St. Anthony's "Renaissance Man" Freddie Dunau, a Two-Time State Placer, Chooses Penn

Freddie Dunau is a national champion.

In 2011, he and his cousin captured a title at the Hershey Nationals – in hip hop dancing.

That’s the just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to extra curricular activities for the St. Anthony’s senior, a student with a weighted average over 100 and a 2220 SAT score.  He coaches a breakdancing team and a gymnastics squad.  (Dunau is a gymnast as well).  He rides unicycles.  And, of course, he’s an accomplished wrestler.

“He’s a very special kid,” said his club coach, Craig Vitagliano of Ascend. “He’s a Renaissance man.”

Indeed he is.  A number of elite schools noticed his impressive resume during the recruiting process.  However, he’s now off the market as he announced recently that he will attend the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania after considering colleges such as Columbia, Harvard and NYU.

Photo courtesy of Freddie Dunau

“After my visit to Penn, I felt like I knew where I wanted to be,” the future Division I 149-pounder said. “Everyone was very welcoming and it seemed like a really good environment for me. It’s nice to know where I’m going.  Now I have a lot of pressure off for the rest of the year.”

Dunau will be joining another CHSAA alum, Andrew Lenzi (Fordham Prep), in Philadelphia. Lenzi was a New York State champion, an accomplishment that Dunau hopes to repeat.  But first, he has another goal in mind.

“I want to be a four-time Catholic [CHSAA] state champion this year,” Dunau said. “A few people placed four times, but not many have won it all four years.  I would be part of a select group to accomplish that.”

He’ll be the favorite to do so, likely at 138 pounds.  He won his first CHSAA title as a freshman 96 pounder and then went on to make an impact at the state tournament.

“I knew I wanted to wrestle in Albany,” he said of his ninth grade campaign. “Getting there was awesome.  When I first got there, I was a little bit nervous, but once I was on the mat, I blocked everything out and it was just like any other match.  I didn’t pay attention to the crowd.”

It’s no surprise that a loud arena didn’t faze Dunau. After all, he performed in front of larger audiences at Madison Square Garden as a four-year member of the Knicks City Kids.

“I was on the dance team that performed at Knicks home games until I was 13,” he said. “We’d do hip hop routines, flips and all kinds of tricks.”

No tricks were needed by Dunau in that first appearance in the state capital in 2011 as he took fifth place at 96 pounds as a freshman with three wins, including a major and a pin.

He expected to achieve more as a sophomore at 106 pounds.  However, Dunau’s return trip to Albany didn’t quite go as planned.

“I thought I had a really good shot to win the state championship that year,” he said. “I wasn’t feeling well and when it came time to weigh in, I had 102 fever.  It was extremely challenging to make weight.”

He did, and actually pinned his first opponent.  However, he lost his next two bouts and went home without a second medal.

“One of the things I always pride myself on is good endurance,” he said. “I don’t think up to that point I had ever lost a match because I got tired. But I felt like I had no energy whatsoever.  When I watch the videos of myself, it was like I was crawling to the center of the mat.  It was disappointing. It made me angry that I didn’t wrestle the way I knew I could. It definitely motivated me.”

That motivation paid off in a 24-3 record as a junior in 2012-13 at 126 pounds.

When the brackets were released for the New York championships, Dunau saw that he was set to face former NYS champion and fourth seed Mark West of Hauppauge in round one.  West was one of the favorites after capturing the Suffolk County crown in a loaded bracket in which eventual state champion TJ Fabian (now at Sacred Heart) took third.

“At first, I was a little bit nervous, but then I figured if I was going to wrestle [West] at some point, it might as well be first,” Dunau said. “I found that my style works well against his because he did a lot of moves that I have counters for. It worked out well.”

It did, as Dunau came out on top by a 7-3 score.  He continued on with a 1-0 victory over Mike Raccioppi of Minisink Valley before losing in the semifinals to Fabian.  Dunau then split a pair of bouts in the consolations to earn fifth place for the second time in his career.

But despite the podium finish, that contest against Fabian remains fresh in his mind.  Especially since he estimates that he’s viewed it at least 60 times.

“I watched that match over and over and over again and I know what mistakes I made,” he said. “I’ve been working hard to correct them and hopefully that leads me to win it this year.”

Adding a state title to the resume?  It would just be another achievement for a “Renaissance Man” heading to the Ivy League.

————————

Freddie Dunau wanted to thank the members of his family.  He said “they take me everywhere I need to go, support me at all my matches, whether they’re in Ohio or Long Island, and are just great people.”

