By Betsy Veysman
Frank Perrelli took care of business on the mat at the NCAA tournament in St. Louis, earning his first All-American honors with a fourth place showing.
But when he returned to Ithaca, there was still a lot of business left to do.
While the senior captain poured most of his focus into wrestling and academics at Cornell over the past year, he also spent considerable time on the business he co-owns with sophomore teammate Brett Henderson.
Henderson founded Dirty Surf & Skate, a company that produces all types of apparel, several years ago but took a break until he decided to re-start operations this past fall with Perrelli.
“I was really interested in the company, so when the opportunity arose, I hopped on board,” Perrelli said. “Brett’s from California and I’m from New Jersey and spent my summers at the Jersey Shore. We’ve both spent a lot of time around the surf and skate community, so we’re using our roots and producing clothes for that community.”
The grapplers, both students in the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell, are responsible for nearly all aspects of the business at this point.
“We’re doing all the grunt work and the designing, producing, marketing and promotion right now,” Perrelli said. “There isn’t that much that we aren’t taking care of.”
The Hackettstown, New Jersey native admits that the venture took a bit of a backseat during the Big Red’s season.
It has likely done the same in recent weeks since late March, when Perrelli was granted a wildcard to the Olympic Trials, which will take place next Sunday, April 22 in Iowa City.
While the former University Nationals champion attained success in folkstyle for the Big Red, it’s no secret that freestyle, which takes advantage of his strengths in neutral, is his favorite type of wrestling.
“I really feel like freestyle complements my wrestling well,” he said. “I’ve done pretty well in competition the past couple of years while training only two months a year or less in freestyle. Now that I’ll be able to dedicate all my wrestling time to freestyle rather than folk, I feel like I can make the big jumps and improve the way I want to. When I can focus on freestyle, I think I’ll be among the best in the country, if not the best. But I’m actually hoping to make that kind of statement next week at the Olympic Trials.”
He won’t enter the event as a favorite, but he is unlikely to be overlooked. In the past few years, the two-time EIWA champion has defeated Nick Simmons (fifth at the 2011 World Championships) and former World Team Member Obe Blanc, while taking fifth at the 2011 US Senior Open. In short, he has demonstrated that he can compete with the best the USA has to offer.
“Having beaten those guys definitely gives me confidence,” he said. “I know that I’m right there with them. Obviously, whoever has the best day next Sunday will make the Olympic team. I think that if I have a good day, I’m one of the guys that can make the team.”
He has had a lot of help in his preparation. Big Red teammates Kyle Dake and Mack Lewnes have also been training for the Trials. Dake received an at large bid after his third NCAA title in three years and Lewnes qualified in December of 2011 at an event in Las Vegas. Many members of the Cornell staff have significant freestyle experience, as does Finger Lakes Wrestling Club head Clint Wattenberg. Experienced freestyle coach Steve Knight of Excel Wrestling has also been in town assisting.
“There a ton of people for me to train with here,” Perrelli said. “We all try to help each other out. Kyle and I had to make the switch from folkstyle pretty quickly and I think we have been able to do it in a short period of time because of our great staff.”
In addition to the great staff, Perrelli will be bringing a little Dirty Surf & Skate with him on his quest for London.
“We’re producing some Olympic Trials shirts for Mack, Kyle, and me. We’re going to wear the shirts and my family is as well. Obviously, the first priority for all of us is wrestling. But we might as well promote the business as well on that stage.”
No matter what occurs in Iowa City, Perrelli is committed to the sport for the long haul. He will remain in Ithaca next year, along with fellow senior Cam Simaz, to coach at the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club.
“I’m definitely not ready to leave Cornell yet,” he said. “I call Ithaca home now. And I really believe it is the best training situation for me, so it works out perfectly. I am focused on the here and now, but no matter how much success I have this year, I see myself wrestling at least until 2016, if not longer.”
While competing in the sport will remain tops on his list, Perrelli is also glad that he will be able to continue his “Dirty” work.
“Wrestling will still come first, but I will have a lot more time to dedicate to the company,” he said. “It will definitely be a big part of my life. Brett has a few more years around here, so we’ll have time to grow and build the company, which is really exciting.”
Also exciting to Perrelli is the opportunity to achieve more in the sport he loves. While he was proud of making the podium this season, he said he wasn’t really satisfied.
“I honestly haven’t given too much thought to NCAAs since coming back,” he said. “Both losses I had were really close and in overtime. There’s nothing I can do about that now, so I don’t dwell on it. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to be an All-American, but I was really close to more than that and it’s disappointing. I guess I’ll have to make up for it in freestyle.”
For more information on Dirty Surf & Skate, see the website at: