BALLSTON SPA — To say the Ballston Spa varsity wrestling team had a good week would be quite the understatement.
The Scotties captured their first-ever Section 2 Dual Meet Championship on Tuesday, beating Saratoga Springs and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake for the Division 1 team crown and a spot at the Dual Meet State Championships. The following day, Ballston Spa honored its six seniors, and retiring coaches, during a 56-14 win over Bethlehem.
The Scotties’ six seniors are: Darrien Insogna, Connor Gregory, Cameron Hinchcliff, Tristan Hinchcliff, Anthony Prastio, and Brennan Livingston.
“Honestly, I think we couldn’t have had it at a better time, being that we just won the sectional championship,” said Insogna of the Senior Night festivities. “We all had our white championship shirts on, we all were getting hyped behind the mat. The JV started off strong, the varsity finished it, and I think we all just put it together tonight.”
Head varsity coach Harvey Staulters said the team’s seniors are “wonderful people” who have stepped up as leaders for the Scotties’ squad.
“And that’s what’s helped us so much this year, is their leadership,” Staulters said. “They made everybody in the program better. They’ve made us, as coaches, better.”
But the Senior Night victory was not only the final home match for the Ballston Spa seniors, but also for coaches Harvey and Gene Staulters.
The duo both wrestled at Ballston Spa under Vince Johnson, who coached the varsity team for 29 years and was inducted into the Section 2 Hall of Fame in 2011. Harvey Staulters coached the Scotties’ JV team under Johnson for 13 years, eventually taking over the varsity role after Johnson’s retirement. He has served as the Ballston Spa varsity coach for 22 seasons.
Staulters said entering the Ballston Spa gym for the final time was “a wonderful feeling.”
“Doing things in Ballston Spa, giving back to Ballston Spa, which gave me so much, gave my family so much,” said Staulters. “It’s just a wonderful feeling to be back here and finish off.”
The team’s seniors also had plenty of praise for their coaches, with Tristan Hinchcliff saying they are “the best coaches I could’ve ever wanted.”
“They’re everything and more. They’re great role models, they taught us respect,” said Tristan Hinchcliff. “They’ve been really the best, most respectful people I’ve ever met in my entire life. They’re amazing. I love them. I couldn’t ask for better coaches.”
“They’re more than just coaches,” added Cameron Hinchcliff.
Insogna said the Staulters’ have made “a tremendous impact” on him, saying Gene Staulters suggested pulling Insogna up to the varsity squad as an eighth-grader.
“They pulled me up, I was in the lineup back and forth,” Insogna said. “I had like a 50-50 record, but still, I was getting matches, getting mat time. They definitely made me the man I am today.”
Harvey Staulters emphasized that the program is “all about the kids,” saying he was surprised to see a large number of former wrestlers in attendance on Wednesday.
“See all the alums that were here? It surprised the heck out of me,” said Staulters. “We really are about the kids. We want to see them do well. We want to see them become great citizens and productive members of society. That’s really what we want, and wrestling is the vehicle with which we can get them there.”
And it only seems natural that Staulters’ final season as coach is with one of his strongest teams yet. Staulters said he’ll walk out of the Scotties’ gym with “very little regret.”
“Knowing that I’ll walk out of this building with very little regret, because we’ve done so many great things this year,” Staulters said. “But we’ve done them throughout the years. You take young men and women, and you just get them to become the best they can possibly be.”
The emotionally-charged night for the Scotties came just one night after the team won its first-ever Section 2 Division 1 Dual Meet Championship, at their home gym, no less.
“This place was rocking (that) night. It was so loud,” Staulters said. “I’ve never heard it this loud before. When we finally finished them off, Burnt Hills, and we knew we couldn’t lose, this place was just on fire. There was no one sitting. It was amazing.”
Cameron Hinchcliff said “everything planned out great” during the Scotties’ Dual Meet victories.
“The match couldn’t have gone any better,” said Cameron Hinchcliff of the Dual Meet. “We got pins where we weren’t supposed to, we got big wins from that match.”
“And everyone played their part,” added Tristan Hinchcliff, noting that a major decision victory by junior Jacob Perkins gave the Scotties an extra point in what was an eventual one-point victory.
“Every little piece of that mattered,” Tristan Hinchcliff continued. “Gavin’s pin, Cameron’s pin, Ralphie’s pin. All the pieces connect, and that’s really what the coaches do. They put all the little pieces together to form a great team.”
And Ballston Spa followed up the monumental win with another victory the following night, defeating Bethlehem 56-14. Staulters said he worked on getting the team refocused after the events of the previous night.
“Trying to get them re-focused after last night, because last night was a mindblower,” said Staulters. “I couldn’t even speak last night. To get them refocused, take care of this business.”
And with the night honoring both the team’s seniors and coaches, it was a night of reflection for the Scotties squad.
“I moved here in ninth grade, and it felt like where I was always supposed to have been,” Cameron Hinchcliff said. “It just feels like my home. I want to do everything I can for this program.”
“This team, and I say it all the time to everyone that asks me, it’s the dream team,” said Insogna. “Last year, we had no seniors, so we had the same kids coming up. We were all around each other. … We just had that bond, we all wanted to win and we all wanted to get better, and we do it every day in the practice room.”
Tristan Hinchcliff added that “it’s awesome” to be involved with the community that surrounds the Scotties’ wrestling program.
“It’s just so amazing to be involved in this community, and involved with the coaches and all my teammates, and just work with them every single day,” Tristan Hinchcliff added. “I love it. It’s awesome, it’s amazing.”
But while Wednesday was a celebration of seniors, coaches, and champions, there is still more work to be done for the Ballston Spa team. The team competed at the Commodore Wrestling Tournament in Vergennes, Vermont, and took first place over the weekend, with Connor Gregory winning Most Outstanding Wrestler.
The Scotties traveled for another match against Burnt Hills on Thursday, and will take the squad to Syracuse on Saturday for the NYSPHSAA Dual Meet State Championships.
Then, the team will compete in the Section 2 Class B Tournament at Burnt Hills on Feb. 4. Staulters said the team will look to continue improving, and said he is excited to take the team to Syracuse.
“I want to take those guys out to Syracuse, and let’s give it a run, see what happens, right?,” said Staulters. “We’ve got to keep improving, and we’ve got to keep adjusting and getting better, so that everybody contributes something to our success.”
“I think we all are getting the hang of it now, and we’re all going to start working on little technique stuff,” Insogna said. “We only go an hour in practice now, just get things done.”
“I’m just purely excited,” said Tristan Hinchcliff. “I’m ready for it, our team’s ready, our coaches are excited. I’m just happy to be taking that next step as a team.”
Photos by Dylan McGlynn.