After a successful football merger between the Holland and East Aurora school districts, officials of both districts are grappling to make other mergers work between their sports teams but are coming up empty-handed.
Wrestling took the first hit Wednesday night as the Holland School Board agreed to leave its wrestling program in-house.
The decision followed a vigorous discussion that included board members, parents of Holland and East Aurora wrestlers, some students and Holland Athletic Director Timothy Buckenmeyer.
“This is a tough call. I can see both sides of the argument,” the athletic director said. “I’m really torn on this one.”
On the pro-merger side, he said the team would be bigger, giving students more practice, and wrestlers on the modified squad would have a chance to play – the sport was cut from Holland last year – and as a one-year deal, the merger would allow both schools time to test the plan.
Working against the merger, however, would be the travel hardship for some Holland parents, particularly those residing in Strykersville who would have to drive six days a week to East Aurora, a 19-mile round trip, for athletic practice.
In addition, Holland and East Aurora wrestlers would have to compete against each other for spots in their weight class, and the size of the team would bump it up to a larger division in sectional play.
Ernie Sheer, president of the East Aurora wrestling booster club, encouraged the Holland board to embrace the merger.
“We very much welcome your kids,” Sheer said. “This is exciting having Holland students come over. This would benefit us as much as you. We’ve lost matches because we don’t have enough kids for all the weight classes.” He added, “And when a Holland kid wins a match he will always be a Holland kid, not an East Aurora kid.”
His son, Nick, captain of the East Aurora varsity wrestling team, said he’d talked to kids from both schools and found a lot of support for the merger.
But the mother of one Holland wrestler was unconvinced: “Only one child can compete in each weight class. If we merge, it takes away opportunity on both sides. I think it will hurt each program,” she said.
Ultimately, the board said that the timing felt too rushed. “This is a great idea, but not right now,” board president Steven Marom said.
On the other hand, indoor track, another winter sport poised for merger, was easily pushed forward by Holland board members.
Oddly, that proposal, which would have allowed East Aurora runners to join the Holland indoor track team in the upcoming season, was shut down by the East Aurora School Board at about the same time the Holland School Board was enthusiastically deciding to welcome them.
East Aurora has no indoor track program of its own and though Holland would host the sport, East Aurora would likely have to pay for additional coaches and possibly transportation.
An initial survey done by the East Aurora athletic office showed about 50 runners were interested in joining Holland’s program. Holland had about 20 runners on its indoor track team last year.