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Diakomihalis Captures the Super 32 Title as Five Others Place in High School Action; Adam Busiello Strikes Middle School Gold

BY MATT DIANO

One year removed from the heartbreak that witnessed several New York wrestlers come close, but only one Empire Stater (Shayne Brady) make the podium at the 2012 Super 32 Challenge, one could not help but feel that when the NY wrestlers took to the mats this weekend in Greensboro, North Carolina, they would be competing with a chip on their shoulders; a little extra motivation; a need to prove that last year was an exception and not the rule.

With all the dust having now settled in the Coliseum, 2012 has officially been put in the rearview mirror following an amazing collective effort which yielded six top-8 finishes, the second most ever earned by New York in the 14-year existence of the Battle for the Belt. (New York had nine placers in 2009).

Led by 106-pound champion Yianni Diakomihalis (Hilton), the Empire State would also emerge with a runner up finish at 182 (Nicky Hall), a bronze medal showing at 152 (Louis Hernandez), a pair of fourth place finishes (Nick Piccininni at 120 and Vincent Feola at 220), and a seventh place effort from Thomas Dutton at 145 pounds.

Diakomihalis

Diakomihalis entered the tournament as the #3 ranked wrestler in the nation per Flo after winning the 2013 NYS large school title as an eighth grader in the 99-pound weight class. The Hilton star would be nothing short of dominant on Sunday, going 3-0, including back-to-back bonus point performances in the quarter and semifinal rounds to punch his ticket to the title bout.  Kicking off the morning by securing a first period fall over Ohio’s Hunter Lucas via cradle, Diakomihalis would make a huge statement in the semifinals when he upended 2013 Ohio DII state champion Tyler Warner, 14-3, in a clash of the #2 and #3 ranked wrestlers in the country.   The fab frosh would take the title with a methodical 3-0 decision over sixth-ranked Cage Curry of Pennsylvania in a bout that was not as close as the score would indicate.  Scoring a takedown in the first period and then adding an escape in the second, Diakomihalis would never give his Keystone State foe an opportunity to get on the board, racking up a plethora of riding time.  After winning the Middle School crown in 2012,  Diakomihalis becomes only the second New York wrestler to ever win a Super 32 High School title. (Joe Booth in 2007 was the first).

Hall, a fifth-year for coach Scott Green at Wyoming Seminary (PA), would make his home state proud in finishing second at 182.  Because he is considered a postgraduate, the former Longwood standout is not eligible for an individual national ranking.  However, this weekend more than proved that he is among the nation’s elite as he would go on to defeat the #20 wrestler in the land, Stephen Loiseau of Lancaster Catholic (PA), 6-0 in the quarterfinals, before besting 2013 Michigan third place finisher/#19 (@195) ranked, Ty Wildmo (who upset the 11th ranked wrestler in the quarters), to advance to the finals.  In the championship match, the recent North Carolina State commit would give a game effort, constantly looking for his offense.  But alas, a second title for the Empire State would not be in the cards as Hall dropped a 5-2 decision to Zack Zavatsky.  With the #9 ranked Zavatsky headed to Virginia Tech next fall, Sunday’s finals match could have been the commencement of a long ACC rivalry between these two talented competitors.

Taking the long way to the bronze medal would be the defending NYS large school champion from Mepham, Hernandez.  A product of the Ascend Wrestling Club, with his mentor, Craig Vitagliano in his corner, the day would begin with a bit of whimper for the #13 ranked wrestler in the nation.  Pitted in a tight quarterfinal bout against #4 Jake Danishek, Hernandez appeared to be the aggressor for much of the duration, but would be unable to convert on any of his takedown attempts.  With the match deadlocked at 1-1, the three-time Ohio state champion out of Dayton would explode for a controversial takedown in the final half minute and would hold on in the closing seconds to earn the 3-2 decision.  This questionable loss would be the only one of the day for the stud from Nassau County as he would go on to win four consecutive bouts in the consolation bracket, highlighted by a 7-5 decision over the nation’s #3 wrestler, Fox Baldwin (Florida) in the wrestleback semifinals.  Hernandez would also post 10-2 and 8-3 victories over National Prep third place finisher, Toby Hague, and New Jersey fourth place medalist Zack Hertling prior to his aforementioned win over the Floridian.  In the bronze bout, Hernandez would win a low scoring affair, recording the only takedown of the match to secure the 3-2 decision over 2013 Virginia runner up, Jack Bass.

