Ready for Year 3 at NYWAY: G2's Generous Gift Puts Technology on Track (and More on the Upcoming Season)

The use of certified referees? Check.

The use of uniform technology across all events? Now, that’s possible as well.

After the conclusion of NYWAY’s second year of operations in 2012-13, the organization’s leadership talked about what to focus on to continue to improve in Year 3.  Officiating and technology were high on the list.

With officiating, the leadership agreed to move forward with all certified referees in the coming year.

However, in order to standardize technology, a significant amount of hardware was necessary.  During the discussion on this topic at the NYWAY Retreat this spring, Western Region Director (and co-owner of the G2 World Wrestling Academy) Adam Burgos thought he might have a solution. He excused himself to call his G2 business partner Todd Wheaton, the President at Maven Technologies, a certified electronics recycler.

“We talked about it and I asked Todd if there was something we could do to help,” Burgos said. “A few minutes later he said we could.  I came back into the meeting and told everyone G2 would take care of the laptops and monitors.  You could hear a pin drop.  It wasn’t grandstanding, but about our love of the sport.  I’ve been one of those parents at tournaments over the years, wishing things were going more smoothly and saying if I could help, I would.  This was the chance. It just so happened that we could help fill a need and we jumped at the opportunity.”

Courtesy of G2 World Wrestling Academy

In mid August, 64 laptops and monitors were dropped off by G2 to NYWAY.  And now the improvements in the IT area will begin, including the use of Track Wrestling to assist with registration, event management and more.

“The level of competition brings kids to a tournament, but what keeps families, parents and wrestlers coming back is how well that tournament is run,” Burgos said. “Technology is such a big part of that.”

“By running all of our tournaments through the TrackWrestling system, we are able to not only offer top notch, consistent tournaments, but all of the results automatically enter into a statistical management system so that we will be able to track all the results,” added NYWAY President Clint Wattenberg. “This will enable us to potentially develop leaderboards, rankings, seeding and eventually postseason awards based on these statistics.  We were hoping to trial one region on this system this year, but the incredibly generous gift from Adam [Burgos] and G2 has empowered us as an organization to roll this out statewide this coming season*.”

One place the technology will certainly be useful is at the NYWAY state championships, which will be held on March 15-16, 2014 at Onondoga Community College in Syracuse.  Last year, over 900 wrestlers competed at the event, with representation from all corners of New York.

That competition will signal the end of the season. But there’s a lot to look forward to beforehand, including the kickoff in late December with a pair of events on back-to-back days at SUNY Sullivan in Loch Sheldrake.

First, on December 28, a dual tournament will be held with each of the eight NYWAY regions entering a squad made up of wrestlers from Kindergarten to sixth grade. Then, the following day, an individual tournament will take place in the same location.

However, there will be plenty of participation in other events as well.  For instance, the NYWAY Western Region will take on the Far West Region (essentially a Section 5 vs. Section 6 clash) at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center on September 21.

In addition, NYWAY will send representatives to high level competitions such as the Freak Show in Las Vegas, the Super 32 Challenge in North Carolina, the Junior Mid Cals in the Golden State, the Border Wars in Cleveland and the NUWAY National Duals in Columbus, among others.

“The organization wants to keep providing opportunities for New York wrestlers to get great competition to continue to develop,” Burgos said. “Over the last few years, we’ve seen where we need to improve.  We believe Year 3 of NYWAY will be much better than Year 1 and Year 2 and that the future is bright.  It’s an exciting time to be a parent, a coach and a fan here in New York.”

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* Wattenberg mentioned that individual tournaments may opt out, however, trained pairing directors will be available across the state to assist with the new technology or run the tournaments.

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Binghamton Posts 2013-14 Schedule, Beginning with the Bearcat Open and Including Midlands and Several NY Duals

In 2013-14, the Binghamton Bearcats will begin their second season under head coach Matt Dernlan and their first as members of the EIWA conference.

