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Cacciatore Forever Etched in NW Wrestling Program

Armand ‘Ace’ Cacciatore had a tall task when he founded the Niagara Wheatfield wrestling team in 1961.

He had no set place to hold practice, no regulation mats and none of the kids who signed up for the team had ever seen a match, let alone had any wrestling experience.

Still, the inaugural team, which faced schools with programs that had been around for four or five years, finished with a winning record.

That early success set the tone for building the most successful wrestling program in the area, winning more NFL league titles, sectional team titles and individual sectional titles than any other wrestling team in Section VI.

Over two dozen former wrestlers and NW community members were on hand as the wrestling room was dedicated to Cacciatore in a ceremony in the high school auditorium Wednesday night.

“It’s just overwhelming,” said Cacciatore, who won 330 matches as a coach. “I don’t have words. It’s wonderful, it’s beautiful. I never expected anything like this in my life. This is probably the biggest accomplishment of my life besides marrying my wife.”

That success shouldn’t come as a surprise after everything Cacciatore did to promote the sport at NW, no matter how unorthodox his methods were.

In the early days of the program, he’d take wrestlers to a local bank to show off their moves in an effort to entice customers to bring people to their meets.

Cacciatore came up with several ways to make matches more exciting. He added a spotlight above the mat, had a gong for wrestlers to bang after getting a pin and played intro music for each kid. Some of these actions were banned by the NFL, which according to former NW wrestler Bob Koshinski was because the league claimed it to be “too intimidating” for their opponents.

“He was so far ahead of his time,” Koshinski said. “He was always trying to figure out a way to promote the sport of wrestling. There are coaches today that could take a page out of his book.”

Cacciatore worked to promote the sport running a program for elementary students before helping to start a wrestling club in Niagara Falls with current NW coach Rick Sweeny.

“This guy is an unbelievable coach,” Sweeny said. “He’s the best of the best. When I was coaching at Niagara Falls, I could never beat him. He taught me a lot about starting a youth program.”

Cacciatore also served as the head football coach at Niagara Wheatfield. He led the Falcons on five trips to the sectional final, winning three times.

The new sign will hang outside the wrestling room.

“All the kids need to know is that Cacciatore is a man who loved the sport, loved the kids who wrestled and did everything he could to make it better,” Koshinski said.

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