BY AL BEVILACQUA
At the NCAA tournament in Des Moines, the eyes of wrestling fans will be fixed on Cornell’s Kyle Dake as he aims to make history by winning his fourth championship at his fourth different weight class without the benefit of a redshirt. To do so, he will likely have to beat returning Hodge Trophy winner David Taylor of Penn State for the third time this season and fourth this calendar year (if the All-Star Dual and the Olympic Trials are counted).
Dake, a Lansing native, has been a bright star for New York wrestling over the past several years but he won’t be the only Empire State representative threatening to make waves in Iowa. For example, his former training partner at the Shamrock Wrestling Club, Donnie Vinson of Binghamton, will be in the mix at 149 pounds after taking third there a year ago.
If history is any indication, they will be among the many New Yorkers on the podium. According to data from wrestlingstatistics.com, the Empire State ranks eighth among all states since 1961 in most individual national champions (24) and seventh in total titles (32). Last year, 26 New York natives took the mat at Nationals in St. Louis, the third most of any state behind Pennsylvania and Ohio and produced the third most All-Americans (six).
Simply put, there’s no question that New York is one of the top players on the NCAA scene.
But perhaps less appreciated is another way New York is making its presence felt. And that’s on the sidelines.
From Tom Ryan’s young team in Buckeye Country to Steve Garland (Virginia) and Kerry McCoy (Maryland) in the ACC, the impact of the tough wrestling taught in this state is felt around the country.
And that’s just part of the story. A number of other programs are led by those who grew up in the Empire State, including Buffalo (Jim Beichner), North Carolina State (Pat Popolizio), Duke (Glen Lanahan), Columbia (Carl Fronhofer), Boston (Carl Adams) and Cal Poly (Brendan Buckley, who spent some time in New York). In addition, both Bloomsburg’s John Stutzman and Hofstra’s Rob Anspach did their college wrestling in the Empire State (at Buffalo and Hofstra, respectively).
Remember, there are less than 80 head coaching positions in Division I . . . and there are 49 states with wrestling. But a lot of leadership seems to be emerging from New York.
Kyle Dake will complete his Big Red career as one of the greats on the big stage.
But he will be only one of the New Yorkers to make headlines at NCAAs this year and in years to come.