By Betsy Veysman
While sitting on the bench in Fitzgerald Field House on Sunday in Pittsburgh, Brian Realbuto received a text message from his father, letting him know that New York had defeated New Jersey at the NY/NJ Charity Challenge on Long Island.
“I was really happy to hear that the team beat New Jersey for the second straight year,” Realbuto said. “New York wrestling has been doing a great job. There are so many competitive guys. I think we’re showing we’re a really tough state.”
Realbuto is a big part of that. He was in Pittsburgh wrestling at 152 pounds for the USA All-Star team, which took on the best from Pennsylvania at the prestigious Dapper Dan Classic on Sunday.
He represented New York well, earning a convincing 6-1 victory over Pennsylvania State Champion Cody Copeland of Greenville.
“It was just really cool to be able to wrestle at such an amazing event in front of all of those people,” he said. “It was a lot of fun to be on a team with so many highly ranked guys, so many talented wrestlers.”
Realbuto had never faced Copeland before, but came into the bout feeling good about his chances.
“I saw a little video on him,” he said. “I never go into matches doubting myself. You have to have confidence and be prepared to beat anyone. I felt that if I wrestled my match and my style, I would come away with a win.”
The Somers native took control early with a pair of first period takedowns to grab a 4-1 advantage after the first two minutes. He earned a reversal in the second, and finished the middle period with an effective ride. The last two minutes were a lot of the same, as Realbuto dominated from the top position, not allowing his opponent to escape.
For Realbuto, the strategy was slightly different than his typical matches.
“I watched NCAAs last weekend and saw so many guys ride people out,” he said. “It showed me how important top wrestling is at the college level. I’ve been working really hard on top, especially recently, trying to get ready for college. I don’t usually ride people that long, but I was happy to be able to keep him down and try out some of the things I’ve been practicing.”
His practices will change a bit now, as he switches to freestyle in preparation for the FILA Juniors tournament on April 14 in Madison, Wisconsin. The 2011 Junior National Freestyle champion will compete at 60 kg (145.5 pounds) and hopes to qualify for the FILA World Team Trials in May.
“My goal is to make the Junior World Team,” he said. “That’s my main focus.”
The three-time New York state champion will also put some focus on another All-Star event on April 20 when he competes for the USA Dream Team versus a select squad from Iowa. Realbuto will face Zach Witte of Cedar Rapids Prairie.
“A little before the Dream Team, I’ll switch back to folkstyle,” he said. “I don’t find it so hard to go back and forth because I find freestyle is really good training for folk. You really have to work on finishing cleanly. I will do a lot of work on my feet and hopefully that will show.”
Realbuto was honored to be chosen for both the Dapper Dan and Dream Team.
“I didn’t really expect to be picked twice,” he said. “I was really excited about the Dapper Dan and then an invitation to the Dream Team made me even more happy. It’s a great experience and it gives me a few more tough folkstyle matches, which will help me get ready for college.”
The senior has committed to Cornell but will almost certainly defer his admission for one year and work out with the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club in Ithaca.
“I think next year I will spend the time taking a few classes locally and preparing with the club coaches and wrestlers,” he said. “I hopefully will get ready to come in and contend for a national title as a freshman the following year.”
Realbuto saw what contending for an NCAA crown is all about in St. Louis last weekend where he watched three Big Red wrestlers, Steve Bosak, Kyle Dake and Cam Simaz, win their respective weight classes.
He looks forward to having the chance to take the mat at NCAAs as well.
“It was really exciting,” he said of his trip to nationals. “To watch a team of great guys do so well, I just can’t wait to be a part of it. Cornell wrestling is such a fantastic community. Three champions is amazing and the next step is the team title. I’m hoping in a couple years I can be a part of that for Cornell.”
For now, his hand gets raised as an example of the Empire State wrestling prowess.