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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 1, 2005

College wrestling’s best journey to GHS for tourney

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — Guilderland High School was the site for one of the biggest wrestling events ever held in the Capital District.

The Journeymen Athletics club hosted the second annual Northeast Collegiate Duals on Saturday at the high school’s new gym.

Four mats were stretched across the floor to provide constant wrestling during the day the club and the wrestling coaching staff at Guilderland busy.

"Without a doubt," said varsity Coach Regan Johnson. "When I got approached, if it was possible to have it here, I didn’t care about the work. I wanted to have those people in our gym."

Johnson was excited about showcasing big-time college wrestling because there isn’t a college wrestling team in the area.

"It was a wonderful day," said Journeymen director Frank Popolizio. "We had 1,200 people come through the door and that’s not including volunteers, workers, and wrestlers. It was good for an area that does not have a collegiate wrestling team within a 60-mile radius."

The Division I schools in the area — The University at Albany and Siena College — do not have wrestling teams and the closest large school with wrestling is Binghamton University, which participated in the duals on Saturday.

Ranked wrestlers

The event grew from last year’s event. Popolizio and his staff were able to secure some bigger teams, including three nationally-ranked teams. The Univeristy of Minnesota, a traditional powerhouse, was the marquee name, but Central Michigan University and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga also came into the duals ranked. Minnesota was fifth in the WrestingMall.com pre-season poll. Central Michigan was 15th and Tennessee-Chattanooga was 25th. Pitt-Johnstown was ranked third in the Division II poll.

The teams also featured numerous wrestlers who were ranked high in their weight classes — including Cole Konrad of Minnesota, ranked second in the country in the 285-pound weight class.

Also participating were American University, Ohio University, Virginia Tech, Sacred Heart University, Drexel University, and Division II power Pitt-Johnstown.

The teams were split into two pools. Minnesota won its pool, beating Chattanooga, Central Michigan, Virginia Tech, and American.

But the highlight match of the day was against Central Michigan.

"For me, to see Minnesota wrestling Central Michigan is like watching the Yankees and the Red Sox," Johnson said. "Well, maybe not, but its close."

Pitt-Johnstown won the other pool, beating Ohio, Sacred Heart, Binghamton, and Drexel.

Big gym for big teams

Johnson was asked by Popolizio to have the tournament at Guilderland instead of last year’s host site, Niskayuna High School. The gym at Guilderland is larger and has a bigger capacity than Popolizio’s alma mater.

"He upped the ante by getter the bigger teams," Johnson said. "Our gym is bigger than Niskayuna’s. It’s more fan friendly."

And it looks like the event will stay at Guilderland for at least one more year.

"Until we get bigger, we’ll stay with it," Popolizio said. "It’s an ideal complex. Everything we needed was there and was pretty good with the things we needed. The stands were perfect.

"We’ll try to have it there next year," Popolizio added. "Again, we have to see how we are doing and we’ll look at it at that point. Guilderland High School and the staff of coaches there with Regan Johnson and Kory Rogotzke were very supportive and made it a lot easier."

Popolizio was overjoyed to be able to get the teams that came out this year.

"It’s exciting to see that caliber of wrestling in your hometown," he said. "This has the same excitment for wrestling fans as having the [University of] North Carolina playing basketball or the Yankees playing in town."

Developing wrestling

The goal of the Journeymen club is to develop wrestling in the area and to help give high-school wrestlers the chance to compete in college. The club runs camps and clinics throughout the year to help younger wrestlers.

And hosting a tournament like this can only help.

"The goal is for kids in our area to see great wrestling up close and personal," Popolizio said. "If they watch it, then they will want to be in it and live it and that’s the goal."

Having 10 good teams compete and travel from the different parts of the country helps make the event bigger.

"It only helps feed into it for next year," Popolizio said. "Other teams will hear what they did and think, ‘Why not us"’ Once you get one, then you can get two and, once you get two, you can get three or four. Hopefully, we can get the ball rolling."

Popolizio made sure the Minnesota team was well equipped to spread the word.

"I gave them a whole bunch of shirts," he said. "Hopefully, that will help promote it and spread the word."

Popolizio is already working on next year’s dual meet.

"I called [the Univeristy of] Iowa and had a good dialogue with them. I’m also looking at Lehigh, Oklahoma State, and Penn is interested."

"Hopefully, they want to come back," Johnson said. "They gave us support for this tournament. The number-one thing is that they all are nice people. It’s good for the kids to start to see wrestling at this level. If one kid in the crowd experiences this and then wrestles in college, it was worth it."

