By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star
---- — WELLS BRIDGE — Kevin Thayer wrestled his way to a state championship Saturday — and the applause continued Sunday.
With horns blasting and lights flashing, 11 trucks from the Otego, Wells Bridge and Unadilla fire departments entered the grounds of Unatego High School in Wells Bridge shortly after 1:30 p.m. carrying senior Thayer and sophomore Ryan Marszal.
More than 50 fans cheered Thayer, the Division II State Wrestling Tournament champion at 152 pounds, and Marszal, who at 182 pounds placed fifth in the event in Times Union Center in Albany on Saturday.
Thayer and Marszal rode in the lead engine, driven by Scott Secor, first assistant chief of the Otego Fire Department. The trucks started from the Otego station and followed a route along state Route 7 to the village of Unadilla, he said. Then the lineup turned around and went back along the highway to the high school, where clusters of students, parents and others waited in brisk winter winds.
Thayer’s description of winning the championship and riding in the parade was an echo.
“It felt pretty good,’’ he said while standing in the crowd outside the school Sunday afternoon. “It’s amazing that everyone I know supports me. They’ve been supporting me since I was little.’’
“Little’’ means just that, according to his mother, Dawn Thayer of Otego. She said he walked out onto a wrestling mat at 7 months old to see an older brother, and then at age 3, he was in his first official match.
When considering Thayer’s achievement Saturday, she was tongue-tied with pride.
“Amazing,’’ she said. “No words.’’
The Otego Fire Department hadn’t been out for a sports victory parade in years, firefighters said Sunday.
Matt Beames, assistant chief of the Otego Department, said the beauty of a small community was that he was able to call fire departments in the school district and crews turned out on short notice to honor Thayer and Marszal.
The Unatego Central School District includes Otego, Wells Bridge and Unadilla, and Beames said the parade lineup included about 20 firefighters with six trucks from Otego, three from Wells Bridge and two from Unadilla.
“We had everybody there,’’ Beames said. “This is very special.’’
Kelly Thayer, Kevin’s father, said firefighters volunteer a lot of time for the community and for them to turn out Sunday for a parade was a special gesture.
“Something to do, like this, is awesome,’’ he said.
Bob Thayer, a parade organizer and an uncle to the state champion, said the parade gave the community a chance to recognize the two wrestlers and the entire wrestling team family.
“This is a big day for us,’’ said Bob Thayer, a Pee Wee wrestling coach.
Fay DeJoy of Davenport said she drove her husband, Alton “Sonny’’ DeJoy, who is recovering from a bone marrow transplant in January, to the high school to see their grandson honored. After the trucks arrived, she said, her husband got out of the car and hugged the state wrestling champion.
“He’s proud of Kevin,’’ she said. “I am so proud.’’