World Wrestling Month Comes to an End With "Battle at the Falls" in Canada

World Wrestling Month is about to come to an end, but not before one last celebration of the sport in Niagara Falls, Canada on Friday.

The “Battle at the Falls”, featuring some of the best women’s grapplers in the world, took place with the United States, Canada and Ukraine facing off in dual meets.

The host nation went 2-0, while the USA split its two duals, defeating the Ukraine.  Two members of the Fredonia wrestling community represented the Red, White and Blue. Former Hillbillies star Carlene Sluberski competed at 48 kg while coach Alex Conti was part of the Team USA staff.

The full results from the Battle at the Falls:


48 kg/105.5 lbs. – Maria Livach (Ukraine) dec. Carlene Sluberski (USA), 15-3
51 kg/112.25 lbs. – Yulia Blahinya (Ukraine) dec. Jessica Medina (USA), 6-1
55 kg/121 lbs. – Katherine Fulp-Allen (USA) dec. Irina Husyak (Ukraine), 8-6
59 kg/130 lbs. – Alli Ragan (USA) dec. Natalya Synyshyn (Ukraine), 12-4
63 kg/138.75 lbs. – Elena Pirozhkova (USA) dec. Ganna Vasilenko (Ukraine), 10-0
67 kg/147.5 lbs. – Alina Stadnik-Makinya (Ukraine) dec. Veronica Carlson (USA), 13-6
72 kg/158.5 lbs. – Brittney Roberts (USA) dec. Katerina Burmistrova (Ukraine), 5-4

48 kg/105.5 lbs. – Maria Livach (Ukraine) dec. Natasha Kramble (Canada), 10-4
51 kg/112.25 lbs. – Jessica MacDonald (Canada) dec. Yulia Blahinya (Ukraine), 15-4
55 kg/121 lbs. – Irina Husyak (Ukraine) pinned Jillian Gallays (Canada), 0:59
59 kg/130 lbs. – Braxton Papadopoulus (Canada) pinned Natalya Synyshyn (Ukraine), 2:56
63 kg/138.75 lbs. – Justine Bouchard (Canada) dec. Ganna Vasilenko (Ukraine), 8-7
67 kg/147.5 lbs. – Stacie Anaka (Canada) dec. Alina Stadnik-Makinya (Ukraine), 9-7
72 kg/158.5 lbs. – Erica Wiebe (Canada) dec. Katerina Burmistrova (Ukraine), 11-0

48 kg/105.5 lbs. – Carlene Sluberski (USA) dec. Natasha Kramble (Canada), 11-0
72 kg/158.5 lbs. – Erica Wiebe (Canada) dec. Brittney Roberts (USA), 12-4
55 kg/121 lbs. – Jillian Gallays (Canada) dec. Katherine Fulp-Allen (USA), 9-2
67 kg/147.5 lbs. – Veronica Carlson (USA) dec. Stacie Anaka (Canada), 9-0
59 kg/130 lbs. – Braxton Papadopoulos (Canada) pinned Alli Ragan (USA), 1:13
63 kg/138.75 lbs. – Justine Bouchard (Canada) dec. Erin Clodgo (USA), 7-4
51 kg/112.25 lbs. – Jessica MacDonald (Canada) dec. Jessica Medina (USA), 10-0

The Heart of the Island: June 8 Tournament at Islip to Provide Oklahoma Tornado Relief

When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012, support came from around the nation to help with the devastation.

“It was amazing,” Islip coach Joe Patrovich said. “People from all over the country contributed. I remember that there were some volunteers that came from Oklahoma to help out.”

So after a tornado brought havoc to the Sooner State a few weeks ago, Patrovich was among those who felt compelled to take action, not only to return the favor for the aid received during Sandy but because of the connection between the wrestling communities of Long Island and Oklahoma.

“We have a relationship with that area of Oklahoma,” Patrovich said. “El Reno, a neighboring town, came to Islip to wrestle six or seven years ago. We were supposed to go there the next year, but the airport was shut down because of a blizzard and we couldn’t get there. But we’ve known people there for years. Pretty much every town involved in the tornado, we’ve wrestled or were supposed to wrestle. It’s the heart of Oklahoma wrestling. We’ve had our wrestlers go out there for the Junior Duals many times too. When you add it all up, you ask yourself what you can do for the people. We felt it would be a really nice thing to raise some money and help as much as we can.”

