Pearl River’s John Muldoon was really excited to be first.
First for what? The first announced recruit at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville under new head coach Jeremy Spates.
“That’s a pretty cool thing to be able to say,” Muldoon said. “It felt like a perfect time to go to SIUE. You’re going somewhere you know you’re wanted and you know they’ll be taking care of you. Coach Spates has been around success wherever he’s been and I’m excited to help him build a program.”
Spates, an All-American at Missouri who recently was an assistant at Oklahoma and Cornell, took over the SIUE program a few months ago, just a year after the team moved into Division I.
Muldoon, who also considered schools like Sacred Heart, didn’t expect the Midwestern institution to be his destination when he began the recruiting process.
“Going in, I really didn’t think I would be going there,” he said. “But on my visit, I met the community and everyone was so friendly and nice. They are putting so much time and effort into the wrestling program. There is so much support academically and athletically and the coaches were great. It’s a little far from home, but it just felt right. It felt like a perfect fit.”
In fact, Muldoon called his college decision the biggest accomplishment he’s had in wrestling to this point.
“Placing at the states [fourth at 120 pounds] was great, but finding a college that fits me is even better,” he said. “All the summers I missed out on vacations and hanging out with friends, all the work – it’s great to see it all pay off.”
It seems that it’s been paying off for years for the Pearl River senior. As a freshman, he notched third in Section 1 after racking up close to 25 victories. A year later at 113 pounds, he went 30-5, moving up to second in the Section behind [2013 state gold medalist] Alex Delacruz of Ossining. [It was a loaded bracket, as Dylan Realbuto of Somers, the state champion that season, took third in the Section].
Going into his 2012-13 junior campaign, Muldoon felt that he was ready to take a few more steps forward.
“Before last season, I had teammates, coaches, everyone telling me I could I compete at the highest level in the state of New York,” Muldoon said. “I started believing it myself. I felt like the sky was the limit.”
He certainly followed through with a breakout year in another brutal weight in Section 1. [Both the Division I and II state champions at 120 came from Section 1 and between the two divisions, four Section wrestlers placed in Albany].
“There were no slouches,” Muldoon said. “It was pretty cool to see how stacked it was at 120. You knew what to expect when you went to states after wrestling everybody.”
Muldoon said he believes many of those wrestlers will spread out among different weight classes in 2013-14 to make a stronger Section 1 squad at the Times Union Center. But there’s one familiar opponent he welcomes another battle with this year.
“You could see another Muldoon-Delacruz matchup,” he said. “He might bump up to make it happen. That would make me happy – to get an extra shot at him.”
Muldoon took two of three contests from Delacruz in 2012-13, including a victory by disqualification on the way to a silver medal at the prestigious Eastern States Classic and a triumph in the Section 1 championship bout to earn his first title.
However, at the state tournament, Delacruz captured an overtime win in a semifinal bout on his way to the New York State crown. Muldoon bounced back strong, winning his first consolation match and earning All-State honors with a fourth place finish.
This year, Muldoon plans to wrestle at 132 pounds, and while he has personal goals, he is focusing just as much on some other things he’d like to see happen before he leaves the Empire State for college.
“Pearl River hasn’t had a winning team record in a while,” he said. “For the coaches and everyone, this would be the year to do it. I’d like to see more guys from Pearl River make names for themselves in the Section this year – I think we can be good county-wise. I obviously also want to win a state title, for myself and also for my coaches. Last year, I thought I had a pretty good shot. Knowing where I’m going to college, now I can focus on the state title. Before I go to SIUE, that’s another goal I want to knock off my list.”
John Muldoon wanted to thank the Pearl River coaches — Grier Yorks, Billy Allison and Billy Donnelly — as well as the Pearl River alumni who helped to train him – Phil Donnelly and Matt Homenick. In addition, he wanted to thank Bob Gullo, the Pearl River parents, all of the people that help out with the Michael O’Connell tournament, Athletic Director Mr. Santabarbara and of course, his parents.