Piccininni would demonstrate the heart and perseverance that has made him a two-time NYS champion for Ward Melville, rebounding from Saturday’s disappointing upset loss in the round of 16 to go 4-1 on Sunday.  Beginning his journey back to a top-four placement with a 3-0 shutout over 2013 Pennsylvania bronze medalist Tyrone Klump of Nazareth, the wrestler from Suffolk would survive a bit of a scare when he was taken into sudden victory by fellow nationally ranked (13th) opponent, Kyle Akins of Illinois.  With the match all knotted up at 3-3, Piccininni would waste little time in making sure he advanced, quickly getting in deep and finishing on the 2013 Illinois state champion.  In the consolation quarters, Piccininni would run into a familiar foe in the person of New Jersey’s Anthony Cefolo.  A 3-0 winner over the Garden State representative two weeks ago at the Iron Horse Invitational, the Ward Melville standout would make it two-for-two against the Hanover Park product, notching an 8-4 decision. The Empire State’s top-ranked junior would pick up his final win of the tournament in the consolation semifinals, defeating fan favorite Troy Gregor, from the host state, 5-1.  In the bout for the bronze, Piccininni would come up just short of third place honors, losing a hard fought 4-3 decision to the nation’s top-ranked wrestler, Sean Russell from Georgia powerhouse Collins Hill.  Russell finished second at the Super 32 last season.

Perhaps the most surprising top-8 finisher for New York would be Feola, who came to the Tar Heel State as a relative unknown, but leaves it as a hot commodity following his 2-2 effort on the final day of competition.  The Walt Whitman High School and Vougar Honors Wrestling Club representative may have raised his stock more than any other Empire Stater this weekend.  A fourth place finisher at the Suffolk County Tournament in 2013 for Walt Whitman, he would lock up a spot on the podium when he jumped out early and then kept his composure late to earn a 5-4 decision in the quarterfinals over LaSalle College High School’s Antonio Pelusi.  However, in the semifinals, 2013 Massachusetts state champion Ian Butterbrodt would have his arsenal from the top position on full display, earning several series of back points to deny the Long Islander a spot in the finals with the 11-1 major decision.  Feola would split his final two bouts of the weekend, sticking his consolation semifinal opponent, 2013 Florida runner up Ben Cruz, in 84 seconds before finding himself on the short end of an 8-3 decision in the third place bout to 2012 Georgia silver medalist, Matthew Moore.

Speaking of stock that continues to skyrocket, Rocky Point’s Dutton had another stellar outing. Two weeks after winning the Iron Horse, the junior who finished fourth in Albany last season, would come up clutch again, posting a .500 record (2-2) on day two in North Carolina to become the second member of his family to finish in the top-8 at this event. (Older brother, Stephen, who currently wrestles for the University of Michigan, was a two-time S32 placewinner, including a runner up showing in 2009).

Dutton’s morning would begin on something of a sour note following an 11- 2 major decision loss to two-time Missouri champion/#8 ranked wrestler in the country, Grant Leeth. However, Dutton would need less than a minute in the consolation bracket to guarantee himself a placement finish, earning the fall at the 58 second mark over 2013 Pennsylvania sixth place finisher, Billy Barnes.  Like Feola, Dutton would split his final two matches of the tournament, losing a 10-3 decision to eventual third place finisher, Nick Bennett of Michigan in the consolation semis, but then putting an exclamation on a solid weekend with a 4-3 decision over two-time New Jersey runner up, Gary Dinmore.  This “w” makes two in a row for Dutton over Dinmore, as he also defeated him by one point (3-2) at the Iron Horse.

Falling just short of the podium, but still very deserving of recognition were the following wrestlers who lost in the round of 12: Vito Arujau (113, Syosset), Vincent DePrez (145, Hilton), and Steven Schneider (170, MacArthur).  All were 2013 large school state silver medalists. Arujau would drop a 1-0 decision to eventual eighth place finisher, Eric Hong (PA); DePrez would be defeated by the fourth place medalist, Micheal Longo of California (6-1); and Schneider would be nipped 2-1 by the seventh placer from Ohio, Seth Williams.

Showing that not only is the present bright, but so too is the future were the following Middle School Division placewinners: Adam Busiello (1st @85), Hector Colom (3rd @100), Michael Gonyea (5th @75), Ivan Garcia (6th @ 70), and AJ Burkhart (6th @95).

With a 1-0 victory over Colorado’s Colton Yapoujian in the title bout, Busiello becomes the first New York State wrestler to win multiple Youth Super 32 titles, after cruising to the crown in 2012.  Yapoujian, who won a Super 32 gold medal in 2011 and placed second last season, entered the tournament as the pound-for-pound #6 junior high prospect on the Flo rankings board.  Busiello is expected to compete on the varsity this season as a seventh grader for coach Nick Garone’s Eastport-South Manor squad.