That’s how the “Long Island Helps Oklahoma” event came about. In just a few days, the wrestling tournament, which will be held on June 8 at Islip High School, was put together.

All of the funds raised will go to help those impacted by the storm in Oklahoma, including the $25 entry fee for wrestlers and the donations of corporate sponsors. In addition, Patrovich said t-shirts will be sold and a collection jar will be there for anyone who wishes to contribute.

“It’s an awesome cause,” Patrovich said. “We won’t charge to get in, but we hope people will come and help out. We may even have a DJ to make it a little different than a normal wrestling tournament.”

There are other ways it will be different. Participants will wrestle both freestyle and folkstyle in a round robin format, with Patrovich aiming for each competitor to get at least 2-3 bouts.

“We wanted to include folkstyle because some of the wrestlers are most comfortable with that,” he said. “But we thought it would be good to have freestyle too. The international rules recently changed in freestyle and a lot of guys haven’t wrestled with the new rules yet. We want wrestlers and referees to get some match experience with those new rules. We’ll have a clinic before to explain the changes. It will be a great way to prepare for Fargo and Cadet or Junior Duals.”

The Junior Duals are coming up in June. Those who represent New York at the event, which is annually held in Oklahoma, will bring something special with them.

“We’ll be sending a check to the United Way from the Long Island Wrestling Community to help the people in Oklahoma,” Patrovich said. “It will be presented at the Junior Duals. I think it will be a nice touch for the wrestling community and show that we all help each other.”

For more information on the tournament, see the flyer 2013OklahomaFundRaiser.

If you wish to donate to the cause, see the contact information on the above flyer.

'The Right Fit': Monroe Woodbury State Placer AJ Voelker Chooses Buffalo

AJ Voelker left his recruiting trip to Bloomsburg with an interesting dilemma.

“After visiting and meeting Coach Stutzman [at Bloomsburg], AJ felt the coach was the right fit, but not the school,” said Bob Voelker, AJ’s father.

So Voelker continued to look around, focusing on institutions such as George Mason until he heard that Stutzman was leaving the EWL college to take the reins of the Buffalo program.

“I started looking at Buffalo right away,” AJ Voelker said. “Once I saw the campus and talked to [Stutzman] again, that was pretty much it. The campus is unbelievable. It’s just what I wanted. The facilities are very nice. Coach Stutzman is very intense; his practices are very tough and give me the best chance of placing at Nationals. He reminds me a lot of my coaches now [at Monroe Woodbury].”

Photo by BV

Voelker saw a lot of success for the Crusaders throughout his career, placing in Section 9 multiple times. But 2012-13 was a breakthrough year, as he made the podium at the Eastern States Classic, won the Sectional crown and took fourth in New York in his first trip to the state tournament.

That success came as a result of a lot of offseason effort. After missing out on a spot in Albany as a junior, Voelker wanted to make sure he was ready to make the most of his last chance. He said he worked out at Apex Wrestling, trained with Champion Athletes, lifted on his own and spent a lot of time with Coach Johnny Gartiser.

He also continued his move up in weight, going from 112 as a sophomore to 145/152 as a junior to 170 for his last high school run.

“I cut a lot of weight my freshman and sophomore years,” he said. “Since then, I grew a lot and my coaches recommended that I cut less weight because they thought I wouldn’t be as tired at the end of the season. It worked out. Size wise, I wasn’t the biggest guy out there at 170, but I felt strong and I thought I could wrestle with anyone.”

He set his objectives: to be top four in New York, to control everyone in Section 9 and to join the 100-win club. He accomplished all of them, spurred by his performance at the Times Union Center in February.

After winning his opening two matches against Sonny McPherson of Indian River and Cedrick Stephens of Wingate in Albany, he said he injured his knee in the semifinals in a loss to St. Anthony’s Johnny Vrasidas. In order to make the bronze medal bout, he needed a victory against Franky Nassivera of Queensbury in the consolations.

“That was a really big match for me,” he said. “My knee was all messed up and I was down by four. I had to wrestle different because I couldn’t put pressure on my knee, I couldn’t really shoot the way I normally do. I hit a throw with about 30 seconds left to take the lead and rode him out to win it.”

That 5-4 triumph pushed him into the third place match, where he was defeated by Wantagh’s Dan McDevitt.

So with all those victories, what was the highlight of Voelker’s final high school season?

