Bethlehem's Masterminds team is, from left, coach Paul O’Reilly, Mike Bartlett, Eric Wolfsberg and James Cody. Screen shot from bethlehemschools.org
BETHLEHEM —The Bethlehem Central High School academic quiz bowl team, the Masterminds, won the New York State Championship on Saturday, June 11, for the fourth consecutive year. After a final competition at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, the Bethlehem team—students Eric Wolfsberg, Jimmy Cody, and Mike Bartlett, coached by BHS teacher Paul O’Reilly—were undefeated against other regional champions from Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse; Wolfsberg was named the all-tournament MVP.
More than 120 high schools across the state took part in this year’s competition. This is the sixth time Bethlehem has won the championship in twelve years of participating in the New York State Masterminds competition. “The continued success of our academic competition teams is a clear reflection of the Bethlehem Community,” said O’Reilly. “Bethlehem is a community that truly values education and I feel very fortunate to be a part of that community.”
Established in 1993 in the Rochester area as a local version of the General Electric College Bowl Program that aired on television in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, the first Masterminds competitions in New York state were attended by only 25 schools. In 1995, the program was adopted and offered through state BOCES (Board of Cooperative Education Services) organizations and expanded into the Buffalo region. It wasn’t until the 1999-2000 school year that the program came to the Capital District and until 2005-2006 that the competition became a statewide tournament.
“Bethlehem entered the Masterminds competition in 2004,” said O’Reilly, “and I have been the coach the entire time. Student interest came from the Science Bowl club I have coached since 1998. This year our team would meet every Thursday and some would meet on Tuesday and Friday evenings for science bowl. Masterminds has a regular season of 12 games and three rounds of playoffs if you make it to the state competition. During bus trips and meetings students share knowledge of history, music, art, math and science. It is really cool to her them talk. Team members also participated in History Bowl and Quiz Bowl tournaments. These were done outside of the club under their parents supervision. Eric Wolfsberg is by far the best Masterminds player we have had so far. He is nationally ranked in NAQT Quiz bowl—I don’t know how high, maybe 53rd, but definitely in the top 100 in the country. He finished 13th at the national Quiz Bowl Championship in Chicago in June playing by himself against full quiz bowl teams from around the country. Eric is like Wikipedia without the mistakes.”
We have had many other strong teams throughout the years,” he continued. “Since the inception of the state tournament in 2006 we have finished first 6 times, second two times, third one time and not made it to the tournament two years. Eric’s influence has been for the last three years and he has been incredible.”
In each region, schools are organized into different leagues at the start of the school year—each team plays a 12 game regular season and the top schools advance to double elimination playoffs. The state is divided into eight regions: Buffalo (Section VI), Rochester/Genesee Valley (Section V), Syracuse/Watertown/Utica/Rome (Section III), Binghamton/Southern Tier (Section IV), Albany/Capital District (Section II), Adirondacks/North Country (Section VII and X), Catskills/Westchester (Sections 1 and IX), and Long Island (Sections VIII and XI). All public, private, charter and parochial high schools are eligible and any student from those schools may play. Competition questions cover a broad range of topics: art, biology, chemistry, current events, geography, history, literature, music, political science, pop culture, religion and sports. (Sample questions can be viewed at: www.naqt.com/samples/introductory-invitational-series.pdf)
The victorious BHS team can be seen playing against Burnt Hills High School online at http://openstagemedia.org/video-demand in a regular season game. League results, players’ stats and other Masterminds information can be found at http://www.nymasterminds.com/.