Tony Policare insisted the night wasn’t about him, but the actions of the Vestal community proved otherwise.
The Vestal wrestling coach was honored for setting the Section 4 record for career coaching victories at the team’s banquet Tuesday night at Donoli’s Restaurant.
Policare’s squad went 19-3 this season, giving the veteran coach 441 career victories. He surpassed former Waverly wrestling coach Jim McCloe, who held the Section 4 record with 435 victories as determined through the New York State Sports Writers Association’s tabulations.
In addition to receiving a plaque commemorating the achievement, Policare also received a proclamation from Town of Vestal Supervisor John Schaffer declaring Wednesday Anthony Policare Jr. Day, in honor of Policare’s commitment to the youth of Vestal.
“I competed against the great (former Sidney coach) Tom Robertson, (Ithaca coach) Orlando Turco. Sarge (former Union-Endicott coach Frank Sorochinsky), I used to jump in the back of his van and go to tournaments when I wasn’t even on his team,” Policare said. “Jim McCloe and I are contemporaries, we go way back. What a great coach he was.
“For me, it’s not an award about myself, it’s about our team, about our assistant coaches, the fans, our community, and being a part of those guys. I’m a fan of them, being mentioned with that group of people, it’s unbelievable. I’m humbled by this and happy about our program.”
Policare said he didn’t realize he was approaching the record until receiving a notification last year from the New York State Sports Writers Association.
“I knew I had a lot of wins … but it wasn’t something I was really focused on,” Policare said. “You hang in there long enough, you’ve got to win something.”
Policare began his high school coaching career at Elmira Notre Dame in 1973. He spent two seasons there, then another six seasons at Orchard Park before guiding the Golden Bears the past 27 seasons.
Among his accomplishments at Vestal are 27 consecutive winning seasons, 10 Southern Tier Athletic Conference division titles, the 2005 Section 4 Division I team championships, 20 individual Section 4 champions and 15 New York state place-winners.
“Part of this has to be attributed to Walt Davis,” Policare said about his friend who has been his assistant coach during his entire coaching stint at Vestal. “He’s a great coach, he’s been a complement, the kids get a great education from him.”
Policare also credited the support of the Vestal administration, and he takes great pride in the fact that his wrestling teams were annually acknowledged as New York scholar-athlete teams.
As for how much longer he sees himself coaching?
“When they kick me out, I’ll leave,” Policare said with a chuckle. “But I’m not slowing down. I’m having a lot of fun with it, our kids are great.
“We have a great team coming back, and they’re doing the right things in the classroom and on the athletic arena, so I’m here as long as they’ll have me.”