Dr. Brett Sweitzer first started wrestling when a classmate invited him to a practice in the fourth grade.
“I had some friends that were into wrestling and I had done other sports like soccer and baseball all the time,” Sweitzer said. “And then one of my classmates took me to practice, and I loved it from the moment I did it the first time.”
Sweitzer, a 2003 Lewis Katz School of Medicine alumnus, now splits his time between his work as an orthopedic surgeon at the Einstein Medical Center in East Norriton, Pennsylvania, and coaching the Hatboro-Horsham Warriors Wrestling Club, a volunteer organization that teaches wrestling to children.
After moving to Boulder, Colorado, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in middle school, Sweitzer surrounded himself with a core group of wrestlers and coaches. They helped him continue his passion from middle school to his first year at Brown University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine in 1999.
After his first year at Brown, Sweitzer stopped wrestling to focus on his education, he said.
For the Hatboro-Horsham Warriors, he coaches three times per week and works with a large age bracket, which includes wrestlers in preschool through the eighth grade.
While studying at Temple’s medical school, Sweitzer competed in some wrestling tournaments, but he said he never joined the university’s team.
But about five years ago, when his own children started to show interest in wrestling, he thought about returning to the sport he loved so much growing up. He now coaches his two sons.
Sweitzer said he thinks wrestling builds people’s resolve and commitment and can help people get through difficult times.
“I have no doubt that wrestling helped build that characteristic [for me], being able to fight through the hard times,” Sweitzer said. “There are definitely times, studying as an undergrad, putting in endless hours, it feels like it’s never going to end and you can’t do this.”
As a coach, Sweitzer said he tries to teach the wrestlers on his team about resilience and autonomy. He encourages them to experiment and attempt wrestling tactics on their own, guiding them when needed.
“We always say in wrestling, ‘We never say can’t,’” he said. “We say, ‘Something is challenging and it’s hard for me,’ but you can definitely do it, you just have to push yourself.”
Sweitzer said he tries to avoid exercise as punishment with young wrestlers.
His sports medicine background has influenced this choice because he understands that athletes have a limit to how far they can be pushed before an injury occurs.
“I think that the old school thinking was, ‘If you’re goofin’ off, go run laps,’ but we don’t do that,” Sweitzer said.
Chris Staub, who also coaches at Warrior Wrestling Club, said because Sweitzer has a “winning mentality,” many of the kids who are wrestling feel successful.
“He brings more to the table because he knows what the kids’ bodies can take and can’t take,” Staub said.
Although Sweitzer’s own children got him involved in wrestling again, he thinks he would have gone back into the sport eventually on his own.
“I spend so much time with my four kids, running them around sports between wrestling, soccer, lacrosse, baseball, basketball,” Sweitzer said. “So we’re extremely busy…but I do love the sport, so I think at some point I would have gone into it. I’m thrilled [my children are] into it and love it.”
Sweitzer tries to demonstrate perseverance and resilience for the young wrestlers at the club. He wants the sport to be competitive, but also fun for children.
“Sometimes, parents and some of the youth…get caught up in the moment, and you want to win,” Sweitzer said. “I want them to love the sport and realize that it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and build toward greater things when they’re older.”