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.
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.