Unbeaten and No. 1 in New York State … not once, twice, thrice, but four times in succession. That is Baldwinsville wrestling’s iconic accomplishment over the span of four seasons — 1977-78, ’78-79, ’79-80, ’80-81. OK, so during that final season with another 15-0 record, the Bees tied for No. 1 in the state poll with Long Island’s Sachem High.
Hall of Fame coach Leo Johnson’s B’ville dynasty was never more dominant than in the aforementioned four consecutive unblemished campaigns. Each squad ruled the roost in the Onondaga League and Section III. To distinguish one from the other would be difficult, if not unfair.
Collectively, the quartet of teams deserves special recognition as a Team of Honor. That four-season run was the halcyon period in a longer, nine-season dominance that began with the 1973-74 unbeatens, followed by another undefeated squad in ’74-75 … Nine winters on the mat, six without a defeat and an overall record of 142-2.
Are you kidding! Not really. Or as the team motto went, ‘Seeing is Believing!’
One might say Johnson’s Bees were — on the mats of Central New York — what Mike Messere’s West Genesee Wildcats were to scholastic lacrosse. Baldwinsville was so dominant and such an attraction that some dual meets had to be moved — to Manley Field House, War Memorial, West Point and various community colleges – to accommodate the fans. TVs were set up in school cafeterias to handle the overflow. WCNY taped some B’ville matches each year for broadcast at a later time.
It wasn’t even close when Section III Class A opponents wrestled B’ville. These four honored teams won Sectionals by an AVERAGE of 58.6 points.
There were, of course, so many terrific athletes making all this possible … too many to mention them all. But among 14 B’ville weight-class champions, two-time State champ Tom Pickard stands out, having captured three consecutive Sectional crowns at 138 and Most Outstanding Wrestler in ’79 and ’81. And Mike Conners — who later coached Fulton to six State team titles — won back-to-back Sectionals at 177, and MOW in ’80. B’ville had unbeatable teams, stellar wrestlers from 98- to 250-pounders, and a Hall of Fame coach.
Because of their marvelous accomplishments against all comers at all levels, the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame is proud to have selected the 1977-81 Baldwinsville wrestlers as its 2017 Team of Honor.