By Jordan J. Michael
VOORHEESVILLE –– With half a wrestling team and no juniors or seniors, Voorheesville is trying to do the best it possibly can. Winning meets isn’t really an option, so the wrestlers are focusing on the future.
Last Thursday, the Blackbirds hosted a meet against Mechanicville. Seven matches were spread out over 25 minutes, and most of the matches ended in the first round. Not one match made it to the third round.
Alex Fisher (99 pounds), Tristan Welton (113), and Nick Succocio (138) each pinned their opponents in the first round for Voorheesville. Mechanicville recorded pins in the other four matches.
The wrestling ended quickly. Birds’ Head Coach Matt Robinson said that most of the meets this season have been that short.
“We’re giving up half of our points,” Robinson said. Voorheesville has no wrestlers at 120 pounds, 160, 170, 182, 195, 220, or 285. “We’re a junior-varsity team wrestling a varsity schedule,” he said. “We only have light kids, and they’re all young.”
Three juniors moved out of the Voorheesville district, and one senior quit. Robinson usually has a few seniors to act as mentors for the younger wrestlers, but he’s flying solo this year.
“It’s been tough, but the wrestlers that we do have are doing pretty well,” said Robinson. “If they’re putting up a fight and getting pins at a young age, then I can’t ask for much more.”
Welton, who controlled Mike Ciccarelli last Thursday, placed third in Class C last season. He’s a spunky kid with a great attitude, and believes that having a smaller team might be beneficial for friendships.
“As a smaller team, we have a stronger bond,” Welton said last Thursday. “It’s like a family feel. We wouldn’t know each other as well if we had a big team; we’re all good friends.”
The camaraderie may be better, but the team scores are dire. Mechanicville won, 60 to 18.
Voorheesville has tried a few different things to get more kids interested in wrestling –– combining Pee Wee programs with Guilderland and putting posters on the school walls. Robinson said that the modified team, coached by former wrestler Taylor Treadgold, has 12 members.
“We’re trying to make this sport more welcoming,” said Robinson. “I’ve made the schedule a little less intense than normal. Hopefully, in a few years, we’ll have 20 kids on varsity, but, until then, we have to take our lumps.”
With a low number of varsity wrestlers, Welton thinks that Robinson has eased up compared to past seasons.
“He’s a strict coach, but he’s letting up,” Welton said. “He has a life, so he doesn’t want to be here for hours on end, but he does give some of his life away to coach us. He must love wrestling.”
Athletic Director Joe Sapienza, who also serves as the football coach for Voorheesville, attended last Thursday’s match. Robinson said that Sapienza would like to see more of his football players getting involved with wrestling.
“He tells me that all of the time,” said Robinson. “We just have to get them out here.”
However, wrestling isn’t a sport that high school athletes can just pick up and excel at; it’s demanding. Welton started wrestling when he was 6 years old.
“The kids that start young know what they’re doing when they get to varsity because they’ve been tuning their skills,” said Welton. “If you start fresh as a junior or senior,” he said, you’ll be beaten. “Wrestling is a really tough sport, both mentally and physically,” he went on. “You can’t dilly-dally. You have to be in it to win it.”
Welton, a sophomore, is a tenacious kid with tons of stamina. To pin Ciccarelli, Welton took him down with an arm bar, then hooked his head with his leg, squeezing as tight as he could. Welton had already beaten Ciccarelli earlier in the season.
“It’s a single-man thing,” Welton said of wrestling. “You have a team, but it’s just you and another kid on the mat, head to head. No one else can help you. If you’re stronger and you know you can win, then it’s just an adrenaline rush, and you want to win so bad.”
Outside distractions don’t bother Welton. He’s locked in.
“I’m looking at my opponent straight in the eyes, and I want to take him down so bad, so you do whatever it is you have to do,” Welton said. “Sometimes, if you’re on your back, you want to give up, but it’s all about having that will to fight in a hard match.”
Welton plays the position of safety in football. He said his teammates call him an “ankle biter” because he just goes for the ankles, tackling kids three times his size.
“In wrestling, you still have that mindset of going after kids,” Welton said. “It’s heads up and all out.”
Right now, Voorheesville’s veteran leaders are sophomores like Welton. Robinson says that it’s a “weird dynamic” because as coach he has to play a lot of roles without any juniors or seniors on the team. He is the older mentor.
The Blackbirds are staying basic and setting goals to become more technically sound.
During a match, Welton usually hears Robinson shouting.
“I think wrestling is one of the most fun things,” Welton said, “once you get good at it.”
The Dutchmen wrestlers beat Shaker, 40 to 39, last Thursday after Nate Vargas (132 pounds) sealed the victory by pinning Nolan Norolsky in the final match.
Also getting pins for Guilderland were John Stuto (126 pounds), Mike Lainhart (106 pounds), and Josh LoGiudice (99 pounds). Stuto’s pin of Bo Lynch set up Vargas’s chance for the Dutch win.
Guilderland was able to win the meet despite surrendering points at 160 pounds, 220, 285, and 113.