By Betsy Veysman
Before participating in the NY/NJ Charity Challenge in late March, Dylan Palacio was discussing his college decision-making process. He said he was undecided but volunteered that “the Cornell coaches feel like family.”
With the importance Palacio places on family, it’s no surprise that he announced after a trip to Ithaca this weekend that he has chosen the Big Red for his academic and wrestling future.
“I felt like I belonged there,” he said. “There’s definitely a feeling that I won’t be just another wrestler. I’m a family member. All the coaches – they care about me and want me to thrive. Besides, what’s not to love about Cornell? It’s a beautiful campus with great academics and people. It felt like home to me.”
The Long Beach senior comes from a long line of successful wrestlers. His father Leo was a county title winner. His uncle Al (a teammate of Rob Koll at North Carolina) was a three-time state champion and a two-time NCAA All-American for the Tar Heels, while his uncle Luis also earned All-State honors and was a multi-time league champion.
“I wrestle with them all the time and sometimes we don’t talk for weeks it’s so competitive,” he said. “When I was in the state finals, I looked at my family. That’s who prepared me; that’s who made me a champion. I had to win for them.”
Palacio did a lot of winning in 2011-12. In fact, he was an undefeated state champion, topping fellow Big Red recruit Brian Realbuto to win the Eastern States title in January at 152 pounds.
He steadily climbed the national rankings with a dominant campaign, going 41-0 with 37 bonus victories. If his 11-4 triumph over Tyler Grimaldi in the 160 pound title bout in Albany wasn’t enough, Palacio followed it up with a pin over unbeaten New Jersey champion Raamiah Bethea in the Charity Challenge and then a National Title at the NHSCA tournament in Virginia Beach.
Now, Intermat’s #64 recruit in the nation will turn his focus to a new challenge – the Junior Nationals in Freestyle and Greco in Fargo, North Dakota in July.
While he has made the podium there in the past, he is looking to do more than that this time around.
“I’m humble about Fargo, but very hungry,” he said. “I’m not going out there to place. I want to be under the spotlight with New York on my back, adding championships in Greco and Freestyle to the one I won in Virginia Beach.”
According to a recent article in WIN Magazine, Cornell has the #2 recruiting class in the country this year (before Palacio’s commitment). The Big Red will bring in highly regarded talents such as Blair Academy’s Mark Grey, four-time California state finalist Alex Cisneros, three-time Empire State victor Realbuto, and state champions from Illinois (Steve Congenie and Angelo Silvestro) and Michigan (Gabe Dean and Taylor Simaz).
Palacio is excited to be joining such a distinguished group.
“I think we’ll be like murderers row,” he said. “I think we’re the best class in the country and I’m not afraid to say it.”
The All-State soccer player will enroll at Cornell in the fall of 2013, spending the next year training with the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club in Ithaca under the tutelage of coaches such as All-Americans Clint Wattenberg, Cam Simaz and Frank Perrelli and competing in open tournaments.
He came into his final high school campaign with goals of winning at both the state and national levels. He accomplished those things and said he’s sure of what he hopes to achieve wearing a Big Red singlet.
“My next dream is to be a national champ in college,” he said. “I know it’s a totally different world in college. I know I’m at the bottom and I’ll need to climb back to the top. I know I’ll have to earn every win I get. But I’ve told myself, ‘don’t get bitter, just get better’ and I’ve lived by that. I believe I’ll outwork everyone. I’m willing to put in the blood, sweat and tears to get to my goals like I did this year.”
It’s unclear at what weight class he will attempt to make his mark.
“I never lifted weights in my life. I could wake up next year and be wrestling at heavyweight,” he said with a laugh. “Who knows where I’ll end up?”
Whatever weight it turns out to be, Dylan Palacio feels confident that he will be spending his next several years among family.
Palacio was the second 2012 New York State champion to commit to a Division I program in the last week, with Phoenix’s Tyler Button making a pledge to Edinboro a few days ago.
Here are the college destinations of the graduating 2012 New York State titlewinners:
Buffalo: James Kloc (DI-145), Chris Nevinger (DII-160), Tony Lock (DII-182)
Cornell: Dylan Palacio (DI-160), Brian Realbuto (DI-152)
Drexel: Kyle Stanton (DII-220)
Hofstra: Jamel Hudson (DI-132), Dan Spurgeon (DI-170)
Indiana: Quinton Murphy (DII-138)
Edinboro: Tyler Button (DII-145), Sam Recco (DII-120)
Lehigh: Zack Diekel (DII-195), Ben Haas (DII-152)
Rutgers: Sean McCabe (DI-120), Maverick Passaro (DI-126)
Football: Tony Fusco (DI-195, Albany), Evan Kappatos (DI-285, Princeton)
Lacrosse: Nick Bellanza (DI-182, Jacksonville)