NEWARK -- It was fitting, in his own way, that the last match Albany coaching icon Kermit Bankson would coach was for seventh place at the North Coast Section tournament.

"It's been a nice run," Bankson said as he prepares to retire after 43 years as head coach at Albany, a tenure which made him the dean of coaches in the NCS. "A lot of people came up and shook my hand and said 'Hello,' people I don't even know."

Albany sent seven wrestlers to the tournament, though only two -- Garen Pelesauma, at 152 pounds, and Cyrus Wafford, at 120 -- made it through the second day of the double-elimination tournament.

"We got a couple of kids through the second day, and that's what you want to do," Bankson said.

It ended with a victory, when Pelesauma edged Eric Oeth of Campolindo for seventh place at 152 pounds.

"It felt great; it felt like I had to win it for the team, and for coach Bankson most of all," Pelesauma said. "It was Bankson's last match, I was the last person in for Albany. I'm sorry I couldn't get any higher; I was trying for third and trying to go to state."

Pelesauma said it was especially emotional week of practice leading up to the tournament, as the Cougars wanted to give Bankson a memorable sendoff.

"Everybody had something in their hearts, and we practiced harder than I've ever seen in my wrestling career," he said. "He's helped me a lot through wrestling, but more than that he's helped me mature. I'm a better person in the world and that's because of Bankson."


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During his career, Bankson has coached two wrestlers who placed at the CIF State championships, and has had a handful of NCS medal winners. Though the medals are a badges of honor and achievement, it's always been more important to him, he said, for his wrestlers to be successful after they leave the sport.

"Everybody likes to win, it just makes you feel better," Bankson said. "But it's more of what they get out of this and can carry on later."

Bankson, who wears an irrepressible smile, said that his last NCS tournament hasn't been an emotional experience. There's been too much work to do, he said. The emotion will come later when he's chasing his grandkids around his house instead of chasing wrestlers around the mats.

If Bankson had any hopes of leaving quietly, those were dashed before the consolation finals. NCS Commissioner Gil Lemmon presented him with a plaque in commemoration of his years of work and service to the sport as a coach and teacher, which was greeted by a long round of applause.

"They won't just let me get out of the gym quietly," he said.

  • It was a long, hard road to the medal stand for Castro Valley's Matt Aquino (152) and Livermore's Cody McNaney (182). Each lost their first match on Friday and battled back through the consolation bracket.

    "I was wrestling to win, not just advance," McNaney said. "It was pretty tough to just come back."

    Each won four straight elimination matches Friday. Aquino started his second day by defeating Harrison Walsh of De La Salle 7-5 in the fifth round of consolation, which guaranteed him a medal. He then outlasted Albany's Pelesauma 12-9, but his five-match streak came to an end with a 9-1 loss to Ian Black of Healdsburg in the consolation semifinal.

    The run ended with a 5-4 loss to Marc Wilhelm of College Park in the fifth-place match.

    McNaney ensured himself of a medal with a 6-1 victory over Harry Hanna of Terra Linda in his first match Saturday, then was pinned by East Bay Athletic League rival Connor Veit of Amador Valley.

    "It was kind of a downer," McNaney said. "He'd only beat me by a point in overtime, but he pinned me."