Putnam remembered: Sweet wordsmith recalled as sweet man

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — Pat Putnam was a man of words and family. And the two never clashed to the point he alienated either.

Mr. Putnam, who was born and raised in Schenectady and lived in Guilderland, died on Sunday at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady. He was 75.

He was a writer for Sports Illustrated for 27 years, starting in 1968 and retiring in 1995.

Mr. Putnam produced over 50 cover stories for Sports Illustrated and was considered one of the top boxing writers in the world. He was given the Nat Fleischer Award for lifetime excellence in boxing journalism.

Though the job sent him away from home for weeks at a time, his daughter Colleen Putnam said he was a family man.

"Absolutely, when he was home, he didn’t have a nine-to-five job," Ms. Putnam said. "He was with us, and it was quality time. Seriously, I remember thinking that it was normal. I don’t remember missing my father when he was away for a week or two weeks when he was at the Olympics. We spent so much quality time I did not feel I was missing out."

Ms. Putnam said that her father loved all sports, but boxing was his main focus when he was with Sports Illustrated.

Mr. Putnam played semi-professional baseball and passed his love of that sport to his son, Shawn, and, later, to his grandson, Kyle Unser, who played in the Pine Bush Little League and later on Guilderland Babe Ruth and Guilderland High School teams. Mr. Putnam’s Babe Ruth write-ups published in The Enterprise ran with his byline.

"He loved his job," Ms. Putnam said. "He was working with all these boxers but he was a down-to-earth person."

Mr. Putnam began his career with The Miami Herald as a copy boy and worked his way through the ranks. He served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. He earned multiple Purple Hearts and spent 17 months in a Chinese prison camp.

"He worked and worked and worked," Ms. Putnam said of her father’s time at The Miami Herald. "He asked to do some stories and they told him he could on his own time. So he went ahead. He did some stories and they picked them up and Sports Illustrated then ran some of them. It was hard work and talent."

Mr. Putnam attended Syracuse University before playing semi-pro ball and heading to the military.

He did not talk about his time in the war, said his daughter.

Mr. Putnam continued to write about boxing after his retirement from Sports Illustrated. He wrote for TheSweetScience.com website.

"The loss of Pat to his family, friends, and to those of us here at The Sweet Science, is not easily expressed," Robert Ecksel wrote in a column for the website. "Not only was he the greatest living boxing writer — hands down, don’t give it a second thought — he was also one helluva a great guy: smart, decent, upretentious, down-to-earth, despite his towering talent. There was never anything smug, pompous or self-important about Pat. No, he was the genuine article, the real deal, a real man, a real writer...Someone who accepted his God-given gifts, yet worked at it assiduously."

Richard O’Brien, a columnist for the Sports Ilustrated on-line site, learned from Putnam in the late 1980’s.

"Pat became a friend and a mentor of sorts," he wrote in a column on the magazine’s website. "When I started writing my own boxing pieces, he was kind enough to offer his critiques — always with his characteristically sardonic (and often profane) humor but with anything but a heavy hand — and to this day when I write something I find myself wondering, ‘What would Pat say about that"’"

* * * *

In addition to his children, Colleen and Shawn Putnam, Mr. Putnam is survived by one brother, Thomas N. Putnam of Port Jeff, N.Y.; one sister, Moonyeen Ralston of Rotterdam; four grandchildren, Justin Unser, Ashley Unser, Kyle Unser, and Chrissy Putnam, all of Guilderland.

He is also survived by many nieces and nephews.

One brother, Peter H. Putnam, died before him.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held today (Thursday) at 10:30 a.m. at St. John the Evangelist Church. There will be no calling hours. Burial will be in the Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery in Niskayuna.

Arrangements are by the Gleason Funeral Home in Schenectady.

Memorial contributions may be made to the charity of one’s choice.

Rhodes-Devey on the trail to national meet

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — Guilderland High School junior Brian Rhodes-Devey has realized a dream.

The Dutchman has been one of the top runners in Section II for the past couple of years, but now he will be able to show off in front of the nation.

Rhodes-Devey ran a time of 15:35 on the five-kilometer course at Van Corlandt Park in New York City in the Foot Locker Northeast Meet on Saturday. Although he came in sixth, his time qualifies him to run in the national meet in San Diego on Dec. 10.