Colom, who set the school record for victories in a single season as a 7th-grader with 37 (37-5) for Dunkirk, would compile a 5-1 record on the day, opening the tournament with three straight wins, including a 4-2 decision over Flo’s #19 junior High School prospect, Mason Turner of Olathe, Kansas. In fact, the 2013 Section VI 4th place finisher appeared destined to go all the way to the winner’s circle before being tripped up in the semifinals by the 32nd rated youth wrestler, Brian Stuart of Maryland. The 12-year-old superstar would return to his winning ways in the consolation bracket, pitching shutouts in each of his final two bouts of the tournament, including a 3-0 decision in the bronze medal match against Council Rock, PA’s Benjamin Radner.

Notching four pins in his five overall victories would be the Journeymen Wrestling Club protege, Gonyea, who went 5-2 with victories over opponents from Vermont, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut.  The two opponents who were successful in getting their hands raised against him would later go on to finish 2nd and 3rd overall in the tournament.

Garcia (representing the Apex Wrestling Club) and Burkhart (Waverly) would go a combined 7-6 in rounding out the NYS youth contingent’s performance with their previously noted sixth place finishes.

Congratulations to all NYS placewinners!

FINAL High School BRACKETS

Final Middle School Brackets (free registration required)

Cowboy Up: Great Neck South's Chris Koo Looking to Peak at Oklahoma State

 
 
The morning that the NHSCA Sophomore Nationals were set to begin in Virginia Beach back in 2011, Great Neck South’s Chris Koo asked Craig Vitagliano, his coach at Ascend Wrestling Club, about a technique he was interested in learning.

“When he was warming up, he wanted me to show him a move – it was a Russian tie to an ankle pick,” Vitagliano said. “It wasn’t like he really practiced it very much – it was like 10 minutes of working on it. Then he went out and hit it in pretty much every match.”

Armed with a new technique in his arsenal, Koo went all the way to the semifinals of the prestigious event, sealing his first All-American honors before finishing in sixth place at 145 pounds.

“He’s a sponge,” Vitagliano said. “Whatever I show him, he can do – even really advanced techniques. He picks everything up on the spot. There aren’t many kids I’ve seen be able to do that, but he can.”

That ability is one the many strengths Vitagliano believes will serve Koo well at his next stop – Oklahoma State.

The Nassau County senior said that before the season, going to the tradition-rich Big 12 program “seemed like a fantasy.” As did his recruiting visit, during which he was in constant contact with some of the greats in the sport.

“When I was there, Coleman Scott was training with Eric Guerrero. Also Chris Perry and Tyler Caldwell were working out and John Smith and Zack Esposito were there. It was crazy. It was a room full of All-Americans, national champions and Olympians. It was pretty cool to just watch and then have everyone come over to talk to me.”

Soon, it will be more than just talking. Koo mentioned how lucky he’s been to have great training partners like New York state titlewinner Louis Hernandez, Penn-bound Dan McDevitt, Jaison White and Dan Tracy over the past few years at Ascend. But it will be a whole new ballgame when he begins in Stillwater.

“Chris doesn’t just want to wrestle in college,” Vitagliano said. “He wants to do really well there. His goal is to be a national champ and what better place to do that than Oklahoma State? He’ll be able to work out right away with [2013 NCAA bronze medalists] Alex Dieringer and Tyler Caldwell. [NCAA champion] Chris Perry too. It’s a great situation for him. I’ve had a number of coaches tell me how perfect his style is for Oklahoma State and that he has the potential to be really special in college.”

Koo has fairly quietly already accomplished plenty over the past few years. With the previously discussed sixth place medal at Virginia Beach in 2011, he became Great Neck South’s first-ever All-American. He followed up with two more podium finishes at the NHSCA Nationals, grabbing seventh as a junior and senior.

However, on his way to the seventh place showing as an 11th grader, Koo tore both MCLs, forcing him to spend the summer rehabilitating rather than training the way he wanted to and leaving him unable to compete in Fargo.

The time off the mat also gave him more of an opportunity to think about the disappointing loss he endured at the Nassau County championships to MacArthur’s Joe Cataldo, a setback that prevented him from qualifying for the state tournament.

“I knew I had to do something different and put in a lot more work,” Koo said. “That loss killed me. I was so disappointed to take third and felt like I was starting from square one. I started to stay after practice and watch a lot of film with Craig. He takes everything apart and breaks it all down. I learned a lot of new technique and was ready to excel in my wrestling.”

He did, putting together an outstanding senior campaign in which he won his first 41 bouts (34 by bonus points) to earn his first Section 8 crown. His streak also led him all the way to the 152-pound state title bout, where he lost by fall to Longwood’s Corey Rasheed, currently ranked third in the nation at that weight by Flowrestling.

