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Sports Archives The Altamont Enterprise, February 9, 2012
Four BKW wrestlers take first place
Bulldogs are victorious hosts
BERNE Bright yellow caution tape separated the three wrestling mats from the spectators during the Class D Championships at Berne-Knox-Westerlo. The tape was meant to protect the crowd from the intense combat happening on the other side.
Coaches, family members, and friends cheered on the wrestlers, some taking pictures or videos. With three matches going on at once, the atmosphere was lively.
Fourteen teams filled BKW’s gymnasium on Saturday, but only a few had a real shot at a Class D title. It was the host Bulldogs that wrestled the toughest, and the smartest, to complete a championship path that was paved about six years ago.
Josh Richards (160 pounds), Matt Casullo (170 pounds), Joe Sprung (220 pounds), and Jesse Montesano (285 pounds) each won first place for BKW. Derek Struck (145 pounds) and Ben Becker (152 pounds) placed third, and Christian Peters (99 pounds) and Anthony Pasquini (126 pounds) came in fourth.
“We’re the most conditioned team here,” said Sprung on Saturday before his semifinal match. “That’s what will win this tournament for us. All of us can wrestle hard for the full six minutes.”
Some of BKW’s matches reached six minutes, but many of them ended earlier with pins. Richards, Sprung, and Montasano each won their weight class with a pin. Casullo defeated Aaron Rosa in the finals; it took him only 25 seconds to pin Whitehall’s Cody Garner in the quarterfinals.
Casullo pinned Garner with a bow and arrow cradle. He explains: “You take your arm and wrap it around their head. If they’re lying flat on the ground, you stick your head into their side and wrap your arm around to clamp them, and then roll them on their back. That puts a lot of pressure on their side.”
Saturday was a special day for everyone associated with BKW wrestling, but especially for seniors Struck, Becker, Richards, Casullo, and Montesano. Those five athletes started wrestling in seventh grade when Head Coach Jeff Vogel first formed a team in 2006. Struck and Becker expected to each be in their respective finals on Saturday, but were able to rebound in the consolation rounds for third place.
“This was a lot of work in the making,” said Vogel this week. “No team that has formed after 1980 has ever won a sectional title. Not until now. This is a special year.”
Even though freshman Peters got pinned by Alexis Bleau, a female, in the consolation finals, Vogel said he ran through the home crowd, pumping his fist. “He was just thrilled to be there,” said Vogel. “He only weighs 88 pounds. Opponents usually have 10 pounds on him.”
One of the most entertaining matches of the day was Becker’s semifinal bout against Duanesburg’s Matt Caulfield. The match went to overtime, tied at 4 to 4, and Becker lost because he couldn’t get an escape before time expired. Neither wrestler gave an inch for the entire eight minutes.
“He didn’t do much wrestling,” Vogel said of Caulfield, who came in first place. “He wrestled for like 15 seconds, scored a few points, and then went defensive. It’s an eight minute match.”
Is wrestling more offensive or defensive? It depends on the match, and the opponent.
Sprung told The Enterprise that he needs to focus more on offense if he’s facing an opponent that likes to stall. “If you know that the guy is good on his feet, and he’ll come out aggressive, then you have to be a little defensive to keep yourself out of trouble,” he said.
Casullo has a plethora of moves, but he usually takes what he’s offered. “Some guys come out a lot harder, but sometimes you get a guy that doesn’t want to do anything, you know, just wants to do what you’re doing,” he said. “I think you have to be ready for anything.”
Frequently, BKW wrestlers make their opponents submit.
“We’re not trying to sell popcorn,” Vogel said. “We take what we can get and try to win every time.”
Montasano and Voorheesville’s Don Case had a rematch of last year’s 285-pound finals, but the result was reversed this time. Last season, Case won by a point, but this year Montasano pinned Case in 3:16. The two know each other quite well and may get a rematch in Glens Falls this weekend during the state qualifiers.
“He’s my buddy at the end of the day,” Case, standing next to Montasano, said prior to their match on Saturday. “I wish him the best of luck.”
BKW was honored to host the Class D Championships. It had waited a long time for an event of this caliber to happen in Berne, and as the best team on Saturday, earned its right.
Vogel, assistant coaches Rich Holoday, and Josh Baker, and many parents sacrificed a lot of their personal time to prepare for the big tournament. Personally, Vogel had put in 200 hours of preparation.
“I really wanted to do this with the senior class,” Vogel said. “There were no visits from the ambulance, no fights, and I saw some old faces. This will be very hard to duplicate.”
The Bulldogs are sending eight wrestlers to the State Qualifiers in Glens Falls on Friday. Sprung told The Enterprise that BKW’s effort this season has brought the team closer together.
“We’re all doing really well and that’s making it easy to all be friends,” said Sprung. “It’s exciting. We’re looking forward to more wins.”
By Jordan J. Michael
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