Some of the top Empire State wrestlers from the Class of 2012 committed to colleges before or during the early signing period in November of 2011, including Brian Realbuto (Cornell), Quinton Murphy (Indiana), Chris Nevinger (Buffalo) and Tony Lock (Buffalo), among others. However, in the past month, several more standouts have chosen where they will continue both their education and wrestling career next fall. New York Wrestling News spoke to some of these grapplers and will post the articles throughout the week. Today, we share the story of Ryan Fox.
By Betsy Veysman
Ryan Fox’s dream was to wrestle at the highest level in college, but when his career at Huntington High School concluded in February of 2010, he wasn’t recruited by Division I teams.
Now, almost two years later, the Nassau Community College grappler has moved a step closer to his goal, committing to Binghamton University for the fall of 2012.
Fox’s first exposure to wrestling was in the summer before ninth grade when he attended a camp in his hometown. He said up until that point he “had no idea what wrestling was all about.” He was discouraged after not winning a single match in the camp’s tournament. However, he decided to try out for the team once school started, largely because of the support he had received from Huntington’s head coach at the time, Lou Giani, at the camp.
“His words and encouragement stuck with me from then through high school,” he said. “He mentored me through a lot of adversity.”
According to Fox, his first year on the mats wasn’t too promising. He struggled to a losing record as a member of the junior varsity.
“It was an uphill battle,” he said. “It took me a long time to get anywhere. My freshman year, I got beaten on so badly on JV that at first I didn’t come back to the team sophomore year. Some teammates encouraged me to return and I did, but sophomore year wasn’t that much better.”
Yet he persisted, and as a junior, things really started moving in the right direction. Fox started working more intensely with assistant coach Stephan Sair, a former national champion for Cortland. He fell in love with the sport and committed to doing whatever it took to get better.
“I felt that I had the athleticism but not the wrestling skill set,” he said. “I started studying, watching matches and learning from everyone I could. I decided I would put 100% into it because I really wanted to succeed.”
His objective that season was to win the Suffolk County title. However, he needed a top three finish in his league to go to the county event, and he placed fourth.
In his senior campaign, Fox demonstrated how far he had come with a 37-2 record at 171 pounds. His two losses came to the two New York state champions that year, Billy Coggins (Division I) and Tyler Beckwith (Division II). However, Fox’s year ended abruptly when his 9-6 setback against Coggins in the County title match ended his season since he did not have enough wildcard points to qualify for a trip to the state tournament.
“I would sum up my high school career as huge improvement but extreme disappointment,” he said. “It was heartbreaking to end my high school career with that loss to Coggins without even going to states.”
Fox’s success in his final high school season, despite the painful conclusion, convinced him that he only wanted to wrestle at the Division I level. That desire was one of the main reasons he decided to attend Nassau as a part-time student for 2010-11.
“Nassau has a lot of advantages,” he said. “It’s close to home and I knew junior college was the best way for me to get to Division I. I also was so focused on wrestling at the end of high school, I put aside my schoolwork and my grades weren’t where they needed to be.”
The Huntington native refocused both on the mat and in the classroom, spending significant time working with Vougar Oroudjov at his club in Syosset as well as taking courses.
During this time, Fox believes he made huge strides; the most important ones mental.
“A problem with me was my mental attitude and my anxiety,” he said. “In high school, I put so much pressure on myself to get better, I sometimes froze up in big matches. Vougar helped me focus on myself and my mental toughness and having confidence in the things I could control on the mat. The technique comes, but the level of mental toughness you need to do well is a big difference I see from high school to college.”
During that first “greyshirt” year at Nassau, Fox had some impressive victories, including a win over Penn State’s James Vollrath.
Now in his first official campaign with the Lions, Fox has continued to see success, taking second at the recent New York State championships held at Cornell University, third at the Wilkes Open and second at the TCNJ Open. He has registered triumphs over Columbia’s national qualifier Eren Civan and Nick Visicaro of Rutgers (who also beat Fox this year).
“Visicaro and I were the same graduating class in high school,” he said. “He was a top ranked recruit and I wasn’t on anyone’s radar. I wasn’t on his level in high school but I feel like I’ve been catching up to guys who were way ahead of me.”
Fox attributes a large portion of that development to Nassau head coach Paul Schmidt.
“I think the support Coach Schmidt gives is so important,” Fox said. “He believes I can be a national champ and having someone else believe it is the encouragement I need to keep improving.”
After taking a visit to Binghamton in early January, Fox knew where he wanted to spend the next several years. He plans to study Engineering and he expects to spend his three seasons of eligibility (plus a possible redshirt year) at 165 pounds.
“I am so excited about going to Binghamton,” he said. “The coaching staff is great and it’s a place where everyone has the same mindset of getting better every day. I liked that it’s close to home and that it’s an up and coming program. Coach [Pat] Popolizio has brought the program from not even close to being ranked to a really tough team. I can’t wait to be a part of that.”
Fox’s ultimate goal is to be an NCAA champion at the Division I level. But he would like to earn a national crown for Nassau this February first.
“I think I’m progressing at the right pace this year, but I haven’t been wrestling to my potential yet,” he said. “I’ve had some good wins and a couple of tough losses, but I expect to peak at the right time and turn it up for nationals. I don’t want to just be a national champion this year, I want to win while dominating.”
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