"I was really pumped," Rhodes-Devey said. "I felt like I didn’t run my best. I did not feel strong. I was beat by two kids from New York that I’ve beaten in the past. I’m happy to be heading out west. It was a goal of mine to qualify and I’m just preparing for two weeks from now."

Rhodes-Devey was in third place for most of the race, he said. But he was passed.

"With a little more than a mile left," Rhodes-Devey said, "I was passed by two kids. I was keeping track of where I was in my head, and now I was in fifth and I thought, ‘I can try and hold on.’ Then I got passed and I was back in sixth. Then with about 500 meters left, where I usually get my final kick, I just settled back. I was trying to hold on rather than going for a real good finish."

Rhodes-Devey won the state championship in Queensbury on Nov. 12 and the Federation title in Wappingers Falls the following Saturday.

"I couldn’t be any happier," Rhodes-Devey said on Tuesday. "It’s going to be a great experience. My coach is going with me and that’s awesome. It’s really exciting."

Guilderland varsity Coach Bob Oates will accompany Rhodes-Devey to California.

"Running with the big boys"

The last month has been a busy one for Rhodes-Devey. He had a disappointing Section II meet, but came back to win the next two big races.

"It has been real stressful," he said. "I’ve run as fast as I can for the past few weeks. I was really looking forward to the Foot Locker Qualifier. I really buckled down and worked hard to be where I had to be."

Rhodes-Devey has been practicing hard this week and will ease up next week before he leaves for San Diego on Thursday. He visited the Grand Canyon in Arizona when we was younger but has never been to California.

"I’m really excited," he said. "It’s going to be 75 and sunny. It’s a nice change from the way it’s been around here."

In 2004, Rhodes-Devey, as a freshmen, competed in a national track event in North Carolina and had the fastest time in the mile.

The race will be a learning experience for Rhodes-Devey.

"It’s a new experience," he said. "I want to learn from running in it this year. I want to do my best, but I think I can learn a lot by running with the big boys. Next year, I want to go and show them what’s up."

Rhodes-Devey said that he is ready for a break. He has been involved in a race every weekend since September but his enjoyment of the sport keeps him going.

"It’s what I love to do," Rhodes-Devey said. "I can’t explain what it is about it. But I could use the time off.

Asked what keeps him at a grueling sport, Rhodes-Devey said, "I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it. I enjoy doing it. I don’t have much hand-eye coordination. I couldn’t do many other sports."

His success has helped him keep at the sport, but there’s more to running for Rhodes-Devey than winning.

"The success is nice," he said. "It’s something I would enjoy doing even if I was in the back of the pack and running a 20-minutes 5K; I’m still going to do it. I enjoy it so much, I’d do it even if I wasn’t successful."

Young Dutchmen look to improve during season

By Tim Matteson

GUILDERLAND — John DeRubertis has different expectations for his Guilderland hockey team this season.

For the past couple of years, the Dutchmen have set their sights on reaching the sectional finals. This year, DeRubertis has more realistic goals for his young team.

"Coming into this season, I wasn’t sure what to expect," DeRubertis said. "I had the idea that we would be taking a step back from the last couple of years. This is a tough way to start."

The Dutchmen lost their first two games of the season in their own Dutchmen Thanksgiving Tournament.

The Dutchmen lost to Kenmore East, 6-1, on Saturday and lost to Kenmore West, 8-1, on Friday. Kenmore West was the top team in the tournament and Kenmore East — both schools are from the Buffalo area — was second. Liverpool — from the Syracuse area — was also in the tournament.

"We have some young players," DeRubertis said. "We did not play well in the defensive zone. That is a sign of the youth we have on defense.

"We’re not working as a team yet," he added. "Our defense is young. Senior Brian Tobin is a converted forward. He scored today on a power play. We have five defensemen that are sophomores or younger."

Tobin was named Player of the Game for his goal against Kenmore East. He scored with 8:17 left in the second period on a slap shot from the point. Aaron Cahill assisted on the tally.

DeRubertis also moved senior Adam Gray from his usual position of goalie to defense this season.

"He agreed to play defense," DeRubertis said. "He knows we’re young at the position. I haven’t competely decided if I’m going to put him back in net or play him out there."

Working on defense this year will be sophomores Jeff Geisendorfer, Nick Koss, Max Goodnight, Jon Fogel, and freshman Joe Romano.

DeRubertis has two senior goalies who will split duties if Gray stays on defense.

Brian Clother and Colin Bonitz have been on the varsity for the past few years. They will be backed up by junior Brendon Glennon.

