Obed Bazikian grew up in Weehawken and always wanted to be a wrestler when he went to high school. Despite his slight frame, Bazikian wanted to give high school wrestling a try. "If you like the sport, you're willing to do anything for it," Bazikian said. "I was willing to do anything to wrestle." However, Weehawken High School didn't offer wrestling as a competitive high school varsity sport. Interest in wrestling dipped severely eight years ago and the school decided to drop the sport. "The kids kept asking me if we could have wrestling," said the high school's athletic director, Richard Terpak. "You need at least 17 or 18 people to field a team and we just didn't have those numbers. The town tried to revive it through the recreation program, but it didn't work." Five years ago, the Secaucus High School wrestling program was suffering a similar fate. "We were inches away from canceling the program," said Secaucus Athletic Director Stan Fryczynski. "We begged students to come out for wrestling, but it wasn't working." It seemed like Bazikian was an aspiring wrestler with no place to finely tune his craft. But he wasn't completely out of luck, because he was going to get a chance to wrestle - however, he would have to wear the colors of Secaucus High School instead. As part of a cooperative program approved by the state to keep floundering athletic programs alive, Weehawken joined forces three years ago with neighboring Secaucus to form a competitive wrestling team. Known as Secaucus-Weehawken, the team has competed as a unit for the last three seasons, but is only experiencing the fruits of its hard work this year by winning five matches. In each of the last two years, the team won just one match. Two years ago, the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association allowed schools with limited participation in a program to form partnership programs. The Secaucus-Weehawken wrestling cooperative is the only example of an LEA-approved merger in Hudson County athletics. Some other examples throughout the state include the Emerson-Park Ridge wrestling cooperative and the Hanover Park-Whippany Park ice hockey union. "It's not as uncommon as it once was," said Fryczynski. "It's worked before in some areas, in some lesser-recognized sports. We brought the subject up to Weehawken and it was well received. They had some kids and so did we, but neither had enough to field a full team. Basically, this agreement saved the program." The team practices and competes in its home matches at Secaucus High School, which has more wrestlers and facilities. Twenty of the team's members are Secaucus students, while only six come from Weehawken. "We had the equipment, the mats, the room," Fryzcynski said. "All we needed was to have the kids shipped here." Every day, around 3:30 p.m., the six Weehawken wrestlers, sophomores Leo Rodriguez, Alex Chang, Ed Garnighian and Bazikian, and freshmen Dennis Climent and Jesse Travez, are shuttled to Secaucus by cab. They ride home by a Weehawken school bus. "It does get hard and tedious," Bazikian said. "But we manage to get through it." There was a time when Secaucus residents used to have to travel to Weehawken to attend high school classes there. Secaucus High School opened its doors in 1976. Before then, all Secaucus residents attended Weehawken High School. "The kids we have are very enthusiastic," Terpak said. "They've made a solid sacrifices to get where they are." Some of the Weehawken wrestlers had apprehension about wrestling for a school that wasn't their own. "I was afraid that I might get into a rumble, because I'm not from Secaucus," said Climent, who has become a member of the starting lineup. "I thought I was going to get my butt kicked and shoved into a locker. It was different." The two schools are very fierce rivals in other sports such as football, which has split two highly competitive games over the last two years, and baseball, which has always been a natural rivalry due to geography and league (BCSL) affiliation. Both schools have shattered the rivalry barriers between them to form a solid wrestling alliance. "We needed extra guys, so they were able to come in and help us," said Secaucus senior Cosimo Landolfo, who competed against Bazikian last fall in soccer, but is now his teammate in wrestling. "And they've really helped us." "Everything is different," said Secaucus senior Steve Olsen. "Football and wrestling are two different sports. I'm fine with it. It's been a big benefit to us. We needed the guys, so we welcomed them to the team. No one had any problems." Head Coach Frank Dawson II has been trying to establish a solid contending wrestling program at Secaucus since he arrived four years ago. "We were 1-15 each year and getting pounded," said Dawson, whose father, Frank, was a wrestling coaching legend at Garfield High School. "My dad kept telling me that I had to be patient, that things were going to get better. But we were down to like nine kids and giving forfeits at several weight classes. We needed something to jumpstart us and this was it." Added Dawson, "And we have a great bunch of kids. I thought it was going to be very difficult for the Weehawken kids when they came in. I thought we were going to have to be counselors as well as coaches, but they come every day, work their tails off and are willing to learn. They're very faithful and that's a great sign." Dawson, with the help of assistant Jim Barnaba, has spent more time teaching the finer points of wrestling this year. "We had some kids who never even stepped on the mat before," Dawson said. "You can see that the kids are getting more experienced and that's paying off. We don't have a senior, so the future is definitely bright. Right now, it's a coach's dream, with good numbers and faithful kids who want to be there." "Two years ago, we were getting quick pinned every match," Fryczynski said. "It's a credit to the coaches. The kids know how to wrestle now. We're winning matches. We won our own tournament during the Christmas holidays." The Weehawken wrestlers are making their presence felt this year, with four of the six earning spots in the starting lineup. "The Weehawken kids all mean business," Dawson said. "They're all very good kids, like Obed. If I had 20 kids like Obed, I'd be in heaven. He's the hardest worker in the room. He's always giving me his best." The cooperative program has already been approved for next year's season. "It really is a great idea," Terpak said. "If not for this fact, we wouldn't be able to offer wrestling. It's a great situation and it's great to see the kids get along. It's a fine relationship for both schools and communities. The kids are coming back and telling me that they are really pleased with it. It's been mutually beneficial." "There's a kinship now between the kids from both schools," Fryczynski said. "I give the Weehawken kids credit. They walk out of their building every day and into uncharted waters. But they're there and making contributions." There is little or no talk of the rivalry or past history. Bazikian represented the best of both worlds at a recent practice, wearing a Weehawken T-shirt and Secaucus Patriots gym shorts. "I don't think there's any rivalry between the two schools," Fryczynski said. "For the parents of today's kids, who once went to Weehawken, it's really not the same. And the kids themselves have no idea of the history. If there is a rivalry, it's because we've played two good football games in the last two years. Since we're next door neighbors, there's some sense of competition, but nothing fierce. It goes to harvest a good relationship between the schools and goodwill as well." Fryczynski has been asked to speak at clinics and meetings throughout the state, discussing the possibility of future cooperative programs. "I believe that you will see it in football very soon," Fryczynski said. "There is some talk of a football one between Palisades Park and Leonia. Other schools have to work out their differences. Ours was a no-brainer." In the meantime, the participants have made the cooperative effort work, allowing the natural rivalry die down. "Because of football, I think there's always going to be something between us," Olsen said. "But this has helped to calm things down." "I like them all," Landolfo said. "Somewhat." "Even if we don't have our own team, I just wish we had more Weehawken guys," said Bazikian, who figures to contend for the 103-pound district championship in two weeks. "That would be perfect."