Spencerport's dynamic wrestling duo
By Linda Whitmore
Their minds are as finely tuned as their bodies. They choose their words as carefully as their moves.
That's saying a lot when you're talking about Spencerport wrestlers Ray LeChase and Tom Billone. LeChase is 30-0 at 119 pounds. Billone is 28-1-1 at 126 pounds, and both successfully defended Section 5 titles last weekend.
But the two seniors would trade it all if they could qualify for the state meet.
"I was looking to go undefeated this year," LeChase said, "but going to states is better. I wouldn't care if I had 10 losses."
LeChase and Billone, along with teammates John Raines (98), Joe LoPresti (105), Jeff Heffner (167), John Crandall (177) and Vern White (250), will compete in tomorrow's state qualifier at Brockport State. Only the winner in each weight class will advance to the state tournament next week in Syracuse.
BILLONE LOST in the quarterfinals and LeChase lost in the finals in last year's qualifier. But teammates Mike LoPresti (138) and Rick Suhr (155), who have graduated, both won state titles.
"The best way to beat a Spencerport wrestler is to avoid being taken down, or to get takedowns," says Spencerport's Coach Bill Jacoutot, who knows that's easier said than done. "We spend 75 percent of our practice on takedowns, the other 15 percent on escapes and 10 percent on top. We're really not interested in wrestling on the mat."
The basic game plan is to take down your opponent, and if necessary, let him escape in order to score another takedown. A takedown is worth two points, and an escape it worth one.
"We do it all the time," Billone said.
Last year, a new rule went into effect on the high school, giving a wrestler a choice of starting the period on top, on the bottom or in a neutral position.
"The way the rules have changed, it's just conductive to it," Jacoutot said.
LECHASE and Billone have the most trouble with defensive opponents - that is, someone who won't wrestle.
"Then you have to try get them to open up," Billone said.
Billone lost a 5-4 decision and was later tied 4-4 by Brighton's Pete Chou, normally an aggressive wrestler.
"But get him against a good wrestler, and he's defensive," Billone said.
That's an uncharacteristically low score for Billone, who has 17 pins and technical falls on the season. LeChase has a total of 20.
Billone has 116 takedowns, an average of about four per match - that's at two points apiece. LeChase has 133 takedowns. The team has a little over 500 total takedowns this season, so Billone and LeChase own about 50 percent of them.
Jacoutot, who coached at Pembroke before coming to Spencerport, said he always has emphasized the importance of takedowns.
"They'll make a better adjustment in college, because concentrating on takedowns is basically college style," said Jacoutot, whose record in five years at Spencerport is 67-13.
THE SIMILARITIES between his two star wrestlers are more than physical. Billone's father runs a private heating and plumbing company and Tom would like to return to Spencerport after graduation from college and take over the business.
LeChase's father runs a soft drink and beer distributorship. Ray also would like to run the family business someday.
But on the mat, Jacoutot sees differences.
"Ray has a lot of inherent balance," Jacoutot said. "He's a real good scrambler in any situation. Tom is more methodical. Ray's more of a freelancer. Tom wears you down. He's very strong and capable of doing that."
The two sharpened their skills at a 28-day Iowa intensive camp, at the Empire Games and at a Brockport camp run by U.S. Olympic Coach Dan Gable.
"I don't think there's an such thing as burnout," Billone said. "It's all mind over body... If someone says they're burned out, that means they can't concentrate."
Their biggest victory came when Spencerport defeated Brighton on East-West day. "No on had done that in 11 or 12 years," LeChase said. "And it made me feel special that me and Tom were captains."
NOTES - The first round of the state qualifier begins at 10 a.m. tomorrow, with the quarterfinals at noon, semis at 2:30 p.m. and finals at 7:30 p.m. Some of the toughest weight classes are 98 pounds (Waterloo's Shawn Knisley, Canandaigua's Cory Sinton and Brighton's Mitch Stern); 132 pounds (Gates Tom Reina and Brighton's Pete Chou); 138 pounds (McQuaid's Shawn Costello and ER's Paul Fiorvanti); 145 pounds (Mooney's John Bell, Pittsford's Chris Miller and Webster's Chris Yengo); and heavyweight (Irondequoit's Shawn Cavanaugh, Edison's Bill Cronmiller and Pal-Mac's Tim McDonald).