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Leaning on tradition, Niagara-Wheatfield wrestlers coming on strong

It’s more than about wins; it’s about upholding the tradition of Niagara-Wheatfield wrestling.

The Falcons scored their third straight league win when they defeated the Bulldogs 48-26 on the road at Kenmore East on Jan. 18.

It was a sense of growth and satisfaction for a proud Niagara-Wheatfield program that opened the season with three consecutive losses in Niagara Frontier League action.

Losses to Niagara Falls, Lockport and Lewiston-Porter were tough to take, but the Falcons didn’t fall apart. They took stock of the situation and saw the big picture.

Niagara-Wheatfield realized Lockport and Lew-Port were built to win this year, while the Falcons were on the younger side and it was just a matter of time until it all came together.

“We have a lot of young guys and it was just tough,” tri-captain Ricky Schweickhard said. “We’re working with them and everything. Now I think we got it through their heads and we finally told them, ‘hey, step up. It’s the end of the season. It’s the big time and I want you guys to go out there and wrestle.’”

“In the beginning it was tough against those really tough teams,” he added. “They’re good. Now we’re starting to show true Wheatfield colors out there with our young guns.”

The watershed moment for the Falcons was the win over Kenmore West. Last season, the Blue Devils win over Wheatfield is what clinched the league title for West. While the NFL wasn’t on the line this year, this win proved to be the great cure-all for Niagara-Wheatfield as it restored everyone’s confidence and set the stage for wins over North Tonawanda and Ken-East.

“As a team, we’re just building up,” Schweickhard said. “We were on a little bit of losing streak in the beginning, but now we’re picking it up and back to Wheatfield wrestling. We’re on a streak now and we’re going to continue to be on a streak. We’re all confident. We’re young and we’re feisty. We’re out there to wrestle.”

Putting together a stretch of unmatched success between 2000-10, the Falcons won six Niagara Frontier League titles and five Section VI crowns during that decade of dominance which saw them earn the title of WNY Team of the Decade.

Schweickhard said that he and fellow captains Derrick Printup and Marcus Popp are doing their best to remind the youngsters of the tradition of success at Wheatfield and what it means to wear the school colors on the mat.

“It all starts in the wrestling room,” Schweickhard said. “Me and the other captains are out there and we’re pushing these guys to the max.”

Also getting strong contributions from Vinny Falvo, Deion Harris and freshmen Shane Helbig and Storm Hutchenson, the Falcons have found their identity as a group and there is no turning back.

“They’ve come together as a team,” Falcons coach Rick Sweeney said. “You’re always meshing in the first couple matches. They don’t know each other, a lot of them are new kids. They’re fitting into the program and (there’s) those who are going to be the leader in the room. They’ve come together and are more confident.”

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