By NICK KOSKO
There is a basement filled with dumbbells, a multi-purpose workout machine, a bed, a television, an old gaming system — and of course — a wrestling mat.
In this basement, music blasts at the highest volume and weights clang together. For Egg Harbor Township senior Dan Wollermann, this represents an old-school mentality.
For Wollermann, there is no need for a fancy gym that will sell you a $5 protein smoothie as you walk out the door. All he needs is music and weights to pick up and put back down.
Whether it is a quick lifting session or even taking a chance to move the wrestling mat around and practice moves, Wollermann is never afraid to put in the extra work.
Growing up with four other siblings can make for a crowded house, but not when all of them are a tight-knit group and each is other’s best support system. Wollermann is the second youngest of five: Steven, Lauren, Eric, himself and Jason.
It is the support from his siblings and his parents, Steve and Kathy, that has molded Wollermann into the blue-collar worker he became on the football field and the wrestling mat throughout his athletic career at Egg Harbor Township High School.
“My dad has always told me you have to work for what you want,” Wollermann said. “Really, my whole family has reinforced that idea into my head because life is never going to just hand you things.”
The road to starting position at center on the offensive line and at 160 pounds in the varsity wrestling lineup was not easy. Wollermann, at least for football, was considered undersized to mix it up with the big boys in the trenches.
That never stopped his determination to reach his goals — and then some — during his senior year. Wollermann eventually started at linebacker as well.
Wrestling, meanwhile, has turned into a magical year for the Eagles, who won their first Cape-Atlantic League American Conference championship since 2012 by taking down St. Augustine Prep.
“I’ve had a lot of fun this year,” Wollermann said. “We’ve all just been working together more and more, and we’ve become more of a family this season. When that happens, we work really well together and I really enjoy that.”
Wollermann knows what it means to work. Until this season, he has been in and out of head coach Mike Caiazza’s lineup during dual meets, usually because Caiazza is playing the matchups, and he has yet to wrestle in the individual postseason.
Wollermann understands that wrestling is a team sport until late February, and sometimes he might have to sit if it helps the team win.
“The way I see it is that I need to keep my head up and keep working hard,” Wollermann said. “I am never going to give up because I wasn’t put in when I wanted to be put in, because I understand it is a team sport in the end and I want what is best for everybody.”
After going through the entire season at 160 pounds, Wollermann was bumped out of the lineup against St. Augustine Prep in the CAL-clinching match due to a change in the Hermits’ lineup.
“When I heard about the change, I knew coach Caiazza was going to bump someone out and it happened to be me,” Wollermann said. “I was frustrated at first, but again, I’ve always wanted what is best for the team and that didn’t take away from how sweet it was to beat them and win the title. Everybody — whether they were wrestling or on the bench that day — was happy for a big win.”
“We had to basically play it like a chess match and I thought we would still be able to wrestle Dan that night, but it didn’t turn out that way,” Caiazza said. “I was disappointed he didn’t get to wrestle in a match like that, but I was proud of the way he took it in stride and was very vocal and supportive of the team.”
Through it all, Caiazza said any school would be lucky to have a hard working athlete such as Wollermann.
“He is probably the hardest working kid in the room,” Caiazza said. “He may be quiet, but when he speaks up, everyone stops and listens because he has earned that respect from the team. Teams need a kid like Dan in their lineup because they probably wouldn’t function without a kid like him.”
When looking for a consistent aspect in Wollermann’s life, look no further than a set of bleachers at EHT or any other high school, as there will be at least another Wollermann yelling and cheering loud.
Older brother Eric, a 2014 Egg Harbor Township graduate and former star linebacker and region-qualifying wrestler at 182 pounds, usually will make the trip out to most matches despite his college schedule.
Eric, a current wrestler on Rowan University’s club team, was a senior when Dan was an incoming freshman and was introduced to high school wrestling.
“I’m very proud of him for working so hard to get to this point,” Eric said. “When he first stepped into that wrestling room, it was different from football because wrestling is up-close and personal and we were able to connect more. I got to teach him things and help push him to be his best, and now he has molded into his own and has been successful because he put all of that work in.”
“If I ever got down after a bad practice or match, he has always there to help me out and say to me ‘there is always tomorrow, get even better tomorrow,’” Dan said. “It was a lot of fun having him in the room for that one year because I knew even after that, he and the rest of my family would still be my biggest support system.”
Even Caiazza noticed the similarities between the brothers as the younger one started to adjust at the high school level.
“They are different but also very much the same,” Caiazza said. “I really only compare them based on their work ethic, which was great throughout their careers. They both overcame tough junior years to go on and have successful senior seasons. Dan has gotten that mentality from his brother and the rest of his family.”
Dan’s plans after graduation are not solidified yet, but he no doubt will work hard to achieve whatever his goals turn out to be.
“I haven’t decided on school yet, but obviously the goal is to earn a degree in whatever field I choose,” Wollermann said. “Whether I play football or wrestle somewhere is another thing, but I will put forth the same effort as I always have to continue to get better every day.”
“He’s definitely prepared for the next level wherever he goes,” Eric said. “With his great work ethic, I have no doubt he’ll succeed at whatever he wants to do.”
As Wollermann gets his chance at the District 30 tournament, he said he would make the most of the opportunity. Of course, in the stands at Clearview Regional High School for the start of the individual postseason, Wollermann will have his cheering section.
“With them being there, it always gives me that extra motivational boost to push myself,” Wollermann said. “I’m going to go out there and give it my all.”
Contact Nick Kosko on Twitter @nickkosko59
By NICK KOSKO