The squad will spend the opening month of the campaign in New York, starting with the always-competitive Bearcat Open at home on November 10.  A few weeks later, the team will make the trip to Ithaca for a pair of events — a dual with Cornell on November 23 and the New York State Championships the next day.  Then, during Thanksgiving weekend, the Bearcats will head to the Albany area for the Journeymen Duals.

In addition to the dual meet with the Big Red early in the season, Binghamton will also square off with three other Empire State teams on the road –  Columbia, Hofstra and Buffalo.

Another highlight of the year will be the challenging Midlands tournament in Illinois.  To see the complete schedule, see this link.

Catching Up on Cornell: Damion Hahn Talks About the Incoming Freshmen, Returning All-Americans and More

New York Wrestling News caught up with Cornell assistant coach Damion Hahn for a few minutes to chat about the Big Red.  Read on to see what he had to say about the team’s returning All-Americans, the incoming freshmen, Kyle Dake and more.

New York Wrestling News (NYWN): How has the summer been?

Photo by BV

Damion Hahn (DH): There’s been a lot going on at Cornell. We have some change going on, which is a little sad when you’re talking about someone like Jeremy [Spates] leaving, but also really exciting.  We’re really happy about the guys we had training this summer with our Regional Training Center program.  Having one of them – Mark Grey – make the FILA Junior World Team – that was great news to have him representing our country.  [Grey took fifth place for the second time at the World Championships]. Mark’s been working really hard and we’re looking forward to having him on the mat for the Big Red.

NYWN: Speaking of the Grey family, tell us about the coaching changes at Cornell with Jeremy Spates leaving to become the head coach at Southern Illinois Edwardsville and Mike Grey being promoted to full-time assistant?

DH: We’re excited to have Mike moving up.  He’s done a great job for the past few years as the volunteer assistant and we’re happy to have him on the staff.

As far as Jeremy goes, it was tough to see him leave because he was a friend and also a roommate for a year – he lived with me and my wife for a while. It will be hard to replace the wealth of knowledge and experience he brought to the table, and some of the technique he brought, especially the top work, which was phenomenal. But I’m super excited for him to get this opportunity as the head coach at SIUE.

NYWN: You talked briefly about Mark Grey.  He won the Edinboro Open, National Collegiate Open and Mat Town Open last year, while Brian Realbuto, Alex Cisneros, Gabe Dean and Dylan Palacio also had success at various tournaments. Which of the freshmen do you expect to have a big impact this year?

DH: It’s hard right now for me to pinpoint who will have a breakout or standout year because I think we have a lot of guys that could do very well.  First of all, they’re great kids who have their priorities in order.  They came to Cornell not only to get a phenomenal education but also to win a national title – individually and also as a team.  When you have great guys working hard together for a common goal, great things happen. It will be interesting to see who will break into the lineup.

I’ll try to address the guys you mentioned – Alex Cisneros is probably ideally a 141 pounder right now but could go 149. Brian Realbuto looks great at 157.  Dylan Palacio is very tough and is part of a four-man race for 165 with Marshall Peppelman, Craig Eifert and Jesse Shanaman. I’m sure we could see one or more of those guys move up when things start shaking out.  Gabe Dean did well last year and keeps improving.  He just goes and goes and goes.  He’ll be a lot of fun to watch.

NYWN: You mentioned some 165 competitors possibly moving up to challenge at 174.  Who would they be competing with there?

DH: Duke Pickett is back and looking tough. He’s battling with Owen Scott. Owen missed last year after surgery but is very strong technically and has looked good.

NYWN: Like Owen Scott, another freshman we haven’t talked about yet, Steve Congenie, missed last year with injuries.  What weight will he look to wrestle this year?

DH: Congenie is a 197 pounder. He was a little bit of an under-the-radar recruit because he was hurt his senior year of high school.  People might have forgotten about him, but he’s impressive.

