February 5, 2014
Mat ‘Fame’ surprises Kaminski
John Kaminski was inducted as the newest member of the Cortland High Wrestling Hall of Fame Tuesday night in ceremonies prior to the Purple Tigers’ regular-season finale with visiting Oneida.
Kaminski, currently the Supervisor and Fire Department Chairman for the Town of Virgil, graduated from Cortland High in 1975.
In his senior season under coach Gary Dillingham, he won the 177-pound championship in Section 4 — where CHS competed at the time. Kaminski decisioned Homer Central’s Ed Jones 7-6 in the finals after having lost to Jones twice during both that season and the previous one.
Kaminski then went on to finish second in the state at 177. He beat Mike Plante from Section 10’s Malone 15-4 in his first match at states, then out-lasted Van Watkins from Fulton 4-1 in overtime in a quarterfinal match that was tied 3-3 after regulation.
Kaminski also went into overtime in the semifinals, beating Butch Rasano of North Rockland (Section 9) 5-0 after a 2-2 regulation tie. He was pinned in 4:52 by Joe Lidowski of Section 11’s West Babylon in the championship match at the Onondaga County War Memorial in Syracuse and finished the season with a record of 30-3.
A sideline to his mat memories is the Purple Tigers’ road win at Peru in 1973, ending the hosts’ national-record 123-match winning streak.
He was offered a wrestling scholarship by Syracuse University but instead entered the U.S. Marine Corps. Upon completion of his service he earned an electrical engineering degree from Tompkins Cortland Community College and has been an Engineering Supervisor at Cornell for 30 years.
Kaminski, who still dabbles in farming as well, is the single parent of two sons, Nick (also a former Cortland High wrestler) and Jason, a music teacher in the Rochester area.
“It’s a surprise and an honor,” Kaminski said of his induction. “It’s something I did almost 40 years ago, and now I’m being honored for it. It’s overwhelming, to be honest with you. I’m humbled by being honored and recognized for my accomplishments.”
Asked about standout memories from his wrestling career, Kaminski said it was “The camaraderie of the other guys and the friendships I made over the years. Coach Dillingham always went above and beyond for the program to keep it going, and always had good teams. He was a good coach. A lot of my success can be attributed to him and his commitment to the program.”
“John was a hard worker,” Dillingham said. “He was strong, and kept his nose clean. His favorite move was the pancake, where you get your opponent to push in and then fall back before turning and throwing him onto his back. John tried that in the state championship match and it worked, but he had backed up, was too close to the edge of the circle and threw (Lidowski) out of bounds.
“He looked at me and smiled, and when they started up again — at that time from opposite ends of the circle rather than toe-to-toe like they do now — he came forward and got the move put on him for the pin. If he’d tried it in the middle of the mat he’d have been state champion. It was that close.”
“Jim VanGorder (a teammate) and I drilled all the time with that move and had a lot of success,” Kaminski said. “It’s a move that sometimes goes well and sometimes backfires...you live by the sword and die by the sword. That’s just the way it is.”
In reflecting on the benefits of having wrestled, Kaminski noted that “It’s a lot about discipline and a lot about independence. You’re by yourself out there, without teammates, and it’s up to you to perform and execute using your skill set and coaching. It’s a real individual sport.”
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