By ADAM SHINDER
Recorder Sports Staff
A week off to start the new year after two grueling days in Dolgeville at the Mountain Duals to cap off December was just what the doctor ordered for the Amsterdam High School wrestling team.
Now, the break is over, and a relentless January schedule kicks off Wednesday night in "The Pit" at Lynch Literacy Academy, as the Rams look to wrap up an eighth consecutive Big 10 regular-season title against Schenectady.
"We're prepared. We had the week off, so we had time to rest, but everybody's anxious to get back on the mat and wrestle other people," said senior 160-pounder James Marquez.
Rams head coach Ken Benton said that while he was glad to have the gap in his team's schedule last week to allow his wrestlers to recover from early-season bumps and bruises, things ramp up again quickly as Wednesday's Senior Night dual meet with Schenectady and this weekend's trip downstate to the Eastern States Classic at SUNY Sullivan in Loch Sheldrake start the serious buildup to the exhausting stretch of postseason tournaments that begin in early February.
"We get that one break, and we really look forward to that first week in January," Benton said. "Then, you look at the schedule and I kind of go, 'What am I thinking?' That's a pretty competitive schedule, and hopefully it will get us where we want to be at the end of the schedule and in the postseason. We're kind of looking forward to getting through these events in one piece."
Wednesday night will mark Benton's first dual meet at home since he reached a career milestone Dec. 28 on the opening day of the Mountain Duals.
Heading into the two-day, eight-match dual meet tournament, Benton sat on 299 wins in his highly successful coaching tenure. The Rams wasted no time getting their coach his 300th dual victory, pasting Rome Free Academy, 66-19, in the opening match of the event en route to a 4-4 finish during the two days in Dolgeville.
"The team all knew what we were facing. We're somewhat familiar with RFA, and we didn't think RFA was going to be one of the more challenging matches," Benton said. "We were pretty confident we were gonna control the match, and it was just a matter of getting the kids some opportunity to experience some good competition. Getting the win and getting the 300, it was a nice milestone."
It was a milestone Benton -- one of just two head coaches in the nearly 50-year history of Amsterdam's varsity wrestling program, along with his predecessor Pat Reilly -- credited to the coaches and athletes he's had around him.
"It's a reflection and a testament to all the athletes this year and the athletes before," he said. "The hard work they put in to wrestling, and all the associate coaches and the effort they put forth, too."
With one piece of history out of the way, the Rams can focus on a team accomplishment Wednesday against Schenectady. With wins in December against La Salle Institute, Troy and Albany, Amsterdam needs only to beat the Patriots to clinch the Big 10 title for an eighth year running. The Rams have the definitive home mat advantage, having not lost a home dual at Lynch since La Salle won in "The Pit" in 2006, and senior captain Marquez
"We're very confident," he said. "Coach Benton and (assistant coach Ken) Pfeiffer and the other people that assist us have trained us, and we're pretty prepared for it mentally and physically."