NYWN: You talked about Owen Scott. At what weight do you expect his twin brother Craig?

DH: Craig’s probably a little over 225 pounds right now and will be a heavyweight.  He’s been making some big gains.

NYWN: With a lot of younger guys potentially in the mix, what are your expectations for the team?

DH: I think when you lose five national championships like we did with Kyle [Dake] and Steve [Bosak], you can’t just replace that.  But I think with the guys we have returning and the guys we’re bringing in, we’ll have an exciting team.  Last year we had a bunch of studs and this year, I think we’ll maybe have a more of a balanced team.  We’ll have some fresh faces in the lineup, mixed with some familiar ones.  There will be some battles and I feel that the guy who winds up representing every weight will be tough.

NYWN: Last year at this time you were excited about the freshman season of Nahshon Garrett.  That obviously went well with an EIWA title and a third place finish at NCAAs.  What are you looking for from his sophomore year?

DH: A national title is first and foremost for him. Last year, he had a great season.  A lot of people said he had a great national tournament and didn’t realize that he was good for the entire season – he beat a bunch of top guys. Some people saw him as a dark horse in some sense. We knew he was special as soon as he came in. I told him last year, ‘We have Kyle Dake right now and he kind of overshadows a lot of other things, but you will be the face of Cornell wrestling later. You’re the sparkplug. You’re the first person people see step on the mat representing Cornell and you have to get this team going.’  He did a phenomenal job last year and I think he can win a national title this year. He’s that talented and he works incredibly hard.

NYWN: Your other returning All-American, Mike Nevinger, is a senior who has made the podium twice at 141.  What do you expect from his senior year?

DH: Mike’s our workhorse. We have him projected at 141 again. You can never count him out. He loves the tough road – look at what he’s done at nationals.  He’s a leader and he leads by example – people look to him for direction. The great thing about him is that it doesn’t matter what tournament, what match, what period it is. He’ll fight 100% and you know you’ll get everything he has every time he’s on the mat.

NYWN: A lot of the focus last year was on Kyle Dake.  Will he be in Ithaca next year?

DH: Yes. He’ll be living in Ithaca and it will be great to have him here. He’s been amazing since day 1.  I’ve told people all along, don’t ever count the kid out. He’s a fighter and he’s an athlete. Some of the things he does – people sit back and say how did he do that?  He’s impressive in so many ways. I’ve never met anyone with the same mental toughness. It’s insane. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing; he feels he should and will win. Just having that mental edge is phenomenal. Everything he has done in his career so far is nothing short of amazing.

NYWN: What was his reaction to the World Team Trials finals against Jordan Burroughs? [Burroughs won in two matches].

In the first match he didn’t fare so well, obviously. He was beaten up pretty good.  But that’s the great thing about Kyle. He can make an adjustment, just like that. He went out in the next match and took him to overtime. It was a totally different match. He has mat awareness, body control – you name it. He’s the complete package. He knows that he has a World and Olympic champion in his weight class that he has to beat to reach his goals. He expects to be able to do it.  It will be fun to see how it’ll play out. I don’t ever count Kyle out.

NYWN: Anything else?

DH: We’re looking forward to all the young talent we have coming in from last year’s class and seeing how all the other guys progress.  We may be a little more under the radar going into the season, but I think it’s going to be an exciting year for the Big Red.

Former Cornell Assistant Jeremy Spates Ready for the Next Chapter as SIUE Head Coach

After four years as an assistant at Cornell, Jeremy Spates took over the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) head coaching job earlier this summer.  After earning All-America honors during his career at Missouri, Spates coached for five seasons at Oklahoma before joining the Big Red staff. SIUE will be entering its second year as a Division I program.

New York Wrestling News recently caught up with Spates as he acclimated to his new position.

New York Wrestling News (NYWN): What have your first few weeks on the job been like?

Jeremy Spates (JS): It’s been a little crazy, but really good. I’ve been trying to get everything ready. I’ve been familarizing myself with the team and the university and working on recruiting.

