Max Askren Talks About Leaving New York to Train Full Time and His "Send Off" Clinic in Somers

Courtesy of University of Missouri

On his recent trip to Russia, Max Askren enjoyed taking in the culture and speaking Russian, one of the languages he studied in college at Missouri.  But even more, he enjoyed venturing back into international wrestling, including winning a silver medal at the Dmitry Korkin International at 84 kg in early October.  (He also went 1-1 at the Ramzan Kadyrov Cup).

Another significant part of the experience was the training he did with some of the Russian wrestlers in the week preceding the tournament.

“It’s amazing over there in Russia,” Askren said. “They’re professional wrestlers, getting paid good money to wrestle a couple times a day. That’s the sole obligation.  I realized how different it was from me.  I was running an academy, coaching and doing a little training on top of it, mostly with [former Section 1 wrestler and Penn greyshirt] Harrison Cook and some high schoolers in the area. I knew there would an adjustment period to wrestle with some of the top guys in the world, but I honestly felt pretty good.  It felt natural and I competed pretty well.”

His performance once again raised a question he had thought about after wrestling competitively at the Olympic Trials, where he went 2-2.  Where would he be if he trained full time?

Now, Askren is about to find out.

After spending the past two and a half years in Westchester County, coaching and running the Askren Wrestling Academy, Max Askren will be moving back to Wisconsin to join brother Ben with a strong focus on honing his freestyle skills.

“I’ve always wanted to train as much as possible,” he said.  “And I always wanted to be back with my brother.  Ben told me in May that he and his wife are expecting a baby and we talked about me coming back home.”

When he makes the move back to Wisconsin, he won’t only be working out with Ben, however.  He expects to spend two to three weeks of each month traveling to different locations, including the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as well as training sites at Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and West Point.

“I think I’m in a pretty good place with my wrestling,” he said. “It’s not like I’m way off base and need years and years of work to be competitive.  There’s no question I need to work hard and correct a lot of things, but I’m in the mix.”

Courtesy of University of Missouri

While the travel and the potential to move up the ladder excite him, deciding to leave Section 1 wasn’t easy.  In fact, Askren told his brother he would he coming back home in the early summer and then changed his mind more than once over the past few months before making the final call.

“It was a really difficult decision,” he said. “I met a lot of great people here and the wrestling community is really close.  The Realbutos [his host family] are like my family.  Dylan [Realbuto] has another year of high school and he’s like a little brother to me.  It will be really hard not to be here for him and a lot of the guys.”

Askren has unquestionably made an impact in the time he spent in the Empire State.  Numerous wrestlers talked about the strides they made at the Askren Wrestling Academy.  And his original mission was no doubt accomplished.  He first came to New York for a summer to teach freestyle.  A year later, his student, Brian Realbuto, went on to win the Junior National Freestyle title in Fargo and then a third state title while Dylan Realbuto won his first New York championship in 2012.

Askren felt like he gained a lot from the experience as well.

“I knew very little about wrestling in New York when I first got here,” he said.  “I know now that it’s a great place with great competition.  I think New York is right on par with some of the better states, maybe not at the level of Pennsylvania or California yet but right underneath that.  One thing that stands out is that kids here know how to wrestle on top.  In some states, like Missouri where I went to college, referees call stalling in a heartbeat on top.  Then kids get to college and they don’t have the riding and turning skills that are really important at that level.  New York kids do have those skills.”

Askren will work on refining those skills and others one more time with a “send off” clinic on November 9-12 in Somers with 2012 NCAA champion Cam Simaz of Cornell.  For more information, see below.

Afterwards, he will continue a busy month with a national team camp in Hoboken, New Jersey in mid November before attending the Henri Deglane International Challenge in France.  Besides being another huge measuring stick for Askren on the mat, it’s another opportunity for him to practice another of the languages he studied in college – French.

“I basically majored in Russian, French and Japanese,” he said. “I speak those languages and Spanish.  I wouldn’t say I’m fluent but I can converse pretty well.  It allows you to travel to a lot of different places and really appreciate things culturally.”

Askren hopes his travels take him to Hungary for the World Championships in 2013 and, a few years down the road, to Brazil.

“I’m looking to make the next World Team and medal there,” he said. “And, the big goal is the 2016 Olympics.”

Those are some of the items on his agenda for the future.  But his experience in New York allowed him to address a goal he had held earlier in this life – to run his own wrestling school.

“I’d always wanted to run an academy and coach,” he said. “And it was what I thought it would be.  I loved it.  It was a great experience and I really couldn’t have asked for more. The only downside was that it wasn’t in Wisconsin where my brother was.  There’s a lot I’ll miss when I leave.”

Askren was heartfelt about the people and relationships he developed. And there was one more thing he couldn’t leave out.

“The Italian food,” he added. “I had homemade Italian food all the time and it’s awesome.  I’ll definitely miss that.”

