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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 10, 2009

Bulldog wrestling starts season off right by winning own tournament

By Jordan J. Michael

BERNE –– The wrestling season is young, but the Bulldogs are already ahead of nine other teams in Section II after finishing first in its own Bulldog Invitational on Saturday.

The Class D team from Berne-Knox-Westerlo scored 261 points to win the round-robin tournament and Amsterdam finished 85 points behind in second place. Mechanicville was third with 166 points.

“It’s great for team morale to win our own tournament,” said Head Coach Jeff Vogel on Monday. “These guys understand the mindset of being the best they can be. It’s safe to say that we dominated the event.”

Every starting wrestler for the Bulldogs placed in the top three of his weight classes on Saturday. BKW, Amsterdam, Mechanicville, Cairo-Durham, Greenville, Greene-Tech, Waterford, Christian Brothers Academy, Coxackie-Athens, and New York Military competed in 279 matches over seven hours.

“Half the teams there started a wrestling program around the same time we did,” Vogel said. The Bulldogs started a team five years ago. “It was a similar barometer, but we had the deepest team in the field. We don’t have any superstars, but we can get nine kids to place in the top three. I’m very pleased with this group.”

Junior captain Blake Whitbeck scored five pins to win the 130-pound class and sophomore Matt Casullo was the champion at 135 pounds. At 145 pounds, sophomore Ben Becker pinned five opponents for a first-place finish and, Akeem Stewart also a winner in the 171-pound division.

“We found out that Stewart is a mixed martial-arts fighter,” said Vogel. “We’re glad that he chose the wrestling team to stay in shape and get us wins.”

Senior Captain Nolan Diamond, a two-time Section II finalist, came in second at 189 pounds after finishing the day with a 4-1 record. Vogel said Diamond may have had the “best performance of his life” in a match following a loss to Brandon Giaquinto of Amsterdam. “He was patient and smart after losing a match,” said Vogel. “It was a good recovery.”

Freshmen J.D. Kline and Anthony Pasquini both wrestled at 112 pounds and came in second and fourth respectively. Sophomore Derek Struck was third at 125 pounds, the deepest class, according to Vogel. Senior Grady Picinich came back from a 0-2 start to finish third at 135 pounds.

Junior Captain Vincent Pasquini placed third at 140 pounds, and junior Brandon Kallner was third at 152 pounds in front of BKW teammate Josh Richards in fourth. Alex Delong dropped 25 pounds from last year and placed third at 160 pounds.

Finally, at 285 pounds, sophomore Jesse Montasano, who was in the shadow of Keith Domermuth last season, finished third behind two tough opponents. “It was a good day for the first-year starter,” Vogel said. “I’m excited for his outlook.”

Wrestling family

The Bulldogs placed fifth as a team last year in the Class D sectionals, its best finish ever. First-place winners Josh Glick and Domermuth are gone, as well as Greg Hannay. But, Vogel is seeing steady improvement.

“We had the first generation go through the system and now we’re working with the second,” said Vogel. “It doesn’t look like this team has lost any steam after Saturday.”

BKW still strives to make its opponents pay on the mat. The team goal hasn’t changed since the program started five years ago. “We want our opposition to be glad the match is over,” Vogel said. “It’s a simple philosophy. We go out there and work as hard as we can and try to score points.”

Vogel told The Enterprise that the wrestling team follows the same “post-season model” by which the other teams at BKW abide. He mentioned the cross-country coach, Bill Tindale, and the girls’ basketball coach, Tom Galvin, as colleagues who follow the same rules.

“League matches are important, but everything leads to sectionals and states,” said Vogel. “You have to think about the big picture. You want to win as much as possible, but looking at long-term chances is more crucial.”

This means that Vogel isn’t afraid to rest an athlete during the regular season. “If someone isn’t feeling well, then I’ll save him for next time,” he said. “I’d rather not push the issues today if I can push them later.”

The Bulldogs have 24 available wrestlers for varsity and a total of 40 kids between seventh and 12th grades. “I’ll throw anyone on the mat if they’re ready,” said Vogel. “We keep gaining numbers.”

BKW is half way to its goal of winning a Class D championship after Vogel said it would take 10 years when he started the team. “We might be able to shave a couple years off of that,” he said.

The team travels to Herkimer for another Invitational on Saturday and comes back home for a match against Shaker on Dec. 15.

Vogel sent The Enterprise a roster of the 2009-10 team and it was titled “BKW Varsity Family Roster.” Wrestling is more than a sport to the Bulldogs.

“It’s referred to as a family because everyone is so close in this small community,” Vogel said. “Sure, there’s competition, but, no nastiness.”

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