Thoughts of attending Binghamton entered Andrew Grella’s mind as soon as his older brother Vincent, the squad’s current 165-pound starter, decided to become a Bearcat a few years ago.
“I’m close with my brother, and I’ve always wanted to do what he does,” Andrew Grella said. “I thought it would be a good place because of my brother and because it’s such a good school.”
If the future 197-pounder wasn’t already convinced, he became sure of his decision when he made his official visit to campus.
“It was a really fun time,” he said. “We went out to dinner and lunches and played paintball. It was cool to be a part of that team bonding. I walked around campus and went fishing with a bunch of the guys, which was great.”
Indeed, for Grella, who wants to study environmental science, the opportunity to pursue outdoor activities was a big selling point.
“I’m a really big outdoors guy. One of the first questions I asked when I got there was whether there were good spots for hunting and fishing around there,” he said. “They just laughed.”
Grella’s road to Division I wrestling is slightly atypical. After enduring a difficult season as a ninth grader at 152 pounds, Grella said he didn’t compete during his sophomore year at Beacon High School.
“I got my butt kicked as a freshman as a middleweight,” he said. “I wasn’t strong enough and wrestled a lot of tough seniors. My brother was at 152 too, so I didn’t even get that many matches. I decided to take a year and focus on getting really strong, getting in great shape and improving my technique.”
His work seemed to pay dividends when he took the mat at the NHSCA Sophomore Nationals in Virginia Beach at 170 pounds, coming within one win of All-America status at the event.
Then, it was time to return to New York high school action. He did so with a flourish, racking up a 27-3 mark at 182 pounds (prior to Sectionals) as a junior in 2012-13. All of his losses were to wrestlers who finished in the top four at the New York state tournament, including a pair of silver medalists.
In fact, his first bout at the Eastern States Classic in January was against eventual 195-pound NYS second place finisher Levi Ashley of Shenendehowa. In a hard fought contest, Ashley came out on top 8-6.
“I didn’t have credentials or seeding criteria, so I knew I’d probably get a great wrestler right off the bat,” Grella said. “I knew it would be a tight match and he hit me with the same move twice to beat me. It was disappointing.”
He rebounded well, however, capturing five straight matches in the wrestlebacks, including over state placers Andrew Martinez of Liberty and Matt Roberts of Monsignor Farrell as well as qualifier Nathanael Rose of Eagle Academy. His streak was stopped by 182-pound state finalist James Corbett of Wantagh and he later forfeited to take sixth.
“I had a hip injury after my first two wins,” he said. “I wrapped it up and won a few more after that. I could barely walk back to the center of the mat without falling over. It was bad. But I showed I could compete with some very good wrestlers.”
He continued to pile up wins before dropping the Section 1 championship bout to Thomas Murray of Yorktown, 3-0. [Murray went on to take fourth in Albany in 2013, a year after losing a close match in the Section 1 title bout and not getting a bid to the Times Union Center].
Murray’s path of second in Section 1 to All-State status a year later is one that Grella hopes to emulate – at least somewhat.
“That’s the plan I want to follow, except I plan to win it all,” he said. “I expect to do big things this year, including winning a 195-pound state championship.”
And if he needs a tough partner to work with, he knows he can find one whenever his brother returns from Binghamton.
“Whenever he’s home, we wrestle,” Andrew Grella said. “Someone’s always bleeding. I’d say I get the best of it, but if you ask him, you’ll get a different answer.”
Soon enough, the Grella brothers will have more opportunities to “bleed” together, as teammates for the Bearcats.
Andrew Grella thanked his parents and acknowledged the significant contributions of the Olympic Wrestling Club in New Jersey.