NYWN: Earlier in the summer, the rumor was that you decided to stay in Ithaca for a few more years.  Was that the case?

JS: It was. I talked with [wife] Laura about the Brown and Buffalo openings and we decided we wanted to stay a few more years at Cornell.  We were happy – it’s such a great place, we could have stayed forever.  But then SIUE called me and asked me to apply and I decided to apply. Then I did a Skype interview.  I think once it came to my on campus interview, I realized it was the place I needed to be. It was a change of heart from what we had decided because it just seemed like the right situation. There were a lot of positives and I felt like it was something I couldn’t turn down.

NYWN: What made it the right situation for you?

JS: It was a number of things. The location is great.  A lot of people don’t know where we are – we’re only 25 minutes from downtown St. Louis. Laura’s from Oklahoma. The campus is beautiful and there are really good facilities. There are new offices; a new weight room and a chance to expand the wrestling room, which is already really nice.  The wrestling is really good in this area with Illinois doing extremely well as a state and Missouri also with really good wrestling.  I also really liked the people in the Athletic Department – very friendly with a family environment.

There’s also another big thing that excited me – something that’s always been in me.   That’s being part of a building process. When I was wrestling at Missouri, we started as the low man on the totem pole in the Big 12 but by the time I left, we had beaten every Big 12 team.  Being part of that was something special.  Cornell was a mid-level Ivy team in the 80s and now the team is competing for national titles. That’s what we want to do here with a second year Division I program – build.  SIUE has a good wrestling history.  In the 80s they won Division II national titles and had a number of All-Americans and national champions at the Division II level.  At that time, a Division II champion could compete at the Division I tournament, so SIUE also has 13 Division I All-Americans as well. So there’s been some great wrestling here and we’re looking to forward to building toward that again.

Despite all the positives associated with SIUE, was it a tough decision to leave Cornell?

It was a very difficult decision. I loved my time at Cornell – the coaches, the wrestlers, the alumni, everything.  It was really, really tough.  What it came down to – there are only so many opportunities to be a Division I head coach and this was a great fit for me. If I passed this by, when would there be another job that’s such a great fit?  Laura was a big part of the decision as well. She’s a lot closer to her family and we both love the Midwest, so it all came together.

Looking back at your four years as an assistant for the Big Red, what stands out?

One of the biggest things is bringing home team trophies three of the four years. [The top four teams at NCAAs receive a team trophy]. That’s a big accomplishment.  Another huge thing is the relationships I built, especially with the wrestlers.  There are a lot of guys I became really close with and leaving them was hard.  Cornell wrestling really is a family.  Being part of Kyle [Dake]’s ride was also very, very special.  We worked together for all of my years there and we’re pretty close.

What does your staff look like? Is anyone from Cornell coming with you?

We have one assistant, Donovan McMahill.  This is his third season. He’s been great during the transition.  He’s helped me a ton; I’m not sure what I’d do without him. The goal is to have a full coaching staff in the future, but for now it’s the two of us.

I know there was a rumor that Kyle [Dake] was coming with me, but there’s no truth to that.  He’s staying in Ithaca.  I’d like to bring some guys in the future. When that time comes, I might try to steal some guys from Cornell.

You’ve been around high level wrestling for a long time. With your father being a head coach, was leading your own program something you always wanted to do?

No, not always.  I was a business major in college and to be honest, I thought I would go into the business world when I graduated.  But when I finished school, I hadn’t quite fulfilled my goals and I had a little bit of a yearning to keep going.  I love the sport so much and have been around it my whole life and I just couldn’t picture being without it at the time.  I started to get some coaching offers and I went that way.  When I made the move to Cornell, I decided that this was probably going to be the avenue I go into for the long term.  I always loved coaching.  Making the move to Cornell was a big jump for me and I knew it was a good situation for the future.  I would say, though, that I wasn’t 100% sure that I wanted to be a head coach until I got the job.

