Next Stop, Binghamton: State Finalist Steve Schneider of MacArthur Selects the Bearcats

When asked about his goals, MacArthur senior Steve Schneider didn’t hesitate.

New York State champion. High school national champion.  NCAA champion.

On that last one, he and Binghamton University head coach Matt Dernlan are certainly on the same page. And that’s one of the reasons Schneider committed to the Bearcats a few days ago.

“Coach Dernlan sat across the table from me in my dining room with my parents and said that he would make me a national champion,” Schneider said. “To hear that in his voice, especially after all he did for Penn State, it gave me great vibes.  He sees my potential and my dedication and my motivation to get things done even though on paper, I don’t have all the trophies.”

He may not have all the trophies, but he has racked up plenty of impressive wins.  As a sophomore in 2011-12, he went 41-4 at 152 pounds and went into the Section 8 championships as the top seed.  However, he was upset by Mepham’s Dan Tracy, a wrestler he had defeated earlier in the year, and took third.  He waited patiently to see whether he would get the opportunity to compete at the Times Union Center.

“I had a heartbreaking loss in the semis, but I beat everyone in my weight class during the year,” he said. “My coaches thought I would get a wildcard to states, but it didn’t happen.”

Schneider still made the trip to Albany to cheer on some of his teammates, including 2012 state finalist Justin Cooksey.

“Even going just as a fan to support Cooksey let me get some nerves out,” Schneider said. “It’s important to go to big events like that because when you’re there for the first time it can affect you on the mat.  Being there before was a big part of why I did so well this year.”

It may have played a role in Schneider’s stellar junior campaign, but so did all the offseason work.

“After I lost in the counties, I was so motivated to devastate the county and win it all the next year,” Schneider said. “I trained my butt off. I did a lot of wrestling — so many tournaments — and a lot of lifting. I got a lot bigger and stronger. I didn’t only want to win the county, I wanted to win the state tournament too.”

It was an objective that he reminded himself about constantly.

“Last year, I wrote ‘160-pound New York State champion’ in my book every day,” Schneider said.

And he did make it to the 2013 state finals bout after an impressive campaign, which featured a third place showing at the Eastern States Classic. At that event, Schneider topped several wrestlers who placed in Albany in 2013, including Nick Gallo, Mike Beckwith and Andrew Psomas.

Photo by BV

That showing at SUNY Sullivan, his first Nassau County title, as well as his performance throughout the 47-4 season earned him the second seed at the Times Union Center.  But he found himself in a battle in the opening round with Amsterdam’s James Marquez, a bout he won 3-1 in extra time. [Marquez then won five in a row to take third].

“My first match – the nerves were there,” he said. “You have to feel it to totally understand it.  I felt like I had stone feet. It was more mental than physical.  In overtime, I woke up and snapped right out of it.  After that, I felt like I opened up more each match. I thought I was getting better and better and I was ready to take another shot at Grimaldi.”

Tyler Grimaldi of Half Hollow Hills West was a returning state runner up who had handed Schneider two of his three losses during the season.  The two did indeed square off in the state title match this February, with Grimaldi (now a freshman at Harvard), grabbing a 9-3 victory.

“When you look up on that yellow mat in the finals and see all those faces – it’s just a different level of excitement,” Schneider said. “It was good to experience it already.  So next year in the state finals, I’ll be ready to take it home.”

Taking home a state championship in wresting isn’t something Schneider was thinking about when he first began in the sport in elementary school.  In fact, he said he got involved simply to “keep in shape for baseball.”

However, due largely to the efforts of youth coach Colin Curnuck, Schneider said he continued in wrestling and was hooked, especially when he began working out at Vougar’s Honors Wrestling in eighth grade.

“As soon as I walked into Vougar’s gym, he threw me in there with the big guys,” Schneider said. “I got pulled up to varsity as an eighth grader and started to really take it seriously.  I also started training with Jamel Hudson when I was a freshman and I stopped playing baseball. I chose wrestling.”

And last week, he chose Binghamton as his future home after also considering Hofstra and North Carolina.

“The coaching staff seems great – I think they are a great combination together,” Schneider said. “It feels like a good fit for me athletically and academically.  Not only am I going to Binghamton for wrestling, but I’m also going because it’s a great school and I know I’ll be able to achieve all of my academic goals while I’m there.”

Those academic goals include majoring in computer engineering.

Schneider, who said he will likely wrestle at 174 or 184 pounds for the Bearcats, mentioned that he is also excited about training with so many familiar faces.

“When I went for the unofficial visit, I felt like I knew almost everyone on the team already,” he said. “I feel like it will make me more comfortable there.  I’ve won with a couple of these guys already – Rob Person in Section 8 and Nick Kelley on the national level in Florida [Disney Duals]. There’s already a bond.  Also, Ryan Conrad was my drill partner in high school.  I think it will make the experience even better.”

As for now, he’s looking for an ‘even better’ high school season as a senior.  After the state tournament was over last season, he began writing ‘2014 New York State champion’ in his book every morning.

And whether he winds up going for the title at 170 or 182 pounds in 2013-14 (he said he isn’t sure yet), Schneider feels that he has benefited from nationally ranked competition at offseason events such as the Pop & Flo, Waterway and Disney Duals.

“The Disney Duals changes you – I came out a totally different person and wrestler,” he said. “Everybody that I lost to was top 10 in the country. The level of competition is insane.  It’s the best thing that happened to me before my senior year because I learn more from my losses than my wins.  I’ve gotten so much stronger since last year and I have so much motivation from the loss in the state finals. It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish.  My sophomore year was ok, my junior year was better and in my senior year, I’m ready to take home the gold.”

 ——————————————————-

Steve Schneider wanted to thank his youth coach, Colin Curnuck who kept him involved in wrestling.  He also wanted to thank his parents for all their support and Vougar Oroudjov for “always making sure there is someone in the room for me to train with, keeping my wrestling and academic goals on my mind and always having confidence in me.”