The future MAC grappler discussed Monroe Woodbury placing at the Union-Endicott Duals and earning a state ranking. And of course, he talked about winning the Section and making the medal stand at his last high school event. However, when asked about the top moment of the year, Voelker mentioned something else.

“The first highlight was seeing Vinny [Vespa] step on the mat,” he said of his teammate, who fought cancer to return to action about six months after being diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma. “I absolutely knew we’d see him wrestling again sometime because he’s the toughest kid I know. But for him to do it this year, it was insane.”

Voelker and his family were deeply involved in the fundraising activities for the Vespa family. At the Takedown Tournament held last summer, Voelker stepped on the mat against Vinny’s older brother Michael in an exhibition match. In an entertaining bout, Vespa hit a “flying squirrel”.

“It was a lot of fun,” Voelker said. “We were just going out there to goof around and [the flying squirrel] happened. It was actually something I was teaching him earlier that week and he did it.”

Voelker clearly did a good job of teaching and that’s something he hopes to do a lot more as he plans to pursue a degree in early education at Buffalo.

In addition to his academic path, Voelker also expects to pursue success on the mat – right away. He said he will compete for a spot in the lineup as a true freshman.

“I don’t plan to redshirt my first year,” he said. “I talked to Coach Stutzman and he thinks I’ll be fine after working out in the room with the way I push the pace on my feet and my top and bottom wrestling. I trust him. I can’t wait to get back on the mat. There aren’t a lot of guys that go Division I from Section 9. I want to rack up wins at the college level.”

Wantagh's Paul Gillespie Named the National Coach of the Year by the NWCA

Wantagh racked up numerous big time trophies in 2013-14, including the Eastern States, the Union Endicott Duals, the Section 8 Dual and Tournament crowns and the New York State championship.  The Warriors also have compiled over 40 dual victories in a row.

Wantagh at the State Tournament, Photo by BV

Now, the squad now has another prestigious honor to add as head coach Paul Gillespie was named the National Coach of the Year on Thursday by the NWCA (National Wrestling Coaches Association).

Gillespie, who has been a head coach for 33 years, is no stranger to accolades, as he was entered into the New York State Hall of Fame in 2005 as well as the National Wrestling Hall of Fame a year later.  In addition, he has been the Nassau County Coach of the Year six times.

Also capturing NWCA awards were Michigan’s Adam Coon (Wrestler of the Year) and Al Miller (National Assistant Coach of the Year).

To read the full release about Gillespie, see this link.


Openings on the NYS Cadet Freestyle National Team Set to Compete in Florida

There are openings at the following weights on the New York State Cadet Freestyle National team which will compete June 14-15 in Daytona Beach, Florida:

88 Pounds, 138 Pounds, 145 Pounds, 182 Pounds, 195 Pounds, 220 Pounds, 285 Pounds

If you are interested, please contact Coach Anthony Servidone ( or Dean Zenie (

Cowboy Up: Great Neck South's Chris Koo Looking to Peak at Oklahoma State

The morning that the NHSCA Sophomore Nationals were set to begin in Virginia Beach back in 2011, Great Neck South’s Chris Koo asked Craig Vitagliano, his coach at Ascend Wrestling Club, about a technique he was interested in learning.

“When he was warming up, he wanted me to show him a move – it was a Russian tie to an ankle pick,” Vitagliano said. “It wasn’t like he really practiced it very much – it was like 10 minutes of working on it. Then he went out and hit it in pretty much every match.”

Armed with a new technique in his arsenal, Koo went all the way to the semifinals of the prestigious event, sealing his first All-American honors before finishing in sixth place at 145 pounds.

“He’s a sponge,” Vitagliano said. “Whatever I show him, he can do – even really advanced techniques. He picks everything up on the spot. There aren’t many kids I’ve seen be able to do that, but he can.”

That ability is one the many strengths Vitagliano believes will serve Koo well at his next stop – Oklahoma State.

The Nassau County senior said that before the season, going to the tradition-rich Big 12 program “seemed like a fantasy.” As did his recruiting visit, during which he was in constant contact with some of the greats in the sport.

“When I was there, Coleman Scott was training with Eric Guerrero. Also Chris Perry and Tyler Caldwell were working out and John Smith and Zack Esposito were there. It was crazy. It was a room full of All-Americans, national champions and Olympians. It was pretty cool to just watch and then have everyone come over to talk to me.”

