Mike Silvis grew up less than an hour from the University at Buffalo, but his first-ever trip to the campus came just a few weeks ago when new head coach John Stutzman took the reins of the Bulls program.
He was sold right away.
“I didn’t think I would like a large school and I originally wanted to move away from home for college,” Silvis said. “But when I visited, I really liked it. It’s a strong school academically and I really want to be part of what Coach Stutzman is going to build.”
Silvis developed a strong relationship with the coach during the recruiting process when Stutzman was at Bloomsburg. In fact, the Holley senior gave a verbal pledge to the Huskies in the spring and was ready to wrestle in the EWL.
However, when Stutzman was brought on board as the new leader at Buffalo, Silvis began to reconsider.
“When I heard about [the coaching change], I was a little surprised, but I immediately got into contact and arranged my visit,” Silvis said. “Coach Stutzman is a very straightforward guy. He’ll tell me how it is and how it will be and I really believe he’ll build this team into a top notch program. He’ll help me achieve my dreams, even though I didn’t accomplish all my goals in high school.”
While the 220-pounder said he didn’t collect the state title he wanted while competing in Section 5, he did achieve plenty in a Holley singlet. Silvis reached the 150-win milestone and was a two-time state qualifier and placer, taking fifth as a junior and third as a senior at the Times Union Center.
That bronze showing in his final campaign was a highlight for the future MAC grappler, allowing him to not only get his hand raised in his last high school bout, but also to avenge an earlier loss against Nanuet’s Dan Breit.
“I lost to [Breit] in the finals at Eastern States,” Silvis said. “It meant a lot to get another chance against him. It felt really good to win a match I should have won the first time around and also to end my career on a win. That was really important to me.”
It wasn’t the last “big” match for Silvis as a high schooler, however. Although it was an exhibition, Silvis took the mat once again at the Long Island vs. Upstate Challenge at the end of March in Ithaca.
“It was truly an honor to be part of that event,” Silvis said of the All-Star meet. “I was really glad to be asked by the coaches. I met a lot of guys I never otherwise would have met and the atmosphere was great. All the Cornell guys were there, cheering us on, and it was a really good feeling. You had a four-time national champ [Kyle Dake], an Upstate guy, waving his arms, cheering in the crowd.”
Silvis gave Dake and the others in attendance something to clap for, capturing a 7-3 decision over Division I state runner up Steven Mills of Sachem North. Right after the bout, Team Long Island lost a team point in a dual that ended in a 27-27 deadlock.
“[Mills] was substantially taller than me and had a bigger build,” Silvis said. “I think a lot of kids look at me and don’t think I look very intimidating. I don’t think he expected the match to go the way it did. But I always go hard for six minutes and leave it all out there on the mat. It showed. I felt strong and wrestled really well to win.”
That’s exactly what he plans to do next year for the Bulls, likely at 285.
“I think I’ll be at heavyweight to start off with because that’s where the team needs me,” Silvis said. “After that, I may go to 197.”
Wherever he wrestlers, Silvis said he’s excited to be surrounded by other New Yorkers. Since Stutzman’s hire, a number of Empire State competitors have announced their intentions to attend Buffalo, including James Benjamin (Vestal), Alex Francik (Vestal), Anthony Liberatore (Williamsville South), AJ Voelker (Monroe Woodbury) and Corey Hollister (Perry). All, like Silvis, were state placers.
According to Silvis, it didn’t always seem like All-State status was in the cards. The three-sport athlete, who also plays football and baseball, said he started to realize that his future was on the mat around 10th grade.
“As a little kid, I wanted to be a pro football player, but then I stopped growing,” he said. “Around my freshman year, I knew football wasn’t a fit for me long term. I didn’t really become a solid wrestler until I was a sophomore. I matured a lot the summer before and had a breakout season, beating kids that killed me the year before. That’s when I knew I wanted to keep wrestling.”
“Andrew Grillo has been my right hand man,” Silvis said. “I’m really thankful. He’s always there to practice with me and has made me into the wrestler I am today.”
The wrestler he is today is someone getting ready to take on the challenges of Division I.
“I am truly excited about the opportunity I have at Buffalo, being part of a rebuilding of the program,” he said. “I think we’ll do great things over the next few years and personally, I’m looking forward to showing everybody that I have a lot left in me. I wasn’t a state champion like I wanted to be, but I have a lot of room to grow and I believe Coach Stutzman will build me into a champion.”