FIFTY YEARS AGO…March 2022
Monticello Wrestler Records a First
by John Conway
MONTICELLO—It was Saturday, March 4, 1972—50 years ago this month—that Monticello High School wrestler William “Chuck” Conway made school history.
Conway, a senior from Rock Hill wrestling in the heavyweight division, became the first Monticello High School wrestler ever to win a Section IX wrestling championship.
He didn’t have an easy path to the crown, either. In fact, despite being the number one seed in the District I qualifying tournament the week before Sectionals, Conway had been pinned in the finals, and qualified by virtue of his runner-up status. His resulting low seeding in the Sectionals made his path to the championship that much more difficult.
In the preliminary round of the Section IX tourney, Conway pinned Kim Rossner of Washingtonville in 3:20 to advance to the semifinals, where he faced the #2 seed, Jim Johnson of Monroe-Woodbury, who had already beaten him earlier that year. Conway pinned Johnson in 3:55. He would later acknowledge that Johnson “was the strongest kid I ever wrestled.”
The unexpected win over Johnson propelled Conway into the finals against another surprise wrestler, eighth-seeded Larry O’Neill of Clarkstown North, who had upset the #1 seed in the preliminary round and then had a rather easy 14-5 win in his semi-final match.
The two wrestlers finished the regulation six minutes tied at seven, but the Monticello wrestler thoroughly dominated the overtime and ended up with an historic 9-0 win, and the championship.
Only a handful of Monticello wrestlers had ever advanced to the Sectional tournament before, and none had ever won a match, let alone a championship.
It was perhaps fitting that Conway’s championship win came against a Rockland County wrestler too, in that it culminated an unprecedented showing by Tri-County schools, which had typically been also-rans at the hands of the Rockland County powerhouses.
“For the first time in the ten-year history of the Section IX wrestling tournament, Tri-County area schools Saturday gained the upper hand on Rockland County schools,” Times Herald-Record Assistant Sports Editor John Szefc reported in the paper’s March 5, 1972 edition. “Schools from the Orange-Sullivan-Ulster area captured seven individual titles to six for Rockland. The best previous effort was six in 1969.”
Szefc went on to reference Monticello “winning a sectional title for the first time.”
With his Section IX championship procured, Chuck Conway advanced to the New York State Intersectional Championships in Syracuse the following Saturday. Plagued all week by an ear infection that sapped his strength and prevented him from practicing, Conway failed to place in the State tourney, but he had already taken his place in Monticello High School sports history.
Chuck Conway went on to wrestle for the nationally prominent Orange County Community College team, and earned his bachelor’s degree from SUNY Brockport. He was residing in Monticello with his wife and three children when he died on February 8, 2011. He was 56.
FIFTY YEARS AGO…March 2022