When he arrived at Cornell, Steve Bosak knew he was joining a very talented team. But having three NCAA titlewinners in one season? That hadn’t happened in the history of Big Red wrestling.
But it all changed in March of 2012 when Bosak (184 pounds), Kyle Dake (157) and Cam Simaz (197) all came out on top at the biggest tournament of the season.
“I never would have guessed that we would have three champions in one year,” he said. “Not in my wildest dreams. It was an accomplishment that seemed nearly impossible, but we did it and it was great.”
That March night at the NCAAs in St. Louis was the last time the trio of gold medalists competed together, as Simaz graduated that spring.
But the three wrestlers are teaming up again June 8th and 9th in Bosak’s hometown of State College, Pennsylvania for the “Big Red Champs Clinic”, to pass along some of the knowledge and skills that led them to the top of the podium.
“It will be a great time,” Bosak said. “We’re really excited to do this clinic. We want to get kids motivated to work hard at wrestling, have fun and learn great technique to use throughout their careers. What’s great is that they’ll learn from three wrestlers who are different in their styles, but all found a way to win national championships.”
Wrestling has been such an integral part of Bosak’s life that he wants to make sure to pass along the skills he’s acquired along the way.
But there was a time in 2012 when the sport wasn’t close to the top of his mind. Prior to the start of the 2012-13 season, Bosak was diagnosed with a staph infection and spent time in the hospital.
“At that point in time, I took a reality check,” he said. “I knew I had to get through it and do what it took to get healthy because my life was at stake. Wrestling was on the backburner.”
But it wasn’t off his mind for long. When he was declared free of the infection, the Big Red wrestler wrestler jumped back in, hoping to get back on the mat as soon as possible. He wasn’t sure, however, whether he’d be able to return to national championship level.
“Even in November, when I was in the recovery process, there was a lot of confusion and it wasn’t clear whether I would be able to get back to my full potential by the end of the year,” he said. “I had to just keep focusing on working hard and mentally preparing.”
The confidence of those around him certainly helped. As the Grapple at the Garden event approached in December, Bosak had only two to three weeks of training under his belt. But the opportunity to compete at the famous Madison Square Garden venue against two of the nation’s top teams – Oklahoma State and Missouri – was one he couldn’t pass up. And it wouldn’t be easy, as he would be squaring off with a pair of nationally-ranked opponents – Mike Larson and Chris Chionuma – in his first action of the campaign.
“Before the Grapple took place, I told Coach Koll that I didn’t know if I would be at my best for the matches,” Bosak said. “He joked that I could be at 30% and still win by tech fall. I knew that wasn’t actually true, but it was a nice confidence boost when he put it that way. I just wanted to go out and perform for the team.”
He did that, winning both bouts.
“I was probably about 75%,” he said. “I was exhausted in the first period of both of my matches and had to mentally push through to come out on top. It was really difficult.”
But as the season progressed, it got less difficult. Bosak said by sometime in February he felt nearly 100%.
Back in peak form, Bosak set out to capture a title he had never won before (EIWA) and one he had collected in 2012 (NCAA).
The first goal on the list – the conference championship – seemingly would run through Lehigh’s Robert Hamlin, who had defeated Bosak for the EIWA crown in both 2011 and 2012.
“Hamlin’s a good buddy of mine,” Bosak said. “Sometimes, with rivals, you wind up hating each other. But I consider him a pretty good friend. But, I was hoping to get a little bit of revenge in the EIWAs. He got the better of me head to head over the years and I was hoping to have the opportunity to beat him in the finals.”
However, the rematch didn’t happen as the Mountain Hawk senior injury defaulted to sixth while Bosak cruised to the crown. With that result, the Big Red coaches expected the 184-pounder to receive the #3 seed at the NCAAs.
However, to their surprise, he was slotted into the fourth spot, bringing a possible semifinals matchup with another defending national champion, Ed Ruth of Penn State.
“What the seeding committee decided was completely surprising,” Bosak said. “Going into nationals, I felt totally disrespected. It was uncharacteristic of past seeding and we were all shocked. But I knew I had to wrestle everyone anyway, so I had to keep my head on straight and perform.”
He did that, breezing through his first three matches by a combined score of 18-1. When it came time to face Ruth in the semis, the Big Red senior was ready with his game plan.
“I felt that if I slowed down his shots from the outside and kept pressure forward, I would be ok,” he said. “I needed to dominate the ties to prevent his quick, sudden takedowns. Unfortunately, he caught me in the first five seconds. After that, I recovered and almost had a takedown on the edge that would have put me in a great position to win.”
After the 4-1 defeat, he responded like a champion, winning his consolation matches on Saturday morning to complete his career in third place. The audience showed its appreciation for the three-time All-American as he walked off the mat.
“It was great to end that way,” he said. “It was also nice that I got a standing ovation from the crowd. I felt appreciated and it was an awesome experience.”
It was especially significant for Bosak because he said it was his last competitive match.
“I’ve always felt that I’m a much better folkstyle wrestler,” he said. “My style doesn’t translate well to freestyle. So I’m ready to focus on the next stage of my life.”
What is that next stage? Bosak said he is pursuing two possible paths.
“I’m heavily considering coaching,” he said. “I have a bunch of offers from college programs and I’m looking at my options. I’m also interested in marketing and have talked to some places and am going through the interview process.”
But whether it’s marketing or wrestling next year, on June 8 and 9, he’ll definitely be on the mat in State College, knee deep in the sport he loves.
“After the season, I wanted to go and give back to wrestling,” he said. “I felt that doing a clinic like this was a great opportunity to help young kids perfect technique and what better way to teach them than to have Cam and Kyle join me to share what we know?”
Going back to the community in which he grew up seemed like a natural choice for the clinic.
“The area is rich with wrestling. It’s wrestling country,” he said. “I wanted to go home to my roots and give back. There are so many people who impacted my life and career there.”
In addition, he is excited to be able to help his high school, as part of the proceeds of the camp will be donated to the State College Wrestling Booster Club.
“Our goal coming out is to have a quality camp at a cheap price [$99] with a fun atmosphere,” he said. “When it’s over, we’ll have free posters for the kids and we’ll do autographs and pictures. The three of us all have different strengths and we’ll each teach the moves that worked best for us. We want to motivate kids to work hard at wrestling, have fun and learn great technique. We want to help create the next generation of national champions.”
For more information on the Big Red Champs clinic with Steve Bosak, Kyle Dake and Cam Simaz, see this link.