"Colin and Brian are both capable of doing a nice job in goal," DeRubertis said.

"Back to basics"

The Dutchmen’s offense will be led by senior Captain Tim Montgomery.

"He is fighting an ankle injury he got in the last football game of the year," DeRubertis said. "It’s been nagging on him and he’s just got to get more confidence playing on it."

The forwards will also have to gain experience as they move around early this season.

"We have a couple of forwards who are juniors that we are looking to to help out," DeRubertis said. "But they were fourth-line players that have moved up as high as the second line. We have guys that were on the third line that have moved up to the first line."

The forwards on the team are: seniors Steve Marciano, Havard Brustad, John Moran, and Corey Gillepsie; juniors Ben Fogel, Leland Murphy, Nick Stefani, John Potts, Kyle McKenty; sophomore Aaron Cahill; and freshman Colin Burg.

DeRubertis said that his seniors have experienced success for the past few years and this year it could be tough as the younger players gain experience.

"Timmy is used to having success here," the coach said. "Brian Tobin and Corey Gillespie, John Moran have had nothing but success here. They see where we’re at. We’re taking a step back. We’re back to basics and it can be frustrating for them."

The idea for this year’s edition of the Skating Dutchmen is to improve throughout the season.

"The goal we set for the team is to be able to look back and see that everybody has truly gotten better," DeRubertis said. "We want to be a better team at the end than the start. An improved team, that’s basically what we’re shooting for."

The Skating Dutchmen head north this weekend for the Sanstoners Potsdam Tournament. Guilderland will play on Friday and Saturday.

The Dutch then will have a break and return to action, hosting their holiday tournament on Dec. 16 and 17.

Guilderland will host Mammaroneck on Friday, Dec. 16, and then take on Mahopac the next day. Glens Falls is also in the tournament.

"The tournaments allow us to get some good games in before we get into our section schedule," DeRubertis said.

Blackbirds want to reach same heights as last year

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — The Voorheesville boys’ basketball team is looking to repeat the feats it achieved last year.

The Blackbirds made a trip to the state semifinals but lost by two points to the eventual state champion.

With three starters back and other players who played often, the Blackbirds will be looking to continue their success.

"Yeah, within ourselves," answered Voorheesville Coach Don Catellier when asked if there were expectations for his team. "We have three starters back and Rob Bareis and Jake Norris came off the bench. We have a great senior group."

The Birds have also got strong play from Justin Arico and Greg Carson in their first two games this season.

Voorheesville opened the season last weekend in the Catholic Central Tournament. The Blackbirds lost the opener to Glens Falls in overtime but came back to beat Schuylerville in the consolation game.

"I was pleased, but dissapointed," Catellier said of the tournament. "Glens Falls is among the top two or three teams in all of Section II and that includes the AA’s and everybody. We had them but we let it get away. We made some costly mistakes. We had a five-point lead but we did not get it done."

Catellier said that turnovers and missed free throws allowed Glens Falls to get back into the game and a miraculous shot forced overtime.

"The player hit a blind shot and that made it go into overtime," Catellier said.

Voorheesville also gave up 43 points to Glens Falls’ Jimmer Fredette.

"He’s the best player I’ve seen or coached against," Catellier said. "He made some good plays. He scored 43 points, but I thought we played good defense on him."

The Birds bounced back with a close win over Class B rival Schuylerville.

"That’s the team to beat," Catellier said. "We got them twice last year — in the Catholic Central tournament and the sectional final. I told the kids we’ll see them in the sectional final again. They are a very good program. They are the stepping stone for the Class B’s. You beat them and you’ve done a nice job."

The newcomers to the team have seemed to mesh, as they saw valuable minutes in the Catholic Central tournament.

Arico was named to the all-tournament team and Carson and Mike Hopper gave the Birds some quality minutes.

"They all want to get back"

Returning for the Blackbirds this winter are starters Greg Klopfer, Andy Catellier, and Nick Duncan. Norris and Bareis return after seeing valuable minutes off the bench last season. Duncan, Catellier, and Klopfer are the team’s captains.

Other newcomers to the team are juniors Joe Klembczyk, Chris Thompson, Tim Robinson, Mike Hopper, and sophomore Evan Christner.

Catellier knows that last year was a magical time and it will be hard to duplicate, but he also feels that he has the players that can make a run at another title.

"Last year was special," Catellier said. "We’d been together for two years. This year’s group is still learning. Once we do that, we’ll be all right."

Catellier said he sees a drive in this group of players, to match last winter’s success.

