AHS wrestlers dominate on “solid gold” senior night

Years from now someone will open a shoe box filled with old photographs or maybe and old yearbook and they will come across an image of this year’s Amsterdam High School wrestling team. They will ask, “What year is this from?” That’s because the seniors were wearing gold warm up jerseys reminiscent of decades past, perhaps the 1970’s or 80’s. It was “Throwback Thursday” on senior night at “The Pit” inside Lynch Literacy Academy. The Rams delivered a solid gold performance with a 78-6 victory over Johnstown.

“I thought it would be nice to represent thee seniors as ‘gold’ in the school colors purple in gold,” AHS senior Chirs Velazquez said.

Amsterdam’s performance was golden winning 10 of the 11 matches contested on the night with the five seniors leading the way. Velazquez needed only 13 seconds to pin his opponent, Sir Bills freshman Jordan Snell in the 113 lbs contest, one of his quickest of the year. The victory was Velazquez’s 97th of the year putting him three shy of a goal he thought possible when he began his career as a freshman on the Amsterdam varsity team.

“I was hoping it was possible when I was a freshman,” Velazquez said. “It’s going to feel amazing when I get 100 wins. It will be a brand new feeling for me.”

Velazquez and the fab five that included Luis Quinones (132 lbs), John Rivera (145 lbs), Brian Swank (160 lbs), and Tyrell Smith (182 lbs) took to the mat one last time in competition and led their team to victory.

“I’ll miss the great coaching staff we’ve had through the years,” said three year varsity Ram Brian Swank, who pinned Christian Esposito in forty seconds for his 43rd career win. “And the atmosphere here at ‘The Pit’. The coaches brought us through a lot as a team.”

Twenty four of Swank’s wins have come this year. The veteran who has been coached by former AHS head coach Ken Benton and current head coach Ken Pfieffer normally wrestles at 152 lbs, but moved up to the next weight class when the Sir Bills forfeited the former weight, one of four forfeits on the night for Johnstown. Swank wasted no time though in getting the pin.

“I used a cradle,” Swank said. “I saw him step his leg out and I hooked him up and got him over as fast as I could.”

Swank’s pin came after a win by fellow senior John Rivera, who pinned Anthony Mowery with 1:43 left in the second period. Rivera improved his career mark at AHS to 63-11. The third year varsity starter put the Rams up 18-0 in the early action of the match.

“They’re a pretty tight group of well seasoned wrestlers,” Amsterdam head coach Ken Pfieffer said of his seniors. “I’m proud of every one of them. They led really well and these kids were always in good shape to wrestle. They made sure the team was in good shape to wrestle.”

Amsterdam showed that conditioning in a pair of crucial matches involving juniors Nelson Quinones (170 lbs), and Francisco Alejandro (195 lbs), with the later match proving that if you can go the distance you can rescue victory from defeat.

Alejandro trailed Marshall Manchester on points 4-2 in the third period but never tired, and when he saw his chance made the most of it flipping Manchester over and pinning him with only 17 seconds left in the match. All those nights of running the stairs at Lynch had paid off.

“It’s because the other guy ran out of gas,” Coach Pfieffer said on Alejandro’s win. “That’s what happens when you’re not in good shape. We try to make sure that’s not an issue with our kids. We want them to finish strong even if it’s in overtime.”

Nelson Quinones needed overtime to win his match with Josh Lalonde. Tied at 1-1 the two wrestlers kept each other at arms length with neither managing another point through the first three periods of two minutes each. Quinones used a reverse move in the first extra minute to earn a 3-1 decision win.

Amsterdam led 21-0 after the first four matches of the night.

Sandwiched between Quinones’ and Alejandros’ matches was the contest between Amsterdam senior Tyrell Smith and Johnstown senior Austin Brand. The first period pin by Brand was the Sir Bills lone victory on the night. For Smith, it was yet another match against one of the opponent’s best.

“Tyrell Smith has wrestled all year in one of the toughest weight classes,” Coach Pfieffer said as he addressed the crowd while introducing the seniors before the match. “He’s faced some of the top ranked wrestlers in the state and has helped this team immensely.”

Smith is in his first year on the Rams varsity and has 13 career wins with nine of them coming this season. The upperclassmen was always supporting his teammates on the mat and along with crowd could be heard during the Rams next two matches: Chris Garrison’s (220 lbs) second period pin of Najon Subik, and Joe Kelly’s (285 lbs) third period pin of Garret Hadcock. At that point, Amsterdam was in control 39-6.

Amsterdam’s light weights had an easy night as both Nick Rodecker (99 lbs), and Daniel Montalvo (106 lbs) received forfeit wins. Jose Fernandez (138 lbs), and Javier Estrado (152 lbs) also picked up forfeits. Amsterdam led 51-6 when Velazquez pinned Jordan Snell in about as much time as it takes to accept a forfeit. The four year starter who celebrated his mom’s birthday with the win, reflected on his career at AHS

“I’ll miss the team bonding over the years,” Velazquez said. “Especially the people in my grade, and all we’ve been through over the years.”

Vellazquez will go for 100 wins when the Rams return to the mat this Saturday at the Albany Invitational and later in the Section 2 Class B sectionals held at Queensbury on Saturday, February 7.

“He’s such a great kid,” said Coach Pfieffer of Velazquez. “He’s been the leader of this team and a great team captain.”

After Velazquez’s win the Rams capped off senior night with three more. Adam Tatun (120 lbs) earned a 17-4 major decision over Dominic DiScocia, freshman John Companion (126 lbs.) pinned Zach Maxon with 50 seconds left in the third period, and two year varsity senior Luis Quinones ended the night with a 16-1 major decision over Kyle Linart. It was his 11th win of the year.

“They all wrestled really well,” Coach Pfieffer said. “I thought Johnstown could win more matches. My team matched up well. Momentum sometimes swings your way. In ten years we haven’t been beat in ‘The Pit’.

Amsterdam (6-1 Foothills, 24-9 overall), finished second behind the Queensbury Spartans in their first season in the Foothills Council. The Rams and Spartans will likely meet again at the Class B championships next weekend and members of both teams could potentially meet in the Section 2 Championships held at the Glens Falls Civic Center on the weekend of February 14-15. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Championships are scheduled for February 27-28 at the Times Union Center in Albany, NY.

Scott Mulford

Scott Mulford has been covering local sports for over 20 years. He previously wrote for the Amsterdam Star and The Free Press of the Mohawk Valley.