On Saturday February 1, Avoca Central School hosted its annual Wrestling tournament, the Avoca invitational, however, this year's tournament was a little more special than past tournaments held at ACS. Avoca welcomed back several of its past Sectional Champions and also welcomed back Hall of Fame Coach Walt Peterson and longtime assistant coach Bill White to raise two new banners in the gym at Avoca school honoring it's thirty five Section V Wrestling Champions. Athletic Director Amy Brandes came up with the idea to hang the banner, and it took her almost a year to compile the information for the banner.
Peterson coached wrest-ling at Avoca thirty one years, going 241-117-2 in Dual Meets. He led the Tigers to eight Steuben County League titles, thirteen tournament titles, he had eighty one individual tournament champions, and Thirty Three Section V Champions. In both 1980 & 1981 Peterson led Avoca to undefeated 28-0 records and was named the Section V Coach of the year in 1980. Peterson was inducted into the Section V Hall of Fame in 1999 and in 2007 he was inducted into the New York Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
I asked Peterson what it was like to be back in Avoca with many of his former champions? “In 1966 I had no idea that my journey would be centered at a classroom in Avoca Central School and with the Avoca Tigers' wrestling team, we climbed a mountain, Bill White and I, together with some wonderful hard working athletes, a supportive administration ( Henry Cleeves, Marv Skillman and Bob Cleeves)...to be honored as a team after all these years was heartwarming, and to see some wrestlers that I hadn't seen in 40 years, well it was great,” Walt Peterson said.
Peterson's last Sectional Champion in 1995 was John Stamets, who is the current wrestling coach at Avoca. Stamets has three Sectional Champions in his tenure as coach at Avoca, Adam Hosmer in 2006 at 135 LBS and current wrestler Senior Ben Knoll who won Sectionals last season and won another Sectional Title this past weekend at 160 LBS. “It makes me proud, I enjoy being able to coach wrestlers now so that they can also see their name on the banner someday, Not only proud of their accomplishments I am also proud of all the wrestlers that do their best,” Avoca Coach John Stamets said.
“It was great to see some familiar faces and an honor to stand on the mat with them. It was nice to see how many former champions were able to make the ceremony,” Stamets said.
“The champions were only part of the story, their teammates, the managers and scorekeepers are all part of the story,” Peterson added. “Champions do not arrive at the pinnacle of their sport without their workout partners, in a sense the banners are for all who are part of the story.” Peterson said.
Page 2 of 2 - In an added twist to the story, Peterson's grandson Victor Peterson is a member of this year's wrestling team at Avoca. His father Brian is an assistant Coach at Avoca and one of the former champions who was honored.
“Having his grandson Victor on the team Mr. Peterson is around a lot, making it easy to get advice from him. He often attends matches and we discuss ideas after the match. He is always very willing to help in any way that he can to further the wrestling program at Avoca,” Stamets said.
With Knoll winning his second consecutive Sectional Championship there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Wrestling again at Avoca School. “Victor Peterson placed second at the Avoca Invitational. Third place finishes went to Hunter Palmer, Codey Derrick , Caleb Carr and Brandon Knoll. Tyler Cornish finished the tournament in fourth place that day. All of the wrestlers did a great job,” Stamets said of his current group.
“Coach Stamets, Coach Klem and Coach Peterson have re-ignited the drive and determination that built a meaningful tradition at Avoca. I feel confident that there will be many more names for the wall. For all the wrestlers this year I am a proud former coach and look forward to their experiences. I know they will carry on,” Peterson added.