 

Wantagh's Paul Gillespie Named the National Coach of the Year by the NWCA

 
 
Wantagh racked up numerous big time trophies in 2013-14, including the Eastern States, the Union Endicott Duals, the Section 8 Dual and Tournament crowns and the New York State championship.  The Warriors also have compiled over 40 dual victories in a row.

Wantagh at the State Tournament, Photo by BV

Now, the squad now has another prestigious honor to add as head coach Paul Gillespie was named the National Coach of the Year on Thursday by the NWCA (National Wrestling Coaches Association).

Gillespie, who has been a head coach for 33 years, is no stranger to accolades, as he was entered into the New York State Hall of Fame in 2005 as well as the National Wrestling Hall of Fame a year later.  In addition, he has been the Nassau County Coach of the Year six times.

Also capturing NWCA awards were Michigan’s Adam Coon (Wrestler of the Year) and Al Miller (National Assistant Coach of the Year).

To read the full release about Gillespie, see this link.

 

"Blessing in Disguise": Robert Person to Start the Next Chapter at Binghamton

 
 
Robert Person called it a “blessing in disguise.”

The Bellmore JFK wrestler was referring to the interesting path that led to his commitment to Binghamton University last week, a place he feels is a great fit for his future both on the mat in the classroom.

“I’m really happy with Binghamton,” he said. “It’s very good academically and when I visited, I loved the campus.  The kids on the team made me feel welcome and everyone was friendly and approachable.  I got to know Coach [Jasen] Borshoff and Coach [Matt] Dernlan and they’re great.  I didn’t get to meet Teyon Ware, but it’s exciting to have a World Team member in the room. I think it worked out for the better for me.”

Person’s excitement about his future is a bit of a contrast to what he was feeling about a month ago.  On April 1, in the late morning, he dialed the wrestling offices at Boston University.

“I called [head coach] Carl Adams and told him I would be coming to Boston,” Person said. “He was happy and I was happy.  And then six hours later, I went onto Intermat to report my commitment.  On the front page, it said ‘Boston University Drops Wrestling.’  I was thinking, it’s April Fool’s Day, maybe my dad is somehow messing with me.”

But it wasn’t a joke.  The administration at the former CAA institution had announced just a few hours after Person’s call that they would be shutting down the program after the 2013-14 campaign.

“After the biggest decision of my life, there was a huge letdown,” he said. “It was devastating.”

Person and his club coach Craig Vitagliano of Ascend quickly sprung into action, looking into options.

Person said he originally hadn’t considered Binghamton because he was looking to go outside of New York to experience something different.  But when he looked more closely, he realized the school offered all the things he was looking for in a college.  He also connected with American and Franklin & Marshall over the past month and visited those institutions as well.

“I can’t be more appreciative to Coach [Mike] Rogers [of Franklin & Marshall] and Coach Teague Moore [of American],” he said. “They were really good to me and although I didn’t choose to go to those schools, I will forever be grateful to them.”

According to Vitagliano, one of the reasons those coaches were willing to get involved late in the process with Person was because of the potential he has to make an impact at the Division I level.

“He was a two-time state placewinner before this year [sixth in 2011, fifth in 2012] and was ranked number one in the state early in the season,” the Ascend Wrestling coach said.  He’s as good a technician as I’ve coached with amazing level changes and flexibility.  He’s like a Gumby doll.  With all of that, he was expected to place high or win the state this year.  After he went 0-2 a lot of coaches forgot about him or didn’t pursue him.  But most people didn’t know what he was dealing with in Albany and you might not pursue him as a coach if you don’t know the story.”

So, what’s the story?

“This year was disappointing for me,” Person said.  He came into the Eastern States Classic as the number four seed, but didn’t place after going 3-2 while competing with bronchitis.

One of his losses was to Nassau rival Chris Cataldo of MacArthur in an 11-9 contest.

“Not taking anything away from Chris, who wrestled a great match, but that was a wake up call for me,” Person said.  “I started training 10 times harder after that tournament.  I was ready to wrestle and do my thing.  I was so excited for a chance to wrestle him again at [the Section 8 tournament].

Just 15 seconds into the county final match, however, Person felt significant pain in his leg and took injury time.

“I felt something pulling.  I had no idea what it was, but I knew I had to keep going,” he said. “I kept hitting duck unders because it was all I could do.  Adrenaline pushed me through the match.”

“It was amazing how he wrestled through it,” Vitagliano added. “He hit three or four duck unders that were so slick, people are still talking about them.  I thought it would be a close match, but he blew the match wide open.”

He sure did, winning the Nassau crown with a dominant 19-8 major decision to punch his ticket to Albany after a 37-2 regular season record with 23 pins.

There was a problem, though.

“I thought I would wake up the next day and be at 100%,” Person said. “My leg hurt a lot but I thought I probably just tweaked it.  But it started to hurt more and more.  I went to the doctor two days later and found out I tore my hamstring and would be out for six to eight months.”

With the state tournament less than two weeks later, Person knew he had a decision to make.  And it was an easy one.

“I wanted to leave on my own terms no matter what,” he said. “It was rough, going 0-2 at states. I worked so hard all year. But I was proud of myself for going out there and trying to wrestle.”

Months later, Person continues to rehab the injury, going to physical therapy three times per week.  He said he still hasn’t been cleared to get on the mat, but has been working in the weight room and is hoping to be able to start wrestling by July.

“I’m looking to lift into the 125-pound weight class,” he said. “I haven’t been cutting much weight and I think a lot of my success was because of that.  I think my technique is on par, but my strength will be the biggest factor as to how well I do in college.”

Vitagliano agrees.

“He needs to get stronger and we all know that,” Vitagliano said. “He needs to hit the weights hard because that’s all he’s lacking now – strength.  He’s technically as good as anyone I’ve ever coached. He’s also a really good kid with a great sense of humor and a supportive family. It was tough for him to end the way he did because he wrestles with a lot of the guys that placed and is right there with them.  It was a disappointing end, but I think he has a bright future at Binghamton.”

Perhaps it all was a blessing in disguise.

——————————————

Robert Person wished to thank Craig Vitagliano, his parents, and his high school coach at Bellmore JFK, Brian DeGaetano.

