By ADAM SHINDER
Recorder Sports Staff
Amsterdam High School wrestling coach Ken Benton has been at the helm a long time -- long enough to pass the 300-win plateau late last month -- so there's not a lot left to see on a wrestling mat that will surprise him.
It took his own team to pull the wool over his eyes Wednesday night.
As Amsterdam wrapped up its Senior Night festivities prior to Wednesday's Big 10 dual meet against Schenectady, the start of wrestling was held up just a little longer as the AHS wrestlers slipped out of "The Pit" at Lynch Literacy Academy and came back loaded with mementos to celebrate Benton's milestone -- a banner, a plaque, a "300-win Club" t-shirt and a singlet signed by the entire team.
"I had no clue. I couldn't believe they actually kept that a secret," Benton said. "It was very nice. I'm very honored and very appreciative."
According to senior captain James Marquez, keeping the surprise tribute under wraps took a little work in the Amsterdam wrestling room.
"We had to stop (195-pounder Christian) Lopez from letting it out a couple times," Marquez said, beaming at his fellow senior.
Benton said that the credit for his milestone -- which he hit with a win over Rome Free Academy Dec. 28 during the Mountain Duals at Dolgeville High School. belongs to the coaches and athletes he's had around him during his tenure with the Ram.
"It's reflective of many, many people's efforts," he said. "I'm just glad that we're able to acknowledge that as a program."
Staying up late
Between Senior Night festivities and the surprise for Benton, Wednesday night was already a super-sized meet. Thrown in more than 20 combined matches between the modified and junior varsity levels prior to the main dual meet even starting, and it turned the night into a four-hour marathon inside the pit.
Not that Benton minded.
"A lot of wrestling tonight, so it's a long night, but it's a good night," he said. "When there's a lot of wrestling, it's a good nigh,t," Benton said. "We finally found a program that's got some extra guys that can wrestle some modifieds and JVs."
Though the glut of wrestling made for a lengthy night, Benton was thrilled at the number of younger AHS wrestlers who got a chance to get some live competition Wednesday, considering that in most of the team's dual meets, opponents simply don't have the numbers to give Amsterdam's modified and JV grapplers a chance to take to the mat.
"It gives everybody a chance to get out on the mat after they've worked hard in practice all week long," he said. "It's a real positive for the program."
The one downside to the long night? It didn't exactly give Benton or his team the chance to finish Wednesday up early and get to bed in advance to today's long trip downstate to Loch Sheldrake for the Eastern States Classic, which opens Friday.
"We go right down to Eastern States, and I was hoping we wouldn't get home too late," Benton said. "Right now, I'm pretty hungry, so I'll get something to eat before I go home."