TOWNSHIP OF ALEXANDRIA – One by one, each wrestler gently placed a white rose with purple ribbons on an empty chair near the edge of the mat. The gym turned off, but a lamp stretched over the chair illuminated the flowers, apparently causing the pedals to twinkle from a distance.
Several balloons, including half a dozen purple balloons, were attached to purple cones in the background. A few yards away, many in the crowded student section were sporting purple neon lights around their necks. Purple everywhere – dyed hair, a Minnesota Vikings jersey, a dress, a Toronto Raptors jersey, Clemson University and James Madison University shirts.
Wednesday meant more than a color. Purple basically says we all love you and we will never forget you and you are in our hearts forever. It sort of acted as a group hug for all of those suffering within the Delaware Valley High School community affected by the tragedy at the start of New Years Day.
Liam Newman, 17, a senior with the wrestling and lacrosse teams, was killed in a car crash reported at 5:29 a.m. Jan. 1 on Highway 513 at kilometer 4.6, according to New Jersey State Police . The accident remains under investigation.
Newman’s favorite color was purple. So the call went down the halls and on social media to don the purple and show up at the home game against Bernards to honor the teammate everyone loved.
On Thursday morning, a GoFundMe page raised over $ 67,500 to help the Newman family through this difficult time. Those interested can click here to donate.
“It was heartwarming because there were a lot of people who cared about Liam,” said Sam Kirkpatrick, senior and friend. “He still cares about him. There are a lot of people he has had a positive impact on in his life and it makes me happy to see all of these people come out to show their support.
“He was a very nice person. He was nice to everyone and especially to wrestling, he always complimented me on what I had done in my games. Even though it was little things, it meant a lot. He really made you feel good about yourself. “
In wrestling-mad Hunterdon County, Newman didn’t start participating until his sophomore year and quickly absorbed the sport.
“I remember when he first came to summer training after his freshman year,” said Del Val coach Andy Fitz, “and I looked at the team and thought to myself : ‘Do you want this kid on the team?’ And everyone said unanimously yes, we love Liam. Everyone loved him. It’s very hard to explain. He didn’t hang out with one clique of kids. He hung out with several types of kids. different kids. He got along very well with adults. The teachers are heartbroken here. “
After the crash, the wrestling team’s first meeting was held on Monday during emotional training, in which Fitz said he “spoke from the heart” of Liam.
“Trying to talk about life and being good teammates and being good people is more important than winning or losing,” Fitz said. “We’re about team and family – being good people every day. Times like this make it easy for us to get around the cars. Support our teammates. Support the Newman family in that case.”
He added: “It’s been a tough week.”
Tuesday, training went a little better. Wednesday, in some ways, seemed normal at first.
It was the night of the Delaware Valley Youth Wrestling and several pint-sized grapplers wearing purple pearls were recognized ahead of the game with the stands nearly full on both sides.
However, the Dog Pound, the loud student section of the school, usually creates a buzz upon leaving college. They stood up on Wednesday, but it looked like a study room in a library as each wrestler placed a flower on the chair for their teammate, then ran across the mat for a brief, moderate warm-up.
The crowd cheered after the last flower, but remained silent. Van Halen’s “Right Now” – the Terriers’ entry song since 1998 – played through the speakers. The lyrics implore people not to waste time and get it right now, hallmarks of Newman.
“Liam was the epitome of a phrase that I love – be nice to everyone and do your best,” Fitz said. “And that’s what he did. It was just a pleasure to talk to him. Friendly to everyone and whatever he does, he gave his all.”
In many ways, Newman represented the very best in wrestling and in the Delaware Valley, one of the state’s most famous programs. The low enrollment Group 1 school has almost 60 wrestlers on the team, far more than some schools in Group 4. Newman, however, was not a superstar or a rookie. He didn’t start wrestling when he was a kid. Simply, he came out as a teenager and continued to work, improve and grind, the real goal of high school athletics.
As a senior, the 215-pounder could have easily stopped to spend time doing a number of things. Wrestling isn’t the easiest sport after all, to keep going when you don’t get the glory. He did.
“He was finally starting to understand the sport,” said Fitz. “We had a season cut short by COVID last year, so he finally had enough time on the mat to figure things out. I really liked that. He was truly a student of the sport.”
Fitz said he would make you laugh, but “he had a serious side. He really, in this case, took the sport very seriously.”
Fitz then burst out with a smile.
“Of course,” he said. “He also had a light side.”
On Wednesday, the crowd turned noisy at times when the Terriers beat the Bernards 52-15, winning 10 of 14 games, including three forfeit wins. At 132, Kirkpatrick won his match 15-2. Brayden Schneider (150), Chris Colasurdo (157), Noah Sheeley (165), Anderson Olcott (175), Trevor Bowen (190) and Matt Schneider (215) also had wins.
“Liam was always trying to make himself and everyone around him better,” Kirkpatrick said. “I feel like the team did well tonight and we made him proud.”
When it was over, the wrestlers and coaches entered the training hall. Fitz noted that Bernards expressed several wishes for happiness and gave a card signed by the team.
After each win, coaches select someone to change the win number of the all-time program on a sign that reads “Tradition of Excellence”. Without thinking, the honor went to Liam’s brother Evan, a sophomore on the team, who rose to No.806.
There were a few hugs and glowing eyes, and Evan Newman in his purple T-shirt walked out with the flowers, still bright.
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Andy Mendlowitz is a sports reporter for MyCentralJersey.com. For unlimited access to local news throughout central Jersey, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.