FALCONER - If there's one tournament (besides sectionals, of course) that area wrestlers circle on the schedule before the beginning of each new season, it's the Holiday Classic, sponsored by the Southern Tier Wrestling Officials Association .
And it's little wonder because the event, often referred to as the "STOWA Tournament," has been held for the past 27 years and brings together some of the best competition from both New York state and Pennsylvania under one roof, making it a key benchmark for any goal-oriented wrestler.
"It's probably our wrestlers' and every other wrestler's favorite tournament," Falconer coach Drew Wilcox said. "They look forward to it and a lot of their goals are based around it."
This year was no different, until about a week ago, when Wilcox got an inkling that something wasn't quite right. Two days later, that feeling was confirmed.
Citing an inability to find a venue - last year's site, the Jamestown Community College Athletic Complex, is holding the annual Post-Journal Classic men's basketball tournament, while another possibility, the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena, is hosting the nationally televised Progressive Skating and Gymnastics Spectacular - Wilcox and the rest of the 39 prospective attending teams got word on Monday that the tournament was canceled.
Hoping to salvage the day and still provide some disappointed wrestlers with solid competition, however, Wilcox, along with Falconer athletic director Dave Nelson, acted quickly.
"I called our Mat Club President, Cassie Mata, called our superintendent, Steve Penhollow (and a number of other administrators)," Wilcox explained, "and asked them if it would be OK to invite some of the teams (for a tournament at Falconer)."
With their blessing, the next step for the two was getting volunteers to help in the endeavor - a seemingly difficult task given the fact that the tournament was being put together on such short notice.
"The idea was easy," Nelson said. "The hard part was getting the wrestling boosters together to agree to work the door, run the time, keep score, work the concessions."
As it turned out, it was nowhere near as difficult as they had expected.
"(On Monday night) we got about 40 booster parents together and within 15 minutes they said, 'Yep, whatever you need.'
"We were asking a lot of them, but they all stepped up on really short notice."
Added Wilcox, "The parents and assistant coaches and everyone were a huge help. A lot goes into (putting together a tournament like this), but everyone was eager and willing. It was great."
With the basic framework in place, Nelson sent out an email at 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning asking the affected teams if they would be interested in taking part in the newly-created "Falconer Duals."
By noon, more teams than could be accommodated had replied.
Accepting squads on a first-come, first-served basis, a total of nine teams were selected in addition to the hosts. They are Warren, Lake Shore, Maple Grove, Randolph, Salamanca, Panama, Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Cassadaga Valley and Southwestern.
"It should be a very good tournament," Nelson said. "We were able to get some good local talent, but also some of the top teams from outside the area."
The tournament itself will begin at 9 a.m., Dec. 15, with the finals tentatively scheduled for 8 p.m. The 10 squads will be divided into two pools. The team from each pool with the best win-loss record will battle for the championship while each subsequent finisher (second vs. second, third vs. third, etc.) will square off as well.
The admission fee for spectators is $5.
Wilcox, along with the rest of his wrestlers are, understandably, looking forward to the event. One that, had it not been for the help of parents, coaches and the Falconer school staff, would never have occurred.
"There's not a lot of schools that could have pulled this off," Wilcox said, "Most schools wouldn't want to take on something like this (on such short notice), but with the support of the superintendent, the principal, the parents, the Mat Club, Mr. Nelson and my assistant coaches (among others), we did it."