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Wrestling Team Wrestling Team
Inducted: 2005 - Graduated: 1981

High schoolwrestling as a spectator sport?No, that’s not amisprint.

Not back in its heyday in Rockland County, when fans with

diehard allegiances swarmed gyms to watch young warriors in

headgear and unitards match brains and brawn in this most

physically demanding sport.

Anyone involved in the scholastic sports scene in the late 1970s

and early 1980s can well remember the intensity of these highstakes

square-offs. In the winter of 1980-81, Rockland County

wrestling was in a halcyon era. Perennial dreadnought Suffern,

coached by Bill White, set a gold standard that other squads

strove to attain. Legitimate challenges were mounted by the likes

of Tappan Zee, under Gibby Sweet, Ramapo, piloted by Tom

Canty, Nanuet, led by fourth-year coach Rich Conklin, Pearl

River under Julie D’Agostino, and North Rockland under Don

Daniels, among others.

Out of that barrel of contenders emerged the Golden Knights of

Nanuet, who posted a 12-1 dual-meet record – their only loss a

28-21 decision to Minisink Valley in the first match of the season.

The Knights routed solid teams like New Paltz, Rye and Sleepy Hollow. Nanuet has had many successful wrestling teams over

the years, but none could match the 1980-81 edition for sheer

competitive drive and tenacity.

“With the spirit of these Nanuet kids, their demeanor toward

competition raised us to a level where we were able to compete

with the best programs in the state consistently,” Conklin says.

“You didn’t have to do anything to motivate them. Just put a

challenge in front of them, give thema goal, and they could push

each other.”

The stiffest challenge to Conklin’smatmen came during a six-day

stretch in February 1981 when they faced a murderer’s row of

Tappan Zee, Suffern and Ramapo. Those three matches “defined

the character of the team,” according to Conklin. Nanuet got

rolling with a 37-19 victory over host TZ, spearheaded by Bob

Judge’s pin at 141 pounds. Judge, the Section 9 champion that

season, pinned Greg Kessaris (a future head wrestling coach at

TZ) to give the Knights an insurmountable 24-10 advantage.

Four days later came the showdown that wrestling aficionados are still talking about today. The Suffern gymhad been a chamber

of horrors for opponents: the Mounties were riding a 37-match

win streak in dualmeets andwere the three-time defendingRCPSAL

titleholders. Anyone who set foot on their turf would not only

have to leave blood, sweat and tears on the mats; they would

somehow have to overcome the vaunted Suffernmystique as well.

Close to 3,000 onlookers shoehorned into the Suffern lair. Fans

were literally sitting on the basketball rims. The gym floor and

stands were a sea of spectators from all over the county. There

were so many bodies that the Suffern Fire Department had to

close the gym. Accounts from that evening estimated the gym

temperature as high as 105 degrees.

Suffern kept things hot for Nanuet by crackling out of the starting

gate and taking a commanding 20-3 lead after six matches.

However,Nanuet then won three straight bouts to get right back

in contention. Pat Harris gave the team a big motivational lift

with a 17-8 major decision over Jeff Mazza, a Suffern captain, at

135 lbs. Bob Judge followed quickly with a 27-second pin of

Anthony Guccione at 141, and Scott Sahlstrom, at 148, came

from behind and pinned Jim Dunnigan with just 16 seconds left

in regulation. Now Nanuet trailed by just one, 20-19.

Heading into the climactic heavyweight match, the teams were

tied, 25-25. At this point Nanuet pulled off a psychological ploy

to unnerve Suffern. In the Tappan Zee match, Steve Bailey had

wrestled at heavyweight and won. Nanuet had circulated a rumor

that Eric Lewis was injured. At the Suffern weigh-in, Lewis was

weighed in for 180 lbs. but also qualified for heavyweight.

Suffern expected to see Bailey at heavyweight and was caught off

guard when Lewis stepped on the mat to face Ken Donohue.

Heading into the third period, Lewis held a tenuous 4-3 edge.

Starting from the bottom position, Lewis scored a reversal for

two points. Donohue then escaped to make it 6-4, but Lewis

maneuvered a takedown for a four-point cushion.

Referee Spike Israel assessed a penalty point inDonohue’s

favor to close the deficit to three, but Lewis managed

an escape in the waning seconds to clinch an 8-6 victory.

Final score: Nanuet 28, Suffern 25. Goodbye, 37-

match win streak. A watershed moment in Nanuet wrestling

history. And bedlam among the Golden Knights faithful.

“It was one of the greatest single high school wrestling events

I’ve ever been a part of,” Conklin says. “In my 35 years in the

sport, I’ve never seen anything quite like that level of intensity.

And I’ve never seen 3,000 people in one place for a wrestling


Two days later, still riding the adrenaline rush of toppling a

Mount Rushmore in Rockland wrestling, Nanuet posted

an emphatic 38-17 triumph over Ramapo to complete the

dual-meet trifecta. The Knights went on to take second at the Rockland County championship tournament –Nanuet’s highest

finish in the County meet – with six finalists, and 11 wrestlers out

of 14 finishing in the top four.

Other impressive numbers:Out of 14wrestlers in the varsity lineup,

12 had winning records, and the two who did not were just two

victories shy of .500. Additionally,Nanuet wrestlers recorded 34

pins in RCPSAL dual meets and were pinned just twice; overall

in dual meets, they notched 53 pins and were pinned only six


“These were old-fashioned, throwback, hard-nosed kids,”

Conklin recalls. “One characteristic that separated this team

from most wrestling teams was the killer instinct. They knew

how to go for the jugular vein. Each kid knew his own personal

role, took on the personal challenge and still kept his team

responsibility to get the job done.”

The team’s lineup consisted of the following wrestlers: 94 lbs.,

Tom McCormick; 101, Paul DeEntremont; 108, Steve Gentile;

115, Eric Schulte; 122, Tim Harris; 129, Tom Quaglia; 135, Pat

Harris or Joe Mellia; 141, Bob Judge; 148, Scott Sahlstrom; 158,

JimLong or JimO’Connor; 170, Paul Hannon or Joe Munnelly;

180, Eric Lewis or Tony Sedotto; heavyweight, Steven Bailey.

Conklin was assisted by Mike Achille.