Soon, it will be more than just talking. Koo mentioned how lucky he’s been to have great training partners like New York state titlewinner Louis Hernandez, Penn-bound Dan McDevitt, Jaison White and Dan Tracy over the past few years at Ascend. But it will be a whole new ballgame when he begins in Stillwater.

“Chris doesn’t just want to wrestle in college,” Vitagliano said. “He wants to do really well there. His goal is to be a national champ and what better place to do that than Oklahoma State? He’ll be able to work out right away with [2013 NCAA bronze medalists] Alex Dieringer and Tyler Caldwell. [NCAA champion] Chris Perry too. It’s a great situation for him. I’ve had a number of coaches tell me how perfect his style is for Oklahoma State and that he has the potential to be really special in college.”

Koo has fairly quietly already accomplished plenty over the past few years. With the previously discussed sixth place medal at Virginia Beach in 2011, he became Great Neck South’s first-ever All-American. He followed up with two more podium finishes at the NHSCA Nationals, grabbing seventh as a junior and senior.

However, on his way to the seventh place showing as an 11th grader, Koo tore both MCLs, forcing him to spend the summer rehabilitating rather than training the way he wanted to and leaving him unable to compete in Fargo.

The time off the mat also gave him more of an opportunity to think about the disappointing loss he endured at the Nassau County championships to MacArthur’s Joe Cataldo, a setback that prevented him from qualifying for the state tournament.

“I knew I had to do something different and put in a lot more work,” Koo said. “That loss killed me. I was so disappointed to take third and felt like I was starting from square one. I started to stay after practice and watch a lot of film with Craig. He takes everything apart and breaks it all down. I learned a lot of new technique and was ready to excel in my wrestling.”

He did, putting together an outstanding senior campaign in which he won his first 41 bouts (34 by bonus points) to earn his first Section 8 crown. His streak also led him all the way to the 152-pound state title bout, where he lost by fall to Longwood’s Corey Rasheed, currently ranked third in the nation at that weight by Flowrestling.

“A lot of people didn’t know who Chris was, but I was really confident that he would at least get to the finals,” Vitagliano said. “He was a little nervous and was really devastated after the match, especially because he had been dominating his matches most of the season.”

“I was happy with almost all of my senior year – except the state finals,” Koo added. “That was the first time I wrestled Rasheed and I would definitely want another chance. I didn’t get to be a state champ, but I have new goals for college. The only way to get better is to wrestle with the best guys.”

The future 165 or 174 pounder will have that opportunity when he travels to Oklahoma this summer to take a few classes and train with the team prior to beginning school in the fall.

“I can’t wait,” Koo said. “I know there’s a big gap from high school to college and I want to get started. It’ll be so exciting to be in that room, working in that environment.”

Vitagliano believes that the environment will vault him to the next level.

“I think he’s only scratched the surface of what he can do. I’ve talked to a number of coaches who agree with me that Oklahoma State is going to be pleasantly surprised because the kid is special,” Vitagliano said. “I think he’ll peak in college. With the coaches and workout partners there, I really believe the sky’s the limit.”


Chris Koo wished to thank Craig Vitagliano and Ryan Pingitore, his coach at Great Neck South.

Memorial Day: Remembering Navy SEAL and Former Wrestler Jonathan Kaloust

On Memorial Day, we remember many members of the United States Armed Forces, including Massapequa and Binghamton wrestler Jonathan Kaloust. For more on Kaloust, see the release below courtesy of


VESTAL, N.Y.—Former Binghamton wrestler and 2010 graduate Jonathan Kaloust was killed [earlier this month] in a Navy training exercise at Fort Knox in Kentucky.

Kaloust, 23, of Massapequa, was a Navy SEAL and Special Warfare Operator Third Class who was based at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Fort Story, Va.

He is survived by his parents, Gary and Irene Kaloust, and a sister, Melanie.

Kaloust wrestled at the University from 2007-10 before earning his degree in political science. He was an all-star scholastic athlete at Massapequa High on Long Island and won 10 career matches as a walk-on at Binghamton. He was a dedicated team member and valuable training partner in the practice room.

He joined the Navy in March 2011.

Kaloust’s high school wrestling coach, Al Bevilacqua, told that Kaloust “was a born leader, he was always someone others wanted to be like. Jon’s just one of the exceptional kids.”