Amsterdam varsity wrestlers win for 2nd time in as many nights

By ADAM SHINDER

Recorder Sports Staff

Brandon Lapi burst out of a chute of clapping Amsterdam High School wrestling teammates and onto the mat to take on Johnstown's Danny Nellis in the opening match of Wednesday's dual meet in "The Pit" at Lynch Literacy Academy.

Forty seconds of grappling later, Lapi was back at the Amsterdam bench with a pinfall victory in his back pocket and the rout was on.

Amsterdam won the first six weight classes to open up a 29-point lead, getting pins from Lapi, Dan Banewicz, James Marquez, Romeo Jones and Ian Alejandro on the way to a 62-12 victory over the Sir Bills that completed a two-night sweep of local non-league foes. Tuesday, the Rams racked up a 64-12 win over Fonda-Fultonville, giving the team a two-day tune-up for this weekend's Lansingburgh Duals.

"Another night, and another test to make sure we can get up for the match, get excited and have the enthusiasm on the mat," said Amsterdam head coach Ken Benton. "I think we stepped up a little better tonight."

Dal Orengo, Josh Gonzalez, Rob Santiago and Ken Garcia added decision wins for Amsterdam, while Jorge Rivera, Adam Tatun and Monty Carmona rounded out the scoring for the Rams, who won 12 of 15 weight classes.

Perhaps most importantly for Benton, several wrestlers who didn't get matches Tuesday against Fonda-Fultonville were able to take to the mat against Johnstown. Amsterdam's heavyweight wrestlers -- Garcia at 195 pounds, Christian Lopez at 220 pounds and Joe Kelly at 285 pounds -- all accepted forfeits Tuesday night, but all got on the mat against the Sir Bills.

While Amsterdam went just 1-2 in those slots -- Garcia won a 9-3 decision over Pat Morrison, while Lopez was pinned by Johnstown's Joe Nellis and Kelly dropped an 11-5 decision to Ethan Hale -- Benton was pleased with the effort he saw.

"We were really happy to get the matchups we did," he said. "We had great matchups with Fonda in the middle and lower weights, and we had great matchups tonight at the heavy weights. We really needed that, and Fonda and Johnstown proved to be very competitive."

Kelly's match with Hale at 285 pounds proved to be the wildest of the night. After Hale opened up a 4-0 lead in the early stages of the first period, Kelly clawed his way within 4-3 after two periods and was down 7-5 in the waning seconds before a four-point move from Hale sealed the win -- and somewhat silenced a stamping, roaring crowd that cheered on Kelly's comeback attempt.

"The heavyweight match was pretty exciting," Benton said. "It brought people to their feet. I'm glad we were able to get our heavyweights tested."

In addition to Nellis' pin at 220 pounds and Hale's win at 285 pounds, the Sir Bills also got a 5-2 decision win from Austen Manchester at 182 pounds. Though the night ended up lopsided on the scoreboard, first-year Johnstown head coach Joe Morrison was impressed with the number of competitive matches his wrestlers produced.

"Not a lot of pins, a lot of six-minute matches, and that's all I ask of my guys is six minutes," Morrison said. "Any time you wrestle Amsterdam, it doesn't matter who Kenny has, it's going to be a fight. If my guys can go out and get six minutes out there, that's progress right there."

"A couple close matches could've gone either way, but they fought hard," he added. "We've got some things to work on, but we're young. Our guys fought well."

In the middle of yet another long week -- the Rams have just one day of practice before turning around Friday for the two-day, 10-team Lansingburgh Duals -- Benton was happy to see that his team's energy didn't lag.

"I think they knew they could quite conveniently let up, take it easily and then get surprised," he said. "We had a hard talk about discipline and focus. We changed a few things around, we changed the lineup a little bit tonight, got more people on the mat tonight. Between the two matches, a lot of people had some wrestling, so that'll help us get a look and get prepared for this weekend."