'Back from Hiatus': Dylan Palacio Rebounds from Injuries to Win National Title

 
 
In the third period of his 74 kg (163 pound) semifinals match at the FILA Junior Freestyle National Championships, Dylan Palacio fell behind 3-1 against Patrick Rhodes of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club. And he heard a voice screaming out of the Iowa corner.

“Tom Brands was yelling to his guy talking about me, saying, ‘he’s broke, he’s broke,’” Palacio said. “It was gut check time. I just went after it. You can’t believe for a second that you’ll lose.”

Photo by BV

Palacio started to rack up points, including a takedown with just a few seconds left to seal a 6-3 win in the final stanza and a trip to the title bout.

“After the match, I shook [Brands’s] hand and said, ‘I don’t ever break,’” Palacio recalled.

He certainly didn’t over the weekend.

In the championship, Palacio was matched up against Bison Wrestling Club’s Matthew Gray, in a rematch of the 160 pound third place bout at the Junior National Freestyle Championships last summer in North Dakota. Gray won that one in straight periods.

“He worked me last year at Fargo. He beat me up,” Palacio said.

Gray began strong again, taking the first period by a 3-0 score. But Palacio said he felt this time would be different.

“I wasn’t worried, I had a big smile on my face,” he said. “I knew who he was and was actually okay with my first period because I was feeling him out and figuring out what I needed to do the rest of the match. I knew I could make the adjustments – heavy on the head, more attacks, especially single legs. It paid off.”

In the middle stanza, Gray struck first with a takedown, but Palacio tied it up with about 1:30 left, to take the 1-1 “lead”. Gray came at Palacio with a significant charge, looking to move ahead with a pushout, however the former Long Beach star somehow found a way to stay in bounds to win the period.

“It was like a 360 tiptoe move,” Palacio said. “That’s just all heart right there. I think in retrospect, that’s why I won. Not giving up and circling on that line. He used all his energy for the push and in a way, that was the match.”

Palacio used a takedown and a two-point exposure to go ahead 3-0 in the third and when time expired, he had a 4-2 victory and a national title.

It was a stark contrast to where the former Section 8 standout was in February.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “Not that long ago, I was on a medical table at Edinboro with a torn MCL. I was hurt a lot this year and I was feeling frustrated and skeptical about my future. I won’t forget the people who encouraged me and believed, because without them, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

Palacio acknowledged that his run over the weekend may be a surprise to some, because of the limited tournament action he saw with the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club over the past year. (He said he took part in less than 10 official bouts).  But he added that people didn’t know what he was doing behind the scenes.

“You don’t need to wrestle 100 matches to get better,” he said. “I may not have wrestled a lot of matches, but I was lifting and improving a lot in practice. And I was wrestling the way I wanted to – calm, not crazy, not sloppy. I was moving well, working my scores. And now I’m healthier. I’m back from hiatus.”

He’s back for a lot of reasons, but he pointed to some people he said were essential.

“I hit the lottery having Cam Simaz and Frankie Perrelli in my corner,” he said of his coaches at the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club. “They complement each other so well as and they helped me go in the right direction. I didn’t really know how to wrestle when I got to Ithaca, I hadn’t lifted weights, there were a lot of things I didn’t know. But they saw the potential and never gave up on me.”

So immediately after his hand was raised on Saturday, Palacio said he ran off the mat and hugged Perrelli and Simaz and the other supporters in attendance. And he pointed up at the sky to acknowledge another inspiration.

“It was my best friend’s birthday about a week ago,” he said. “He passed away a few years ago. I believe he watches over me and I won this for him. The plaque I won is his birthday present. I’ll bring it to his memorial when I get home.”

There are lots of things for Palacio to do when he gets back to the East Coast. He said he knows he has a lot to learn from his coaches. And he said he “can always learn something from Kyle [Dake]– whether it’s lifting, running, drilling or just how to act. I’m willing to admit that’s who I want to be like.”

The Long Island native said he can’t wait to start his freshman year at Cornell and has visualized being announced as a starter for the Big Red at the Friedman Center for the first time. (He has his entrance song all picked out).

While there’s still plenty to demonstrate before getting to that point, Palacio feels like he’s now on his way.

“From where I was a month ago to now — things can change so quickly,” he said. “It feels so good to be a national champion but I’ll keep going. The goal is to be an NCAA champ. This is just a stepping stone.”

Bound for Brown: State Runner Up James Corbett Moving On to the Ivy League

It was all in a day’s work for James Corbett. Early morning weigh-in? Check. Take (and do well on) the all-important SATs (while wearing a singlet underneath clothes to save time). Check. Get back to the gym and win a number of matches for Wantagh. Check.

Days like that one, from Corbett’s junior season, are an illustration of what Warriors head coach Paul Gillespie identified as one of Corbett’s strengths – balancing his academics and wrestling.

“James has always managed his time so well,” Gillespie said. “His academics have always come first but he also made sure to get his lifting and working out in too. His time management skills are one of the many reasons I know he’ll do really well at the college level.”

Photo by BV

That college experience will take place in Providence, Rhode Island where Corbett, the 2013 New York State Division I runner up at 182 pounds, will begin his Ivy League education in the fall.

“I knew Brown was where I wanted to be,” Corbett said. “I liked how the curriculum worked, where you make your own schedule. They have a really good science program that I want to be involved in [as an environmental science major]. And I knew I wanted to go Division I in wrestling. I didn’t speak to a single other college. I thought the match was really good for me.”

With his commitment, Corbett joined the elite company of two of his teammates. Chris Araoz and Danny McDevitt previously announced their plans to attend Ivy institutions (Columbia and Penn, respectively).

“I think it’s almost expected of Wantagh seniors to go Division I and to strive for an Ivy school,” Corbett said. “Coach Gillespie knows how to get us there. McDevitt and Araoz are good friends of mine and they already had their plans figured out earlier on. They had colleges talking to them before the season and honestly, I didn’t have the credentials, so colleges weren’t talking to me.”

