AHS wrestlers dominate CBA

By ADAM SHINDER

Recorder Sports Staff

The Amsterdam High School wrestling team's first dual meet of the season turned out to be a showcase for the Rams' younger grapplers. Given the chance to show their potential, they didn't disappoint.

Going up against an inexperienced, undermanned Christian Brothers Academy team that fielded wrestlers in just seven of 15 weight classes Wednesday night, Amsterdam head coach Ken Benton opted to rest all of his veteran wrestlers in advance of tonight's non-league match at Glens Falls and let a group of varsity neophytes take the mat. The young group paid dividends, with five of them picking up victories -- four by pinfall in the first period -- while the Rams also collected seven forfeit wins in cruising to a 69-9 victory.

"We have a lot of young kids on the team, and we wanted a showcase for the younger wrestlers," Benton said. "We're very optimistic about their future. They show a lot of spirit and enthusiasm, and they pick things up very quick."

All seven Amsterdam (1-0) wrestlers who competed Wednesday in "The Pit" at Lynch Literacy Academy were either freshmen or sophomores. Brailin Santana, Joe Kelly, Rafael Garcia and John Rivera all came away with quick pins for the Rams, while Nelson Quinones added an exciting decision win at 132 pounds, trailing by a point to CBA's Brendan Ward before snatching a 12-8 victory with a reversal and a three-point near fall in the final 15 seconds.

Dan Banewicz, Chris Garrison, Christian Lopez, Jorge Rivera, Tim Steele, Adam Tatun and Romeo Jones all collected forfeit wins for the Rams. It was the first varsity dual meet for the bulk of Amsterdam's less-experienced group, which took first against small-school competition over the weekend at the Berne-Knox-Westerlo Tournament and will represent Amsterdam again Saturday at the Galway Duals.

"We have no problem with doing that this year," Benton said. "It gives us a chance to see how they hold up against some varsity competition. It exposes weaknesses and we learn what we have to work on."

CBA got a pinfall win from Fritz Pierre at 170 pounds and a decision victory from Dennis Riley at 138 pounds. Brothers coach Michael Forand acknowledged that his team's numbers disadvantage -- the seven forfeits alone gave Amsterdam enough points to guarantee victory -- is a major handicap, but said his inexperienced wrestlers are working to help build up the CBA program.

"We're really young. Really, really young," Forand said. "I don't have a single senior on the squad, I only have two juniors. It's about inexperience right now. When you come out here with Amsterdam, who's got the modified program and the summer program, it is what it is, but we'll get there. We're improving, and that's all we can really ask for."

Meanwhile, as Amsterdam rested wrestlers like Brandon Lapi, James Marquez and the rest of its veteran varsity crew between Saturday's Andersen Tournament at Cicero-North Syracuse High School and tonight's non-league test at Glens Falls, Benton was more than happy to let his younger competitors stretch their legs while still starting the Rams on the path to an eighth consecutive Big 10 title.

"When you can sprinkle them into a varsity match and wrestle at that higher level, it helps them build their confidence," he said. "They learn the level of focus they need to have on the mat."