"Winning Big With New York Kids": Matt Dernlan Excited to Get Started at Binghamton

By Betsy Veysman

Matt Dernlan was focused on his Clarion wrestlers at the 2012 NCAA tournament in St. Louis, but like many other coaches and fans, he couldn’t help but notice the performance of Binghamton’s Donnie Vinson.

The 149-pounder dropped his initial bout to Nick Lester of Oklahoma before rattling off seven straight victories to take third place.

“I think it’s the toughest tournament in the world, especially if you lose your first match,” Dernlan said. “It’s not the achievement of third place that was so impressive.  It was the resilience and resolve he showed to come back and keep fighting and winning.  With that type of character and his talent, he’s got everything it takes to be a national champion.”

Dernlan now has an opportunity to be a part of Vinson’s run at a title in his new position as head coach at Binghamton.  In fact, when talking to Dernlan, the phrase “national champion” comes up quite a bit.

The Ohio native has some experience with reaching the pinnacle of the college wrestling world.  As the Director of Operations, he was part of Penn State’s NCAA title team in 2011.  He witnessed the key ingredients that brought that crown to State College and believes he sees many of the same pieces in place at Binghamton.

“When the job first opened up, it wasn’t something I pursued because there were a lot of good things going on at Clarion,” he said of the institution he coached for nine months.  “But Binghamton reached out to me.  The more I talked to them, the more I saw all the elements necessary to build a national championship program.”

Those elements, according to Dernlan, go beyond the athletes and coaches.

“Coming from Penn State, I have an understanding of everything that has to come together to get to the top,” he said. “You need to have committed support from everyone – from the President, the athletic department, the alumni and the community.  You need to have support systems in place for the student-athletes.  I wouldn’t have left a top 20 program with the history and tradition of Clarion if I didn’t think all of that support was here.  When I spoke to the President about his vision for the university and to the Athletic Director about his vision and plans for the next five years, I got really excited.  Conversations with the alumni made me even more excited.  It became an easy decision.”

Another reason the decision was “easy” is the current state of the Bearcat program.  When now-North Carolina State head coach Pat Popolizio took the reins six years ago, Binghamton was a winless team.  Fast forward to 2011-12, when the Bearcats earned a top 20 dual meet ranking in addition to an 14th place finish at the NCAAs fueled by five qualifiers and a pair of All-Americans (Vinson and freshman heavyweight Nick Gwiazdowski).  Dernlan spoke with admiration about the foundation Popolizio developed.

“A lot of credit needs to go to Pat,” Dernlan said. “He did so much to elevate the program to national prominence.  He created the right kind of culture.  We want to take advantage of that and build on all the momentum.”

To do that, Dernlan will look for a holdover from Popolizio’s staff, Jasen Borshoff, to play a key role.

“I’ve been spending time with Jasen, picking his brain and getting to know him,” he said. “I am very impressed with his intelligence and passion.  He’s everything I think college coaching should be about.  Retaining Jasen was a priority. He is committed and driven towards the same goals as I am.”

Dernlan said he also would like to utilize the expertise of volunteer assistant Andy Seras, whom he has not spoken to yet in detail in his few days on the job.

“Andy’s resume and track record show that he brings a lot to the table,” he said. “If he wants to continue on, that would be attractive.  He has roots in New York.”

New York roots are another topic Dernlan talks about with enthusiasm.  He has watched several Empire State grapplers succeed in the postseason over the past several years and believes that homestate wrestlers should form the backbone of the squad.

“It is very appealing to be in New York, which is one of the best scholastic states in the country,” he said. “That’s been proven by performance at the NCAAs.  If we can get the talent in this state on our team, I don’t anticipate going outside the borders that much.  I believe we can win and win big with New York kids.”

Dernlan knows it won’t always be easy getting those top Empire State grapplers on campus.  There aren’t double digit in-state programs competing for talent like in Pennsylvania, but the coach knows that programs such as Cornell, Hofstra and Buffalo are competitors on the recruiting trail — and on the mat.

“Rob Anspach has done a great job at Hofstra,” he said.  “They have great tradition and I am sure we will push each other to be great and continue to elevate the stature of CAA wrestling.  And I know there’s a team up the road in Ithaca that’s been doing special things. You want to compete against teams like Cornell.  Rob Koll is one of the best coaches in the nation and he’s created the standard.  We’ve got a bullseye on his team.  Having several elite teams in this state can only be a great thing.  But our goal is to become the face of New York wrestling.  If we can do that, we’ll be contending for national titles because that’s what Cornell is doing now.”

Trying to take that step next year will be a fairly experienced Bearcat team.  While longtime standouts Justin Lister and Matt Kaylor have graduated, and heavyweight Nick Gwiazdowski is likely to transfer, Binghamton could return the remainder of its starters, including NCAA qualifiers Vinson, Nate Scheidel and Cody Reed.

