By Tom Gallagher
Niagara Gazette — Since its inception at least 20 years ago, the Niagara Falls Wrestling Club has tried to instill in its wrestlers a set of moral values that the club’s coaches deem necessary in order to succeed on the mat.
“We teach them the three ‘Ds’: desire, dedication and discipline,” Powercats coach Joe Alston said.
For a quartet of Niagara Frontier League wrestlers, that credo has been well received – so well, in fact, that all four are competing in the state championships today in Albany.
Donny McCoy of Niagara Falls, Andrew Shomers of Lewiston-Porter, and Shane Helbig and Marcus Popp of Niagara-Wheatfield all qualified for states by winning their respective sectional tournaments two weeks ago. All four have wrestled with the Powercats in some capacity.
McCoy and Shomers, both sophomores, started with the club at a young aged and have learned under Alston’s tutelage since he became coach in 2003. Given their long-term involvement with the club, it’s no wonder the two have faced so much success as high school wrestlers. The Powercats have played an instrumental role in their development.
“The Powercats club really lays a great foundation for all of the young wrestlers growing up in the area,” Niagara Falls varsity coach D.J. Giancola said. “They do a great job teaching them the basics, teaching them to be competitive, good sportsmanship and they really set them up to excel in high school.
“(The Powercats) make me and my staff look good as high school coaches.”
“Donny and Andrew are real close and have been with the Powercats since they were 5-years-old or so,” N-W varsity coach Rick Sweeney said.
Sweeney founded and is the executive director of the Powercats. Giancola and his assistant, “Big” Don McCoy – Donny’s father – help coach. Because the Powercats continue to churn out successful wrestlers at the high school level, that some of their future coaches are heavily involved is hardly a surprise.
“All the coaches that come down to help out know that what we possess at the Powercats is something that is unique,” Alston said. “We are a breeding ground for the high schools and beyond.”
Shomers was the Division II champion in the 113-pound class who Sweeney called a “stud.” He’ll face Kyler Agoney of Peru High School (Champlain area). Helbig, a freshman, was the Division I champion in 113. He will square off with Benjamin Lamantia of St. Anthonys (Long Island). Popp takes on Jake Dimarsico from North Rockland (Southeast New York) in a 132-pound contest, while McCoy, who won the Division I 99-pound class, will take on Malik Grant of Staten Island’s Curtis High School.
Helbig and Popp don’t have the longevity that McCoy and Shomers do in Powercats but have still benefited from their time with the club. Sweeney said his Falcons are confident and attributed some of that confidence to the Powercats.
“Club wrestling is like adding at least another year of experience,” Sweeney said. “They have more confidence on the mat because they’re more comfortable out there. They don’t panic.”
One thing’s for sure: No matter how things shake out at states, each wrestler should know to display a good deal of desire, dedication and discipline – thanks largely to the Niagara Falls Wrestling Club lending its hand in developing the area’s future high school standouts.
“If they’re going to win states, no matter how skilled they are, they have to possess these good qualities,” Alston said.