To the wrestlers, coaches and parents, thank you for a great 2007-08 wrestling season. The only drawback though, is that it is now officially over. I will be moping around the house until November when the 2008-09 season kicks off.
Wrestlers, coaches and parents, if it was not for your cooperation this season I would not have been able to do my job, and for that, I am quite grateful. There were probably many days during the season where the last thing you needed was to take a call from me (following a long day at school and practice) or see me approaching you with my gleeming dome, asking to interview you at a tournament or match. But, wrestlers, you all were always accomdating.
Congratulations to all of the wrestlers for making it through another grueling season. It doesn’t matter what skill level you’re at, you all deserve credit for competing in this GREAT, but underappreciated sport.
To the seniors, you will all be missed, especially Mahopac 4-time sectional champ Dominick Oddo and Harrison 3-time champ Mark Arcara. I remember Oddo as a 2004 Empire State Games bronze medalist in 2004. That is when I first interviewed him and the following February, that little freshman 96-pounder won the title, joining his father as a sectional champion.
I remember Mark Arcara as a 6-year old, coming around the matches and tournament with his father, Frank, or ‘Cuz’ as everyone knows him. Harrison coach Vinny Nicita told me that Mark would be his next great wrestler, and he was right.
I would later meet up with Mark and his classmate/teammate/best friend, Al Volpe, as 6th-graders. I was doing a long-term Social Studies position from the first day of school in 2001. In walks Mark and Al for first period. During class, I would often ask Mark how he did in a kids tournament or how he was feeling. The students thought I was nuts. It just seemed like yesterday. Now, Arcara and Volpe are seniors and will graduate in June. Guys, thank you for always being respectful in class those four months and any other time I substituted for one of your 7th- or 8th-grade teachers. And, thank you for always being cool with me when it came to an interview.
I remember New Rochelle coach Jim Guccione telling me five years ago to keep an eye on a pair of promising eighth-graders he had in Tom Antonioli and Danny Zimon. Guccione was excited to have this two New Rochelle kids-club graduates stepping up to varsity. Guccione had every right to be excited.
All Antonioli did was become the first New Rochelle wrestler to place in sectionals five times and this year, win the 145-pound sectional title. Antonioli will graduate as the program’s winningest wrestler. Zimon was a sectional finalist in 2005 and placed two other times and amassed more than 100 wins. Together, the seniors were a dynamic tandem. Congratulations to both and all the best in college.
Before I conclude this post, let me cite the great season Lakeland/Panas’ Joe Hauser had. The junior bumped up two weight classes, from 125 to 135, in late January, won the Super 16, Divisional and was a sectional finalist. He accomplished all of this despite losing his father last fall in a car accident. It is difficult enough to deal with the passing of your father, let alone compete in a mentally and physically-demanding sport like wrestling, keep it together and have a successful season. Joe Hauser, the Section 1 wrestling community should be proud to have you. We will see you next year – in a sectional final and then in Albany for the state championships.
And I hope to see all of you next November. Thank you, and thank you to all of the positive contributors to this blog.