“A lot of people didn’t know who Chris was, but I was really confident that he would at least get to the finals,” Vitagliano said. “He was a little nervous and was really devastated after the match, especially because he had been dominating his matches most of the season.”

“I was happy with almost all of my senior year – except the state finals,” Koo added. “That was the first time I wrestled Rasheed and I would definitely want another chance. I didn’t get to be a state champ, but I have new goals for college. The only way to get better is to wrestle with the best guys.”

The future 165 or 174 pounder will have that opportunity when he travels to Oklahoma this summer to take a few classes and train with the team prior to beginning school in the fall.

“I can’t wait,” Koo said. “I know there’s a big gap from high school to college and I want to get started. It’ll be so exciting to be in that room, working in that environment.”

Vitagliano believes that the environment will vault him to the next level.

“I think he’s only scratched the surface of what he can do. I’ve talked to a number of coaches who agree with me that Oklahoma State is going to be pleasantly surprised because the kid is special,” Vitagliano said. “I think he’ll peak in college. With the coaches and workout partners there, I really believe the sky’s the limit.”

————-

Chris Koo wished to thank Craig Vitagliano and Ryan Pingitore, his coach at Great Neck South.

Pop & Flo National Duals: X-Cel Takes Third … and Much More from Lake Placid

 
 
A year after winning the tournament championship, X-Cel once again made a strong impression at the Pop & Flo National Duals with a third place showing.

“I really feel that the kids showed tremendous heart to come back and win against a team full of PA studs to take third,” said X-Cel coach Nick Garone. “But we felt that we went up there with the best team and still feel that way. The guys are really disappointed, but to go out of the tournament with a win in our last match was nice, especially for all of our seniors.”

The squad opened with three consecutive triumphs on Saturday to make the semifinal round against Iron Horse, the eventual champions.

In the semis, the New Jersey club got off to a fast start, capturing four of the first six bouts, including two pins, to take a lead that would never be relinquished in a 30-25 result. (One of those falls for Iron Horse was by Section 1 star John Muldoon of Pearl River, who was joined by fellow New Yorker Dale White on the title-winning team).

In the bronze bout, X-Cel rebounded to defeat Pennsylvania’s Young Guns despite dropping the first four bouts to fall behind 14-0. (The dual began at 130 pounds).

However, X-Cel took over from there, beginning with a 7-3 win by Connetquot’s Brendan Dent at 152. It was the first of seven consecutive victories for the Long Islanders, as Corey Rasheed picked up a forfeit at 160 and Steven Schneider (170), Gio Santiago (182) and Steven Mills (225) notched decisions. Putting up key bonus points were Chris Chambers (195) and Mike Hughes (285), who both recorded falls. After the heavyweight bout, X-Cel had turned a large deficit into a 30-14 lead.

“Brendan Dent started us off with a win, and that was great,” Garone said. “All our guys stepped up. Chambers had a really nice throw to get the pin and Hughes just worked the kid, kept working and working. At the end of the second, he closed it out with a really big pin for us. We knew were in good shape going into the lower half, even if we lost a few. Travis Passaro (125) ended the match with a really big one, beating the NHSCA National champ Josh Patrick in overtime, 1-0.”

It was one of many quality wins Garone pointed to from the two-day event. Those triumphs and the overall experience had Garone already talking about the return trip to Lake Placid in 2014.

“Everyone played a key role for us,” Garone said. “It’s a great bunch of guys. To take third at that tournament – it’s nothing to sneeze at. But it’s not what we wanted. Trust me when I tell you that we’ll work all year to get back to the top of the national scene.”

———

X-Cel was the highest placing team from New York in the field, but many other Empire State squads had success over the weekend.

The 32 teams in the high school competition were split into four divisions after the opening round matches. Here’s a rundown of the results for New York:

X-Cel wasn’t the only New York team in the “A” bracket, as Journeymen Black took eighth. The host squad won its first two duals against Pioneer and Doughboy Black on Saturday to make the quarterfinals before falling to a pair of Pennsylvania groups – Young Guns and Dark Knights. In the seventh place dual, Smitty’s Barn came out on top 41-22.

“B” Bracket (For the teams that lost in the first round of the “A” Championship bracket)

631 Elite began the experience in Lake Placid with a setback against the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club 39-28, but then went on a winning streak, taking three in a row over Atlas, Razor and Catamount to earn a spot in the title bout of the “B” Bracket. During that run, the team’s smallest margin of victory was 22 points.

