GRAND ISLAND — There's a new bully on the Niagara Frontier League wrestling block.
Niagara Falls was able to put together a decisive win over Grand Island, 40-22, in the NFL's winner-takes-all dual match Wednesday evening at Grand Island High School. The Wolverines have brought home their first league championship since the 2010-11 school year, finishing the league dual season at 7-0.
Niagara Falls head coach DJ Giancola has seen the process of getting to this point after he and his staff had a plan in place to rebuild the program after a strong 2014-15 season.
"When we did that rebuild, we looked at it and we said 'OK, we don't want to rebuild for a good team, we want to rebuild a great program.'" Giancola said, who took over the program in 2011-12. "And that was kind of what our goal was, and we said in four years we're gonna build that program up. What you're seeing is how our team competed, how we competed together ... it's a super long-time-built accomplishment that we're very, very proud of. And we won as a team, the kids wrestled very well. The kids who had to do a job of catching a very tough wrestler went out there with heart, they fought for the team, and they did their job.
" ... You need wrestlers like that, that are willing to sacrifice for the greater good to help the team succeed, so that was also very exciting."
The Wolverines had a successful match due to them not succumbing to any pinfalls, as well either earning points or not giving up major decisions to GI's strong core of Brian Bielec, Adam Daghestani, Jake Miller and Jack Randle. Ultimately the Falls had a 10-5 advantage in bout wins, which includes both squads giving up two weight classes each on forfeits.
"Coach (Don) McCoy, one of our assistant coaches, came up with a gameplan of getting our wrestlers in certain weights in certain matchups," Giancola said. " ... We actually do a quote of the week every week and our quote this week was 'teamwork.' We talked about when you over look what you want and help what everyone can get, it helps everyone succeed. ... (Those weights were) Wilfredo Borges at 132, Jesiere Carter at 145 and Carl Ealy at 182 pounds, who dropped a weight class to take on the challenge of wrestling Adam.
"They both (Ealy and Carter) showed heart and they kind of, almost lifted the team's spirits to compete harder with them going out there fighting and not to give up bonus points. It was huge for the win."
After being tied at 22 after two heavyweight forfeits at 220 and 285, NF would take the last four bouts to clinch the victory. What this year's group has been able to accomplish, even after graduating so many seniors and losing one of Western New York's top wrestlers in Joseph "JoJo" Dixon to Canisius, should be commended accordingly.
"Like that (team) 4-5 years ago we talked about building a program, our goal was to win the NFL last year and then to win it again this year," Giancola said, as Niagara Wheatfield triumphed for NFL supremacy. "We fell short last year, but we have a great (base) of senior leadership, we have a very hardworking, high character group of juniors that's kind of the glue of our team. And then we have a very, very gritty group of sophomores. ... And then we have a very talented group of freshmen, and in the beginning of the year, I've watched our team just improve and get better and better and bond.
"... In our room we have a very competitive room and it has built everybody else up around them, which led to a very exciting team win this year."
With both programs wrapping up the dual meet season, both will be looking ahead to the Section VI class tournaments on Feb. 8. Niagara Falls will travel to Williamsville North for the Class AA event, while Grand Island heads over to North Tonawanda for Class A.
Follow sports reporter Khari Demos on Twitter @riri_demos. Also, tune in to Khari at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on WGR 550's 'Inside High School Sports,' as well as the 'Greater WNY Sports Connection' podcast, a collaboration with Jon Simon and WNY Athletics.