You have worked under a lot of accomplished head coaches – such as your father Jack Spates, Brian Smith and Rob Koll. What are the biggest things you’ve taken away from them?

I’ve taken so much from all of them.  If I had to pick one thing from each, I would say for Coach Smith, it’s the way he runs his program, in terms of day-to-day practices, scheduling and things like that.

From my dad, I learned a lot on the the recruiting side of things.  And from [Rob Koll], I learned so much about the fundraising and relationship building that he does so well.

You mentioned your father’s influence in recruiting. How has recruiting been going?

It’s been interesting – a lot of different experiences. I’ve had to explain where SIUE is and that we’re a Division I school to some.  But, I’ve also had a lot of people from the area or people who had a coach or a sibling from here, who know a little bit about SIUE.  But even a lot of the people who are familiar aren’t sure where we’re coming from, being a new Division I program.  The experiences are all over the place.

I think SIUE has a lot to offer.  I’m selling recruits on what sold me.   We’ll have our first Division I All-American in the new era and our first Division I national champion, something we’ve never had.  My first recruiting class as a head coach will be special – I’ll remember those guys for the rest of my life.  I think the university sells itself.  Edwardsville is a beautiful city and there’s a lot of growth going on at the university, some really neat things. There have been additions to the engineering and science buildings and corporate partnerships and research grant money is coming in.

Another big thing is that it’s a very affordable school, especially considering how good the academics are. It’s the cheapest state school in Illinois. With a lot of people with financial difficulties, we’ll be a very affordable school for a great education.

What do you hope to accomplish in year one?

We have 26 wrestlers on our starting roster. One thing we’d like to do is bring in a big time recruiting class. On the mat, we haven’t had any national qualifiers, although last year was the first year we were eligible.  So the first thing we need to do is have a few conference champions in the SoCon and have a few NCAA qualifiers, and then from there, continue to move up where it’s an expectation to be an NCAA qualifier.  Our goals are a conference championship and our first All-American and national champion. We’ll keep reassessing and setting new goals.

What about longer term?

The Athletic Department wants a winning program.  There are expectations that the kids who come here will graduate and have good careers after graduation.  There also is an emphasis on a good student-athletic experience.  That’s very important to the university and to me as well.  On the mat, my goals are higher than the university’s at this point, I think, but they are behind whatever we’re doing.

Anything else?

I was sad to leave Cornell, but I’m super excited to be here at SIUE.  I’m ready for the next chapter.

Running with the Bulls: South Jefferson's Daniel Smith Chooses Buffalo

Daniel Smith estimates that he has wrestled around 100 matches since his junior campaign with South Jefferson came to a close.

“When the offseason started, I went to school, lifted at school and then a few times a week, I drove two hours to Chenango Forks to practice with Team Worldwide,” he said.  “Coach Rick Gumble runs a great freestyle practice and it was worth it to make the drive.  From the end of the high school season, I probably wrestled every weekend.”

While he was busy on the mat, in the weight room and in the car, he wasn’t too busy to decide on his future home – the University at Buffalo.

Smith, who also considered Binghamton, Bloomsburg and Drexel, said that his comfort with the coaching staff was one of the big factors for him.

“My brother [Darrick] wrestled for John Stutzman so I’ve known him for a long time,” Smith said. “They called me on July 1st – the first day they were allowed to call recruits. When I went on my visit, I loved the campus and liked all the coaches.   They were on the coaching staff at Fargo too.  I felt like we had a great relationships and it made my decision pretty easy.”

Courtesy of Daniel Smith

Smith said he expects to compete at 197 pounds at the college level after wrestling at 170 as an 11th grader in Section 3.

“I gained around 15 pounds since last season,” he said. “In college, they’ll put me on a diet and weight program to fill out my 6-foot-2 frame.  I’ll be going up to 182 for this season.”

