O-G-N-I-B-E-N-E: That Spells Wrestling In Falconer

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article appeared in The Post-Journal during the 1974-75 high school wrestling season and is another in a series of “Remember When” stories.

FALCONER — You’ve heard baseball teams made up of members of one family before.

Well, how about two tag-team wrestling teams from one family? Sam, Vince, Mike and John Ognibene of Falconer could form two tag-teams, and they would be pretty darn good!

Sam and Vince are former grapplers at Falconer Central while Mike and John are currently members of the Golden Falcons’ squad.

Anyone that follows wrestling by word of mouth or by this medium has certainly heard of the Ognibenes before.

According to the boys’ mother, Alma, the youngest of the brothers, John, got his three older brothers interested in the sport.

When John was in junior high school he grappled in the Junior Olympic program, a wrestling program for junior highers. Sam was a junior at the time.


Things caught on with the older brothers and Sam decided to give wrestling a try the next season. Coach Bill Davenport said Sam had a rough year, but won several key matches for the team. He wrestled at 155 pounds.

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Vince, the next in line, started out in his freshman year. He moved up a weight class each of the three following years.

With two years under his belt, Vince, in his junior year, got what has become the Ognibene winning going. In his junior year, Vince won the Holiday Tournament, a milestone to any wrestler in the county.

As a senior, Vince again took the holiday tourney and won first place at the Salamanca Invitational Tournament. He went on to become a Section VI champion and was defeated by Niagara-Wheatfield’s Bob Sloan at the state qualifier.

Mike started out in his freshman year and saw a limited amount of varsity action. He won one match and lost three that season.

Wrestling and the name Ognibene became two of the same the next season. Mike was 24-4-1 in his sophomore year. He was undefeated in dual meets.

That year he copped his second straight Holiday Tournament championship and took first place in the Salamanca Invitational. At the state qualifier, which he won, he was voted the Most Outstanding Wrestler. Mike went on to the state tournament, but didn’t place.

The season opened on the bright side for Mike this year, his senior year. He copped his third straight Holiday Tournament championship and won his weight class title in the first Falconer Invitational Tournament.

Where Mike goes from here only time will tell. Last week at practice he injured a leg and is out indefinitely.

“We don’t really know what has happened to his leg,” Davenport said. “X-rays picked up nothing and, as far as we can tell, he has a pinched nerve.”

Mike didn’t have the use of his leg for part of last week. He attended the Olean meet Friday in a wheelchair.

“Mike was looking toward the state tournament again this year,” Davenport said.

“It bothers Mike that he can’t wrestle. He has partial use of his leg now,” Alma Ognibene said.

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John Ognibene is a junior this year. Last year he broke into the varsity lineup about halfway through the season. He went 8-2 and took third in the sectionals. In his freshman year, he was a junior varsity grappler.

This year John took first place in the Holiday Tournament and second in the Falconer Invitational.

“There’s one more Ognibene in school, but she won’t wrestle,” Davenport said.

He was referring to Grace Marie, a junior high student. Grace Marie is not eligible for the wrestling team, of course, but is in the cheering section at each Falconer meet.

The oldest of the Ognibene children is Fred, a senior at the University of Rochester. He plans to attend medical school next year.

Dr. and Mrs. Ognibene attend as many wrestling meets and tournaments their boys are in as possible.

“We have always enjoyed wrestling and have never held our boys back from competing in it. Sports means a lot to them,” Alma said.

By attending a number of meets, she added, she has learned how the wrestlers score points, for the most part. She said that after attending a couple of meets, knowing the sport or not, you’ll get to understand it and like it.

Wrestling is a complicated sport, indeed, but here’s one family that has mastered it.


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