Young wrestlers from all over Nassau County hit the mat with former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman on Saturday at an event where they learned tips on how to take on a bigger opponent: drug use.
Nassau County police, with Wantagh-based Friends of Long Island Wrestling, hosted the first Wrestling Takes Down Drugs event, at which children were taught about the dangers of vaping and the opioid epidemic.
“If you want to be the next Chris Weidman, you do that by staying on the straight and narrow,” Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder told dozens of young wrestlers at the event, held at Nassau Community College. “You do that by telling other kids drugs are no good for you.”
Ryder, who wrestled and coached at Lynbrook High School, talked about how vaping affects the body and warned that the damage it does to the lungs would affect their performance on the mat. Other Nassau officers explained how addiction affects the brain and told parents how to spot the physical signs of opioid abuse, which include constricted pupils, droopy eyelids and depressed reflexes.
Nassau police are planning to hold similar events this year with athletes from other sports, Ryder said.
Ryder and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran also introduced this year’s Nassau County high school wrestling champions. The teens then grappled, swinging each other onto the mat as Weidman critiqued their form.
“You cannot do drugs and do what they’ve done,” Weidman told the children about this year’s high school champions.
Weidman, a Baldwin native who was an All-America wrestler at Nassau Community College and Hofstra University, then demonstrated a couple of takedown moves. In one, he tangled a man into a headlock and somersaulted to pin him. In another, he gripped the man from behind his knee and swung both himself and the man onto their backs.
“We’re just looking to have a huge impact on young kids, young wrestlers and to teach them a little bit about how bad those drugs are for them and how they don’t want to get started,” Weidman said.
Junito Palomino, 14, of Levittown, said he learned a lot at the event, both about the chemistry of addiction and some new techniques from Weidman.
“I think it taught a lot of kids about what not to do — that you have to say no to drugs and how it can affect you long-term,” Palomino said.
Stephen Anderson of Carle Place brought his three sons to Saturday’s program so they could learn some new wrestling techniques. He said he also hoped it would help steer them away from drugs.
“Chris Weidman as a local guy is an inspiration to a lot of young kids,” Anderson said. “I think it’s important that they be aware what drugs there are out there.”