"They all want to get back," Catellier said. "We lost by two points to the eventual state champion. You always want to get back. But our first goal is to win our first game and that is against Academy on Friday night. Right now, they are the cornerstone of the Colonial Council. They are the defending champion. We’re on the outside, wanting to get in."

Catellier hopes that a letdown from the fall teams won’t carry over to the winter. Andy Catellier and Duncan were key members of the football team that lost in the sectional semifinals — to Schuylerville. And Klopfer was the top player for the soccer team that lost in the sectional finals. All three played in exceptional-senior games a couple of weeks ago.

"It’s taken them a little longer to get into basketball mold," Coach Catellier said. "Last week was the first week that I had the whole team together. I had individual practices at all hours of the night so I could get guys in."

The Blackbirds open at home against Albany Academy on Friday. Then the Birds will travel to Lansingburgh on Tuesday and Mechanicville on Friday.

Lady Blackbirds to try to keep tradition strong

By Tim Matteson

VOORHEESVILLE — John McClement, the Voorheesville girls’ basketball coach, is looking to play some games.

McClement said his team just needs to get on the court against another team to see how it is going to play this season.

"I like what I’m seeing so far," McClement said. "What we need right now is game experience. We’ve prepared well."

The Lady Blackbirds have had scrimmages but until Friday’s first game at the Academy of Holy Names, McClement hasn’t truly seen his team. And everybody is gunning for his team.

"It’s going to be tough," the coach said. "When you’re at the top or near the top for so long, you take everybody’s best shot. Everybody is coming after you and the kids have to understand that. It’s going to take a game where the other team is fired up to play you for them to understand that."

Voorheesville has been one of the top Class C and now Class B teams in Section II since the mid-1990’s. The Birds have won nine sectional titles — including eight in a row from 1995 to 2002 and they won again in 2004. The Lady Blackbirds also won state championships in 1998 and 2002.

"It’s to know," McClement said of his team. "The way we finished last year, we didn’t play our best game in the championship. We still had an opportunity to win. The kids that we have back understand that."

The Blackbirds lost in the Class B sectional final last year.

"Tough as always"

Returning from that team are seniors Amanda Markert, Laura Haskell, Jaimie Russell, and Brigit Feeney. Junior Jenna Massaroni is also returning to the varsity.

Newcomers include juniors Kara Zimmerman, Sara Belenchia, Brittney Holcomb, Alyssa Schultz, Kelly Larsen, and sophomore Brittany Vogel.

"You always need the newcomers to step up," McClement said. "They have to learn that it’s not junior-varsity anymore. They have to catch up to the speed of the game and get a feel for the game. The officiating is different. Everything changes. The better players can make adjustments the quickest."

Voorheesville has had a history of getting the most out of its younger players.

"Obviously, you rely on the underclassmen," McClement said. "You try to be senior driven, but we always have had underclassmen that could play and contribute."

The Blackbirds get right into league play with a game against rival Holy Names on Friday.

"The Colonial Council is tough as always," McClement said. "We always have goals of winning the Colonial Council, sectionals, and regionals. It’s a progression. Playing in the Colonial is tough and there is a new team in there in Broadalbin-Perth. That will make a difference."

The Birds got off to a slow start last year before playing their best basketball at the end of the year — until the sectional final.

"Last year, we just had a lot of distractions early on," McClement said. "We had some injuries and a tough schedule. We definitely overcame that. I thought we were playing our best basketball at the end of the season. The last game was not indicative of how we can play."

McClement expects to see leadership out of his seniors this winter.

"The seniors will be leading the way," he said. "They’ve been right there. I’ll be looking to the seniors for leadership. It’s fortunate to have, as long as I’ve been here, the experience factor. A lot of these kids have been through it all. They know what it’s like to make a great year. They’ve seen it and been a part of it.

"Two of the players on this year’s team had sisters playing on the team that won states," McClement added. "They lived it. It’s nice to start having sisters of players you’ve coached."

McClement also hopes that the players on this year’s team keep up the work effort of their predecessors.

"The key component is knowing the hard work that it took to get there," McClement said. "That goes all the way back to the early days of the run when Jack Adams was here. Those teams worked hard. No one worked harder than those successful teams. You can control how hard you work. You can’t control the bounce of the ball and the officiating. But you can control the hard work it takes to be successful."

After travelling to Albany to play Holy Names on Friday, the Blackbirds will host Lansingburgh on Tuesday and Mechanicville the following Friday.

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