Joe Mastro went to the ACC wrestling tournament in March as a fan. He plans on attending in the future as well – but as a competitor.
The Yorktown senior, a third place finisher at the Times Union Center in February recently committed to North Carolina State.
“It’s a great environment and a great school,” Mastro said, adding that he chose the Wolfpack over Duke and Air Force. “I’ve known Coach [Pat] Popolizio for a while and I think with Coach Beasley and Coach Kelly, NC State is going to do great things.”
Mastro sees his future team as a group on the rise. His Yorktown squad was the same way during his career, led by the Class of 2013, which boasted a quartet of state qualifiers, including Mastro, Steven Sabella, David Varian and Thomas Murray. The program achieved new heights, including a runner up showing at the Section 1 tournament this year with three champions and a top 15 finish in the team race in Albany.
“This senior class has been together since eighth grade and we’ve been progressing ever since and moving our way up,” Mastro said. “It’s been exciting. We all want to see continued success of the program. We want to see the guys there now break the records we set.”
One of those marks certainly won’t be broken. Mastro will always be the first-ever state placer from the school, albeit by a thin margin.
“It’s funny because right after I took third, I ran over and my teammate Thomas Murray was just starting his [182-pound] match for third,” Mastro said. “I was the first placer, but it was pretty close – I probably got it by about five minutes.”
Given his bronze medal performance, Mastro also currently owns the best-ever finish in Yorktown history (Murray earned fourth). But it wasn’t easy.
In his first trip to the state tournament, Mastro said the nerves got to him in his opening bout with Konstantin Parfiryev of the PSAL. Before he knew it, he was in a 5-0 hole and despite a furious comeback, he dropped into the consolation bracket with a 7-5 loss.
But it didn’t take him long to turn things around.
“I had to regroup,” he said. “I loosened up and told my coach it was time to come back and take third. It was long and grueling, but I was able to get it done. I really turned it up and felt like I wrestled the way I should have in my first match. It was a total 180 from how I started. I had a short term memory about it and put a lot of points on the board.”
He definitely did.
First, a 17-1 technical fall, then a pair of major decisions over the number two and three seeds, Angelo Kress of Columbia and Zach Joseph of Shenendehowa.
Then, in the consolation semifinals, he met Dan DeCarlo of Port Jervis, a grappler who had beaten him at SUNY Sullivan in January in a close decision.
“I felt like I had controlled that whole match at the Eastern States,” Mastro said. “I had a 1-0 lead with about 10 seconds left and gave up a reversal. I really screwed up. I wanted to go out and prove that I was better than him and the first match was a fluke. I was excited to wrestle him again.”
His excitement showed as he blanked DeCarlo 5-0 to advance to the third place bout, where he captured his fifth straight contest with an 8-4 triumph over Johnson City’s Zach Colgan.
So he’ll enter NC State having finished his high school career on a high note. And he’ll join a growing number of New York grapplers heading to Raleigh.
“I’m definitely looking forward to the warm weather,” Mastro said. “But I think what’s really exciting is that I already know people down there. I’ve known [former Section 1 star and 2013 NCAA qualifier] Sam Speno for a long time and it will be fun to compete with him and some other guys from New York. It’s great that it will be a familiar environment even though it’s pretty far away.”