For more information on the Askren Wrestling Academy Preseason Clinic on November 9 -12, please see the flyer: AWA Send Off Camp




Aslanian and Realbuto, All-State Wrestlers and Workout Partners, Seek to End Their Careers on Top of the Podium

Photos by Boris V

Over the next few weeks, New York Wrestling News will previewing New York’s high school Sections. We begin in Section 1 with a look at two of the top lightweights the Empire State has to offer.


The 113-pound finals at the state tournament in February presented a bit of a pleasant challenge for Section 1 fans.  Two of the area’s best, John “Trey” Aslanian of Edgemont and Dylan Realbuto of Somers, were on the mats at the same time, each battling to win the championship against a Section 5 opponent a year after finishing second in Albany.

Having both wrestlers make the title bout at the Times Union Center two years in a row wasn’t an accident.  In fact, they helped each other get there.  Although Edgemont and Somers are at least 30 minutes away from each other, the two wrestlers have trained together since fifth grade and have continued to work out quite a bit, often at the Askren Wrestling Academy.

“I feel lucky because it’s such a good situation for both of us,” Aslanian said. “Dylan’s one of my best friends.  Since he’s big school and I’m small school, we know we won’t have to compete with each other at states, so it’s ideal.  Dylan is incredibly hard to score on with his funk, so if I can score on him, I feel like I can score on anyone in the state.  I think we push each other so much because we’re such different wrestlers and seeing a totally different style is never a bad thing.”

Not a bad thing at all.  In fact, it’s a really good thing, according to coach Max Askren.

“They are almost exactly opposite in their styles,” Askren said. “But it’s totally complementary.  Both are very, very technical wrestlers. But Trey wrestles from ties, likes to control things that way.  Dylan really wrestles from out in the open. So it works to have them train together.  If these guys want to wrestle in college, they should be wrestling together.”

Both Realbuto and Aslanian do plan to compete at the Division I level, with Aslanian considering Penn, Princeton and Harvard.  However, they first have some business to take care of at the high school level.

For Aslanian, that means a first state title.  He took fifth as a freshman and second the last two seasons at 103 and 113, respectively.

“Finishing second the last two years was obviously disappointing,” Aslanian said. “I go into every year wanting to win a state championship and when you come so close but don’t get it, it’s really difficult.  Last year, I was more confident because I had already been in the finals before, so I think I was that much more disappointed not to get the job done.”

Aslanian felt he dropped the title bout to Sean Peacock of Midlakes because he was focused too much on his opponent and not on himself.

“I didn’t get to my gameplan and most importantly, I didn’t get to my offense,” he said. “I needed to force my offense – my shots and my takedowns – and instead I was thinking too much about what he was doing and lost sight of what I do well.”

Since stepping off the mat in Albany, Edgemont coach Peter Jacobson believes Aslanian has made significant improvements, partially due to his offseason wrestling.

The outstanding student made a smooth transition to freestyle, getting his hand raised often. At the Junior Duals in Oklahoma City, Aslanian went 7-1 for Team New York and he won four matches at Fargo. (He was an All-American in North Dakota in 2011).

“There’s great translation from strong freestyle skills to folkstyle skills and Trey has taken that to heart,” Jacobson said.  “He wrestled some really strong matches at the Junior Duals and at Fargo went up against some very high level competition.  I know he feels that he didn’t wrestle as well as he could have, but I can see already that the experience has made him better.”

“I think I grew a lot as a wrestler,” Aslanian added. “I got to wrestle some of the best kids in the country and I think I grew, just getting to see that national competition. I hoped to place or possibly win Fargo and I didn’t have my best performance.  But I know I’ve gotten better.”

In addition to the top-notch opposition and additional practices in places like Vougar’s Honors Wrestling on Long Island, Aslanian’s improvement stems from significant time invested in video study.

“I love watching John Smith,” Aslanian said of the multiple-time NCAA and World Champion who now coaches at Oklahoma State. “He’s always attacking and pushing his offense. I also watch a lot of Ben and Max Askren.  They’re so entertaining with their funk.  Not too many people use the techniques they use.  I learn so much by watching.”

“I think Trey’s biggest strength is the amount of time he puts into honing his craft,” Jacobson added.  “He’s very much a student of the sport.  He watches films of himself and standout wrestlers from around the world.  If you line him up against the best in the state, he won’t be the strongest kid or the best natural athlete.   He’s achieved what he has by working hard to play to his strengths.”

Helping him do that are two other members of his family and team – younger brothers Tyler and Kyle.  Tyler, a junior, was one match from placing a year ago in Albany, while Kyle competed at 99 pounds as an eighth grader.

