Archive for February, 2015

Two area coaches retiring

Friday, February 27th, 2015
Patrick Newell

RETIREMENTS

I remember my first interaction with Paul DuVall. It was around 1996 or 1997 and DuVall was running the Unadilla Valley peewee wrestling program. He submitted a photo and caption information for publication in our sister paper, The Gazette. A few days after publishing the story, Paul gave me a call. He wasn’t happy with the “creative license” I took with the write-up. After a short conversation, I think I appeased Paul, and encouraged him to keep submitting information about his young wrestlers.
Perhaps it was the following year, Paul took over as head coach of the UV wrestling program. At the time, there were just a few kids on the team, and Jeremy Wetherbee was the lone standout. Wetherbee would advance to the sectional finals multiple times under DuVall’s tutelage. Although Wetherbee did not win a section title, he was the foundation of a wrestling program that grew and improved year after year. I took an inventory each season at the sectional wrestling tournament: Every year, Unadilla Valley had an increasing number of sectional tournament qualifiers, and the program reached its peak when Trevor Franklin won a state title. DuVall resurrected the Unadilla Valley wrestling program that remains solid to this day. A few years after Franklin’s state title, DuVall and his family moved into the Sherburne-Earlville school district – his alma mater – and soon, DuVall was assisting on the coaching staff under head coach Bim Palmer. Palmer has been an old friend of DuVall’s since the two wrestled together for S-E in the pee wee ranks. Palmer said earlier this week that DuVall would be retiring from coaching at the completion of his son’s high school wrestling career. I tip my cap to a dedicated man who has coached dozens and dozens of kids for nearly two decades, and has done it most of the time on a volunteer basis. Palmer said he’s keeping DuVall’s locker in the coaches’ room at the ready. You know, just in case DuVall gets the bug to coach again.

If ever there was a person who has defied time, it’s Bainbridge-Guilford’s Tim Mattingly. He’s one of those ageless wonders now in his mid-50s, and he looks almost exactly the same as when I met him 20 years ago. Mattingly, who has taught and coached at his alma mater for well over 30 years, will retire at the end of the school year.
I came to know Tim my first year on the job as the right-hand man to B-G girls varsity basketball coach Bob Conway. Conway has coached the Bobcats for 22 years, and Mattingly has been his junior varsity and assistant varsity coach every step of the way. Mattingly was also a junior varsity football coach, assistant varsity coach, and the past nine years, the varsity football coach at B-G. In recent years, Mattingly has led the varsity baseball program, and this spring will be his last as a varsity coach.
Tim has been friendly and accommodating from the day I met him, and I was happy to cover the athletic accomplishments of his two daughters Courtney and Ashley – the former perhaps the best local girls’ basketball player I have ever covered. Conway will certainly miss Mattingly’s presence on the bench. “He’s really been a co-coach,” Conway said. “We have the same mentality for the game and our expectations for the kids are the same.
“He’s just a great person, great with kids, and academically, he does a good job of teaching. He’s leaving a big hole to fill.”
Best wishes to Mattingly in retirement.

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Sports Editor’s Playbook, Feb. 19, 2015

Thursday, February 19th, 2015
Patrick Newell

As much as I would like, I can’t fit every good comment from a coach into a game story. Some coaches waver a little off topic or linger on individual play – or players – that digress too far from a game story. I often hoard these words of wisdom as potential blog material, and I’ve dubbed this fodder “quotable leftovers.”
Following Norwich’s thrilling 44-43 win over Horseheads Wednesday night, head coach Tom Collier, understandably, had a lot to say. (Actually, he always has a lot to say.)
It’s enjoyable to hear Tom regal the play of each guy who contributed to a win, and no player’s contribution is overlooked. Tom preaches a team approach to offense and defense, and in his four years as head coach, no player on his team has averaged better than 14.2 points a game. This season, the state-ranked Tornado do not have a player averaging more than 12 points a game.
Yet, Norwich has consistently remained one of the area’s highest scoring teams. Wednesday night, Collier devoted a lot of time to the efforts of sophomore Tre Bonham and senior Chris Trevisani. If you watched the second half, you saw Bonham bury the game-winning points; however, Trevisani didn’t budge from his seat on the bench except to cheer his teammates on or stand for a timeout.
In the first half, Trevisani did see a few key minutes, this after taking a DNP (did not play) in last Thursday’s loss to Oneonta.
Trevisani was summoned by the Tornado staff in the second quarter when the offense was languishing. Trevisani is a deadly outside shooter, and he ignited the crowd in his two- or three-minute stint. He had an open three that was just off the mark, but on his second shot attempt in he right corner, he swished a jump shot that gave Norwich late first-half momentum.
“The reality is that everyone wants to be a hero, but Chris is a role player for us, and he played that to perfection,” Collier said. “That was a big shot for us because it energized our bench. Chris’ number was called, and he delivered for us. He’s a great team player who is beloved by his teammates. Chris epitomizes what we are as a team.”
As for Bonham, the grind of 5:30 a.m. workouts and making 300 jump shots before school each day paid off. “Tre Bonham made the shot of the game for us,” Collier said. “You know what, there were some people who didn’t think he deserved to be with us (on the varsity). Nobody deserved that shot more than Tre. He’s a dedicated player, and he does what it takes to be a winner.”

Other Collier musings:

* “At one point in the game, we had all sophomores and juniors on the floor (against Horseheads), and they had all seniors on the floor. Our juniors scrapped and got us back in the game.”
* “We gave a speech at halftime about getting bullied in the first half (by Horseheads). What’s the best thing to do against a bully? Bully them back, and we did that in the second half.”
* “After losing to Oneonta last week, there was doubt in my mind whether this team was mentally and physically tough enough. We weren’t sure (as a coaching staff). We challenged the guys all week in practice, and they responded. It was a test of our character, and I couldn’t be more proud of our players.”

