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PAC-10 High School Wrestling District 1

Parvanti Dominque has found refuge in Boyertown

by Don Seeley, Pottstown Mercury Sports Editor

Posted on December 14, 2010

Parvanti Dominque knew very, very little about wrestling, actually never even saw a wrestling match, growing up in Haiti. Like most of his friends, basketball and soccer were his games.

So when Dominque held off Upper Moreland's Sebastian Medina, 3-2, in his varsity debut during the second round of the Brian Bealer Memorial Bear Duals last Saturday, it was impossible not to notice the smile, the joy that overwhelmed him - as well as all his Boyertown teammates - when the his arm was raised to acknowledge the victory.

"That was a great moment," Boyertown assistant coach Tony Haley said.

It was indeed, and not because Dominque first stepped on a wrestling mat less than a month earlier.

But because of how far Dominque had come since sleeping on a makeshift bed every night for nearly two months outside his home in Port-au-Prince, approximately 16 miles east of the epicenter of last January's earthquake ... how far Dominque had come since surviving the catastrophe that affected three million people, injured close to a million, killed more than 230,000 - many of his friends - and left his country in near total ruin.

"I was in our house watching a movie when I felt a vibration," Dominque said, recalling the late-afternoon quake of Jan. 12. "I thought it was the end of the world. I saw our house kind of tilt over.

"I think (the initial shock) lasted around seven seconds. I ran outside, but then (the shocks) started again and again. We had aftershocks all night. I was so scared."

According to reports, more than 50 aftershocks were recorded in the 12 days following the quake. Over 250,000 homes had collapsed or were severely damaged, including the Dominques.

That forced so many families - including Parvanti, his two brothers and their parents - into rather uncivilized accommodations.

"It was scary," Dominque said. "We put up tents outside our house and slept in them, outside, for about two months. But what made it scary were people coming into your homes, stealing things. Some would even put a gun to your head."

Dominque witnessed firsthand how his civil nation was turned upside down ... total chaos with no running water or any electricity, gangs stealing food and looting whatever else they needed to survive.

"A few years earlier, when I was in seventh grade and on my way home one day, I saw people shooting guns," Dominque recalled. "That's when my mom wanted me to come to the U.S. My dad didn't (favor that) move, though."

But when the earthquake forced schools to close, and Dominque and his brothers had virtually nothing to do all day but play basketball and study in the midst of all the turmoil, his father saw what he felt was best for his sons.

"Soon after the earthquake, my dad wanted us to come here," Dominque said. "Because of all the troubles, everything that was going on, he changed his mind."

Port-au-Prince, the capital and largest city in Haiti, located in a bay on the country's southwestern coast, is just 750 miles southeast of Florida.

It isn't a world removed from America, which is one reason why Dominque had taken vacations to visit relatives in Florida, New Jersey and New York. This time, though, he wouldn't be heading north for just a week or so of fun.

This time, he and his brothers would move in with an aunt in the Boyertown school district. They arrived April 27, and it hasn't been any vacation for Dominque or his brothers - 18-year-old Marvy and 12-year-old Leonaldo.

Not like any of them needed a reminder, but their education - first in Haiti and now Boyertown - is very important, especially for Dominque.

"I want to be a doctor," he said.

After coming to Boyertown, Dominque didn't really expect to do much other than go to school and study, either. But by late-summer he was a member of the Bears' football team, taking on the challenges of learning a new sport. He didn't get to play much, of course, but certainly enjoyed being part of the team that shared the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship this past fall.

"Football was fun," he said.

Then soon after Thanksgiving, he was in the wrestling room.

"Coach (Pete) Ventresca saw me in school one day and told me I could be a wrestler," the soft-spoken Dominque explained. "So I decided to try it.

"I never saw a wrestling match before I came to here to the U.S. I did see some UFC on television once, but that's not real wrestling. But I like contact, and in a way that's why I quit basketball. I like to always work hard. I want to be good."

At 5-foot-11 and just over 190 pounds, Dominque discovered very quickly it won't be easy, by any stretch of the imagination, breaking into the Boyertown starting lineup. Not with veterans like Tyler Mauger at 189 and Zach Heffner at 215, and an experienced Josh Fiss at 285. But Ventresca managed to give him one junior varsity and two varsity matches last Saturday.

"I don't find (wrestling) too difficult," Dominque said. "If you're strong and you know what you're doing you can do OK. But I have learned you have to stay focused on what you're doing. I really like it."

Haley, like Ventresca and the rest of the Boyertown staff, is amazed by Dominque's work ethic, by his entire approach to wrestling.

"First of all, I don't think I've ever met a nicer kid," Haley said. "He wants to learn, wants to do well. He works hard. He wants to succeed."

A major part of that plan - to succeed - is finishing school, going to college and becoming a doctor.

Dominque, you see, hasn't forgotten where he came from.

"I want to be successful in whatever I do," he said. "In the U.S., and especially right here (in Boyertown), people help you, help you progress, help you in everything. I like America, and I really like Boyertown because it's a nice school and everyone is so friendly.

"But I miss home. I miss my parents, my friends. I miss them a lot. And things are getting worse down there."

Dominque is well aware of the cholera outbreak that has killed more than 2,000 people and sickened close to 100,000 others. He's well aware of the protests that turned into riots recently after the preliminary results of the late-November elections were announced.

"There's just no activity in Haiti right now," he said. "It's a bad situation there. That's why I want to be successful, why I want to study and work hard in everything I do. I want to become a doctor so I can go back and help my country."

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