Imperial Wrestling Club welcomed to new home in Gorham

RUSHVILLE — One chapter in a long, bitter battle over the Martin Tire Building ended Sunday. The Imperial Wrestling Club moved its equipment and fixtures from its former home in the village-owned building to a new space in Gorham.
“This has been a long battle,” said club coach Terry Lucero, talking over the blare of pulling up and tearing down by wrestlers and parents working to clear the building. The equipment was trucked to the vacant 2625 Main St. in Gorham, former site of Nino's Antiques & Auction Gallery. The building is more spacious than the Martin building, with plenty of room for club equipment and activities with a bathroom and other features, said building owner Jon Bagley, former Rushville mayor at the center of the controversy.
In 2014, when Bagley was mayor, he and village trustees struck a handshake deal with Kevin Smith of Stanley to fix up the vacant and decaying Martin building — at no cost to the village, so it could be used by Imperial Wrestling club. But the deal was never formalized. Last March, Bagley lost reelection and the new board wanted the club out.
Bagley on Sunday pointed out the walls, emergency lights and other upgrades made to the building costing thousands of dollars and volunteer labor. “Everything was above board, a permit issued, these walls and fire walls were mandated to be put in by the code enforcement officer. These were all put in before they allowed the kids in,” said Bagley. “Then the new administration came in and kicked them out.”
Bagley said there was no communication between anyone on the board with Kevin Smith, who left messages for the mayor and deputy mayor in an attempt “to find a remedy for this thing.”
Mayor John Sawers, who was at the Martin building Sunday with several other village officials, said the club had to move “because they didn’t have board approval.”
“How would you like someone coming in and taking over your garage?” Sawers said.
The village uses part of the Martin building for highway equipment and Sawers said it is a “multi-use building.” He wouldn’t say what other uses the village wants for it.
Bagley, who is currently at odds with the board over his petition calling for a vote to dissolve the village, said when he was mayor Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike addressed the board about fighting the heroin epidemic. The sheriff went to all municipalities urging them to help “change the social conscience of the way kids think today — and give them an opportunity.” Bagley said.
“So when Kevin came along and said, ‘Hey, can we use this building to do something for the kids?” the board agreed, he said.
John Hill of Middlesex, the father of wrestlers and a former wrestling coach, was helping with the club move Sunday. He talked about the success of the club and referred to the upheaval.
“It is sad it had to come to this,” Hill said. “I am just glad the boys and girls have a place to go.”
Bagley agreed. He mentioned the move to Gorham. “Best of all, we have a welcoming government over there,” Bagley said.
There remains unresolved issues involving money spent in upgrading the building and other matters. Bagley said those will have to be settled by the attorneys.