Photo: David Baghdady after winning the Reno Worlds championship
Say the name of certain Belmont families and you immediately associate it with what they do: French and construction; Shea and law enforcement, Muzzioli, landscaping (and hockey); and Flett with development and heavy equipment, to mention just a few.
And while they have become successful in real estate, say the name Baghdady in Belmont, and the image that’s conjured up is of wrestling glory.
When banners were hanging in the Wenner Field House at Belmont High School, an entire corner of the gym was a visual litany of the Baghdady’s prowess on the wrestling mat: league, state and region champions from the 1980s till today. And those honors include a national title won by Samir Baghdady in 1991.
And the family’s legacy continues from father to son as David, Samir’s son, is making a name for himself at the young age of 10. Earlier this month, the Chenery Middle School 5th-grader won the Reno Worlds, a prestigious national tournament, by defeating the number-one ranked wrestler in the country from Pennsylvania in the Under 10 Boys, 85-pound division.
“I was a little bit nervous but then when I was wrestling I was fine,” said David during a recent interview about his week in Nevada.
The finals, comprised of three 90-second periods, was a tactical affair, with David scoring a two-point takedown in the first period and then gaining a point early in the third to go up 3-0. His opponent – who had won four national tournaments before Reno – earned his lone point as David was called for stalling but never got a chance to score as David had his leg in a hold when the match ended.
“Honestly, it feels awesome,” said David of his victory. “Now, every day, I can walk into my room, and I can see my trophy.” His first-place trophy, including a massive bald eagle statue, caused a stir among Starbucks customers during the interview.
While he is a naturally shy 10-year-old with a happy smile whose favorite subject is maths; on the mat, David will turn most of his opponents into a pretzel in short order. David quickly dispatched his challengers in his four preliminary matches before the Reno finals with pins. So it’s little surprise to learn that David is a four-time Massachusetts and two-time New England winner.
Baghdady began learning freestyle wresting at four and placed second in his first competition at six. His day comprises daily exercises and practice in New Hampshire, Lawrence and Natick. He’s learning to improve his skill set as everyone in his group has the basics down.
“It’s who has more technique, the more toughness and who’s stronger with more speed” who will come out on top, said David.
Compared to the wrestling meccas such as Pennsylvania, any number of Midwest states, and the west coast, Massachusetts is an outlier in the sport, one where there are just not the numbers or expertise especially at the younger age groups. For that reason, Baghdady travels throughout New England and the eastern seaboard to tourneys looking for competition up to his skill level.
And Baghdady’s talent is in demand, with all-star teams across the country wanting him to wrestle for them in upcoming tournaments. He was recently invited to participate in an elite dual-team meet in Virginia Beach in July after taking part in a large regional competition this month in Rochester. His next goal is to wrestle in the Super32 in North Carolina, “which is one of the toughest in the world.”
Some could see this focus on a sport as blocking out new activities that many of his age first experience in middle school.
But Baghdady, who lives with his parents and four siblings, doesn’t feel that he is missing out with his schedule filled with this activity.
“I honestly don’t care if I miss something for wrestling. I’m not really an instrument or play guy,” he said.
For Samir, if his son is excited and energetic about the sport, “I leave it up to him” whether he continues. “The other day, he said to me, ‘Dad, if I weren’t wrestling, I’d be sitting at home watching TV and playing video games’.”
David points out that wrestling has allowed him to travel throughout the country – David will list off that impressive number on demand – and make friends with fellow grapplers in far-flung places such as Hawaii and Florida.
“It’s been great,” said Baghdady.