The Post-Journal

‘Pride, Sacrifice And Courage’

The Southwestern Trojan wrestling team has a motto that dates back to the early days of the program under former coach Clarence “Flash” Olson.

“Pride, Sacrifice and Courage,” Coach Walt Thurnau said. “it’s been around forever.

The Trojans have worn that motto quite well this season, putting together one of their best efforts in the school’s history.

“Everybody’s done well,” Thurnau said earlier this week. “It’s always been a team effort.”

Ranked second in Western New York behind Roy-Hart, Southwestern clinched the Southern Tier Wrestling Conference Division 1 championship for the first time Tuesday night with a victory over Cassadaga Valley and is within reach of tying the school’s single-season record for most victories and setting the mark for fewest losses.

The Trojans’ record stands at 8-0 in the league and 11-1 overall, their lone loss coming to East Rochester in December. With a win Tuesday in a non-league season finale against Maple Grove, Southwestern would solidify 1987-88 as one of its best.

The season also includes impressive performances in four tournaments, including a first-place finish at the Falconer tournament, second-place at both the Sweet Home and Niagara County tournaments and a third-place at the tournament at Jamestown Community College.

“At every tournament we’ve been to, we’ve had at least 7 to 12 kids that have placed and scored points,” Thurnau said. “This team is well-balanced, the best balance we’ve had. We have a pretty decent kid at each weight class.”

Three of the Trojans are in the top of their respective weight classes in the Western New York rankings, including junior Steve McCray (119), and seniors Paul Wendel (177) and Tom Meyers (heavyweight).

McCray is 21-4-1, Wendel is 24-2 and Meyers 25-2. Beyond that, the rest of the squad has put together a quietly spectacular effort.

“You can see from the rankings that we don’t have many individual stars, but we have some pretty good kids,” Thurnau said.

That may be an understatement.

Some of the records of unranked Trojans are nearly as impressive as McCray’s, Wendel’s and Meyers’. As of Thursday morning, junior Alan Higley (145) is 22-6, senior Tim Piazza (112) is 21-7 and senior Scott Wendel (138) is 22-9 and senior Phil Kutschke (unlimited) is 13-3.

That kind of strength up and down the lineup has translated into a lot of points, particularly at tournament time.

“We haven’t had a lot in the finals (with the exception of the Falconer Tournament where the Trojans had eight finalists), but we’ve had a lot of kids in the wrestlebacks that placed third and fourth,” Thurnau said. “Everybody’s been doing well.”

And it hasn’t come as a shock to Thurnau.

“I thought we had the opportunity to do well,” he said. “There’s so many things that can go wrong. We had a lot of injuries, but fortunately we’ve had a lot of kids come in and wrestle well.”

And in the Southern Tier Wrestling Conference that’s sometimes easier said than done.

“When you wrestle in the Southern Tier, it just makes you better,” said Thurnau, who believes the conference is the toughest in Western New York.

With that in mind, it’s not surprising that Thurnau calls the Trojans’ victory last week over fourth-ranked Falconer as his biggest win this season. “It was the best we’ve wrestled all year,”he said.

“Again, it was a real team situation.”

Such “team effort” extends in many directions.

Thurnau credits his assistant, Jim Tillotson, for putting together a strong junior varsity team that “pushes the varsity every day in practice.”

The varsity coach also praised the Kids Wrestling Program, which has also worked so well in Falconer.

“If it weren’t for the people who help with the Kids program, we wouldn’t be nearly as successful,” said Thurnau, who also credited the Southwestern wrestling alumni for its support.

So, where does the team go from here?

Well, Thurnau would like to qualify 11 for the state qualifier at Division 1.

Don’t bet against the pride, sacrifice and courage of his Trojans.

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