BY MATT DIANO
The final day of the 2013 ASICS FILA University National Tournament could best be described as something of an up-and-down affair for the contingent from the Empire State. Beginning Sunday morning with eight wrestlers still in contention for gold and an additional 17 grapplers still alive in the consolation brackets, at first glance, when you see that New York was only able to secure seven placement finishes, it might strike you as slightly underwhelming. However, to focus only on the quantity instead of the quality would be to overlook the fact that there were more than a few solid efforts put forth.
Leading the way for the group from New York with a runner-up finish at the 84 kg weight class was 2012 NCAA National Champion, Cam Simaz, formerly of Cornell University and now wrestling on behalf of the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club. Opening the second day of freestyle competition by cruising to victories in the quarterfinal (13-6 over Lehigh’s Nathaniel Brown) and semifinal (10-0 over Alex Meyer of the University of Iowa) rounds, the four-time Division I All-American from Allegan, Michigan would be the lone wrestler with ties to New York to advance to the best 2-of-3 title series. In the championship, Simaz would be pitted with the two-time defending National Champion, Ed Ruth, of Penn State fame. Attempting to dictate pace and wear out his opponent, as he did countless times while competing for the Big Red, Simaz would continually push forward. However, in the end, as hard as he worked, he simply would not have an answer for Ruth’s superhuman athleticism, dropping the series in straight matches, 6-4 and 10-0.
Simaz’s silver medal showing would not be the only cause for celebration among the Cornell faithful as four other present or future members of the Ithaca based, Ivy League institution’s squad would also earn their way onto the podium with top-8 finishes. Posting 5th place performances at 60 kg and 79 kg respectively were incoming freshman Mark Grey and junior Jesse Shanaman. Both 10-0 technical winners in the quarterfinal round over opponents who were 2013 NCAA National Tournament qualifiers, the former teammates at Blair Academy who will be reunited next fall would see their title hopes dashed in the semifinal round when they were defeated by the eventual champions in their weight classes, Tyler Graff of Wisconsin (6-2 over Grey) and Oklahoma’s Andrew Howe (10-0 over Shanaman). Second consecutive losses to Joe Colon (12-11 over Grey) and Tyler Wilps (13-4 against the upperclassman from Blairstown) would send each to the 5th place bout where they would end their weekend on a high note. Grey would dominate Jade Rauser 11-0, while Shanaman would receive a forfeit.
An individual who fell just short of matching his teammates’s top-5 finish would be Gabe Dean. The only placewinner of the seven who was not in the morning’s quarterfinals, Dean would peel off four straight wins in the consolation bracket to ensure himself a spot on the medal stand. Unfortunately, after notching a very impressive ‘w’over 2013 EIWA Conference Champion, Brown of Lehigh (same person Simaz beat in the quarters) by injury default (Dean led 6-1 at the time of the stoppage), the native of the Great Lakes State (Michigan) would be upended in his last two matches of the tournament, losing a 3-1 decision in the consolation semifinals to Pittsburgh redshirt sophomore, Max Thomusseit, and then dropping a heartbreaker in the match for 5th, 6-5 to the Hawkeye, Meyer.
Duke Pickett would be the final Cornell placewinner, finishing 8th at 79 kg.
Rounding out the list of placewinners for New York would be a pair of former Scholastic State Wrestler of the Year recipients, 2012 honoree Jamel Hudson (currently a true freshman at Hofstra) and the man who preceded him in winning the top honor, Nick Gwiazdowski, an All-American in 2012 who sat out the 2012/2013 season following a transfer from Binghamton to North Carolina State.
Sharing the highest finish of any Empire State representative not named Simaz, Hudson and “Gwiz” would claim bronze at the 63 and 120 kg weight classes, respectively. In what seemingly was a bit of a running pattern, in similar fashion to Grey and Shanaman, both the Pride student-athlete and the Wolfpack member would lose to the eventual champions in their bracket, Clarion’s Sam Sherlock (11-1 over Hudson) and Tyrell Fortune (8-0 over Gwiazdowski). However, these would be the only blemishes on otherwise immensely strong resumes that witnessed each win three matches over game opponents. Hudson would earn the bronze with an 8-2 (match not as close as the score) decision over Bloomsburg’s Matthew Rappo, while Gwiazdowski would rally from a 5-0 deficit to record the last seven points of the match to slay Austin Marsden, the polished big man from Oklahoma State who would have been an All-American contender this season if not for the fact that he was stuck on the Cowboy bench behind Alan Gelogaev (3rd at the NCAAs this season).
Full results can be found by visiting TrackWrestling.com
Nick & Jamel both were my selections for NYS NWCA Wrestlers of the year 2011, 2012 keep making us proud!