New York - Upstate Chapter

Official State Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame

Upstate New York Chapter April 2024 Newsletter

Upstate New York Chapter NWHOF golf outing is Monday, July 15th at Millstone Golf Course - Elbridge

Local High School Award Winners

The Upstate New York Chapter of the NWHOF is tremendously proud and honored to announce the winners of our local awards that we dispense each year. This year the Steve Silver Award, which is presented to the outstanding girls’ wrestler, go to Ragan Retell from Tamarac High School. In addition, to the Steve Silver Award, Ragan was selected as the New York State Tricia Saunders award winner … kudos to Ragan. Ragan is coached by her father Kevin Retell and was a New York State Invitational Champion for the 23-24 season and the MOW in the Queen Bison Tournament. She will be attending Elmira College next fall to study nursing.

 The Richard “Pete” Hausrath Award this year which goes to the most outstanding Division II wrestler of the year will be given to Ousmane Duncanson from Tioga High School. Ousmane was undefeated this year and completely dominated the NYSPHSAA wrestling championships in Albany. Furthermore, Ousmane lead his team to their third straight state team championship. Duncanson has been undefeated for two consecutive years. He also played football on a 3 time NYSPHSAA Championship team and is a two time first team New York state linebacker. Ousmane is coached by Kris Harrington and he is headed to Lock Haven University this fall. 

PJ Duke, Minisink Valley High School, has been tabbed for the Robert Feldmeier Outstanding Wrestler Award in Division I.  P J wrestled a great NYSPHSAA championship teching all his opponents and demonstrating why he is a number 1 recruit in the nation. PJ was the youngest New York champion in the history of the state and has won a Fargo championship, Super 32 championship and Ironman championship to go along with his stellar career wrestling for Kevin Gallagher at Slate Hill. P J has committed to Penn State and will join a fellow Minisink Valley wrestler, Zake Ryder. Coach Gallagher has nothing but praise for Duke as a wrestler and young man.

The Upstate New York Chapter is extremely pleased to award these exceptional student-athletes with our annual awards … they represent the excellence that the Chapter attempt to exemplify both athletically and scholastically.  

Donnie Vinson Introduced as next head coach of the University at Buffalo Bulls

Former Cornell assistant coach Donnie Vinson was introduced at the 16th head coach of the Bulls on April 23rd at a press conference on campus. Vinson comes to Buffalo as an experienced assistant coach at Cornell and North Carolina State. A native of Whitney Point, NY, within the Section IV region of upstate New York, Vinson was a two-time NYS Division I finalist (2007, 2008) before going on to wrestle at Binghamton University, earning All-American honors in 2012 with a 3rd place finish at 149-pounds in St. Louis.

In a press release courtesy of The Spectrum (link below), UB athletic director Mark Alnutt stated:

“Don is overprepared to be the head coach, which I’m excited about. Coach [Vinson] wants to be here at Buffalo, and that was apparently evident when I offered him the position last year, I’m sorry, last week.”

According to The Spectrum, Vinson stated:

“UB is the flagship institution in New York, so I plan on making the wrestling program equivalent to that. I’m excited to continually recruit within New York state. I’ve got a lot of state pride, and I’m excited to retain that talent. I just really want [UB] to be the New York state wrestling institution.

I’ve seen the uptick in competition,” he said. “With the new landscape that's changing within the MAC, that gives us a ton of opportunity to go and make these jumps rather quickly, and that's what I'm going to take advantage of.”

The Upstate New York Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame wishes the best of luck to Coach Vinson in his new role and to the UB Bulls in the coming future.

Gratto-Clark Story

It all started in the town of Canton, New York, population about 7,195 strong, that two NCAA – Division I Champions were born and raised.

Joe Gratto and Mitch Clark were raised on the same road, Old State Road, and educated in the local Canton High School in rural upstate New York’s Section X.  Joe would graduate from Canton in 1954 and matriculate at Lehigh University where he was coached by Gerry Leeman and Mitch would graduate from high school in 1993 and enter Ohio State to be coached by Russ Hellickson.

The two wrestlers would win one NCAA title each. Mitch was the only wrestler to score a first period technical fall over his opponent, Vertus Jones from West Virginia, by a score of 17 – 0. Joe Gratto wrestling for Lehigh had a more difficult time with his opponent decisioning John Pepe from Penn State 9-8. It Is interesting to note that Pepe decision Gratto in the finals of the EIWA championships that same year. After college Joe would enlist in the Marines and serve in the Vietnam campaign doing four deployments and eventually rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Furthermore, both men were inducted in their university’s Athletic Hall of Fames, Clark in 2011 and Gratto in 1998. Gratto delivered half of his induction speech in Latin. Career wise, Joe would secure a Ph.D from Emory University and join the ranks of college teaching and administration. Joe ended his academic career as the President of Potomac State College of West Virginia.  Mitchell went on to coach for eight years at Ohio State and then become the Territory Sales Manager of Advantage Sport & Fitness in Ithaca, New York. What a wonderful story about two outstanding men who made a name for themselves in their respective careers and the world of wrestling. An interesting sage of inspiration to many young wrestlers from the upstate New York area. 

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