Binghamton had a terrific 2011-12 season, winning 15 dual meets and earning the best NCAA finish in program history (14th). The Bearcats boasted two All-Americans (Donnie Vinson at 149 and Nick Gwiazdowski at 285) and had three other wrestlers win at least two bouts at nationals. The team has undergone change over the past several months, as head coach Pat Popolizio and assistant Frank Beasley moved to North Carolina State and Matt Dernlan and Teyon Ware came on board to replace them. (Gwiazdowski joined the Wolfpack as well).
Assistant coach Jasen Borshoff is back and he spoke to New York Wrestling News about the upcoming season, beginning with a weight-by-weight look at the lineup.
125 Pounds – Last year’s starter Derek Steeley returns, but he’ll be challenged by two accomplished wrestlers — former 125-pound Junior College national champion Patrick Hunter (who manned the 133 spot for the Bearcats in 2011-12) and Army transfer David White, who placed at the EIWAs in 2011 as a true freshman.
Coach Borshoff: “We have a three-way race for 125. Right now, I’m not sure who will win the job. Steeley is back and White has three years left after coming in from Army. He beat a handful of Top 25 guys last year before transferring and redshirting.
Pat Hunter may have been the smallest 133 pounder I’ve ever seen in my entire life. When [Hunter] came in to Binghamton, he had a lot on his plate. We wanted him to focus on starting a new school, meeting new people and wrestling without having to worry about weight. But he’s really matured a lot in the year he’s been here and he’s ready to be back at 125.”
133 Pounds – Two years ago Dan Riggi filled the 133 slot and after a redshirt campaign, he’ll try to earn the nod again. But he’ll have competition from another wrestler who took a redshirt last year – Tyler Pendergast.
Coach Borshoff: “Just like at 125, it’s not clear who will win the spot. Riggi had a pretty good year last season and he’s a goer who always wrestles hard. Tyler wrestled in the second half of the season and got hurt. He was a three-time Delaware state champion and a Beast of the East finalist. So, he has a very good pedigree and has the chance to show it in college.”
141 Pounds: Joe Bonaldi and Derak Heyman know each other pretty well. The Empire State natives wrestled in high school and now they will compete for the Binghamton starting job. Another potential contender is junior college national runner up Vinny DiGravio, who transferred in from Mercyhurst Northeast.
Coach Borshoff: “There will be a lot of competition at this weight. Joe Bonaldi wrestled as a true freshman and I think he faced more ranked opponents than anyone else on the team. He’s ready for the next step. Derak was injured last year but he did wrestle at the Penn State Open and placed as a true freshman. Those two are very close in the room – they really battle it out and make each other better. It’s possible that Vinny may redshirt.”
149 Pounds – While the first three weights are undecided, 149 isn’t in question. Donnie Vinson comes off a third place finish at NCAAs in which he won seven matches in a row following a first round loss. He also captured Most Outstanding Wrestler honors at the CAA tournament and compiled a 40-5 record overall with 28 bonus point wins. He will be among the favorites to stand on top of the podium at nationals in 2013.
Coach Borshoff: “Donnie’s the man at 149. He’s taken ownership of being a team leader, which is great to see. He’s been working on some little things like head and hand position. He’s so aggressive and explosive that he opens himself up sometimes. The third place match at NCAAs was a perfect example. He took it to his opponent but made little mistakes at crucial times. Last year, he thought he was good enough to win nationals. The difference this year is that he knows he’s good enough to win.”
157 Pounds/165 Pounds – Justin Lister and Matt Kaylor were two very successful multi-year starters for the Bearcats in the middleweights. Three candidates are in the mix to replace them – Joe Chamish, Vinny Grella and Adam Lepkowsky.
Coach Borshoff: “It will be interesting to see how these weights play out for us. Joe Chamish spot started for us last year at 157. Vinny and Adam are both redshirt freshmen. They’re all young and none have ever been there. It’s a new frontier for them. They have to go out and work hard and capitalize on their opportunity to start.”
174 Pounds – Caleb Wallace (11 wins in 2011-12) and John Paris (the 2011 CAA Rookie of the Year) squared off for the spot last season at 174 and they’ll do it again.
