Joe Bena is the winningest high school wrestling coach in the history of New York's Section 2 (second winningest in NYS history), and the winningest active wrestling coach in the state. By the end of the 2003 season, he had compiled a record of 431-79-4. Joe began coaching at Newburgh Free Academy (Section 9) in 1966. In two DUSO League Championship seasons there he had three competitors qualify for the state tournament, one of whom became a state champion. In 1968 he moved to Niskayuna High School and began to build a program that would come to dominate Section 2 wrestling. In the 1974-1975 season, his undefeated team captured the Suburban Council League Championship. That team was led by Jeff Blatnick, state champion in 1975, three-time NCAA Division II All-American at Springfield College, two-time Greco-Roman Olympian, and the Gold Medal winner in 1984. Joe retired from his position as a technology teacher at Niskayuna High School in 2003. By that time, his teams had won thirteen Suburban Council League Championships. They completed eight seasons undefeated and three more undefeated in the league. Eleven times Niskayuna won Section 2 championships. Forty-two Niskayuna wrestlers qualified for the New York State Tournament, twenty-four of them placed sixth or better, and seven became state champions. One, Pat Popolozio, was voted NYSPHSAA "Champion of Champions" in 1996. In addition to Jeff Blatnick, Joe is proud of the USA Olympic Team contributions of two more of his Niskayuna alumni. David Koplovitz was an alternate on the 1988 Greco-Roman team. Andy Seras was an alternate on the 1984 Greco-Roman team, a member of the 1988 team, and he now coaches the 2004 USA Greco-Roman Olympic Team. Joe is also especially proud of his three sons, each of whom won Section 2 championships. Joe, Jr. won his in 1985 and went on to be a two-time Division II NCAA All-American at Southern Connecticut. John was sectional champ in 1989 and also won the state championship that year. Mike won the Sectionals in 1994 and 1995 and was an NCAA qualifier from Springfield College in 2000. Joe's wife, Lois, was named Coach's Wife of the Year by USA Wrestling in 1987. His daughter, Aimee was the wrestling team manager at SUNY Oneonta. In all, seven of Joe's wrestlers went on to become collegiate All-Americans, most of them in multiple years. We are not the first to honor Joe's coaching prowess. In 2000 he was named the Region I (New York and New England) Coach of the Year by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. In 1998 he received the New York State Coaches Association Honor Award. In 1996 he was the National Wrestling Coaches Association Coach of the Year. He won the Scholastic Coaches Magazine Wrestling Gold Coaches Award in 1989, and he has been named the Section 2 Wrestling Coach of the Year six times. Joe is not done yet! He began coaching at Duanesburg High School last season.
Lifetime Service to Wrestling
New York - Upstate