Niagara Wheatfield High School and Fredonia High School have been selected as the varsity wrestling "Teams of the Decade" in their respective divisions by a committee formed by long-time wrestling Coach Dick Lange and Niagara County Community College Coach Eric Knuutila.
Using a wrestling tournament style scoring system, in which points are awarded for finishing in first place, second, third, etc, the committee reviewed the final top 10 ranking from the 2000-2001 season to the current 2009-2010 season. Finishing with the top point total over the past 10 years in Division I was Niagara-Wheatfield with five consecutive first place finishes, two seconds, two fourths and a tenth place finish.
Niagara-Wheatfield, currently coached by Rick Sweney and Vince Schiffert, has also had coaches Tim Lukasik, Bill Dixon and Bill Dixon Jr. contribute to their success over the past decade. Some of Niagara-Wheatfield's outstanding wrestlers over that time were Eric Wiseman, Bill Hetherington, Kyle Schmelzle, Josh and Zech Lange, Matt Daniels, Rob and Jake Koshinski, Jeff Mitchell, Malvestuto brothers Joe, Bob and Angelo, Jehad Ali, Antonio Ventry and Jim Donner.
The top five Division I teams in order are Niagara-Wheatfield, Lancaster, Iroquois, Niagara Falls and Cheektowaga.
In Division II the top team over the past 10 seasons was Fredonia coached by Alex Conti. The Hillbillies have been ranked number one in Division II six times since 2000 with one second place finish and three thirds. Conti has been assisted by Greg Betts, Ross Conti, Dan Morales and Wayne Vollentine over the past decade.
Some of the outstanding wrestlers who contributed to Fredonia's success over that time were the late William Sidey, Frank Zielinski, Rob Dahn, Brandon Strandburg, Brad Bichelberger, Flolite Padua, Ryan Yerico, Justin Perry, Chris Conti, Carlene Sluberski and Kenny Betts.
The top five Division II teams in order are Fredonia, Falconer, Southwestern, Newfane and East Aurora.
Niagara-Wheatfield and Fredonia will be honored on Friday and Saturday at the Section VI hampionships at 4 p.m. at Niagara County Community College and again at the Section VI Coaches Banquet in March.
The committee will announce the teams of the 90's just prior to the start of the 2010-2011 season.
The selection committee included former coaches Dick Lange (Roy-Hart & Newfane) and Walt Thurnau (Southwestern), both of whom are being inducted in March into the Section VI WNY wrestling Hall of Fame. It also included Bob Koshinski, associated with amateur wrestling for the past 30 years as both a member of the media and DiPaolo Wrestling Scholarship Committee Chairman. Knuutila is a member of several wrestling Halls of Fame on the local, state and national level.
The committee's ongoing task will be to designate the top teams of the past six decades, starting with the 2000's. "Every other sport has a Team of the Decade so it is time for us to be part of it," said Knuutila. "It was time for wrestling to honor the great teams of the past 60 years."