“It really benefits them to be pretty close in weight.  They can work out at home or can drill whenever and wherever they want,” Jacobson said of the three Aslanians.  “It’s not like the 190-pound older brother wrestling the 120-pound younger brother and expecting it to be beneficial.  Having them all in the room couldn’t be better – they’re supportive of each other with totally different personalities.  Tyler has the ability to make the podium this year and Kyle will make a huge jump.  He’s the best natural athlete of the group and most of the matches he lost last year were size and strength related. He’ll be a full-sized 99 pounder this year and will see more success.”

Trey Aslanian believes more success is in the cards for all of the Aslanian brothers in 2013. (A fourth brother, Wyatt, is in elementary school).

“Last year’s Sectional tournament was probably the most memorable moment for me in my career, with Tyler and I both winning titles,” he said. “That’s probably the best I ever felt in wrestling.  The plan for this year is for all three of us to win.”

But that’s only part of the plan.  Trey Aslanian said he hopes to go undefeated after a 39-2 campaign in 2012, but even that isn’t most important.  There’s one thing he can’t get out of his mind.

“I want to be a state champion,” he said.  “I’ve wanted that ever since I started in this sport in fifth grade.  I think about it every second of every day.”

He’s come close twice before and he knows this is the final opportunity before he heads off to the Ivy League.

“This season is the last of a lot of things,” he said. “I really enjoy wrestling with my brothers and it’s the last time to compete with them.  It’s such a unique situation and I’ll miss it. I want to win states and I know there’s a lot of pressure because it’s now or never.”

Now or never was the situation Realbuto was in during last year’s state finals bout. He trailed by a point with just a few seconds left and it looked like he was going to get the silver again.  But in dramatic fashion, he took Hilton’s Vincent DePrez down as time expired to win.

“I thought it was over just the same as everyone else thought it was,” Askren said. “Some people said Dylan was lucky, but if that’s true then he put himself in the position to be lucky.”

Realbuto and his frequent training partner Aslanian will try to put themselves in that gold medal position in February.  Realbuto will make another leap in weight, according to Askren, going either 126 or 132.  Aslanian, according to Jacobson, is still growing and will be at 120 or 126.

If both are at 126, Section 1 fans hope to have to divide their attention between the mats during the state finals, as they did in 2012, to watch Aslanian and Realbuto both try to complete their careers with a state championship.

Cornell Regional Training Center Clinic Comes to Long Island May 25-26

In late April, Kyle Dake, Mack Lewnes and Frank Perrelli, representing the U.S. Regional Training Center (RTC) at Cornell, competed with the best freestyle wrestlers in the country at the 2012 Olympic Trials.

On May 25-26, Dake, Lewnes and Perrelli will come to three locations (Askren Wrestling Academy, Luthern High School and Eastport-South Manor High) for the Cornell RTC Long Island training camp.  They will be bringing some of the nation’s best with them, as NCAA champions Steve Bosak, Troy Nickerson and Cam Simaz will be on hand as clinicians as will coaches Rob Koll, Damion Hahn, Mike Grey and Clint Wattenberg.

“We are looking to put on a great clinic in a part of the state that has excellent wrestling, while also making our presence more visible in downstate New York,” Cornell head coach Rob Koll said.  “I’m not sure many people are aware that we are building our RTC in Ithaca.  We are doing more than just molding student-athletes to be All-Americans and NCAA champions at Cornell, we are also developing the RTC to help make Olympic dreams come true.”

Lewnes was one of the first to take advantage.  When he first arrived in Ithaca as a freshman in the fall of 2007, he thought he would have to go elsewhere to pursue his freestyle goals after completing his collegiate career.  However, by the time he graduated in 2011, the RTC was up and running and he was able to stay at Cornell to work on freestyle and prepare for the Olympic Trials.

The three-time All-American spent the 2011-12 campaign training with a number of individuals accomplished in the international styles at the RTC, including Olympic alternates Hahn and Wattenberg, World Championships placer Koll as well as members of the Big Red team.

“I got fantastic support and had an amazing year,” Lewnes said. “We’ve only been designated as a Regional Training Center for a few years and things are developing so fast; it’s great.  It’s only going to keep growing, especially as we bring in a freestyle coach.”

While the RTC sent three grapplers to the Olympic Trials in 2012, Lewnes and Koll expect that to change.

“We were able to support Mack, Frank and Kyle, and we’re looking to support and train more athletes over the next few years,” Koll said.  “Our goal is to help more and more people move up the ladder and work for their Olympic aspirations. Next time the Olympic Trials roll around in 2016, we want to make sure we don’t have three guys competing, but more like 10.”

Some of those future Olympic hopefuls will be at the clinic on May 25-26.  All staff members will rotate among the three sites (Askren Wrestling Academy in Somers, Luthern High School in Brookville and Eastport South Manor High in Manorville).

On Friday the 25th, the event will take place from 6-8:15 p.m.  The following day, the camp will have sessions from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3.  Lunch will be included for all on Saturday.   Registration costs $90 in advance and $100 at the door. For group discounts please call Rob Koll directly at 607-255-7307.

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–Betsy Veysman