The Long Island-based group kept it going, besting Apex II for the top spot in the “B” Division and finished the weekend with a 4-1 record. Picking up wins in the final dual for 631 were Matteo Devincenzo (106), Jesse Dellavecchia (113), Joe Calderone (120), Jack Taddeo (130), Jimmy Leach (135), Dennis Ferro (152), Dylan Kane (160) and Vincent Feola (225).

Also placing in the same bracket were Iowa Style Black (fourth) and Razor (eighth). Iowa Style notched triumphs against Barre Wrestling Club and Doughboy Gold by a commanding combined score of 102-43 after an initial loss.

Razor was eighth, collecting a win over Metrowest United in Round 2, led by a pin by Chaz Leo at 225 and four major decisions.

“C” Bracket (For the teams that won in Round 1 and lost in Round 2 in the “A” Championship bracket)

In this bracket, Empire State teams claimed third through eighth places.

Cobra took the bronze after getting past Finger Lakes Wrestling Club 33-28, winning nine of the bouts. The contest featured a pair of two point decisions between All-State wrestlers as William Koll topped Kellen Devlin 2-0 at 125 and Vincent Deprez edged Connor Lapresi in sudden victory, 3-1, at 152. Both of those squads were 2-2 heading into their clash in the third place tilt.

Meanwhile, Ascend recorded fifth with a 55-9 victory over Journeymen Gold. It was the third dual win of the weekend for the Nassau County-based club, led by undefeated wrestlers Chris Koo and Jaison White.

In another battle of New Yorkers, Cellar Dwellers picked up seventh with a 53-10 decision over Iowa Style Gold. The Cellar Dweller squad began and ended the tournament with wins.

“D” Bracket

Port Jervis grabbed third, finishing with a 37-33 triumph over Metrowest United. The Section 9 squad also topped Powers Forty High 33-15 in its third meet of the weekend.

For full results, see tournaflex.com.

Vougar's Honors Wrestling Goes Undefeated to Win the Journeymen Freestyle Duals

 
 
Freestyle season is well underway.  That much was clear on Sunday at Messa Rink on the campus of Union College as some of the top teams in the region clashed at the Journeymen Freestyle Club Duals.

When it was all said and done, it was Vougar’s Honors Wrestling (VHW) taking top billing after going 4-0 on the day.

“This is a very hard tournament with very good competition,” said Vougar Oroudjov. “It was our first freestyle tournament this year.  We had a few guys get hurt right before it and we didn’t have a 220 pounder, but we were committed to coming and getting some good matches.  Our team had a variety of wrestlers – some guys who are first and second year wrestlers, some who have not been all-county and also a state champion and other state placers. All the guys came together and wrestled hard and did a great job.”

VHW began action against the host squad from Journeymen in a contest Oroudjov called “a great dual against a very tough team.”  The score was all tied up going into the final bout (at heavyweight).

In that match, Seaford’s James O’Hagan, the third place finisher at the state tournament this year in Division I, got his hand raised to give VHW the victory.  It was the first triumph of an unbeaten day for the Nassau County 285 pounder.

It came down to the wire once again against Shamrock, with the final bout once again decisive.  (This time it was a forfeit).  VHW also had a strong performance against Iowa Style and wrestled well in a win against Ascend.

In that matchup of Long Island powers, Oroudjov pointed to some key victories from his squad, including bonus wins by Ben Lamantia, Steve Schneider and Carlos Toribio.  According to Oroudjov, Toribio, in his first-ever freestyle event, dropped the first period and was trailing in the second when he recorded a fall.  In addition, in a meeting of two of the state’s top lightweights, Vito Arujau topped John Arceri.

Santiago, Photo by BV

The wrestlers that came up big in that dual were strong throughout the day.  Lamantia, Toribio and Arujau all had unblemished records, as did the previously mentioned O’Hagan and a pair of Sachem wrestlers – East’s Jakob Restrepo and North’s Gio Santiago, according to Oroudjov.

“Restrepo wrestled really great,” Oroudjov said. “He lost by pin to one of his opponents last week, but came back and beat him this week.  I have a lot of respect for Gio Santiago.  He kept the team together; he was a leader.  He pumped everyone up and kept everyone going. It was just one tournament, but it was a good experience for us.”

It clearly was a good experience for the squad. And several other teams also had strong showings, with Journeymen taking second, and Shamrock and Ascend next in the overall standings, according to Frank Popolizio.

Freestyle season has begun and with the New York States only a few weeks away, the chance to watch many of the Empire State’s best compete in the international styles again is fast approaching.

