Steve Rivera has a deep passion for wrestling. He also has a passion for winning. Combine these two topics and you get one thing: Elite Wrestling.
On Wednesday, Elite Wrestling officially opened its doors at its Toms River location, and special guest was there to celebrate the grand opening.
Located at 1740 Lakewood Road (across from Insectroplis) Elite Wrestling's mission is to train future MMA and wrestling champions.
Students of all ages and experience levels participated in an hour and a half training session instructed by owner Rivera.
In addition to grappling and hammer locks Elite Wrestling had one more item on the agenda for the evening: MMA fighter,a former Rivera student and Toms River East graduate.
He was at the event to show his support for the wrestling club. Edgar, who has been wrestling since seventh grade, spoke briefly about what it means to be at Elite on opening night.
"I started through this program with Steve Rivera, he's a good friend of mine; he was out my wedding and he still comes out with me at UFC as a part of my team," Edgar said. "Warren Reed is here with a few East wrestlers too and it's good to have the local wrestlers out."
Edgar, who is having his next fight on May 28, said there is sure to be some fireworks at the match.
Rivera said Edgar and Reed show that Toms River is the place to expand Elite Wrestling.
"It’s a perfect timing to open the place," said Rivera. "The town has so much wrestling tradition and everybody's got to leave the town to go to wrestling clubs. It’s the right thing to do for my history and the town seems like it's been waiting for this."
As soon as you walk into the facility you are met by Rivera, who meets and greets all the wrestlers.
Rivera, who had been wrestling since he was 5, spoke about what opening night was all about.
"It's about coming back and giving back to Warren Reed," said Rivera. "When I started Elite over 10 years ago Warren (Reed, High School East wrestling coach) was the one who let me borrow the mats, he helped me setup at the U-Haul place and now with years gone past I've always wanted to give back to Toms River. When I got the opportunity to come back to Toms River, I closed Hamilton to come here."
Rivera said that he spent seven years at the Toms River Wrestling Club and was excited about working with a group with winning experience.
"I was excited just to get back in town!" said Rivera.
On opening night the club had a pretty good showing with limited advertising. Rivera said he had students he has worked with years ago who stopped by just to help out.
When asked about what Elite Wrestling is Rivera spoke about the motto behind the mat: "I stick with the same motto all the way around: Embrace the Grind."
"Wrestling is a tough sport, but the best part about wrestling is winning and the only way to get there is being embracing the grind; going through the workouts, putting in the pain and sacrifices that it takes. At the end of the day you know you're prepared and it usually works out pretty good for us here at Elite. We have a pretty good tradition of winning and our secret is working hard." said Rivera.
The workout itself is an intense hour and half training session. All the competitors work on many aspects of wrestling with training and workouts combined and split into two 45-minute sessions.
Rivera said that the wrestlers only get a four-minute break and then they're back on the mat. The first 15 minutes of the day was reserved for warm-ups.
Pummeling drills were among some of the moves worked on in the first few minutes along with basic stretching maneuvers. The whole time wrestlers are on the mat Rivera is offering words of encouragement and tips while you practice.
After rounds of working on the mat Rivera then holds a small demonstration with one of his students. Rivera works on basic take-downs with the group and the importance of the mechanics of a take-down.
After which the group broke into partners and began working on the moves learned in the demo. The group then worked on tips Rivera taught during the second half of the session, where he reinforced the importance practice.
Rivera also added one more piece of advice for all of his wrestlers: "Believe in your ability to be the best. I was always an underdog myself and some of my guys who came through my system were underdogs too and at the end of the day their preparation has brought them to the top."