While Corbett didn’t yet have statewide recognition prior to the 2012-13 campaign, he had plenty of success in Nassau County. As a sophomore, he put together a campaign with over 35 wins that ended with a first round loss at the Section 8 tournament. In his junior season, he again piled up victories with a 32-6 mark, despite wrestling at a number of different weight classes in the lineup. A late-season move up to 182 yielded a fourth place finish at the County tournament that didn’t bring about an appearance in Albany, but did pay future dividends.

“As the season went on, I kept growing,” he said. “I had to cut more and more weight and Coach Gillespie told me to just go up to 182. He said my style would be fine there and since I would be wrestling there anyway as a senior, I might as well get ready.”

Corbett did several other things to prepare for his last campaign in Wantagh.

“James really worked hard in his weight training,” Gillespie said. “And I think working hard in the offseason with [former Hofstra All-American] PJ Gillespie and Danny McDevitt also really helped raise his level. His technique improved drastically.”

“Working with a college All-American like PJ and a high school All-American like Danny was so important for me,” Corbett added. “They were great drilling partners. I didn’t really do any big tournaments or events in the offseason but I went into the Wantagh room and drilled and focused on my technique. PJ got me so much better, really fast. I think it was the last part of the puzzle that helped my high school career.”

That improvement was obvious from the very beginning of the season. In the opening weekend, he posted a pair of first period pins and a 15-0 technical fall in his three bouts.

And two weeks later, in Wantagh’s next competition, he posted four victories – including three by fall. However, it was the only non-bonus point win, a 5-2 decision over returning All-State wrestler Gio Santiago of Sachem North, that was most significant.

“Coming in, I thought Santiago might be the best 182 pounder in the state,” Gillespie said. “When James beat him, I had a good indication of how much better he had become. It gave him a lot of confidence and at that point, I thought he could challenge for the state title.”

Corbett agreed that the victory gave him a boost, but he said he really started to believe that he could make a big splash at the Times Union Center after taking third at the challenging Eastern States Classic, where his only loss came to returning state champion Zack Zupan, a Division II grappler headed to Binghamton.

“I went into the Eastern States without looking at a bracket, just knowing that many of the best wrestlers in New York would be there,” he said. “I just wanted to wrestle well and when I placed high, I thought there wouldn’t be too many guys in the state who could beat me. It gave me a lot of confidence about what I could do the rest of the year.”

What he did for much of the rest of the year was simple – he dominated. He won 13 bouts in a row after the big tournament at SUNY Sullivan, with all but two victories coming with bonus points. One of those regular decisions was a 7-1 triumph over Plainedge’s Robert Ng to earn the Nassau crown and his first trip to the state championships.

He had a distinctive style that helped him along the way, according to Gillespie.

“James has a boxer’s mentality,” the coach said. “He’s a very physical guy, who lost a few points because of how physical he sometimes was. But it was good in a lot of ways since wrestling is basically a controlled fight.”

“I do like wrestling in a really physical way,” Corbett agreed. “I want to be on top of my opponents and let them know that I’m there and I’m not going anywhere. I guess the thing I learned this year was not to be that way in the practice room. But in matches, it’s a big part of how I compete.”

It worked well. He began his journey at the state tournament with a pin and a pair of decisions to punch his ticket to the Saturday night finals. But he made sure to treat the entire experience like any other event.

“[Being at the state tournament] wasn’t different for me, because I wouldn’t let myself see it that way,” he said. “I stayed in the locker room until it was time to wrestle and then I made sure I was looking down and not at the crowd when I was walking to the mat. Then, after my matches, I came back and found a quiet spot in the locker room until it was time to wrestle again. I think that’s why I wasn’t really impacted by my first trip to [the state tournament].”

Photo by BV

In the finals, Corbett and returning state finalist Shayne Brady of Carthage were deadlocked at 3 at the end of regulation. In sudden victory, Brady, who will wrestle at North Carolina State, got a takedown to earn the gold medal and send Corbett to the silver.

“I felt that I wrestled consistently the whole weekend, which is what I wanted,” Corbett said. “[Brady] got in and got the points he needed. That’s the sport. There were plenty of times this year when I needed a takedown to win or a rideout to win and I got it. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for the season I had.”

He also expressed gratitude for being part of the Wantagh program. After all, the squad did a lot of winning, including capturing New York’s biggest events in 2012-13 – the Union-Endicott Duals, the Eastern States and the New York States. Picking up all of those honors is something Corbett said he felt Wantagh was supposed to do.

“When I was in eighth grade, the team led by guys like Paul Ligouri and Johnny Greisheimer set the tone for what was expected,” he said. “They inspired us and made us feel like we should win all the time. But I think the coaching staff and the family feel are what really makes it special. Everyone’s close. Coach Gillespie might call you on a Sunday afternoon just to see how things are going – even in the offseason. There’s a great vibe in the room.”

That room has produced a number of current Division I wrestlers and that number will change again in the fall, including the addition of Corbett as a 184 or 197 pounder to the Brown roster.

Environmental science and Division I wrestling at one of the nation’s top universities? It’s all in a day’s work for James Corbett.

—————————————————

James Corbett wished to thank “anyone who ever coached me or gave me help in any way, shape or form, especially in the wrestling community.”

Wantagh's Danny McDevitt, Champion On and Off the Mat, Commits to Penn

 
 

By MATT DIANO

The story of Wantagh High School senior Danny McDevitt’s commitment to Coach Rob Eiter and the University of Pennsylvania wrestling team has become something of a running joke at New York Wrestling News.  An article that we had intended to bring to you in mid-January when the news became official, it seemed that every time we sat down to pen the piece, McDevitt would go on to win another big event later in that week, forcing us to start anew.

Photo by BV

With these sentiments in mind, it might seem peculiar that we are choosing now, fresh off of an event (the 2013 New York State tournament) that the Warrior student-athlete did not win, to finally publish. We would disagree.  Because, for those of you who know the future Quaker and have had the privilege of following his career, you already are keenly aware of the fact that independent of any scoreboards, brackets or podiums, Danny McDevitt is, was, and will be a champion, both on the wrestling mat and especially in life.  So no, this article is not about a 2013 New York State champion making his college selection; it is much bigger than that. It’s about a young man, with tremendous depth of character, realizing his dream.  This is an All-American story about an individual who has always done Wantagh proud and will continue to do so next fall when he steps foot on the Philadelphia-based Ivy League campus.

