Frank Molinaro’s Gorilla Hulk Camp Keeps Wrestlers in Line After July 4th
It was fitting that the first-ever Gorilla Hulk Wrestling Camp be held at Southern Regional High School, the school its founder attended, where he fought to become New Jersey state champion three times before continuing a career that culminated with an NCAA National Championship in the 149-pound spot at Penn State University last year.
Frank Molinaro led the coaching of about 75 wrestling hopefuls who attended the three-day camp, from July 6 to July 8, ranging from ages 8 to high schoolers. Troy Letters joined him in instruction; Letters is another NCAA national champion, now head coaching at Clarion University.
Students came from as close as Southern Regional’s decorated wrestling program and the Mat Warriors wrestling club in Manahawkin, and as far as the Bayshore Youth Athletic Association in Middletown, where Molinaro grew up, as well as other parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Gorilla Hulk Wrestling Camps takes its name from one of Molinaro’s many aliases at Penn State, which also included “Frank the Tank.” Both of them seem to have been influenced by Molinaro’s short stature, which allowed for more muscle bulk to fill out his 149 pounds while there. That came from a lot of power lifting, something the camp focused on as well as elite-level technique, functional wrestling strength, nutritional seminars and more.
The website for the camps, ghulkcamps.com, was completed only recently, and events were not meant to begin this year. However, in talking with Southern Regional wrestling coach Brian Stout, Molinaro became convinced a camp could be pulled off this summer.
“We got the facilities, got the mats, got counselors, clinicians, and everything worked out well,” said Molinaro. “This wasn’t one of our intensive camps. It was more geared towards instruction, motivation and game planning for the kids. The good thing is we were able to bring two national champions and give over four hours of instruction for three days straight. It was great for the kids.”
Some youngsters’ game plan might include aspirations of representing the United States at the Olympics – a dream Molinaro hoped to make a reality last year immediately after winning the national championship, though he could not make the final Olympic trial due to injury. In February, the International Olympic Committee voted to remove wrestling from its list of summer events. It will be featured in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 but not in the 2020 games. Molinaro spoke about how the IOC’s decision affected him.
“At first I was shocked. Then, once I found more information about it, I was angry, and now it’s to the point where I’m motivated to try to help and do what I can to help the cause. I feel hopeful now. There’s been a lot done – I’ve heard a lot of things; I’ve talked to a lot of people. I’m pretty hopeful it’ll get reinstated, but at the same time I fear the dreadful news that could possibly come sooner than later. I’m just trying to stay positive at this point.”
“Gorilla Hulk’s” connection to New Jersey has extended to his ongoing professional career as the assistant coach for Rutgers University’s Scarlet Knights wrestling team last year.
“I think we have a really great group of young guys right now. We only got a couple upperclassmen on the team. I think this team is already molding together and working hard, and the future is bright for Rutgers as far as recruiting classes, new facilities, moving into the Big 10 division, and some of the proactive moves we’re making now.
“I’m excited to lay my roots in New Jersey, and I look forward to bringing excitement to Rutgers University and building it to the point where people in New Jersey are proud to say they’re fans of Rutgers wrestling, and people want to come to the matches and are buzzing about Rutgers wrestling. That’s ultimately where I want to be – maybe not to the magnitude of Penn State right away, but that’s what we strive for, and that’s what I strive for, and there’s been nothing but steps forward. And I feel good about that, and I feel good about the future.”
This won’t stop Molinaro from returning to Southern Regional each summer with a Gorilla Hulk Wrestling Camp. “We hope to continue to grow every year, continue to make it bigger and do a couple of these in New Jersey next year. We want to hit as many parts of New Jersey as we can and really maximize the opportunity.”
— Michael Molinaro