Niagara-Wheatfield and Newfane high schools have been selected as the varsity wrestling "Teams of the 1990s" in their respective divisions by the "Teams of the Decades" committee.
The committee was created in 2009 to research and select the teams of the past six decades and members include Section VI Wrestling Hall of Fame coaches Walt Thurnau (Southwestern), and Dick Lange (Roy-Hart and Newfane). Members also include Niagara County Community College coach Eric Knuutila, an inductee of several national, state and local wrestling halls of fame and Bob Koshinski, chairman of the Ilio DiPaolo Wrestling Scholarship Committee.
Using a wrestling tournament style scoring system, in which points are awarded for finishing in first place, second, third, etc., the committee reviewed the final top 10 rankings from the 1990-91 season to the 1999-2000 season. Total points were then added up and the teams from the respective divisions were revealed.
Finishing with the top point total in division one over the decade of the 1990s was Niagara-Wheatfield. The Falcons had five number one finishes and twice were ranked number two among large schools. The Falcons finished with 146 total points, 63 ahead of second place Lancaster, which finished with 83 points. Rounding out the top 10 respectively were Pioneer (73), Jamestown (60), Lockport (58), Orchard Park (53), Iroquois (41), Clarence and Tonawanda (40) and Lew-Port (33).
Niagara-Wheatfield was coached in the '90s by legendary wrestling coach Armand Cacciatore, a member of several wrestling halls of fame at the national, state and local levels, as well as the late Bill Dixon and Dennis Matteson. Some of Niagara-Wheatfield's outstanding wrestlers in the 1990s were the Dixon brothers, Bill, Dan and Dave, Mike Luick, Jon Hoover, Dave Brewer, Mike Ambrosia, Kris Proietti, Paul Garver, Joel Griffith, Mike Grimmer, Jason Herman, Jim Valentic, Rashad Evans, Marty Valery and Cleyton Smith.
In Division two, the top team in the 1990s was Newfane High School. The Panthers claimed five number one rankings and two number two rankings, edging out Falconer, also with five number one rankings and one number two. The point totals for the top 10 were Newfane (155), Falconer (153), Southwestern (76), Ripley (70), Franklinville (53), Portville (43), Fredonia (40), Medina (31), Eden (24) and Allegheny Limestone (15).
Newfane was coached by Dick Lange, a member of the Section VI Wrestling Hall of Fame and Doug Ames. Outstanding wrestlers for the Panthers in the 1990s were Matt Dawson, Allen Gerhardt, Keith Jones, Dan Rafferty, State Champion Ryan Needle, Jason Ethridge, Tim Lukasik, Tom McCabe, Jeff Kingsbury, Mike Brown, Mike Adinolfe and Ray Needle.
Niagara-Wheatfield and Newfane will be honored prior to the finals at the Niagara Frontier Wrestling Officials Association tournament to be held at Niagara County Community College on Jan. 7 and 8, and again at the Section VI coaches banquet in March.
The committee will announce the teams of the 1980s just prior to Section VI State Qualifier tournament in February of 2011.