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Walsh's D'Arcy earns wrestling Hall of Fame

Tue, Feb 18th 2020 09:05 am
  • By CHUCK POLLOCK Olean Times Herald

The last thing Eric D’Arcy expected to be was a Hall of Famer.

A wrestling star in the lighter weights at Archbishop Walsh, he earned a scholarship to Gannon University in that sport, after graduating in 1985. His last three collegiate seasons were spent at SUNY Oswego and that led to a job teaching social studies in the nearby North Rose-Wolcott School District.

“I had always envisioned myself coaching football or baseball, the other sports I played at Walsh,” D’Arcy recalled. “But North Rose didn’t have football and it already had a baseball coach, so they asked me if I would coach running … and I said ‘I’ll give it a try.’”

It turned out to be more than a “try.”

And when he was hired by the Newark Valley district, just over 20 miles northwest of Binghamton, his cross-country teams were dominant, winning two New York State championships and 10 Section 4 titles. The school is about the same size as Allegany-Limestone or Portville, graduating between 80 and 90 students.

But, alas, that was not the sport of his greatest coaching success.

INSTEAD, it was wrestling as, under his watch, Newark Valley won six Interscholastic Athletic Conference championships, nine IAC division titles, a Div. I Section 4 title and a sectional dual meet championship.

D’Arcy was a three-time IAC Coach of the Year while twice being awarded that honor in Section 4.

And that success has earned him a berth in the Upstate New York Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame’s 2020 induction class. He and six others will be added on Sept. 20 at a ceremony in East Syracuse.

“It’s a great honor,” D’Arcy admitted. “But my first five years here we were horrible, I couldn’t get out of my own way. If somebody had told me then that I’d end up in the Hall of Fame …

“But all of a sudden it started to click and we went on a terrific run in a league that had Waverly, Tioga and Lansing … three very good wrestling schools. Over the last 18 years we won division titles half the time (plus those six overall IAC championships).”

THESE DAYS, D’Arcy, 52, is still coaching cross country in the fall — he owns two NYS championships and 10 Section 4 titles — and track & field in the spring, but for wrestling he’s now merely a volunteer assistant.

“It just got to be too much,” he said. “I have six kids, all grown, and the closest one is about 50 miles away. I have three in the Albany area, one in Buffalo and another in California. We really only get to see them on holidays and being a head coach in all three seasons was kind of a grind. I just needed more (free) time”

But leaving wrestling, as the man in charge, wasn’t a hasty decision.

“I wasn’t going to walk away and turn that program (which is still highly successful) over to just anybody,” D’Arcy admitted. “Finally, one of my former wrestlers got the job and he asked me to help out as an assistant and to give advice. I was happy to do that because it wasn’t nearly the investment of time as you have as a head coach.”

STILL, wrestling will always be a part of his life.

“I owe so much to Paul Abdo,” D’Arcy said of his mat coach at Walsh. “I learned so much from him, not so much on the technical things as the personal connection to the sport and relating to the wrestlers.

“I never tried to sell them on winning and losing, I approached it on what the sport would do for them … that it would make them a better person.”

He added, “I had kids come in and say, ‘I want to be a champion and I’ll do whatever it takes.’ Others come in and just want to be part of the team … and some aren’t sure why they’re there.

“My job was to keep them all together … it’s a tough sport and it takes a helluva lot out of the kids and the coaches.”

D’Arcy concluded, “I was just an OK wrestler in college but, thanks to Paul Abdo, I saw what the sport could do for people and it transformed me ...”

… into a Hall of Fame coach.

(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at [email protected])

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