—————

The VHW team: (as provided)

105 Pounds: Vito Arujau

112: John Twomey, Daniel Murray

119: Ben Lamantia, Nick Casella

125: Tim Johnson

130: Joe Russ

135: Hunter Sharf

140: Anthony Messina

145: Jakob Restrepo

152: Gino Titone/James Farrell

160: Zack Small/Eric Hunson

170: Steve Schneider

185: Carlos Toribio

195: Gio Santiago/Robert Ng

225: None

285: James O’Hagan

Wantagh's Danny McDevitt, Champion On and Off the Mat, Commits to Penn

 
 

By MATT DIANO

The story of Wantagh High School senior Danny McDevitt’s commitment to Coach Rob Eiter and the University of Pennsylvania wrestling team has become something of a running joke at New York Wrestling News.  An article that we had intended to bring to you in mid-January when the news became official, it seemed that every time we sat down to pen the piece, McDevitt would go on to win another big event later in that week, forcing us to start anew.

Photo by BV

With these sentiments in mind, it might seem peculiar that we are choosing now, fresh off of an event (the 2013 New York State tournament) that the Warrior student-athlete did not win, to finally publish. We would disagree.  Because, for those of you who know the future Quaker and have had the privilege of following his career, you already are keenly aware of the fact that independent of any scoreboards, brackets or podiums, Danny McDevitt is, was, and will be a champion, both on the wrestling mat and especially in life.  So no, this article is not about a 2013 New York State champion making his college selection; it is much bigger than that. It’s about a young man, with tremendous depth of character, realizing his dream.  This is an All-American story about an individual who has always done Wantagh proud and will continue to do so next fall when he steps foot on the Philadelphia-based Ivy League campus.

So who is Danny McDevitt?  If you answered, “wrestler”, you would be correct, but would also be guilty of painting the talents and attributes of this young man with much too broad a brush.  He is a scholar, ranking towards the top of his class academically; a brother, who has such a tight and loving bond with his siblings that after watching him win the 2013 Nassau County title, his sister could not help but be overjoyed and sing his praises on a live interview being conducted on MSG Varsity; and above all else, Danny is known as a generous and selfless friend.

The latter would be on full display this past weekend when despite being at the lowest point of his senior season (after losing for the first time), McDevitt did something that brings tears to my eyes, just thinking about it.  If you want to know what makes McDevitt special, it’s that without a second thought, he was the person who took it upon himself to go over to 2013 New York State runner up, John Vrasidas (who because he is from the CHSAA is not eligible for the full array of awards bestowed upon other placewinners) and hand him the second-place medal because as Danny was quoted as saying, “you deserve this.”

Photo by BV

All of the aforementioned having been said, we return to McDevitt’s prowess on the wrestling mat, a home away from home for him where he has been about as dominant as you can get during his six year varsity career.  A four-time Section 8 placewinner, winning the title the past two years at 138 and 170 pounds respectively, the only times McDevitt did not win the Nassau County title, he came pretty darn close, finishing as a bronze medalist as a freshman before taking home runner-up honors in 2011.  As important as individual honors may be, if you ask McDevitt, he is quick to redirect attention back on his teammates by reminding us that during the four years he was a student at Wantagh, the Warriors never failed to finish lower than second in the team standings, winning titles from 2011-2013.

State-wise, this consummate gentleman more than held his own, earning a pair of top-five finishes in Albany, including a bronze medal this past weekend that witnessed him shake off a heartbreaking loss in the quarterfinals to Vrasidas to win four straight bouts in the consolation bracket.  He added this hard-fought third place showing to the fifth place performance he notched last year, losing a pair of nailbiters in the semifinal and consolation semifinal rounds.

Nationally, the Paul Gillespie (at Wantagh) and Craig Vitagliano (at the Ascend Wrestling Club) trained student-athlete has also enjoyed success, demonstrating on multiple occasions that he possesses the skill level to go toe-to-toe with the country’s elite.  (Gillespie mentioned that the presence of former Hofstra All-American PJ Gillespie in the room during the 2012-13 season provided another boost to McDevitt’s performance).  Earning his first All-American distinction in 2011 at the NHSCA Sophomore National tournament with an eighth place finish, McDevitt would return to Virginia Beach last season, improving his lot by a few spots, placing fifth.  Should he make the decision to compete in the Senior tournament, it would hardly surprise anyone to see him ascend (no pun intended) to the top of the podium.

With regard to what awaits McDevitt in the future, I can tell you this; if desire to achieve is any indicator of success on the collegiate level, then this young man is going all the way.  Someone who could have attended pretty much any college or university in the country, it is impossible to overstate how much McDevitt is looking forward to being a Quaker.  In chatting with him for only a few moments, it is easy to tell how invested he is in making the next four years the most fulfilling of his life.

