Yes, there is indeed something sad, as Fredonia coach Alex Conti says, about individual high schools bringing traditions to an end.
But from the point of view of the student body, which is constantly changing as students move through the grades and then to graduation, it really only takes three or four years for something entirely new to become the old traditional way of doing things.
So it can be with Westfield and Ripley schools, Silver Creek and Dunkirk school districts, and Cattaraugus-Little Valley and Pine Valley where six wrestling programs have been merged into three. The alternative to merging what once had been proud and mighty wrestling programs at the individual schools could have been no wrestling at all because of tight budgets and dwindling numbers of students interested in the sport.
And as the students themselves are showing the rest of us, "what once was" certainly is not what always must be.
Says Brad Rowe, head coach of the combined Ripley and Westfield squads, "All the kids are getting along really well with one another. They are working hard and are excited about the possibilities for the team."
In fact, without merging with Westfield, it is likely Ripley would not have been able to always fill out a lineup for every competition.
Now, the combined team is considered one of the favorites in Division 2.
As we pointed out a a few weeks ago, wrestling is a grueling sport. It takes special discipline and certainly a lot courage to step onto the mat and into the circle against an opponent of, sometimes, greater strength and ability.
There are equally special and lifelong rewards for students who learn the discipline and earn the courage.
We applaud the schools, the coaches and the students for finding a way to continue the traditions of this extraordinary sport.