Smith expects great things in his senior year in the new weight class after a 46-3 junior campaign that didn’t conclude the way he imagined it would.

“I was unhappy with how my season ended,” he said of a 1-2 showing in Albany. “I believe I was better than where I finished.  It was my first time at the state tournament and in a way I don’t think I was prepared because after the first weekend of the season, I didn’t really have a contested match.  Some of my matches weren’t high scoring but I always felt like I was in control.”

He didn’t have to wait long to face a tough challenge in Albany.  After winning his opening bout, Smith faced top-seeded Christian Dietrich.  The nationally-ranked Greene star defeated Smith 3-1 on his way to the title bout.

“I lost that heartbreaker [to Dietrich] and kind of fell apart after that,” he said. “I was really frustrated because I wanted to be in the finals.”

While he didn’t reach the finals as an individual, Smith experienced championships on the team level in 2013-14.  South Jefferson had a stellar season, winning the Section 3 Dual Meet and tournament championships while going 28-0 overall.

“It was great,” Smith said. “It’s a lot of fun when you’re winning. When I was an eighth grader our team went undefeated and it was really exciting.  I was hoping we could do it again.  Then, this year we did it with probably one of the best teams we’ve ever had at South Jefferson.”

He expects good things from the squad again despite the losses of some key performers to graduation.  In addition, longtime coach Pat Conners retired.  (John Babcock, who Smith said has been coaching him since he was in seventh grade, has taken the reins of the program).

In addition to another strong showing on the team level, Smith expects a different ending for himself.  He has demonstrated the ability to wrestle with top notch opponents, including wins this spring over Christian Stackhouse of New Jersey, who went on to place third at Fargo and Pennsylvania’s Ryan Preisch, who was fourth in North Dakota.  Smith picked up All-American honors of his own at the NHSCA Nationals as a sophomore.

He plans to get onto another podium this year —  at the Times Union Center — before moving on to the MAC to wrestle for the Buffalo Bulls.

“I think being at the state tournament before will help me this year,” he said.  “My team is also supposed to go to Eastern States, so hopefully I’ll beat some kids there and have some seeding criteria for the end of the year. My goal is to be a state champion and whoever I have to beat to do it, I plan on beating.”

Becoming Bearcats: Hilton Standouts Vincent and Anthony DePrez Discuss Choosing Binghamton

In separate conversations, Vincent and Anthony DePrez were asked why they chose to commit to Binghamton. As often happens with twins, they provided very similar answers.

“The coaches are great,” Vincent said. “I really liked their attitude and the way they run the wrestling program.  The facilities are nice.  There are just a lot of good people there.”

“I really liked the coaches,” Anthony responded. “They are really good people. I liked the way they support the team in wrestling and with their education.  I also liked the wrestling room and the facilities.”

While the pair ended up choosing the same path for college, that wasn’t always a certainty.

“At first, we were looking at different places,” Anthony said.  “But I’m really happy that we both wanted Binghamton and we’ll be going to the same school together.”

According to Vincent, Anthony looked at Bucknell while he considered Army.  But a trip to the Binghamton campus in July had a strong impact on both brothers.

“I knew it was a great place for me right away,” Vincent said. “The visit made me want to make a final choice pretty quickly.”

The DePrez brothers did that, and now they can focus fully on their senior years.

“The pressure is off now,” Anthony said. “No more stress. Now, I can just think about school and wrestling.”

The two have done plenty of wrestling in the offseason, competing at events such as the FloNationals in Pennsylvania, the Athens Duals, Ragin Raisins Duals and NUWAY Summer Championships in New Jersey.

According to Anthony DePrez, the brothers also wrestle during the week at the G2 World Wrestling Academy and at “The Garage” (at the house of teammate and state champion Yianni Diakomihalis).  In addition, they’ve been lifting and doing other training.

All the work is aimed toward a senior year to remember after both Vincent and Anthony (along with younger brother Lou) earned spots at the state tournament in 2013.