So who is Danny McDevitt?  If you answered, “wrestler”, you would be correct, but would also be guilty of painting the talents and attributes of this young man with much too broad a brush.  He is a scholar, ranking towards the top of his class academically; a brother, who has such a tight and loving bond with his siblings that after watching him win the 2013 Nassau County title, his sister could not help but be overjoyed and sing his praises on a live interview being conducted on MSG Varsity; and above all else, Danny is known as a generous and selfless friend.

The latter would be on full display this past weekend when despite being at the lowest point of his senior season (after losing for the first time), McDevitt did something that brings tears to my eyes, just thinking about it.  If you want to know what makes McDevitt special, it’s that without a second thought, he was the person who took it upon himself to go over to 2013 New York State runner up, John Vrasidas (who because he is from the CHSAA is not eligible for the full array of awards bestowed upon other placewinners) and hand him the second-place medal because as Danny was quoted as saying, “you deserve this.”

Photo by BV

All of the aforementioned having been said, we return to McDevitt’s prowess on the wrestling mat, a home away from home for him where he has been about as dominant as you can get during his six year varsity career.  A four-time Section 8 placewinner, winning the title the past two years at 138 and 170 pounds respectively, the only times McDevitt did not win the Nassau County title, he came pretty darn close, finishing as a bronze medalist as a freshman before taking home runner-up honors in 2011.  As important as individual honors may be, if you ask McDevitt, he is quick to redirect attention back on his teammates by reminding us that during the four years he was a student at Wantagh, the Warriors never failed to finish lower than second in the team standings, winning titles from 2011-2013.

State-wise, this consummate gentleman more than held his own, earning a pair of top-five finishes in Albany, including a bronze medal this past weekend that witnessed him shake off a heartbreaking loss in the quarterfinals to Vrasidas to win four straight bouts in the consolation bracket.  He added this hard-fought third place showing to the fifth place performance he notched last year, losing a pair of nailbiters in the semifinal and consolation semifinal rounds.

Nationally, the Paul Gillespie (at Wantagh) and Craig Vitagliano (at the Ascend Wrestling Club) trained student-athlete has also enjoyed success, demonstrating on multiple occasions that he possesses the skill level to go toe-to-toe with the country’s elite.  (Gillespie mentioned that the presence of former Hofstra All-American PJ Gillespie in the room during the 2012-13 season provided another boost to McDevitt’s performance).  Earning his first All-American distinction in 2011 at the NHSCA Sophomore National tournament with an eighth place finish, McDevitt would return to Virginia Beach last season, improving his lot by a few spots, placing fifth.  Should he make the decision to compete in the Senior tournament, it would hardly surprise anyone to see him ascend (no pun intended) to the top of the podium.

With regard to what awaits McDevitt in the future, I can tell you this; if desire to achieve is any indicator of success on the collegiate level, then this young man is going all the way.  Someone who could have attended pretty much any college or university in the country, it is impossible to overstate how much McDevitt is looking forward to being a Quaker.  In chatting with him for only a few moments, it is easy to tell how invested he is in making the next four years the most fulfilling of his life.

“I am ecstatic about UPenn,” McDevitt said. “My mother was always passionate about me going there and was extremely happy when I got in.”

As it pertains to what it was about the fourth oldest university in the country that ultimately won him over and convinced him that it was the best place for him, McDevitt, who intends to major in business, was quick to speak about the unmatched reputation of the Wharton School, which continues to produce some of the finest corporate minds in the world.  He also was very complimentary of Eiter, suggesting that his future coach’s immediate interest in him was confidence boosting and won him over.  Stating it succinctly, McDevitt said, “Everything about the school is just fantastic.”

Speaking candidly about his star pupil, Vitagliano could not contain his genuine pride.

“I’m extremely excited for Danny, his family and Coach Gillespie,” Vitagliano said. “Coach Eiter is getting a really special kid here! He and I have been through a lot together these past five years and I feel extremely honored to have been a part of his journey. This year has been exceptionally tough for him and the fact he was able to overcome his difficulties really shows what he is made of and is an indication of how well he will do in the future.”

 

New Champions Crowned: Division I State Tournament Recap

We have a large number of video interviews with wrestlers from the state tournament that will be posted later in the week.  Check back over the next few days to see what the wrestlers had to say!

——————————————————-

Another New York state high school season is in the books.  After two incredible days of wrestling, 30 champions were crowned and a number of other amazing performances were witnessed at the Times Union Center.

(This article focuses on the Division I tournament.  We will post a Division II story as well).

Of the 15 gold medalists in Albany on Saturday night in the large school tournament, 10 were from Long Island.   That part of the state didn’t just impress in the finals, however.  The depth was definitely apparent, as Suffolk finished atop the standings with 312 points with Nassau in second with 222.5.

Representing Section 8 well was Wantagh, which completed a magical year in which the Warriors showed both their dual meet and tournament strength in capturing perhaps the three biggest events in New York – the Union-Endicott Duals, the Eastern States and this weekend’s championships.  Head coach Paul Gillespie’s squad boasted a state titlewinner in 106-pounder Kyle Quinn as well as three other placers (James Corbett, Vinny Turano and Danny McDevitt).

Two other “sections” that made waves this weekend were the PSAL and the CHSAA.   Richard Sisti’s 220-pound title for Monsignor Farrell was a highlight as was the run to the finals by Keanu Thompson of Grand Street, including an upset pin against the number two seed.  The PSAL featured five medalists (in Division I), while the CHSAA had six.  It seems that those numbers will continue to grow in the future. (The first ever PSAL champion was crowned, which will be covered in the Division II story).

