Going into the third period of the 2013 145-pound Division II state championship match, Drew Hull held a 2-0 lead over Norwich’s Frank Garcia. While a two-point advantage might not seem like a lot, the way Hull wrestled as a senior, it was nearly insurmountable.
Garcia chose down for the final stanza and two minutes later, Hull completed his high school career with a 45-0 campaign and his first state title.
“I consider top to be my best strength,” Hull said. “I had the reversal in the second period and if it wasn’t in that venue, the state finals, I think I would have pushed the pace and tried to rack up the points. But I didn’t take chances, didn’t want to get pinned in that spot. I knew I could win 2-0 after he took bottom in the third.”
He did just that. And now, the three-time state placer and NHSCA All-American is focused on the next step – competing at the Division I level for the University of Virginia.
The future engineering major also looked at Princeton, Binghamton and North Carolina State, but chose the Cavaliers, a program he became familiar with after attending a wrestling camp in Charlottesville as a sophomore.
“There aren’t many places to go in wrestling other than the Olympics and even that might not be an option,” Hull said. “So I wanted to go to a school that was really good academically and in wrestling. The UVA team really focuses on both wrestling and school and Virginia gives a ton of academic support to athletes. I feel like the team is moving in the right direction with great coaches and facilities. It’s the right place to make me a champion.”
A champion, just like he was on New York’s biggest stage in February in a season in which he registered double digit wins over state placers. It was the ending he was striving for after coming up with silver in 2012.
As a junior, Hull came into the Times Union Center and dominated his way through his first three contests, with a pin and two shutouts before facing Phoenix’s Tyler Button in the title bout. After falling behind 6-0 after two periods, Hull bounced back with a vengeance, but it wasn’t quite enough in a 6-5 decision.
“I tensed up and didn’t wrestle well until the third period,” he said. “I think I let the pressure get to me. That match was a huge motivator for this year. But what also really motivated me was to become my school’s second state champion. We’re a small school and don’t have a ton of success athletically. It really drove me.”
He was driven to do more than finish on top of the podium in Albany in 2013, however.
“I didn’t want to only focus on a state title,” he said. “I wanted to make sure I was ready to compete on the college level right away. I thought if I was shooting for a goal higher than the state title, the state title would come. I also really didn’t want to get scored on at all.”
He almost made it through the entire campaign without surrendering offensive points. The streak was broken in an exciting state semifinal showdown with familiar foe Jude Gardner of Fredonia – the fourth meeting between the Section 6 stars in the 2012-13 campaign.
“I’ve wrestled [Gardner] a ton of times,” Hull said. “That was one of my toughest matches because he knew me so well. When we were young, in eighth grade, he beat me twice. Since then, we wrestled at least once, and usually more than once, every year, and I won them all.”
But with a spot in the Saturday night championships on the line, Gardner broke the scoreless streak against Hull, notching a takedown to take a brief 2-1 lead in the second period. A Hull escape tied it at 2 going into the third. Gardner chose neutral.
“One of my more common shots is the slide by,” Hull said. “I tried it earlier and didn’t get it, but with time running out, I did it again. I got the takedown with three seconds left to win 4-2 and get to the finals. I was confident that I would beat him, but I knew he could keep it close. After I pinned him early in the season while I was winning 9-1, we had two 1-0 matches. He has some of the best coaches in the state and they had good strategy.”
As good as the strategy was, Hull found a way to come out on top. In fact, he got his hand raised more times than any wrestler in the history of the Royalton-Hartland program (184 victories) – topping Olympian Lou Rosselli (currently an assistant coach at Ohio State).
“I came into the season wanting to break [Rosselli’s] record for career wins,” Hull said. “I hoped to pass him to someday be the best in my school’s history. I want to beat him in every aspect. I want to win an NCAA title and place higher at the Olympics than he did.”
Like Rosselli, a member of the Western New York Wrestling Coaches’ Association Hall of Fame, Hull was recognized for his excellence, as he was awarded the 2013 Ilio DiPaolo Scholarship. The honor goes to Western New York’s top wrestler, but is not only based on performance on the mat.
“I always hoped to win that award,” Hull said. “It was a true honor to win because it was about a lot more than just wrestling. There are academic and community service components to it also.”
Hull, who holds a 94 average in the classroom, also volunteers at youth wrestling and football programs, helps out with political council members and assists at a nursing home.
“I think the discipline you need in wrestling helps with being disciplined in academics,” he said. “You have to work at all the things you do. You can’t be one-dimensional. I think that’s true in all aspects of life. A one-dimensional wrestler is easy to beat.”
Drew Hull keeps getting better in every dimension of his wrestling. He’s now ready to make his mark at UVA.
Drew Hull wished to thank his parents, who “did everything they possibly could to help me.” He also wanted to thank his siblings and the fans and supporters in the community, saying “It was awesome to wrestle for Royalton-Hartland.”
He also thanked all his coaches who have helped him along the way. He discussed Jeff Prescott, Dee Gugel, Jeff Brigham, Jeremy Stopa, Kevin Lawson and Cobra Wrestling (Keith Maute).