Some of the top Empire State wrestlers from the Class of 2012 committed to colleges during or before the early signing period in November of 2011, including Brian Realbuto (Cornell), Quinton Murphy (Indiana), Chris Nevinger (Buffalo) and Tony Lock (Buffalo). 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. Earlier in the week, we shared the stories of Ryan Fox and Tom Page. Today, we discuss Shoreham Wading River’s John Keck.
By Betsy Veysman
John Keck’s December commitment to Navy was a long time in the making.
The Shoreham Wading River senior began the arduous process of applying to the Annapolis, Maryland school at the end of last summer. After letters of recommendation, physical tests, medical clearance exams, essays, forms, interviews and a nomination from Congressman Tim Bishop, Keck was finally able to give his verbal commitment.
“It was a long and involved process,” Keck said. “But it was worth it because I think Navy offers a good balance of everything. I really like the structure of the school, the great academics and the wrestling.”
In fact, the 152-pounder had Navy at the top of his list even before the wrestling coaches at the school were recruiting him.
Keck’s third place finish at the Super 32 tournament in North Carolina in the fall of 2011 changed everything. In a field with highly regarded grapplers from all over the country, Keck went 6-1 and defeated Ohio state champion Kyle Burns, Pennsylvania state runner up Garett Hammond and nationally ranked Garrett Peppelman.
“Super 32 was big for me,” he said. “I had never won my section or been to the state tournament so I didn’t have the credentials to get noticed by colleges. My main goal for the tournament was to put myself on the map and it worked.”
When he returned from the tournament, Keck sent Coach Bruce Burnett the Flowrestling link to his match against Peppelman. He said the coach responded quickly and the relationship began.
Other schools contacted Keck as well. The strong student said he had some interactions with the Coast Guard Academy, the Merchant Marine Academy, American, Cornell, Duke and Virginia.
But Super 32 did more than just put the future Engineering major on the Division I radar. It also gave him a jumpstart into his final year on the mats for the Wildcats.
“It was a good boost to my confidence,” he said. “Wrestling the best competition in the offseason helps so much during the season. After I beat state champs and other tough wrestlers, I felt like I should do really well in my senior year back in New York.”
To this point, he has. Keck has a 37-1 record, with 23 of those wins coming by pin or technical fall. His one setback was to eventual champion Dylan Palacio of Long Beach during his run to third place at the Eastern States Classic.
“I was really frustrated by that loss, especially since it wasn’t close,” he said. “I didn’t reach my goal of winning the tournament. But otherwise the season has been going well. Our team clinched the league title and winning as a team, not just as an individual, makes things so much more fun. I’m focusing on getting bonus points for the team and keeping up my technique, even against less competitive kids.”
Keck, who expects to wrestle at 157 pounds in college, has been learning that technique for years. Although he said he really started focusing on wrestling in seventh grade, he has been around the sport for most of his life as his father and two older brothers wrestled.
He credited his family and several coaches for his development.
“My dad has spent so much time working with me,” he said. “We have a 10 x 10 mat in the basement and we go down there, watch tape from matches, critique it and then drill for a while. I wouldn’t be able to do it without him, I’m lucky to have him working with me.”
He also mentioned the contributions of Mike Patrovich at Razor Wrestling Club, Shoreham Wading River coach Joe Condon and Nick Garone, Steve Hromada and Darren Goldstein at X-Cel Wrestling Club.
All of that training will be put to the test in the coming month.
“Last year, I won the league and I was the runner up in the county to Kyle Wade, who wound up winning states. I didn’t have the criteria points for a wildcard, so I was disappointed that I didn’t get to go to the state tournament. This year, I want to change that. I want to win the county and then my goal is to win states.”