The Section 9 wrestling community gathered as one on Sunday at Kuhl’s Highland House in Middletown to celebrate the 2018-2019 season…and what a night it was!!! First and foremost, thank you for everyone who attended the banquet! This year was our biggest banquet to date with 329 registered guests. Last year there were 269 attendees. Let’s keep the momentum going and shoot for 400 next year!!! The purpose of the banquet is to recognize the top 4 wrestlers in Division 1 and the top 2 wrestlers in Division 2 in all 15 weight classes, and also to give special recognition to the wrestlers, coaches, teams, and others who have achieved excellence above and beyond the norm!
The highlight of the evening, without question, was the well deserved standing ovation received by retiring Cornwall coach Don Blaine for receiving the John Bell Lifetime Achievement Award. Blaine has been coaching high school wrestling at his alma mater Cornwall for 36 years. He has over 500 career wins which ranks him 1st in Section 9 history and 4th in all of New York State. Blaine has also been inducted into the NYS and National Wrestling Halls of Fame. When the standing ovation eventually stopped, Coach Blaine spoke to the audience for a few minutes – and in typical Don Blaine fashion, he spent the entire time talking about his wrestlers, his support staff, and his lovely wife Sue who he later presented with the Coach’s Wife of the Year Award. Blaine also spoke about the positive influence that John Bell, a former coach at Minisink Valley, had on his career. Congratulations Donnie, you are represent everything that is right with high school athletics!
What better way would there be to send off a coach like Don Blaine than to have one of his wrestlers win a state title??? Well thanks to Cornwall senior Will Leonard, that’s exactly the way it happened! To nobody’s surprise, Leonard cleaned house at the banquet. Leonard received the Orange/Sullivan Officials Sportsmanship Award, the Troy Bouzakis Wrestler of the Year Award, a Michael DeCapua Scholarship, and the Patrick D’Aliso Scholarship. Leonard finished the season a perfect 45-0 and capped of his career by winning the state title at 220 pounds. He is the first athlete in NYS history to be an undefeated state champion in football and wrestling in the same season. Great job Will and congratulations on an incredible career.
The greatest reaction to winning an award goes to Chuck Kennedy from Kingston who, not surprisingly, won Fan of the Year. You are the best Chuckie! Lisa Vespa from Monroe Woodbury won the Friends of Section 9 Person of the Year. Thank you Lisa for everything that you have done over the past 13 years. Pine Bush’s Nick Florin won Parent of the Year while Wallkill’s Dave Thomas received the Friends of Section 9 Presidents Award – both very well deserved! SUNY Ulster and Rondout Valley both received the Friends of Section 9 Presidents Team Award. John Scesa won the Friends of Section 9 Ref of the Year – we are very lucky to have you John!
Minisink Valley capped off another incredible season by being named the Frank Tschan Team of the Year. The Warriors won the Section 9 Duals for the 2nd straight time and finished the season ranked #3 in the state by the New York State Sportswriters Association. Minisink Valley accomplished something pretty amazing and the emcee on Sunday (that would be me) forgot to mention it during the banquet. Over the past two seasons, Minisink Valley has sent 12 wrestlers to the state tournament – 12 DIFFERENT WRESTLERS! No other team in NYS history has ever accomplished this incredible feat. The Warriors head coach Kevin Gallagher received the Mark Faller Coach of the Year Award and one of his wrestlers, Sofia Macaluso, received a Special Recognition Award. Sofia finished in 3rd place at 120 at this year’s Section 9 Tournament becoming the first girl to ever place in our sectional tournament! Great job Sofia and congratulations to Coach Gallagher, Coach Hendershot, Coach Byrne, Coach Potter, and the entire Minisink Valley wrestling program!
NFA head coach Chris Leggett was selected at the Friends of Section 9 Coach of the Year for his great work with the Goldbacks. NFA notched a dual meet win over state ranked Monroe Woodbury for the 1st time in 16 years! The Most Improved Team Award went to Chester who scored 62 more points at this year’s Section 9 Tournament than they did in 2018. Kingston’s Cappy Weiner and Quintin Johnson received Assistant Coaches of the Year Awards while Michael Daniels from Cornwall won the award for Modified/Youth Coach of the Year.
The Most Courageous Award has now been renamed the Dave Simmons Most Courageous Award and this year’s recipient was Washingtonville senior Tommy Maddox who battled through early season injuries and wound up winning the Section 9 title at 132 pounds! The Come-Back of the Year Award was won by Kingston senior Hayden Barley who missed most of last year due to injury but battled back this year and finished 2nd in the section at 195 pounds! Were would we be with our scorekeepers? This year there were 6 awards given for Scorekeeper of the Year. Congratulations to Liz Smith (Kingston), Amanda Arbiter (Kingston), Lauren Weiss (Highland), Lilly Bogdanowicz (Highland), Cassidy McMann (Highland), and Olivia Vizethann (Cornwall). And last but not least we had the following 7 senior wrestlers win Michael DeCapua Scholarships: Steve Gazzillo (Cornwall), Mat Malherio (Highland), Marco Vespa (Monroe Woodbury), Tyler Serafini (NFA), Tommy Maddox (Washingtonville), and the aforementioned Will Leonard (Cornwall).
Special thanks to Fred and Jenni Perna for all of the incredible photographs (shown here) taken during the banquet and during the entire season!