Coach Borshoff: “Last year, the guys were so close and Caleb actually won the wrestleoff. But it was such a close match and John had such a great season the year before, we were planning to start whoever did better in competition. Then in his second match of the year, John tore his ACL and was out for the year. Caleb stepped in and did very well. He took third in the CAA and showed a lot of improvement. Now, John’s back and healthy and they’ll battle it out. They’re very different wrestlers. John’s more explosive from the outside and Caleb likes to roll around. Both wrestle hard and are young and improving. This is a weight where we’ll be more mature and better than last year.”
184 Pounds – Cody Reed, who has racked up 47 victories while starting at 197 pounds the past two seasons, will move down to 184 for the upcoming campaign.
Coach Borshoff: “Cody Reed was an undersized 197. He was trying to keep his weight up during the season. Cody had a great end of the year, upsetting the #4 seed [Maryland’s Christian Boley] at the NCAAs. It was a huge confidence builder for him. He saw that he was good enough to compete at the national level and he’s been working on a lot of little things to get better. I think he’s good enough to be an All-American but that’s up to him. He’s very strong and explosive for the weight.”
197 Pounds – After three seasons of wrestling well and qualifying for nationals at 184, Nate Schiedel moves up to 197 for his senior campaign. He sported a 30-10 mark in 2011-12.
Coach Borshoff: “Nate’s a leader and a captain and guys really respect him. In hindsight, he was too big for 184 last year. He’s a house right now. When [head coach Matt Dernlan] got here, he couldn’t believe Nate made 184. Honestly, we were contemplating having him go heavyweight. Last year, he was always in great shape, but you could see him hurting at times. He sucked it up and won matches because he’s a winner, but it was tough. He’s had a good career so far where he’s been ranked in the top 10 several times. At 197, we’re expecting a huge, huge year from him.”
285 Pounds – With the departure of All-American Nick Gwiazdowski to North Carolina State, New York native Tyler Deuel will step into the heavyweight role.
Coach Borshoff: “Tyler spot started last year at 197 but he’s a big-sized heavyweight now, probably around 250. Starting in May, we put him on a weightlifting program and he’s put on a lot of good weight. He’s doing pretty well so far; his body is getting used to carrying around the extra weight. The spotlight will be on him and we’ll see how he handles it. He’s young and inexperienced, but he’s talented and capable of doing a great job.”
A Few More Things . . .
Tell us a little bit about being part of the new coaching staff.
Coach Borshoff: “It’s been awesome. We’ve meshed really well. We have the same philosophies and are focused on working hard but working smart. We want to make sure guys are enjoying competing. Sometimes you get to the national tournament and guys are done. They’re sick of the season and the grind. Our job is to make sure that doesn’t happen and that’s the philosophy and training [Dernlan] brought in.
One thing I thought was cool was to see the guys who competed at the Olympics call [Dernlan] to thank him for helping them reach their goals. When you see the guys who are competing for World and Olympic titles, you realize there’s another level out there and that winning national titles isn’t the biggest thing. It takes some pressure off the guys and it lets them see that [Dernlan] has impacted very high level wrestlers.”
What are the team’s goals for this year?
“We were excited about last year, but we’re not satisfied with being 14th in the country. There were 13 teams ahead of us and every year we want to plug away and get better and better.
We want national champions and All-Americans. But the goal setting is the job of the guys on the team. Ultimately, if our goals as coaches are bigger than theirs, it won’t matter. Binghamton is on the map now and I think everyone wants to keep Binghamton moving up the totem pole.”
Who are some of the freshman entering the room this year?
“One of the main reasons Coach Dernlan took the job was that he believes New York State is untapped. There’s so much talent here. We believe you can do really big things with New York kids and we brought in a lot of good ones.
Tristan Hamner (Medina) never won a state title and that’s surprising when you see how talented he is. We also have state runner ups Brady Baron (Pittsford) and Dylan Cohen (Williamsville East) as well as Dylan Caruana (Kenmore West), who took fifth. Nick Mauriello (Hauppauge) was fourth in a tough weight last year and Jack McKeever was third in New England. All the guys are pretty talented and they’re all good, hard working kids. They’re real student-athletes who are here to compete in the room but also understand that they need to work hard in school because wrestling doesn’t pay the bills for most people.”
What else should we look for from Binghamton this season?
“We can’t wait for the season to start. We’re ready to start practice and get the guys in the room. They worked all summer and we’ll see where we are. We’re excited for another great year.”