Josh Liebman couldn’t contain his excitement as he watched MSG Varsity’s programming on Monday night.
“When was the last time there was a preview show on TV about wrestling, let alone high school wrestling?” he asked. “It’s unprecedented. It shows the excitement about the event.”
The event is the Second Annual NY/NJ Charity Challenge, which will take place this Sunday, March 25 at Clarkstown South High School in West Nyack, New York to benefit Pinning Down Autism and the Adam Frey Foundation.
For those who love high level wrestling, some of the top grapplers in the Empire and Garden States will square off in a dual meet beginning at 1 p.m (doors at 11:30 a.m. for raffles and more). In fact, state champions will be everywhere, with five from New York and nine from New Jersey taking part. (There are also four runner ups from New York and five from New Jersey).
“It wasn’t difficult at all to get a top wrestler in every weight class,” said Jason Bross, New York event organizer. “It was actually harder to have to turn away some very deserving wrestlers. There is so much pride in putting your state logo on your singlet and representing your state. Wrestlers took that to heart and were proud to be on the team.”
“We were blessed,” added Liebman, discussing the recruitment of the New Jersey squad. “We were lucky to get Gary Mezzacapo, who is Jersey through and through, to help. By the end of state tournament weekend, he pretty much had the team in place. It was a mixture of his diligence and the kids knowing that it would be a quality event they would want to be a part of. The best kids want to be in the spotlight.”
The spotlight will be shining, especially in a clash between the neighboring states.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s baseball, basketball, football, wrestling or something else,” Liebman, New Jersey event organizer, said. “Any time you have competition between New York and New Jersey, there will be a rivalry there.”
“Wrestling fans have been talking about New York-New Jersey matchups on paper for years,” Bross added. “We wanted to bring those matches where they belong – on the mat.”
Last spring, those fans got their wish in the event’s debut. New York came out on top, a fact that has not been forgotten by either team.
“I saw last year how bitter the New Jersey people were and how excited the New York guys were afterwards,” Liebman said. “People started chirping on forums. New Jersey feels like it’s a better wrestling state and that it’s harder to be a state champ here. We respect New York, but we want to win.”
While coming out on top is an important motivator, far more important is the impact the day will have on the two charities.
Bross is the founder of Pinning Down Autism. The organization holds wrestling events across the nation with the goals of raising awareness, supporting the advancement of public resources and raising funds to improve the lives of families affected by autism within the communities holding the events.
“I’m most excited about how many people are in support of what these great charities are trying to accomplish,” Bross said. “I’m excited to give the wrestlers an opportunity to showcase themselves on a big stage and give back to better their communities.”
This year, Pinning Down Autism is donating the funds to Autism Radio, which according to Bross, offers a weekly show on which experts provide advice to families impacted by autism on topics ranging from nutrition to improved communication to the impacts of art and music on autistic children. Bross said the radio show has over six million listeners.
The other beneficiary on Sunday will be the Adam Frey Foundation, which was founded by the late Blair Academy and Cornell University wrestler.
While fighting cancer, Frey saw families of other patients suffering with their day-to-day lives and expenses. Frey was deeply impacted when he saw things like a family cutting a single hamburger into four pieces for dinner, and he knew he wanted to get involved.
“The Adam Frey Foundation is a non-research related charity for cancer,” Liebman said. “Adam wanted to do things to make the daily lives easier for families dealing with cancer, whether it be helping with groceries, bills or travel expenses. If you want the best treatment for cancer, a family often has to travel. The foundation helps ease the burdens related to that.”
In addition to preparing for the event, Liebman spent time with the New Jersey squad during their first meeting discussing the foundation and its namesake.
“The first practice we had, we circled everyone up and told them a little bit about Adam and the charity,” he said. “Surprisingly, a lot of them knew about it already. The kids really understand the kind of person they are representing and take pride in that.”
In addition to helping deserving organizations, Liebman sees the event as a chance to bring the wrestling community together.
“As much of a competition as this is, I also want it to have the atmosphere of a family reunion,” he said. “Wrestling is such a close knit community. I want it to be a celebration of the sport and the relationships in wrestling as well as a celebration of the charities.”
