The Post-Journal

Davenport, Prince, Waddington Among Wrestling Honorees

BLASDELL - The area wrestling community gathered to reflect on and honor accomplishments Sunday.

The Western New York Wrestling Coaches Association held its annual banquet at DiPaolo's Restaurant and added six members to its hall of fame.

The inductees were coaches Bill Davenport (Falconer, 1971-90) and Jim Myers (Olean, 1978-95), wrestlers Bill Miner (Lancaster, 1956-59), Rob Waddington (Falconer, 1981-85) and Bill Prince (Frewsburg, 1997-2000) and official Harvey Lyndecker.

Brian Swatland, current president of the association, welcomed the crowd and recognized the Section 6 large school and small school champions as well as those selected as ''wild cards'' for the state tournament. Four wrestlers from the small school division won state titles. Swatland, coach at Williamsville North, said that ''coaching wrestling is different from other sports. There is a general feel of camaraderie. We have great coaches and great personalities.''

He then presented coach of the year awards for each division. Recipients were Jason Chase, Clarence (ECIC 1), Dennis Bauer, Amherst (ECIC 2), Paul Rakoski, East Aurora (ECIC 3), Kevin Lawson, Roy- Hart (Niagara Orleans), Jeff Johnston, Grand Island (Niagara Frontier), Mark Leous, Gowanda (Southern Tier 1), Tim Prince, Frewsburg (Southern Tier 2), Mike DeBarbieri, Portville (Southern Tier 3)and Pete Kennedy, St. Joseph's (Msgr. Martin Association). Brad Rowe of Ripley was presented with the Rookie Coach of the Year.

Lancaster and Fredonia were recognized as team champions of the state qualifier tournament in Division 1 and 2 respectively.

Following dinner, the hall of fame inductees were honored.

First to be recognized was Davenport. He was presented by his son, Kevin. Kevin Davenport said that wrestling is ''a nice fraternity to be part of.'' He noted that his father grew up in Boston, where he played basketball.

Bill Davenport served as Falconer coach from 1971 to 1990, then as modified coach until 2000. His overall record was 229-37-1 with eight league titles and undefeated seasons in 1980, 1983 and 1990.

Kevin Davenport praised his father for helping found the youth wrestling program in Falconer.

''He put Falconer on the map,'' he said. ''But his true legacy is as a father. He thought of wrestlers as his sons. I decided to go into teaching, coaching, and now administration because of his influence.''

Bill Davenport began by saying he was ''really humbled'' by the induction. He thanked his wife for ''allowing me to pursue my dream.'' He expressed appreciation his assistant coaches over the years along with former athletic director, Bill Race, the parents who helped with the youth program (which he called the backbone of the varsity program), and his fellow coaches. He also gave appreciation to ''all the young men. All of you are a large part of who I am.''

He concluded by telling the story of ''the stick'', which is a yellow-and-blue rod. He explained that he used the stick in practice and brought it to a meet one night, which Falconer won. The next match was against Eisenhower, which was very strong that year, and Falconer pulled the upset. He said it is a conversation piece and the ''spirit of the stick'' includes hard work, disappointment and success.

Davenport then presented Waddington. Waddington was a five-time Section 6 champion, winning titles from 1981 to 1985. He had been the only one to accomplish the feat until Kenny Betts of Fredonia won his fifth title this year. At the state tourney, Waddington finished fourth as an eighth-grader (91 pounds), third as a freshman (98), fourth as a junior (105) and second as a senior (112). He went on to wrestle at Edinboro University and since returned to the area.

Davenport said that ''it's not hard to win a lot of matches with wrestlers like Rob.'' He noted that Waddington was also a talented freestyle wrestler, and had just 15 losses in his career, including just one (as an eighth grader) in a dual meet.

Waddington spoke briefly, expressing appreciation to Davenport, his parents, the program. He also congratulated Betts on joining him as a five-time sectional champ.

Miner was presented by former Roy-Hart coach Dick Lang. Miner wrestled for Lancaster from 1956 to 1959. He finished second at sectionals in 1956, then won titles in 1957 (98), 1958 (105) and 1959 (115). He served in the Marine Corps from 1960 to 63.

Lang noted that he was an excellent boxer and musician (trumpet) while serving. Later on, he served as coach at Cardinal O'Hara in 1968 and 1969. Following a head injury, he developed a form of epilepsy and died in 1982 at the age of 40.

Accepting on Miner's behalf was his brother. George. He noted that Miner wrestled ''in a different era'' and only lost twice during his high school career.

The third wrestler to be honored was Bill Prince. Prince wrestled for Frewsburg in the late 1990s. He finished with a career record of 207-35. He won four Section 6 titles, took third at states his freshman year, then won back-to-back state titles in 1999 and 2000, both at 171 pounds. He was also an AAU Junior National Champion and finished sixth at the Senior Nationals in 2000.

He was not present due to his recent deployment to Khryghstan as a member of the Air Force Reserves.

Accepting for his was his father, long-time Frewsburg coach Tim Prince. Coach Prince said that they moved to Frewsburg when Bill was six and ''he couldn't stand to lose.'' He said he had talked with his son recently and he had expressed appreciation to the wrestling community.

Besides Davenport, the other coach inducted was Jim Myers. Myers served as an assistant coach at Olean in the early 1970s, then became head coach in 1978. Chris Leichtweis won the school's first state title in 1978 at 155 pounds, and was followed by Clar Anderson (1979, 80), and Jeff Prescott (1985, 86, and 87).

Myers was not present due to attending the Big Ten wrestling championships at Penn State, his alma mater.

Former Salamanca coach Rich Morton spoke on behalf of Myers. He said he ''was a great role model'' and that ''I looked to him for guidance as a coach.

The final inductee, as a contributor, was Harvey Lyndecker. He began as a coach at Medina from 1957 to 1965. After starting as an official in Section 5 in 1958, and since 1960 in Section 6. He has remained active in the Niagara Frontier Wrestling Officials Association in a variety of roles. For the last six years, he has served as administrator of the NFWOA's website.

Presenting Lyndecker was Lang, who noted that Lyndecker has been active in wrestling since 1949. Lyndecker said he has ''had a great time for 60 years'' and expressed appreciation to his wife and family.

The final major award was the Jon Vesper Memorial Award, named in honor of the former Clarence coach who died in 2007. Swatland, who was the initial honoree last year, said that this year's winner ''is very intelligent, works hard in the off season, and is a father figure to his wrestlers.'' The award was then presented to Israel Martinez of Niagara Falls.

Martinez said that the award ''was truly humbling. I am truly honored.'' He expressed appreciation to his wife, his team, coaching staff, and Section 6 committee, including Mike DeBarbieri of Portville, ''from who I have learned a ton.''

The program concluded as the sectional champions were presented with their patches and recognized by their coaches.

The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.