AMSTERDAM - On a night full of tributes, it was only fitting that the Amsterdam wrestling team sent retiring coach Ken Benton out with a win in his final home match at "The Pit."
The Rams posted a 54-32 win over LaSalle in a Big 10 match at Lynch Literacy Academy on Wednesday.
"The Pit has been my home for close to 30 years. It's been a good home to us and our program," Benton said.
Amsterdam’s Brandon Lapi, top, puts the finishing touches on his pinfalll victory over LaSalle’s Dan Desharnais during their 145-pound contest Wednesday at Lynch Literacy Academy in Amsterdam. (The Leader-Herald/Paul Wager)
It has been nine years since the Rams last lost on their home mats at Lynch. The last team to post a win over Amsterdam at Lynch was Mount Anthony of Bennington, Vt., which posted a 73-9 win in January of 2005.
The Rams kept their home streak intact in convincing fashion, posting nine wins by pinfall against the Cadets.
"We were really concerned about the match and where it would start," Benton said. "Our wrestlers stepped up tonight and did a good job. I'm very proud of the wrestlers. They were a lot more confident than I was. I'll finally be able to get some sleep tonight."
Chris Velazquez (106 pounds), Jorge Rivera (113), Erick Rivera (126), Brandon Lapi (145), John Rivera (160), Brailin Santana (170), Marcus Torres (195), Chris Garrison (220) and Joe Kelly (285) all won by pin for the Rams.
The match began with the team trading wins over the first four weight classes.
Jorge Rivera opened the match by pinning the Cadets' Evan Bell in 1:08 at 113 pounds before Max Tempel answered by pinning Amsterdam's Adam Tatun in 3:20 at 120 pounds.
Erick Rivera need 57 seconds to give the Rams a 12-6 lead, pinning LaSalle's Matt Etman at 126 pounds.
The Cadets' Eric Rider responded with a technical fall victory over Monty Carmona at 132, winning 20-3 to make it 12-11.
Ryan Moore gave LaSalle its first lead at 14-12 with a hard-fought 9-3 decision over the Rams' Nelson Quinones at 138 pounds.
The lead continued to change hands as Lapi, a state finalist last year, closed out his home career by pinning LaSalle's Dan Desharnais in 55 seconds at 145 pounds to give the Rams an 18-14 advantage.
Joe Clemente answered for the Cadets, pinning Cody Haight in 1:09 at 152 pounds to put LaSalle in front, 20-18.
John Rivera gave the Rams the lead for good, pinning LaSalle's Cameron Barker in 1:09 in their 160-pound contest, giving Amsterdam a 24-20 lead.
Rivera's win started a stretch of six wins over the next eight weight classes for the Rams.
Santana pinned Luke Marcelle in 4:43 at 170 pounds before LaSalle's Jacob Barker pinned the Rams' Mashland Santiago in 3:50 at 182 to make it 30-26 with five weight classes remaining.
Following Barker's win for the Cadets, Torres, Garrison and Kelly reeled off three straight pins to seal the victory for the Rams.
Torres pinned R.J. Hayes in 30 seconds, Garrison pinned Simon Michaud in 1:02 and Kelly pinned Alex Mears in 1:00 to clinch the 327th victory of Benton's career, which will conclude at the end of the season.
"I think the relationships I've formed with the wrestlers and coaches have been the best part of coaching," Benton said. "It's been an unbelievable experience, and I've developed friendships that will last a lifetime."
LaSalle stopped the run when Caiden Mondore pinned the Rams' Evelio Homs in 1:59 at 99 pounds.
Velazquez closed out the match by pinning LaSalle's David Diaz in 38 seconds to make the final score 54-32.
"This has really been a nice rivalry," Benton said. "LaSalle always had their best lineup ready for ours. They've done well this year. It's an honor to compete against them. I'm happy with the outcome."
In addition to Benton, who has been part of the Amsterdam coach staff for the last 28 years, Amsterdam also honored its four seniors - Jorge Rivera, Lapi, Erick Rivera and Haight.
"I wasn't expecting anything like that," Benton said of the prematch ceremony. "I was nervous enough to introduce our seniors. To have my daughter, Nicole, and the others make speeches really meant a lot. To have so many people here tonight was great. I was quite surprised."
Amsterdam will take Velazquez, Lapi and Torres to the Eastern States Classic this weekend.
The Rams will look to lock up their 22nd Big 10 title next Wednesday at Schenectady.
Amsterdam 54, LaSalle 32
113: Jorge Rivera (A) pinned Evan Bell, 1:20
120: Max Tempel (L) pinned Adam Tatun, 3:40
126: Erick Rivera (A) pinned Matthew Etman, 1:03
132: Eric Rider (L) tech fall Monty Carmona, 18-3
138: Ryan Moore (L) dec. Nelson Quinones, 9-4
145: Brandon Lapi (A) pinned Daniel Desharnais, :55
152: Joseph Clemente (L) pinned Cody Haight, 1:09
160: John Rivera (A) pinned Cameron Barker, 1:10
170: Brailin Santana (A) pinned Luke Marcelle, 4:43
182: Jacob Barker (L) pinned Mashland Santiago, 3:50
195: Marcus Torres (A) pinned R.J. Hayes, :30
220: Chris Garrison (A) pinned Simon Michaud, 1:02
285: Joe Kelly (A) pinned Alex Mears, 1:02.
99: Caiden Mondore (L) pinned Evelio Homs, 1:59
106: Chris Velazquez (A) pinned David Diaz, :33