Here are some more notes and observations from the state capital:

99 Pounds:

Diakomihalis, Photo by BV

Champion: Yianni Diakomihalis will need to continue to clear space in his room for awards. He’s won just about every tournament he has entered over the past year, and he has traveled all over the country to wrestle some of the best.  The nationally-ranked wrestler picked up his first state title in the ultimate tiebreaker against another stellar eighth grader, Vito Arujau of Syosset.  The two could do battle many more times, but whether they’re at the same weight in the future or not, they will be a treat for New York fans to watch for another four years.

And Also . . . We had Diakomihalis and Arujau atop the rankings the whole year, but also included three Suffolk grapplers for much of the season in the state’s top 8.  They showed why on Friday and Saturday.  Although top seed John Arceri, the Section 11 champion, didn’t medal, he holds wins over both the third and fourth place finishers, John Busiello and Jesse Dellevecchia, respectively.  Those three will be contenders for quite some time.

In addition, when he was just beginning treatments for cancer in the spring, Vinny Vespa’s brother Michael said he was confident Vinny would not only return to the mat this year, but do well in the postseason.  He was right, as Vespa overcame cancer and then some of the state’s top wrestlers in taking fifth place.

106 Pounds: 

Quinn, Photo by BV

The Champion . . . Kyle Quinn came into the state tournament with just two losses.  Both were to All-Stater Nick Barbaria of New Rochelle by two points. Quinn clearly took some lessons away from those contests as he avenged those results with a 7-1 win in the semifinals against the Section 1 wrestler before defeating top seed Alex Tanzman of Westhampton Beach by the same score to grab the state crown.   The Wantagh wrestler looked dominant the whole weekend, including pinning his first two opponents (one of which was returning medalist Jimmy Overhiser).

And Also . . . Spencerport’s Jon Haas was unfazed after dropping his first bout of the tournament 4-3 to John Twomey of St. Anthony’s.  He reeled off five straight victories, including two by bonus points, to take third.  Haas also had a pair of overtime triumphs, including over Colonie’s Golan Cohen in the bronze bout.  Cohen, who was a placer at the Eastern States, put together a very impressive season.

113 Pounds:

Piccininni, Photo by BV

The Champion . . . Nick Piccininni wasn’t just the gold medalist at this weight, he was also named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.  It’s not hard to see why.  The returning state champion was in control the whole way and won three of his four matches by bonus points.  That included the title bout, in which Piccininni dominated the much-hyped clash with two-time champ Kyle Kelly of Chenango Forks.  The Ward Melville wrestler will be incredibly hard to stop over the next two years.

And Also . . . Steven Sewkumar didn’t get a ticket to Albany last year after taking second in Nassau behind state runner up Jose Rodriguez.  He made his last chance in his senior year count, however, with a third place showing.   The Section 8 wrestler lost only to Piccininni while twice beating third-seeded Bryan Lantry of Wayne as well as topping All-Stater John Stramiello of Pine Bush.

120 Pounds:

The Champion:  Alex Delacruz was disqualified during the Eastern States semifinals against John Muldoon.  He then took second in Section 1 to the Pearl River grappler.  On the biggest stage, however, he came out on top by first knocking Muldoon off in the semifinals in an overtime match and then earning his spot on the top of the podium after an 11-7 triumph over #1 seed Steve Michel.

And Also . . .  Weights for next season are hard to predict now. But it looks like there will be more intense competition in Sections 1 and 11 in the future around this class.  Besides Delacruz and Muldoon (who was fourth), Section 1 features Blaise Benderoth (one match from medaling) and Nick Tolli, who placed at Eastern States but missed the postseason with an injury.  In Section 11, Travis Passaro (third) and Mike D’Angelo (fifth) could see each other a number of times again in 2013-14.

126 Pounds:

The Champion: TJ Fabian wasn’t pleased about taking third at the Suffolk County tournament.  He responded quite well – by outscoring his opponents 17-0 in his first two matches before notching pins in the semis and finals.  He’s headed to Sacred Heart.

And Also . . . One of the loudest roars of the crowd came during the quarterfinals when the PSAL’s Keanu Thompson pinned two-time finalist Dylan Realbuto.  Thompson was defeated soundly by Fabian on Saturday night but his run to the title bout was outstanding as he defeated the eventual third, fourth and sixth place finishers. That fourth placer was Chenango Forks senior Jacob Green, who after losing to Thompson in his opening tilt, won four in a row to finish his career on the podium.

132 Pounds:

Leshinger, Photo by BV

The Champion:  After taking third at the Times Union Center last year and again at the Eastern States, Matt Leshinger ended his Sayville career in style atop the medal stand.  The future Columbia Lion began with a pin and then methodically beat his next three opponents, including a 4-2 finals win over Amsterdam’s Brandon Lapi.

And Also . . . Lapi made the top 8 in 2010.  Since then, he has finished third, fourth and second.  What’s missing?  Well, a first place showing would complete the pattern.  The Section 2 standout will no doubt be looking for exactly that as he enters his senior season.

138 Pounds:

Kelley, Photo by BV

The Champion: Nick Kelley has been a regular at the state tournament with appearances beginning as a seventh grader.  He’s had a great career with over 250 victories but this weekend he got the most meaningful win of them all – the one in the state championship bout.  The Binghamton-bound grappler took a 5-2 decision on Saturday night to leave as a champion.

And Also . . . Joey Butler of Burnt Hills pushed Kelley in one of their matches during the season, getting out to a big lead before the Shenendehowa wrestler came back to win.  Butler earned third and will one to watch next year, as will Hilton’s Vincent DePrez, a silver medalist for the second consecutive year.  DePrez, who was one of three brothers to compete in Albany, will be back on a mission for his first title.

145 Pounds:

Hernandez, Photo by BV

The Champion:  Louis Hernandez came in as the favorite and left as the champion.  After missing the podium a year ago while wrestling with a significant injury at the Times Union Center, Hernandez put together a one-loss season which included an Eastern States crown.  While known for his excellence on his feet, Hernandez got a big reversal which propelled him to the title.

And Also . . . Eric Lewandowski made an appearance in the finals as a freshman, when he took second.  After not making the medal stand as a sophomore and junior, the Lancaster wrestler once again earned a spot in the title contest as a senior.  On his way there, he edged Shenendehowa’s David Almaviva 1-0 in the semis.  Almaviva showed his toughness by once again wrestling back to third, as he did in 2012. Hernandez will return next season, and he will be the only placer in this bracket to do so.

