There is a new sports dynasty in the making. For comparison, think of the Charlotte Lakesider’s back-to-back state titles in the early 80’s. Or the late 70’s when the Binion brothers dominated at Madison. Or Sal Rizzo’s nine Section V titles at East.
Actually, the sport is not basketball but chess (yes, chess is today a recognized sport of the International Olympic Committee). This powerhouse is a team of 8th graders at Wilson Foundation Academy at the old Madison campus.
Get this, as 6th graders the team of six boys (the first ever at “little Wilson”) competed at the high school level in the Upstate New York Interscholastic Chess League. Not only did they win the league championship, they went to the Elementary School nationals in Dallas, finishing 10th. As 7th graders they lost in the league finals, but placed second in the NY Junior High states. This year they cruised to a 9-0 league record and are preparing for the super nationals. And they are not yet even in high school. (Next year all six will be playing for “big Wilson” down the road.) Look for some more banners hanging in the gym!
Today I had the chance to play Webster Kehoe and Sam Cherin in a couple of speed games. They won both close matches, although I had a lingering sense they were taking it easy on the old man. I asked how high school teams responded to their prowess. The answer was telling.
County teams were actually less surprised at their age than where they came from. As Webster, said, “they assume city kids won’t be as good as they are.” A few more UNYICL championships should obliterate that myth.
Even better, chess is growing in popularity throughout the city. Wilson’s coach, Dr. Jeffrey Green, has now organized a twice-weekly Chess Club, drawing students and teachers from throughout the school. Team members help novices learn the game they love in a fun afterschool atmosphere. Most importantly, Green says the Club will certainly continue even as the current players move on, hopefully becoming a permanent Wilson tradition.
And, a few months ago, the movie Brooklyn Castle (about inner city kids who play chess) was shown to RCSD students at the Little Theater. The film actually inspired students at All City High (the old Marshall) to form a team and join the UNYICL. Right now, the All City squad is still young and inexperienced. But give them a few years and maybe we’ll have another dynasty in the making.