“I am ecstatic about UPenn,” McDevitt said. “My mother was always passionate about me going there and was extremely happy when I got in.”

As it pertains to what it was about the fourth oldest university in the country that ultimately won him over and convinced him that it was the best place for him, McDevitt, who intends to major in business, was quick to speak about the unmatched reputation of the Wharton School, which continues to produce some of the finest corporate minds in the world.  He also was very complimentary of Eiter, suggesting that his future coach’s immediate interest in him was confidence boosting and won him over.  Stating it succinctly, McDevitt said, “Everything about the school is just fantastic.”

Speaking candidly about his star pupil, Vitagliano could not contain his genuine pride.

“I’m extremely excited for Danny, his family and Coach Gillespie,” Vitagliano said. “Coach Eiter is getting a really special kid here! He and I have been through a lot together these past five years and I feel extremely honored to have been a part of his journey. This year has been exceptionally tough for him and the fact he was able to overcome his difficulties really shows what he is made of and is an indication of how well he will do in the future.”

 

Q&A with Chris Koo, All-American Looking to End His Career With a Trip to Albany (and a Title)

Photo courtesy of Chris Koo

 

By Irwin Loew

Chris Koo is an All-American wrestler.  In fact, he has placed at the NHSCA Nationals in Virginia Beach each of the last two years.  However, despite his achievements, the Great Neck South senior is looking for his first trip to the New York state tournament.  In 2012, Koo took third at 160 pounds at the Section 8 Championships, but after an offseason full of training, he would like to not only get to Albany this year, but also find a spot high on the podium to cap off his high school career.

Irwin Loew caught up with Koo for a few questions about his accomplishments to date, his future in the sport and more.

How did you get into wrestling?

Chris Koo (CK): I got into the sport when my father took me to the local YMCA for open mats.  I was eight years old.  I was not successful right away but I loved the feel of the mat and the intensity.

What’s the atmosphere like in the Great Neck South room?

CK: The atmosphere in the room is great.  Some of my main workout partners are my head coach, Ryan Pingatore and Sal Lanzilotta.  Coach Pingatore is on top of everyone and creates such an intensity in the room.  We may not have the best kids in the county, but he pushes everyone and makes sure they give 110 percent.

Where else do you wrestle?

CK: I also wrestle at Ascend Wrestling Club, run by Craig Vitagliano.  I go to four practices a week.  The days I am not wrestling, I’m either running or lifting.

You took sixth place at 145 pounds at the 2011 NHSCA Sophomore Nationals.  What was that experience like?

CK: The experience was great.  That’s when I first started attending Ascend and Craig [Vitagliano] broke down every single match out there for me.  He corrected what I was doing wrong.  I wasn’t expecting to place at a national tournament. I went there with the attitude of just wrestling and gaining a great experience.

After placing at that national tournament as a sophomore, what were your expectations for your junior year?  

CK: My expectations coming into my junior year were to win counties and become All-State.  Watching [Mepham’s] Dan Tracy win counties was the most heartbreaking thing in the world.  I remember coming home and crying. [Koo defeated Dan Tracy by major during the season but placed third in Nassau].  I also wasn’t happy with my performance at Virginia Beach.  Coach Craig and I were aiming to get a higher finish than the previous year. [Koo made the podium again at the national tournament, taking seventh at 152].

What are your expectations for your senior season?

CK: As a senior, winning counties would be great, but I am aiming to win states.  We’ve never had a state champ come from our school.  I’ll be at 152.  I have been working on a lot of wrestling situations and techniques with Coach Craig [Vitagliano].

Are you looking to continue wrestling after high school?

CK: I am interested in wrestling Division I.  I am looking into Hofstra, University of Maryland and Merchant Marine Academy.  I expect a lot when I get into college.  Wrestling with college wrestlers like [Harvard’s] Paul Ligouri and John Khory shows me what my weaknesses are and how I can improve.  I would like to study Economics or Statistics.

What wrestlers do you like watching?

CK: I enjoy watching Adam Saitiev and Elbrus Tedeev because they are very good at hand fighting and set ups.  Most of the wrestlers I watch are great at hand fighting.

Do you play any other sports? 

CK: I don’t play other sports but I do run a lot.

What music do you like to listen to?  What is the last book you read and the last movie you saw?

CK: I like listening to Eminem before my matches.  Last book: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown.  Last movie: The Avengers.

Koo earned four pins in his first five matches this season and then picked up the Most Valuable Wrestler Award at the Bethpage Dads Club tournament.  In the latest Nassau County rankings, he is #1 at 152 pounds.