Nick Gallo and Marcus Ramundo will never be mistaken for natural tennis players.
And that’s fine with Schalmont coach Adam Dolan, who is more than happy that the football and wrestling standouts decided to pick up a third varsity sport.
“They’re athletic, and they both picked it up pretty quickly,” said Dolan. “And they’re very competitive.”
Gallo was the quarterback and Ramundo a two-way lineman on the Schalmont football team that suffered a last-minute loss in the state Class B championship game last fall.
Both placed in the top five in their respective weight classes at the state wrestling tournament four months later.
The idea of picking up tennis as a third sport came about last year.
“Anthony Paturso transferred in from Mohonasen, and he played football and wrestled with us,” said Gallo. “But he had also played tennis, and he came up to me one day and said. ‘We’re going to play tennis,’ ” Gallo said.
“We decided last year. We did it for fun,” Ramundo said. “We thought, ‘Why not join the tennis team? What athletes do you know play tennis that also wrestle and play football?’
“Everybody laughed at us in school, but we’re out here grinding and winning matches.”
Their success in the two other sports played a big role in their approach to tennis.
“Gallo, he’s just an athlete. He frustrates kids because he gets to shots that other kids don’t get to,” said Dolan. “In Colonial Council tennis, that’s three-quarters of the battle.
“If you’re athletic like he is, and you’re able to get to shots and hit the ball over the net, a lot of times the other guy ends up making the first mistake and you end up winning.”
“If he doesn’t win the point, it won’t be because he was tight. He’s used to pressure. Ramundo is the same way.”
Both Gallo and Ramundo admitted that tennis presented different challenges.
“I think the only other time I picked up a racket was when I was 4,” said Gallo, who is set on playing football in college. “I was playing with my grandmother. I just swung and hit home runs.
“But this is the toughest thing I’ve had to do in sports. You have to run full speed to the ball, hit it, hopefully accurately, come to a compete stop and get ready for the next shot.”
Ramundo, who wrestled in the 285-pound weight class, also noticed another big difference in his chosen spring sport.
“We’re going from contact sports to a sport where you’re not even supposed to make noise when you’re playing,” he said. “You barely can talk when you’re out there.”
While Gallo worked his way up the ranks in singles on the team last year. Ramundo had more immediate success.
“Marcus teamed up with Dom Caputo last year, and they basically ran the table. They didn’t lose until sectionals,” said Dolan.
Their approach was not subtle, but was very effective. Call it smashmouth tennis.
“I told Ramundo and Caputo last year, just use your wingspan and athletic ability. Smash shots right back,” Dolan said.
“Stand in front at the net and smash any balls that I reach. The little bloopers that come over, the little forehands, those are mine,” said Ramundo.
Gallo’s athletic ability got him the No. 1 spot in this year’s lineup. Ramundo is playing second doubles after not coming out when practice started last month.
The lure of a repeat of a friendly coach/athlete wager might have swayed Ramundo.
Dolan was looking for an additional method of firing up his doubles teams prior to last season’s match with Albany Academy, and told them that if they were successful, he would pay for meals at a Rotterdam eatery with a decidedly Southwestern menu.
Big mistake, with four wrestlers from the upper end of the weight classes involved.
“I think the deal was whoever won a set, I think it was, Moe’s was on me,” said Dolan.
“They only won a set. Me and Dom won two sets,” bragged Ramundo. “So, we actually won the bet.”
Dolan was more than happy to live up to his end of the bargain, knowing his wallet was going to take a hit.
“Food was on the line, and Ramundo stepped up to the plate, literally,” he said.