Senior night for any Amsterdam High School athletic team normally brings in a good sized crowd. The large gathering of alumni, coaches, family and friends on Wednesday night at the Lynch Literacy Academy gymnasium, nicknamed ‘The Pit’ were on hand not only to watch the Amsterdam Rams wrestling team take on rival Lasalle Institute, but to recognize the tenure of their head coach Ken Benton.
“Almost 21 years to the day of the last retirement in this gym,” said assistant coach Stu Palczak as he introduced former AHS coach Pat Reilly who presented Benton with a plaque marking his achievements. At that moment there were more than 40 years of coaching experience on the mats. Benton was also honored by a heartfelt speech from his daughter and wrestling alumni Nicole.
“I was surprised,” Benton said of the pre game ceremony in which former coaches, alumni and family honored the head coach of 21 years. “I’m really gonna miss this. It meant a lot to me.”
The Rams would give their coach one more memory in a 54-32 victory over Big 10 rival Lasalle Institute. The match featured a few lineup changes as the two teams tried to get an advantage.
“We have a nice rivalry with Lasalle,” Benton said. ”It’s an honor to compete against them.”
The lead changed hands four times with the Rams earning points on pins by Jorge Rivera (113 lbs.), Erick Rivera (126lbs.), and Brandon Lapi n(145 lbs.). Lasalle picked up wins by Max Temple (120 lbs.), Eric Ryder (132 lbs.), Ryan Moore (13 lbs.), and Joe Clemente (152 lbs.). The win by Clemente would give Lasalle a 20-18 lead. The Rams would then take control.
“I was concerned about match ups tonight, ‘ Benton said. “Our wrestlers stepped up.”
John Rivera’s pin of Cameron Barker in the first period of the 160 pound match and Brailin Santana’s third round pin of Luke Marcelle at 170 pounds put AHS in front to stay at30-20. Joe Kelly’s pin of Alex Mears put an exclamation point on the win.
“I was happy with Joe Kelly,” Benton said. “This time he got the kid on his back and got the pin.”
Marcus Torres, Chris Garrison, and Chris Velazques all picked up wins early in their matches for Amsterdam. The Rams moved one step closer to another Big 10 title. A victory over Schenectady next week would make it nine of the last ten under Benton.
“I was happy with the outcome,” Benton said.”I will miss the excitement. Teams keep a program strong. There are no individuals on this team.”
When asked what he will remember most of his 21 years as head coach of the Amsterdam wrestling team, Benton replied; “The relationships with the players, parents and coaches. Relationships that will last a lifetime. This has been a good home for me.