152 Pounds:

Rasheed, Photo by BV

The Champion:  Don’t blink when Corey Rasheed wrestles.  You might miss it. Rasheed had a technical fall in round one and a pair of pins – both in less than a minute – over the weekend.  That included a 56 second fall in the title bout.  It was the Longwood junior’s third time in the finals and after two runner up finishes, he left with top billing.  He should not only be on top of the New York rankings next year.  He has the talent to represent the Empire State in the national polls as well.

And Also . . . Like Jon Haas at 106, Joe Mastro of Yorktown took third place the hard way.  After losing to Konstantin Parfiryev (sixth place) on Friday morning, Mastro got his hand raised five times in a row.  He didn’t just win, though.  He did it convincingly, beginning with a technical fall and two majors (over the number two and three seeds).  He finished with a pair of decisions.

160 Pounds:

Grimaldi, Photo by BV

The Champion:  Tyler Grimaldi walked off the mat after taking second at this weight to Dylan Palacio in the state finals last year and vowed to do better in 2013.  He got it done, including his third win of the season against Steven Schneider of MacArthur in the title bout.  Next stop: Harvard.

And Also . . . Amsterdam’s James Marquez had a difficult draw, facing second seed (and eventual runner up) Steve Schneider in round one.  Marquez dropped a tough 3-1 battle in overtime but then fought back with a string of close decisions (including three by two points) to reach the bronze bout.  Once there, he finished his last match as a high schooler well, pinning Dale White to take third.   White is worth mentioning as well.  Despite an injury that kept him out for a lot of the campaign, he returned to win the Section 1 tournament and after injury defaulting to Grimaldi, made his way to fourth.

170 Pounds:

Toribio, Photo by BV

The Champion: Carlos Toribio had five losses as a junior, including three against the previously mentioned Tyler Grimaldi.  This year, as a senior, he had just one (to Joe Piccolo), and he avenged it with two wins over Piccolo. In fact, in the Suffolk finals, he was dominant against the Half Hollow Hills West grappler and came into the Times Union Center with momentum that helped take him to the top of the podium.  After a decision, a fall and a major in his first three bouts, Toribio picked up a tight 4-3 win over St. Anthony’s John Vrasidas to capture gold.

And Also . . . Vrasidas had a great tournament, including an upset of top seeded Danny McDevitt in the quarters.  But McDevitt, the future Ivy League wrestler at Penn, rebounded by outscoring his four wrestleback opponents 33-1, including a technical fall in the bronze match.

182 Pounds:

Brady, Photo by BV

The Champion: Before the tournament began, it looked like Shayne Brady’s road back to the finals would be a tough one.  The future North Carolina State wrestler faced a pair of returning state placers – James Benjamin and Gio Santiago in the quarters and semis – and beat both by bonus points.  He then found a way to win in his final high school match with a 5-3 overtime decision over Wantagh’s James Corbett.

And Also . . . Corbett also navigated a challenging path to make the finals in his first trip to Albany.  He suffered just three losses as a senior and will continue his career at Brown.

If you’re looking to see pins, find Gio Santiago.  The Sachem North senior had three falls in the tournament (and was pinned by Brady) after recording 30 during the season.  He earned All-State honors for the second straight year, this time in the third position.

195 Pounds:

Choi, Photo by BV

The Champion:  We shared Dan Choi’s story a few weeks ago, discussing how the future Cornellian came from Korea without his parents just three years ago and earned a full ROTC scholarship to the Ivy League.  Watching him this weekend, it’s hard to believe that he’s been wrestling for only three years.  In a very difficult weight class, the Syosset senior looked aggressive and strong throughout the event, including a major decision over the top seed in the quarters.

And Also . . . When we asked what wrestlers could break out in Section 2 this year, the first answer from multiple coaches was Levi Ashley.  He began the year at 182 and spent quite a bit of time at that weight, where he had plenty of success.  However, when he moved up to 195 around mid January, he really took off.  From there, he won 14 matches in a row entering the weekend.  And he kept things going in the state capital.  Being matched up with the third seed, Ben Honis, in the first round didn’t bother Ashley. He went out and majored the Section 3 wrestler 8-0 and followed with a pair of hard-fought decisions to make the title bout.   With one season remaining at Shenendehowa, he’ll be among the favorites at whatever weight he chooses.

220 Pounds:

Sisti, Photo by BV

The Champion: At the Eastern States, one CHSAA insider told us that Rich Sisti, unable to participate in that tournament due to an injury, would win the state championship – guaranteed.  It seemed bold at the time, but it was a good call.  Sisti, commonly called the “manchild” by many of those at the tournament, indeed won and looked impressive in doing so.  He certainly showed he is capable of capturing close matches against quality competition, as he notched 3-2 victories over a pair of Section 11 wrestlers, top seeded Nick Lupi and Steven Mills, in the semis and finals.

And Also . . . In the Division I tournament preview, we mentioned that there were some “under the radar” wrestlers in the field to watch in Albany.  One of those was Steven Mills of Sachem North, who lost a squeaker to Lupi in the Suffolk tournament.  Mills indeed made the spotlight as he competed for the state championship on Saturday night.  He began his journey with a 5-1 win over second-seeded John Hartnett and then blanked his next two foes to make the finals.

285 Pounds:

The Champions: 42-0 with 39 bonus wins and a state title.  That’s the season summary for Smithtown West’s Mike Hughes.  The senior put an exclamation point on his campaign when he pinned Austin Coleman in the championship bout, his 31st fall of the year.

And Also . . . Remember the name James O’Hagan.  The Seaford junior took third over the weekend with a pair of victories over top seeded El Shaddai Van Hoesen of Columbia.  The statistics above show that Mike Hughes only had three decisions all year. Two were against O’Hagan, including a 1-0 semifinal win on Saturday.   After the tournament, Hughes said that O’Hagan gave him his toughest match and that he thought they should have been the state finalists.  For O’Hagan, that will be the plan for 2013.

