Saturday, January 23, 2010

'Burgh trio nearing triple 100-win milestone; no Section II duals this year

A trio of Lansingburgh High School wrestlers have already cracked the 100-win club or soon will and I had a chance to chat with them Saturday afternoon during a break in the action at the new-and-improved eighth annual Lansingburgh Duals tournament.

For the full story, check out Sunday's edition of The Record, but for a brief glance at each of the wrestlers, keep reading.

Austin Schnapp
160 pounds
2009-10 record: 23-2*

Schnapp got his start in wrestling after watching his older brother wrestle. A transfer from Cohoes, Schnapp is likely to win No. 100 during Sunday's action in the Lansingburgh Duals.

"It’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I was younger," he said. "Ever since I was on modified, I looked up to people that had 100 wins. I always wondered if I would be there."

He also gave credit to Lansingburgh head coach Dan Bechand for always scheduling the best possible opponents and to Athletic Director Mike Harkin and the LHS administration for helping the sport grow.

"We get a lot of support from people from the school," he said. "A lot of people come to watch our matches and the administration is very supportive of our team."

Chad Obzud
171 pounds
2009-10 record: 28-1*

A fiery competitor, Obzud was quick with a laugh during our brief interview session. I asked the trio how they got their start in wrestling, starting with Schnapp, moving on to Richards and wrapping up with Obzud. When it was his turn, he just laughed.

"I got cut from the basketball team in seventh grade, so I wrestled instead," Obzud said. "It was addicting. As soon as I stared wrestling I had a lot of fun and loved it."

Like Schnapp, Obzud is a Cohoes transfer. He's hoping to wrestle for SUNY-Oneonta next year. The Red Dragons have the closest collegiate wrestling program to the Capital Region and Obzud also figures his mom can come watch him wrestle more that way.

Obzud craked the 100-win club two weeks ago and he said he hasn't felt the same since.

"I never thought it would feel the way it did, but I went out there and got my 100th win and it just felt great," Obzud said. "Once you start getting every match over 100, it’s like…wow. It’s a cool feeling.
"It’s a combination of all the hard work you put in and everything and just being able to get there," he continued. "I never thought I would be able to do it."

Will Richards
112 pounds
2009-10 record: 27-2*

Richards was born to be a wrestler - his father Ed, now an assistant with the Knights, was a fine wrestler in his day.

Will Richards has dedicated himself to offseason training, working with the Journeymen Wrestling program run by Frank Popolizio. The Journeymen organization has been a tremendous feeder program for Section II high schools and really explains why Section II wrestlers have been so successful in New York State competition over the past few years.

"In ninth grade, I wasn’t a great wrestler, but I just dedicated myself," he said. "I went to Journeymen and Frank Popolizio helped me out a ton to get me to where I am. Coming into this season, I thought it would be a struggle because I needed 30 wins and last year I only had 29. I’m just having a great season."

Richards won No. 100 Saturday afternoon, leaping into the arms of his father in a joyous embrace immediately after having his arm raised by the referee and shaking the Saratoga Springs coach's hand.

He hopes to wrestle at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. next year.

* Won-loss records accurate prior to Saturday's action
(Photo credits to J.S. Carras - The Record).

The Section II Duals were not held this year due to a lack of interest. A 'free' event for any team in Section II, the area-wide duals offered teams an opportunity to congregate for a day of pre-sectionals matches without costing a team points against their total number of matches allowed.

With dual meets going on in Lansingburgh and in Fonda (more on Fonda later) only six teams were interested in participating in the duals, which was eventually declared too small a field to make the event worthwhile.

The first day of Lansingburgh's event went off without a hitch. 11 teams made the trek to Troy and each team will get nine quality matches this weekend. The brand-new Lansingburgh gym and athletic wing is a great facility and Cohoes and Mechanicville donated mats to provide three surfaces.

Lansingburgh head coach Dan Bechand defended his event while bemoaning the loss of the Section II Duals, an event the Knights typically attended when it was scheduled for a different weekend.

"I feel unfortunate about it," Bechand said. "But I had these 12 teams committed last year. I feel I didn’t take anything away from their tournament because of our scheduling. We had this scheduled this year.

"Both tournaments used to be different weekends, but this year, they moved it to this weekend, which conflicted with our tournament," he continued. "That is a free tournament for our section, so it doesn’t cost us any points. But these teams that are here committed two points for a tournament to fill their schedule with this tournament. I feel bad that the Section II tournament was canceled because it was a good tournament. I hope they can get it back next year. There was a lot of planning and a lot of effort put into this tournament, with family and friends and parents and all kinds of help from the outside from all over the place. They helped put this thing together."

In his 10th year at Lansingburgh, Bechand has expanded the Lansingburgh duals to a 12-team, two-day event. For the first seven years of its run, the duals were a one-day, six-team affair. The Knights drew teams from around Section II (Shaker, Niskayuna, Saratoga Springs, Mohonasen, Voorheesville, Bethlehem, Cambridge, Hudson Falls and Duanesburg - the No. 7 small school in the state) as well as Newburgh Free Academy.

He's right, it takes a lot of volunteers to make a tournament like that run smoothly, from the timers and scorekeepers to ticket-takers and concession stand workers.

Bechand is also hoping that the success stories of Schnapp, Obzud and Richards inspires more students on the north side of Troy to pick up wrestling, because the school administration is certainly dedicated to the sport.

"For the school to open up for a Saturday and a Sunday event, that’s tough nowadays," Bechand said. "Our athletic director, Mike Harkin, really opened up his arms. He’s been a great supporter of the team this year. He’s let us have our peewee program back, let us have a two-day tournament and he’s been very supportive and doing a lot of stuff for us. I’m very happy with that."

Wrestling continues at Lansingburgh on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In the Fonda-Fultonville Duals, Columbia High School swept all five matches, giving head coach Anthony Servidone career win No. 100 in a round two victory over Canajoharie-Fort Plain.

Evan Wallace (140 pounds) recorded five wins (three pins and two technical falls), running his 2009-10 season record to 31-4. The Blue Devils were ranked No. 23 in the latest large school (Division I) New York State poll.

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