Vincent collected his third All-State honor, taking second place for the second year in a row (at 113 and 138 pounds as a sophomore and junior, respectively).  He also nabbed fourth as a freshman at 103 pounds.  Anthony won a bout in Albany in his first appearance at the event, as did then-eighth grader Lou DePrez at 120 pounds.

“It was really nice to have all three of us wrestling there last year,” Vincent said. “Having more people there with you, to be there for you, is pretty cool.”

What would also be “pretty cool” is the one thing Vincent said is missing from his resume.

“This year, my goal is to win a state title,” he said, mentioning that he will likely compete at 145 pounds.  “It’s just about the state title.  That’s what I want.”

Anthony aims to join him on the medal stand, at 152 pounds.

“Last year at states was a cool experience, but it was kind of nerve wracking,” he said. “I think I could have done better and this year, I won’t be nervous.  I’ll relax and wrestle the way I know how.  My goal is to place at least top three.”

In addition to individual achievements, there are high hopes for the Hilton squad.  With four returning state qualifiers and a number of other strong grapplers, the brothers were excited about the team outlook for 2013-14.  (The fourth DePrez brother, Sam, will join the squad as a seventh grader as well).

“I think we can be really good as a dual meet team, maybe ranked close to the top in the state,” Vincent said.

“We have a lot of good wrestlers coming back,” Anthony added. “I think we could have at least six guys go to states this year.”

And then it will be off to the EIWA conference, where the brothers said they expect to compete somewhere between 157 and 174 pounds for the Bearcats.

“I know Binghamton is the right place,” Vincent said. “We’re both really excited.”

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Vincent and Anthony DePrez wished to thank their parents, family and all their coaches, including Adam Burgos, Craig Gross and Ilias Diakomihalis.

 

What's Happening at Hofstra? Assistant Coach Zach Tanelli Talks About All-American Tessari, Transfers and More As the Season Gets Closer

Hofstra brings back a pair of NCAA qualifiers –  Luke Vaith and Jamie Franco – and has added a number of transfers and other newcomers to the roster for the upcoming campaign.  New York Wrestling News caught up with assistant coach Zach Tanelli to talk about some of the new faces and the outlook for this season.

 

New York Wrestling News (NYWN):  Is the transfer of [2012 All-American] Cam Tessari from Ohio State official?

Zach Tanelli (ZT): Yes. [Last week] Cam Tessari was accepted to Hofstra and he’s enrolled in classes.

We’re really excited about it.  Cam was looking for a home and it’s a weight class [149 pounds] where we felt we needed more experience.  It’s a great thing that it worked out. It really solidifies the lower part of our lineup.

He has a redshirt available, but we’re not looking to redshirt him this year. Right now we’re looking to have him ready to go for the Southern Scuffle.  He is coming off an injury and we’ll be easing him back. We expect him to be healthy and strong and ready to make a deep run at the national tournament.  He has two years of eligibility left and three years to do it in.

NYWN: Joe Booth, who wrestled for Drexel, has also been rumored to be transferring to Hofstra.  Is there anything you can share on that?

ZT:  Joe has been accepted into grad school at Hofstra, so it’s just a matter of waiting to hear whether the NCAA will grant him a sixth year of eligibility.  He’ll be at Hofstra next year in grad school, in a business-related program that they didn’t have at Drexel.  We feel pretty confident that the NCAA will grant him the extra year, but you never know. We’ll just have to wait and see.  We have some experience with sixth year guys, like Justin Accordino last year. It’s great to have guys like that around the team.  Justin was a role model and a leader; a voice the guys listened to.  Having those sixth year guys around has benefits beyond wins and losses.  If Joe gets the year, he would wrestle at 165.

NYWN: In addition to Tessari, Booth and Maverick Passaro, who we profiled a few weeks ago (here), do you expect any other transfers on your team this year?

