrestling Club in Lowell, Massachusetts brings a slew of elite grapplers to its practices a few times a week. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Doughboy Wrestling Club in Lowell, Massachusetts brings a slew of elite grapplers to its practices a few times a week. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Doughboy Wrestling Club in Lowell, Massachusetts brings a slew of elite grapplers to its practices a few times a week. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The Doughboy Wrestling Club in Lowell, Massachusetts brings a slew of elite grapplers to its practices a few times a week. Staff photo by Ben Conant—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Friday, August 11, 2017

Drive by the Doughboy Wrestling Club’s headquarters and you likely wouldn’t even know there was anything out of the ordinary going on up on the second floor of one of Lowell’s historic mill buildings. Climb the steps, and you’re in a hallway lined with wrestling photos and framed newspaper clippings. Once you crack the heavy metal sliding door and peer into the gym, you know you’re in the right place. On this hot August night, about forty high-school-aged boys packed into the padded room, hip hop blaring from a boombox perched on a windowsill. School’s out for the summer, and these kids would have been well within their rights to spend that Thursday night with friends, goofing off and milking all they could from their last month of freedom before a return to academics. Instead, they’re spandex-clad, grappling with partners on a mat growing ever slicker as the summertime sweat pools, working to improve their wrestling for a high school season still nearly four months away.

“I think it speaks volumes to the individuals themselves,” said Doughboy founder and coach Mike Marshall. “A lot of like-minded kids that want to get to a better spot, that want to be better.”

Marshall is a Lowell native who found his ticket out of the inner city in the form of wrestling; his high school prowess earned him a spot on the Arizona State wrestling team, where his Sun Devils won three straight PAC-10 championships. Now, he’s back in Lowell, where he’s a member of the police department, and since 2003, where he’s run the Doughboy Wrestling Club.

“There’s nothing better than fighting, working hard, and seeing the results, it just drew me,” Marshall said. “I was a three-sport athlete but being an inner-city kid, having that opportunity to work hard and see accomplishment was what drew me to it.”

Marshall’s mission is to help kids use wrestling to get them into college. And while for some, an athletic track to higher education might be more appealing, it isn’t any easier.

“The environment is strict, it’s consistent and it’s successful,” Marshall said. “You look to the left, you look to the right and everybody’s doing the same thing, you’re going to push yourself. ”

The prestigious program draws athletes from around the area, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Some, like ConVal wrestler Daniel Curran of Peterborough, make a three-hour round trip a couple times a week in search of competition they can’t find in a high school practice — especially in the summer offseason.

“In any given practice, I’ll wrestle against state champions and state placers and against coaches who wrestled DI in college,” Curran said. “It’s just that level of competition that I can find. And it’s no cut to ConVal to say that they don’t have multiple state champions and placers, it’s just a fact.”

Curran dominated New Hampshire competition in his junior year, but in a ConVal practice, he had just one teammate to wrestle who was close to his 182-lb. weight class. And, he said, unless someone new comes out of the woodwork in his upcoming senior year, he might not have anyone at all his size in practices. Given New Hampshire high school sizes, that’s not unusual, but Curran, who has his eyes on a New England title, has been seeking this competitive edge since he was a middle schooler running through undefeated seasons.

“One of the greatest things about going to Doughboy is that I get to compete against high level competition in an environment that doesn’t matter,” Curran said. “So I can take a wild shot or try a new technique at a level that I would only get in actual competition, rather than practice, and I get to see how it’s actually going to function against the opponent, but simultaneously not have any repercussions for failing which I probably will in the first several times that I do that.”

Marshall takes pride in helping his wards achieve their goals, both in the ring and out. The club hands out scholarships every year — over 60 have been awarded by now — and athletes he coached as youths are now grown up, with families and careers, and he couldn’t be prouder. He hopes Curran, who’s targeting West Point as his post-high-school plan, will be one of his next success stories.

“He’s really matured,” Marshall said. “I really think he has an opportunity – we have to fix a few little things, but he has the will and the power – I think he can win a New England title this year, that’s how good he is. And he follows it up in school. He’s going to put himself in a good position academically ... He’s looking at one of the high end military academies — it’s useless if you don’t utilize what you’ve been learning in the sport in other areas of your life.”

Curran is fully aware of the benefits his commitment has garnered him.

“[Doughboy is] the reason that I've improved so much over the past several years,” Curran said, “and they're the reason that I think I'm going to improve so much over this year. Whether or not I win a state title or a New England title or whatever I get, if I get it, I'm going to improve not only as a wrestler, but also as a person, because I'm going to be stronger and I'm going to have pushed through more.”