Ninth-grader Calvin Germinaro is growing into his place on the family wrestling tree.
The nephew of Olympian Brandon Paulson, a three-time Minnesota state champion, and the grandson of longtime Anoka High School volunteer coach Doug Paulson, Germinaro has top-caliber talent and coaching acumen in his corner.
Germinaro, who enters his second season wrestling varsity for Anoka, has size and physique that his grandfather, who has coached 16 national champions in his career, says is ahead of the curve for his age.
Any pressure to live up to the family tradition, though, is exceeded by Germinaro’s expectations for himself.
“I want to win every match and wrestle my best, looking forward to the state tournament. From there, nationals [in 2014] and another year,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard training, keeping my weight and smart wrestling.”
He’s coming off an impressive 2013. In March he placed third at 112 pounds in the MN/USA Wrestling Kids and Cadets State Folkstyle Championships. Then, after a full summer of tournaments, he won the 2013 ASICS/USA Wrestling Kids Freestyle and Greco Nationals at 112 pounds, making quick work of most of his opponents en route to both titles.
Training under the same tutelage that helped launch Brandon Paulson toward an Olympic silver medal, Germinaro aspires to one-up his uncle and win four Minnesota state high school championships.
Arguably the hardest title to win will be his first. The field at 113 pounds this season that is fuller than usual with talented upperclassmen.
Step one in his quest is sticking strictly to Grandpa Paulson’s 30-year-old philosophy of participating in at least 100 matches a year. Steps two and three include winning against the country’s best in his age and weight range at nationals, and working with the best in the state year-round at Uncle Brandon’s gym.
Within a seemingly individual sport like wrestling, Germinaro understands the importance of the team. Whether challenging a teammate who is two or three weight classes above him or pushing himself through another round of conditioning, he has seen the importance and benefit of leadership.
Last year, with the team sitting in front of him, Anoka coach Todd Springer asked who wanted to be a team captain. Germinaro stood up.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had an eighth-grader stand up to be a captain. He watches the upperclassmen now. He wants to be in that leadership role,” Springer said.
While it can be hard for athletes in any sport to find ways to measure themselves throughout the year, Germinaro has the advantages of knowing his toughest competition personally. They’re his buddies, the guys he practices year-round with at PINacle Gym. That familiarity turns major tournament matches into mere showcases of what happens during the offseason grind.
“It gets in your mind, and it gets into your confidence level; believing that you’re at that level. There’s really nothing holding him back, he doesn’t back down from anybody,” Springer said.
Training and athleticism will only go so far in a sport like wrestling. To excel, a wrestler needs pure drive and an unrivaled joy for the sport.
After coaching his grandson over the years, Doug Paulson proudly shares that Germinaro is a gym rat and a mat junkie, but also that his grandson has come a long way. Just three years ago, Paulson said, he had no hope for his grandson’s future in wrestling.
“He never placed at state. He kept going out, but it never caught on,’’ Doug Paulson said. “All of a sudden, in two years, a light came on. He’s developing into a very good wrestler.”