ZT: I’d say our roster for next year is full.  Those three transfers are the only ones we expect this year, and I’ll definitely take it.  We’re really excited about them.

NYWN: There are some other new faces that could see mat time this year.   One wrestler who had a good redshirt year and some success in freestyle in the offseason is 2012 state champion Jamel Hudson.  What expectations do you have for him this year?

ZT: The plan right now is for him to go 133.  It looks like he will be competing with Maverick Passaro for the spot. He had a good redshirt year with some impressive wins.  Probably the best win was against Franklin & Marshall’s Ricky Durso, who made the Round of 12 at NCAAs.  Jamel was one of Durso’s few losses coming into the NCAA tournament.  Jamel showed signs of being able to perform at a very high level.  He’s a performer – he really enjoys the spotlight. I think the sky’s the limit if he has his weight under control.  He needs to grow throughout the season and mature wrestling-wise.  But he’s a very confident young man and he could have an impact on the national scene.

NYWN: Another newcomer familiar to New York wrestling fans is Smithtown West state champion Mike Hughes at 285.  Do you expect him to step on the mat right away?

ZT: It will be a competition between him and Zeal McGrew, two New York guys. We’ll see how it goes. They’ll wrestle off.  It looks as though Mike is the frontrunner at this time. But Zeal’s been working and is motivated to try and get in the lineup.  We’re excited about that weight class because we feel like we’ll be scoring points there this year.

NYWN: What can you tell us about [184-pounder] Dwight Howes, who spent time at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) after graduating high school?

ZT:  Dwight spent the majority of 2012 and 2013 at the OTC competing in freestyle, trying to make a US World Team.  He’s done a nice job and really developed with some great wins on the freestyle circuit. Now, he’s adapting to college wrestling.  He’s done a great job so far; he really loves wrestling.  He also loves Hofstra. He wants to put that singlet with an ‘H’ on his chest and represent this university. He’s excited to come to the room every day – he doesn’t care if you’re 125 pounds, 225 pounds or 325 pounds, he wants to wrestle and wrestle hard.  He needs to get his conditioning up and work on his mat wrestling like most freshmen.   I feel optimistic about his future in this program.

NYWN: You mentioned Jamel Hudson and Maverick Passaro at 133 earlier.  Is Jamie Franco moving down to 125 for his senior year?

ZT: Yes.  It’s a little more of a natural weight for him. He built himself up to be a 133, but 125 is his natural class.  I think he’s right around the weight he should be right now.  He’s done a great job. He’s really focused and motivated and taking all the necessary measures to be an All-American.

NYWN: Will Luke Vaith be back at 141 pounds?

ZT: Yes. I think Luke is going to have a breakout year.  He’s a very self motivated wrestler. He’s always asking to work.  He had a great season last year; although a little inconsistent at times.  The biggest thing he learned is that he belongs at this level.  He belongs in the conversation with All-Americans and national champions.

The biggest change this offseason for him is his mat wrestling. He’s worked a lot with [Edinboro NCAA champion] Gregor Gillespie, who was one of the best in the NCAA in top wrestling.  Luke has been hammering the mat work.  We’ve had lots of conversations that at the highest level, you have to be able to ride those last 15 seconds or you have to be able to escape in those last 15 seconds. It’s pivotal and he gets that.

He’s a really tough critic of himself.  He almost didn’t believe how good he was until after he looked back at his total body of work last year. When he looks back at last season, he sees he beat All-Americans like [Minnesota’s Nick] Dardanes and [Cornell’s Mike] Nevinger.  He has a lot more confidence and I think he’s poised and ready to make a deep run this year.

NYWN: Anything else going on at Hofstra that you’d like to share?

ZT: We’re just soaking up these last two weeks, and before you know it, school’s here. Everyone is on their summer programs and we’ll be hitting the ground running in a few weeks.  We’re excited for a new year. We feel like we have a nice mix of guys, new and veteran, who will help us do much better and outperform what we did last year.