Finding solace on the wrestling mat

Minahan uses wrestling as an outlet after family tragedy, wins section title
Niskayuna’s Thomas Minahan wrestles Burnt Hills’ Danny Jada at the Section II state meet  qualifier.
Niskayuna’s Thomas Minahan wrestles Burnt Hills’ Danny Jada at the Section II state meet qualifier.

NISKAYUNA — Wrestling has provided Thomas Minahan with a wealth of opportunities, including a chance to win a state championship this weekend.

Wrestling gave the Niskayuna High School junior something else in the early weeks of December, when winning and losing wasn’t really a concern at all.

“I don’t remember who I wrestled. What the score was,” Minahan said. “I remember how I felt. It felt so amazing to do something that felt normal.”

And that would be knocking guys down and taking some knocks, too, something Minahan did with success at that Dec. 9 Mat Mania event when he went 4-0. He had returned to the Niskayuna wrestling room earlier that week, grappling again after the passing of his mom, Rochelle G. “Shelley” Minahan.

“I missed the first part of the season. I came back a little earlier than Michael,” Minahan said of his twin brother, who also wrestles for the Silver Warriors. “I needed to. I needed to take some of the frustration out. I think that’s part of the reason I did so well.”

Minahan continued to excel as the year turned, and he captured the Section II Division I 138-pound title earlier this month with three decisive wins, after finishing third in the tournament as a sophomore and sixth as a freshman. Later, after Minahan’s success, Niskayuna teammates Eoghan Sweeney (160) and Reggie Melvin (195) also secured Division I titles and tickets to the state tourney Friday and Saturday at the Times Union Center.

“As soon as  saw it happen, as soon as his arm was raised, I teared up,” Sweeney, a senior, said of Minahan’s 7-2 title-clinching win against Danny Jada of Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake. “I knew he was doing it for his mom. He had a strict mindset to get to the top of the podium.”

Minahan’s mom was also Niskayuna’s “Team Mom,” a do-it-all for the Silver Warriors, whom she loved, and who loved her back. The Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons graduate died Nov. 28 from complications following surgery, leaving behind her husband of 25 years, Tim, as well as her twin boys.

“Everyone had a relationship with her,” Niskayuna wrestling coach Shaun Neely said. “Her funeral was one of the toughest things I’ve had to deal with. Everyone was there.”

Thomas Minahan recalled how his mom was always there to deliver for his team.  His team honored her this year by inscribing her name on their wrestling shoes.

“She did everything she could to make sure everyone on the team felt like part of the family. She took care of everything,” Minahan said. “She did the banquet. Concessions. She did the highlight video last year. She made sure every wrestler got a highlight.”

Neely said he’s glad wrestling could provide a relief for Minahan.

“You hear the benefits of exercise,” Neely said. “When you’re feeling down, you need a release. A lot of adults are running. Thomas got back to what’s a little more natural for him. He’s still hurting, but he has that distraction.”

Minahan is 27-1 this season, and won his second straight Section II Class A title before taking the Division I crown and securing a state meet berth. He outscored his three opponents 26-5.

“He’s a high-energy wrestler,” Neely said. “Sometimes he’ll give some points away, but he’ll take more back. We call him ‘Junkyard Dog’ because he’ll throw everything at you, and it works for him.”

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

Categories: High School Sports, Sports

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