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  • Matt O'Rourke

History Made: Buffalo Public Schools Hosts First Varsity Wrestling Dual Meet in Inaugural Season

Thursday night’s non-league dual between Canisius and the new Lafayette/Buffalo Public Schools (BPS) team was a historic first for both the city school district and western New York high school wrestling as the combined Buffalo Public team hosted a varsity wrestling match for the first time in district history in the team’s first organized interscholastic season.


“We are super excited to have our inaugural season here at historic Lafayette International High School…this is amazing,” said BPS Athletic Director Aubrey Lloyd. “This is history in the making here. We have thirty eight kids from fourteen of our high schools on the team…this has exceeded our expectations. This season has been in the making for about ten years. We are grateful to the Board of Education and to our superintendent for allowing us to have this wonderful opportunity."


The new team was formed in time to start competing this winter and practices at Lafayette High School on the upper west side of Buffalo. Official Section VI data shows that the combined BEDS numbers of the participating BPS high schools on the wrestling team is over 7000 making it by far the biggest ‘school’ by classification in WNY high school wrestling this season.


Thursday’s dual was held in the same space where the team practices in the historic second floor gymnasium at Lafayette. The gym features vibrant wall artwork, an oval shaped upper-deck hanging track with banked turns, and an above average temperature for a gymnasium giving the fans an experience reminiscent of the feel of the inside of a wrestling room of traditional lore.

On Thursday, Lafayette fell behind to the Crusaders in the team score but took a 29-25 lead with only two weights left in the match. James Okun secured a pin for the Crusaders at 190-pounds to retake the lead for good as Canisius would hold on to win 37-29 and improve to 3-1 overall this season while Buffalo sits at 1-3. Buffalo did get its first varsity win on Dec. 13th with a 38-30 victory on the road over East Aurora.


Experienced wrestling coach James Cunningham is the first head coach of the new Lafayette/BPS team.


Mr. Lloyd said on Cunningham “We are lucky to have Coach Cunningham here. It’s a family affair – his brother works with us, his son is here helping out with the team, we are very fortunate to have him and his staff leading our student-athletes.”


So far this season, the new team has participated in a number of varsity and junior varsity events highlighted by the team’s dual win at East Aurora and a strong individual showing by senior Kahmari Cook who is 14-3 on the season with top-3 place finishes at the STWOA tournament and the Linda Knuttila Memorial Tournament.


“Since the beginning of the season I have seen a lot of growth with the program,” said Lloyd. “Character building & growth is what we are looking forward to from our student-athletes. At the midway point of the season, one thing I have seen is grit – students that are really into our program and stay on with it and have not given up. We have leadership within the program which is really important and our coaching staff is instilling that growth of student leadership. I expect continued development of this program, more character building, and above all, an improvement in our student-athletes’ academic success.”


Mr. Lloyd stated there are big plans for the future of Buffalo Public Schools wrestling on the horizon.


“We are looking forward to adding more student-athletes to our program next year,” said Lloyd. “As this program gets more notice in the community, I anticipate us getting above fifty student-athletes. Hopefully, we are looking at having two boy’s teams in the future. As far as a girls’ program, we are very excited that we do have interest from our female student-athletes to wrestle. We are looking forward to adding that program next year.”


Lafayette will host Charter School for Applied Technologies for a non-league dual in their only remaining homestand of the 2023-2024 season (time and date to be determined) before competing in the postseason at the Section VI Class AA and Section VI Division I Individual championships.


It is important to note that BPS member high school Burgard offered wrestling as a club sport in the early 1960’s and was coached by Mr. Robert Guariglia. Also, records indicate that student-athletes representing schools within the city of Buffalo competed amongst one another in events like the Buffalo YMCA Invitational Tournament in March 1912.





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Feb 07

Congratulations to Coach James Cunningham , his staff and Buffalo Schools Administrator Aubrey Lloyd for getting the Wrestling program started and has had success for a first year program . I was honored to work with these men during my teaching / coaching career . Jeff Gemmer

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