Longtime Falcons coach Cacciatore honored
By David Yarger
When people think of legendary Niagara-Wheatfield coaches, some names stand out, but none more than Armand “Ace” Cacciatore.
With a resume packed full of accolades, Cacciatore further etched himself into the N-W history books, as the school’s wrestling room was dedicated in his name last Wednesday.
In front of a stellar audience of family, friends, past and present wrestlers, the new Armand “Ace” Cacciatore Wrestling Room sign was displayed, and Cacciatore called the dedication one of his highest honors.
Cacciatore started the formidable Niagara-Wheatfield wrestling program in 1961. Since then, N-W has won more NFL league titles, Sectional class titles, Sectional team titles and individual Sectional titles than any other wrestling team in Section VI.
Cacciatore won 330 matches over his coaching career at N-W and has been inducted into eight halls of fame, including the Section VI Hall of Fame, Western New York Wrestling Coaches HOF, Upstate New York Chapter of the National Wrestling HOF, Greater Buffalo Sports HOF, NYSPHSAA Wrestling HOF, Niagara Falls HOF and N-W Athletic HOF and Wall of Fame.
Cacciatore’s speech mixed a little bit of history along with some comedy to provide some laughs and memories to the crowd.
“Ace” added how the wrestling program got its start with undersized mats and practicing in hallways and even hosting the first match in the cafeteria.
Upon entering the current wrestling room, Cacciatore said he got “pumped up,” and he could go for “a six-minute match (and) it’d be a piece of cake.”
Cacciatore additionally thanked his wife, Mimi, the wrestlers he coached, assistant coaches, family, friends and many more for all they had done for him. “Ace” asked all the past wrestlers he coached to come up to the front to be recognized.
Cacciatore also mentioned the lengths he went to promote the sport of wrestling at Niagara-Wheatfield. He said he’d post results at the front of the school for students to see; “Falcons Doors” that wrestlers would come through during matches; wrestling presentations at a local bank; classes for grade school children; a “wrestling gong” that wrestlers could bang after they pinned an opponent; and a customized wrestling mat donning the N-W colors, amongst many things.
Of the dedication, Cacciatore said, “It’s overwhelming. I was just a kid off of Pine Avenue with eight kids in the family, so this is just – I don’t have words to explain it. It’s wonderful, it’s beautiful, and I never expected anything like this in my life.”
Even with all of his coaching success, “Ace” said the dedication ranks up near the top of his list of accolades.
“This is probably the biggest accomplishment I’ve ever had, next to being married to my wife,” Cacciatore said. “That was a big day. This is almost as big.”
He added that the N-W program means the world to him.
“It means everything. I spent all my career here coaching and teaching – overall 40 years of coaching. Wheatfield is like a second home to me. I wish I had a nickel for every time I drove up here and back,” he said.
Following the coach’s speech, attendees gathered in the N-WHS cafeteria for a brief social.
Harry Dickenson, a friend of Cacciatore’s, presented “Ace” with a framed picture and said a few words regarding the coach. Cacciatore was thankful for the action.
Additionally, the social gave attendees the chance to eat and catch up with old friends, while also meeting new ones.