Joey Solimini freely admits that his mother, as supportive as she is, can’t handle watching his wrestling matches.
“She thinks they are too violent,” said Solimini with a chuckle. “I have to remind her that it’s just a bump on the head.”
Few could have guessed that it was, in fact, a discussion between Solimini’s mother and another parent five years ago that would give birth to a lifelong passion for the Andover High senior.
“My friend and his mom talked to my mom and they got me into middle school wrestling,” said Solimini. “That’s how I got started. My friend doesn’t wrestle anymore, but I love it.”
Solimini is now a star for the Andover High wrestling team, excelling in the 160-pound weight class this winter.
“Joey is just non-stop,” said Golden Warriors coach Sobhan Namvar. “He is a very hard worker and just goes and goes. He’s a man of few words, but he leads by example and is the kind of person you want your team to follow.”
While Solimini enjoyed wrestling in middle school, he admits he was hardly a star in his first years on the mats.
“I really liked it,” he said. “You got to fight your friends on the mats and it wasn’t looked down on by the parents. So that was fun.
“But I wasn’t that great at first. I was kind of overweight and didn’t take things too seriously. I was about the same weight, but I was also about a foot shorter and not in great shape through probably my freshman year.”
Heading into his sophomore season, however, Namvar noticed a major change.
“If you saw him coming out of middle school and as a freshman he was a different kid,” said the coach. “He has really worked to transform his body and shape. And he is never satisfied. He keeps working more and getting better.”
After cracking the lineup at times as a sophomore, Solimini earned a permanent spot in the Golden Warriors’ lineup last winter at 152 pounds. Highlights included a victory by pin in 1:17 against Everett, another quick pin against Billerica, a tough pin in 3:28 vs. Chelsmford and two victories at sectionals.
This offseason, Solimini took his training to another level, when he began working out with the elite wrestling club “Smitty’s Wrestling Barn” in Danville, N.H. The club frequently produces state champs from New England powerhouses including Timberlane (N.H.).
“I gained a lot of strength, and the Barn really helped that,” he said. “There are so many kicks there. There are state champions in every weight class, so even doing drills with those guys is really intimidating.”
But he says the most intimidating wrestler he has ever faced is his coach.
“Coach Sobhan is the best I have ever gone against,” he said. “He is amazing.”
Namvar shares a great deal of respect for his pupil.
“When the spotlight is on him he does all of the right things,” said the coach. “He has a real character and work ethic you want people to follow, and he continues to work to become a better wrestler. He should have a very good year.”
Solimini plans to do everything he can to end his high school career with a bang.
“Practice can be so hard,” he said. “But when you get through it and you have done it with your team, it all feels like it’s worth