It is estimated that in the 19th century, not less than one-half of all Canadian males were working as lumberjacks or in other trades in the lumber industry. These men, particularly the Quebecois variety, lived a nomadic life, with many of them finding their way to work in the Adirondacks and in paper mill towns in northern New York. This hardy stock produced Dana Charpentier, whose family found work at the paper mills in Glens Falls and settled a few miles from the Vermont border in Whitehall, New York. And it was there, at the Whitehall Armory, that young Dana was first introduced to wrestling.
Despite being a pretty good basketball player, Dana yielded to peer pressure from his pals and started showing up at the Armory where he began learning the basics of the sport from the local high school wrestlers. Dana has vivid memories of the Armory’s horsehair mats covered with rubber tarp. The mats, he recalls, routinely split apart and subjected young wrestlers to banged up knees and third-degree mat-burns. A move to Hudson Falls in high school was a bit challenging because the school had just started its program. At Hudson Falls High, Dana wrestled for Coach Tom Chickanis. Like many schools in those days, there was a lot of competition in the room. Despite being a three-time section two place finisher (2nd, 3rd and 2nd) Coach Chick allowed for weekly wrestle-off challenges—all back-to-back. Dana felt he and his teammates benefitted from those constant challenges.
Finishing high school as the War in Vietnam was ramping up, Dana decided to serve his country in the United States Navy. He served for four years as a Radioman, including stints at Guantanomo Naval Base in Cuba, and service on a submarine tender in Scotland, Bremerton and Charleston.
After an honorable Dana returned to his French-Canadian roots, finding work at the Finch Pruyn paper mill in Glens Falls. Dana soon decided to part ways with his ancestors—“that work was not for me”—and chose to enroll at Adirondack Community College, where he wrestled one year. (This is back in the day when most of New York’s junior colleges fielded programs.)
Dana also began his officiating career while an ACC student. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in education at Castleton State College in Vermont and started teaching elementary school in the North Warren Central School District near Chestertown in the northeast Adirondacks, where he was to spend the next seven years. Dana then moved to South Glens Falls where he taught sixth grade for the rest of his teaching career.
During that teaching career, Dana had stints as a wrestling coach at the modified, junior varsity and varsity levels, and also coached soccer and baseball. But Dana’s involvement and real passion with high school wrestling soon turned out to be in officiating. “I set a goal to be the best official I could be—and worked hard at it.” The hard work paid off. Working his way up, Dana was eventually selected to referee at the state championship tournament—the most prestigious officiating assignment for New York State wrestling officials.
Dana recalls officiating many great matches, but one in particular stands out—the 1993 finals match between Mitch Clark and Sirrell Gissendanner. Recalls Charpentier, “It was a real barn burner. Clark had it won, but in in the last few seconds he got taken down by Gissendanner at the edge.” Clark, though finishing second, went on to wrestle for Ohio State, securing an NCAA Division I championship in 1998 (and was himself inducted into the Upstate Hall of Fame in 2019).
In addition to being routinely ranked as one of the best officials at the state tournament, Dana has been voted the Section Two official of the year, and received among numerous other awards, the Coaches Association Award for Long time Contributor to Section Two wrestling and the New York State Wrestling Officials Service Award. Dana was inducted into the Section Two Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2015 for his service as an official. After retiring in 2015, Dana spent several years as a board member of the Friends of Section Two Wrestling—a not-for-profit group whose mission is to support Section Two wrestling, particularly through raising money for awards at the Section Two championships and for state tournament uniforms.
Dana has been married to his wife Cynthia for 34 years. He has two sons, Derrick and Aaron and two grandchildren. Now retired, Dana does not fell trees, but does enjoy spending his time traveling with Cynthia, seeing his sons and grandchildren, golfing and... you guessed it... watching wrestling.
Lifetime Service to Wrestling
New York - Upstate