 

For all the brackets, see this link.

Congratulations to the Division I wrestlers on a great season.

Who Has Earned Spots in Albany? Sectional Championship Results

 
 
For the results of the Sectional Championships around the state (by Section), click here.

For the list of qualifiers by weight class, click here.

We will update these as information becomes available.
 
 

National Champion Chris Araoz of Wantagh Chooses Columbia

Photo courtesy of the Araoz family

 

By Irwin Loew

Chris Araoz, the reigning NHSCA Junior Nationals champion from Wantagh announced today that he will be attending Columbia University of the Ivy League in New York City next year.  Araoz will be joining forces with head coach Carl Fronhofer, a former NCAA finalist at Pittsburgh, as well as his former high school teammate Chris Loew (now a freshman at Columbia) and Suffolk County standout Matt Leshinger of Sayville, who made his decision a few weeks ago.  Wantagh has had a good run over the last several years, sending wrestlers into Division I programs such as Harvard, Hofstra, Binghamton and Edinboro.

Araoz went on several recruiting visits and was looking at West Point, University of Pennsylvania and Princeton.  He had several reasons for choosing Columbia, including feeling very comfortable with the diverse coaching staff of Fronhofer (NCAA finalist), Roman Fleszar (two-time All-American at Hofstra), Adam Hall (two-time NCAA All-American at Boise State) and Hudson Taylor (three-time All-American at Maryland).  He loved the feeling of being in the Big Apple and that he will be close to home and to his brother who attends Fordham in the Bronx.  And, he felt that getting a Columbia education and competing in New York will be a great experience.

After placing second at the Section 8 tournament as a junior, Araoz had a great offseason, capturing the national title at 120 pounds at Virginia Beach. With that performance, he became the first Wantagh wrestler, as well as the first Section 8 and Nassau County grappler to achieve this feat. Keep in mind, this comes from a program that graduated current Ohio State head coach Tom Ryan, a former All-American at Iowa under the legendary Dan Gable.

After that championship, Araoz continued to work extremely hard this offseason, attending practices at the Wantagh 3 Style Wrestling Club several times per week under the tutelage of current head coach and Hall of Famer Paul Gillespie and assistant Reggie Jones, who was recently voted in as a National Hall of Fame member.  He also wrestles at the Ascend Wrestling Club with Craig Vitagliano.

Araoz competed at Fargo over the summer and more recently wrestled at the Iron Horse Invitational in New Jersey where he finished with two wins and two losses in a bracket that contained four nationally-ranked wrestlers.  He also won three matches at the Super 32 Challenge.

Gillespie holds Araoz in very high esteem, saying that he loves the intensity of his senior co-captain, who is as focused as any wrestler he has coached over the last 30 years.  He emphasized that Aroaz works hard seven days per week and is the first one in the room and the last one out.  The coach further stated that Araoz is very coachable and picks up everything, and finished by saying that he wished he had a hundred more kids like Araoz.

Araoz has been an important part of Wantagh’s team success during this career.  During his tenure as a Warrior, the team finished first in the New York State tournament, was crowned the Dual Meet champions in 2011-12 and won three out of the last four Section 8 titles in Division I.  On an individual note, Araoz will be one of the favorites to win a state championship at 132 pounds this year.

The newest Columbia recruit acknowledged wrestlers that came before him and set the bar high at Wantagh (and who also come back to visit and help) such as Paul Liguori, Steve Bonanno, Joe Barbato, John Greisheimer, Nick Fitzmaurice and Chris Loew.

He would like to compete at the next level at either 133 or 141 pounds.

Araoz answered some questions about his commitment . . . and a few other topics.

What were the main reasons you chose Columbia ?

Chris Araoz (CA): It’s the fourth best school for academics in the nation.  I loved being in New York City and I really liked the team and the coaches.

What stood out to you on your official visit? 

CA: The first thing I did when I got there was watch the team lift and they were all really into it and worked together well. Also, I loved that it was only an hour train ride to get there from my home.

What were some of the other schools you seriously considered?

CA: West Point, Princeton, and UPenn.

What weight do you expect to wrestle in college?

CA: Either 133 or 141

Are there any particular workout partners you look forward to wrestling with in college?

CA: I definitely look forward to wrestling with assistant coach Adam Hall.

Did the fact that several other NY wrestlers you may know picked Columbia have an impact on your decision?

CA: Not really.  For the most part, I knew people on all the teams I was looking at, but it is nice to know that there are some other New York guys on the team.

After the County finals [Araoz finished second and didn't receive a bid to the state tournament], what did it mean to you to win the NHSCA Nationals?

CA: It meant everything. It gave me another chance to really show how I can wrestle and it felt good to win something big after such a disappointment.

Did you get a lot of recruiting attention after that win?

CA: Yes, almost all of the schools I considered contacted me after the tournament.

What are your goals for yourself in your senior season?

CA: To win a county, state, and national title.

What have you done over the spring and summer to prepare for this year?

CA: Just a lot of wrestling, big tournaments and lifting.

What areas do you think you’ve most improved on?

CA: I think my neutral wrestling has gotten way better since last season.

Who are some of the people who have most influenced your wrestling over the years?

CA: Definitely all of my coaches but also some of the older Wantagh guys like Joe Barbato [now at Harvard] and Steve Bonnano [All-American at Hofstra]. Both were former Wantagh wrestlers.

What’s something wrestling followers might not know about you?

CA: I lost almost every match I wrestled in 8th grade.

Any idea about what you’re interesting in studying in college?

CA: Probably Economics

Who are your favorite college wrestlers to watch now and why ?

CA: Kyle Dake and David Taylor because they’re so dominant and I’m really excited to see them go at it this year.

What was your most memorable high school wrestling event?

CA: When we beat MacArthur in my eighth grade season

What motivates you?

CA: I just love winning and knowing I had to work hard for it.

What type of music do you listen to before you wrestle?

Just about anything, but mostly rock or rap.

What was the last movie you saw?

Shooter

What was the last book you read?

Beowulf

What’s something people would not know about you?

I was voted biggest flirt in school.