Bross and Liebman were both thrilled with the support provided by Cablevision and MSG Varsity, which will be broadcasting live.
“MSG Varsity is putting all their energy behind it,” Bross said. “The community is behind it in force. We feel like something really special is going on. Josh [Liebman], [Adam’s mother] Cindy Frey, [Clarkstown South’s coach] John Laurenzi and Gary Mezzacapo and I realized we could get together and really do this right.”
“The growth opportunities are enormous for the charities, the sport of wrestling and the event itself,” Liebman said. “It’s like a perfect storm. I got butterflies when we were talking with some of the sponsors, realizing how much good can come out of this.”
Doors open at 11:30 a.m. and admission is a $20 donation for adults and $5 for students. Bross strongly believes that those in attendance will get far more than their money’s worth.
“There are so many factors that will elevate the energy in the room,” Bross said. “The rivalries, the great wrestlers, the charities. The environment will be taken to the next level. We think people in the room will feel like they’re at the Super Bowl or the seventh game of World Series. That’s the kind of energy we think the event will generate.”
For information, visit:
NY/NJ Charity Challenge on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/280426122016952/
Dual Meet Lineup
99- Jose Rodriguez (Freshman, Wantagh, NY–2012 NYS DI Runner-up) vs. Kyle Bierdumpfel (Mahwah, NJ—4x NJ State Youth Champion)
106- Nick Piccininni (Freshman, Ward Melville, NY— 2012 NYS DI Champion) vs. Carl Buttitta (Sophomore; Iselin Kennedy; NJ— 2012 State Runner-up)
113- Patrick Skinner (Senior; Kellenberg Memorial, NY—2012 NYS DI 3rd) vs. Brenden Calas (Junior; Seton Hall Prep, NJ—2011 and 2012 NJ State Champion)
120- Sean McCabe (Senior; Connetquot, NY—2012 NYS DI Champion) vs. Mike Magaldo (Sophomore; Watchung Hills, NJ—2012 NJ State Champion)
126- Maverick Passaro (Senior; Eastport-South Manor, NY—2012 NYS DI Champion) vs. Gary Dinmore (Sophomore; Hunterdon Central, NJ—2012 NJ State runner-up)
132- Nick Kelley (Junior; Shenendehowa, NY—2012 NYS DI 3rd) vs. Scott Delvecchio (Junior; South Plainfield, NJ—2012 NJ State Champion)
138- Anthony Finocchiaro (Senior; Canastota, NY—2012 NYS DII runner-up) vs. BJ Clagon (Junior; Toms River South, NJ—2012 NJ State Champion)
145- Mike Caputo (Senior; North Rockland, NY—2012 NYS DI 4th) vs. Alex Richardson (Senior; St. Peters Prep, NJ—2012 NJ State Champion)
152- Dylan Palacio (Senior; Long Beach, NY—2012 NYS DI Champion) vs. Raamiah Bethea (Senior; Trenton Central, NJ—2012 NJ State Champion)
160- Rrok Ndokaj (Senior; Monsignor Farrell, NY—2012 NYS DI 4th) vs. Johnny Sebastian (Sophomore; Bergen Catholic, NJ—2012 NJ State Champion)
170- Zach Zupan (Junior; Canastota, NY—2012 NYS DII Champion) vs. Ryan Harrington (Senior; Mendham, NJ—2011 and 2012 NJ State Champion)
182- Jacob Berkowitz (Senior; Scarsdale, NY—2012 NYS DI runner-up) vs. Dallas Winston (Senior; Jackson Memorial, NJ—2012 NJ State Champion)
195- Reggie Williams (Sophomore; Johnson City, NY—2012 NYS DI runner-up) vs. Eric McMullen (Senior; North Bergen, NJ—2012 NJ State runner-up)
220- Patryk Kopczynski (Senior; Brooklyn Technical, NY—2012 NYS DI 4th) vs. Lex Knapp (Senior; Lacey, NJ—2012 NJ State runner-up)
285- Cole Lampman (Senior; Shenendehowa, NY—2012 NYS DI 3rd) vs. Jermaine Eluemunor (Senior; Morris Knolls, NJ—2012 NJ State runner-up)