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Curtis raised the bar

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015
Patrick Newell

The first time I saw John Curtis, I didn’t know his name, but I thought, at the time, he bore a resemblance to one-time PGA Tour member Tom Weiskopf. Curtis was playing in his regular foursome at Canasawacta Country Club with Dave Clarke, Russ Lowe, and Joe Brillinger. Curtis didn’t hit it like Weiskopf, but he was a pretty good stick.
I came to know Curtis in my early years working at the newspaper as he succeeded Tony Abbott as varsity football coach. Abbott had a Hall of Fame career lifting Oxford to the top of the Susquenango Association several times. Curtis, an assistant under Abbott, served as the offensive coordinator for Abbott, and Curtis put his own stamp on the program when he took the reins in 1996.
“John was a little different than me,” Abbott said in a phone interview Monday. “I was a big option guy. Being a former high school quarterback, John liked to throw it more, and he did. That was probably our only difference.”
There was no difference with the results on the field, either. Abbott won 147 games during his 27 seasons, and Curtis tacked on 72 more victories during his tenure to give Oxford 219 football wins from 1970 to 2006. Looking over our records, that is the most wins for a Chenango County football team during that span.
Said Mike Chrystie, who played on three Section IV championship teams under Curtis, and is now head coach at Norwich: “John was definitely a model of consistency that I am striving for as a football coach, and I hope, one day, our program can reach the consistency he had at Oxford.”
When you’re in this business and building relationships within the many small communities, there aren’t many degrees of separation. My “Oracle of Bacon” number with John Curtis was one, and I didn’t even know it the first year I covered his teams.
As I got to know John a little better, I learned more about his family. His wife, Jean, was an elementary school teacher. At some point, I am sure I asked John if his wife ever taught school at St. Paul’s (now named Holy Family). John said she did at the start of her teaching career.
I remembered that my second grade teacher at St. Paul’s was Mrs. (Jean) Curtis, and my mom confirmed the football coach’s wife was an integral part of my childhood education.
I was on friendly terms with John throughout the 11 years we worked together, but I’ve learned more about him in the two days since his passing than I ever did during our professional relationship.
Don Cooper coached along side Curtis for 31 years, and was Curtis’ right-hand man as the defensive coordinator on the 1997, 1999, and 2000 Section IV Class D championship teams.
Cooper worked with a lot of great coaches on the Oxford staff, coached against some of the finest field generals in Section IV, and knew of perhaps every other good coach in Central New York. He pinpointed one characteristic about Curtis that made him unique.
As every coach knows, from time to time you deal with undisciplined and disrespectful athletes, and its well known that many parents can be just as unruly in their treatment of a coach.
“What made John stand out in my mind, and I wrote this in the dedication of the scoreboard (to John), is that he was the most professional guy,” Cooper said. “I spent thousands of hours with him, and never once did he bad-mouth a kid or a parent.”
Cooper said that one time a parent blew cigar smoke in Curtis’ face in an effort to provoke the head coach. Curtis was a robust, athletic man in his prime, and surely could have handled himself in any altercation. However, Curtis diffused the situation by remaining calm and professional.
While Maine-Endwell and Chenango Forks have set the bar in Section IV with their multiple sectional football championships and ensuing state titles, Curtis set the bar high in Chenango County with seven sectional title game appearances and three Section IV titles in four years.
Curtis raised the bar around these parts, and no has come close to reaching it.

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Garcia, Rifanburg in twilight of their great careers

Monday, February 2nd, 2015
Patrick Newell

Wednesday, Jan. 28, I reported from Norwich High School. It was a significant day, at least if you’re a wrestling fan as defending state champions Tristan Rifanburg and Frank Garcia were among the four seniors honored before the team’s final home match. (Trey Muserallo and Stephen Kuhn were also recognized with their families.) Every school in every sport that I cover reserves a night near the end of the season to pause and appreciate the outgoing senior class. I miss the majority of those occasions, but I wanted to be on hand for this one if only to be on site for the final home appearance of what is likely the best one-two punch Norwich wrestling has had.
The Purple Tornado have a long and distinguished wrestling history, and one of the first great NHS wrestlers, Don Manley, is part of the 2015 Norwich High School Sports Hall of Fame induction class. I don’t have Manley’s biography, but I believe he lost just one match his entire wrestling career.
Rifanburg and Garcia have each lost more than once, but neither one ever lost on the home mat. In fact, Rifanburg never lost a match in a dual meet with all of his defeats coming in tournament competition. I don’t have the same verifiable documentation for Garcia, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was undefeated in dual meets. That’s six straight years, folks.
Norwich coach Terry Hagenbuch said it was nice to know that he had those two wrestlers in his pocket for dual meets. With perhaps a scant few exceptions, the phenomenal wrestling duo has wrestled in back-to-back matches in dual meets – one weight class apart – and quite often, in tournament finals. Each young man is in the twilight of his high school wrestling career, but the good news is that they aren’t going far, and they will be easy to track.
Rifanburg and Garcia each received wrestling scholarships to Binghamton University, and I’m sure each will write more exciting chapters to their athletics stories.
Note: I wrote the above piece on Friday, Jan. 30. Rifanburg and Garcia helped lead Norwich to its first STAC team title in 24 years. Rifanburg was also named the most outstanding wrestler after winning his fifth league championship. One more line added to the duo’s long wrestling resume.

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