“I think we’ve got great experience and a collection of individuals that have gone deep into March and know what that environment is like,” Dernlan said.  “Everyone is proud of what Binghamton accomplished last year but now we’re aspiring to go beyond. There’s a lot that goes into that; a lot of intangibles you can’t control at the national tournament.  But my expectation is that with the talent we have returning and the incoming guys, we can improve upon last year if we prepare the right way.”

An integral component of that, according to Dernlan, is optimizing the level of competition throughout the campaign.

“We need to elevate our schedule and compete against the best,” he said. “The CAA tournament and Nationals are the two target weeks of the season.  We won’t be doing our program or any of our wrestlers favors by padding records heading into the conference tournament.  We need to test ourselves early, often and consistently so that when March rolls around, we’re ready for those big moments. We know what the intensity and the fight of March are all about and we need to be prepared.”

Part of that preparation, the coach said, is encouraging an aggressive style of wrestling.

“We want to go out to dominate, put up points and break our opponents,” he said. “If you do that, you build a reputation and it spreads.  It creates a tangible element at the national tournament.  People step on the mat with you and they already know what they’re in for.  They know you won’t back down and you’ll be in their face for seven minutes.  That’s what makes you succeed against the best.”

Succeeding against the best is something Dernlan values.  When asked about his most memorable match, he almost immediately brings up one of his toughest high school battles in the Buckeye State against fellow state champion John Marchette.

“Competing against him is something I remember to this day because he pushed my limits in every capacity,” he said.  “We laugh about it at this point and appreciate and respect each other for pushing each other to new levels. Fortunately, I was the winner, but we were both better for the battle and it helped us both later on.”

Dernlan sees that competitive fire in the Binghamton room.  He has spent his first few days meeting the team and laying out the gameplan for the summer and next season.  He joked about his endless to-do list, which includes things like figuring out summer camps, talking to this year’s incoming class, selling a house and hiring another assistant coach (Frank Beasley accompanied Popolizio to the ACC), all while shuttling back and forth to Pennsylvania.  But he’s enjoying every minute of it and his optimism is obvious.

“[Popolizio] won and he did it the right way,” he said. “He wanted to win with character kids who were a positive reflection on the program.  That’s fundamental for me; doing things in a way that the university and the community will be proud of.  With what we have in place here, I think Binghamton should be a top 10 team every year. But that won’t be enough for me.  I’m driven to win a national title.   If we attract the right kids with all we have to offer, I believe we can get there.”

Gwiazdowski Gets Release from Binghamton; NC State "High on the List"

Nick Gwiazdowski attributed much of his success as a true freshman this year, including his All-American finish at the NCAA tournament, to the coaches he worked with at Binghamton.

So when Pat Popolizio left the Bearcats in April to take the head coaching job at North Carolina State, Gwiazdowski began reassessing his future.

Now, after being granted a full release from the CAA university, Gwiazdowski has a decision to make.

“Now that I have my release, I’m allowed to look around,” he said on Sunday. “Some people have drawn conclusions, but there is a process I need to go through before anything becomes official.  It’s fair to say that NC State is very high on my list.”

Gwiazdowski said he has not yet visited the ACC institution or any other schools, but knows he would fit in with the Wolfpack coaching staff.

“It would be tough to leave New York,” he said. “This is where I’m from and I have a lot of close friends at the school and on the team.  But my family and I have to consider what’s best for my career.  I only have four years of school left and only three of competition to achieve my dreams.  I think I can do that under [Popolizio’s] leadership.”

In the interim, Gwiazdowski and many of his teammates have been involved in the process of hiring Popolizio’s successor.  In addition, the Delanson native has been training with Bearcats assistant coach Jasen Borshoff and the rest of the squad.

“I will go through the process I agreed on with Binghamton and make my decision soon,” he said.

 

–Betsy Veysman

Results from New York Freestyle and Greco States

Junior Greco Roman Results

100 Pounds: Ethan Livernash (Team Worldwide) over Andy Martinez (Beat the Streets)

106 Pounds: Golan Cohen (Titan Worldwide) inj def Kyle Kelly (Team Worldwide)

Third: Nicco Riccio (Journeymen)

113 Pounds: Josh Antoine (Beat the Streets) pin Lucas Malmberg (Finger Lakes Wrestling Club), 0-7, 0:51

Third: Allan McNeil (Titans NY)

120 Pounds: William Koll (Finger Lakes Wrestling Club) TF Cheick Ndiaye (Beat the Streets), 6-0, 7-0

Third: Santo Curatolo (Beat the Streets)

126 Pounds: Keanu Thompson (Beat the Streets) TF Oral Allen (Ascend), 7-1, 6-0

Third: Rocco Russo (NYSS)

132 Pounds: Jessy Williams (Team Worldwide) Fall James Ronca (Journeymen), 0-4, 6-0, 1:29

Third: Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer (Buffalo Grapplers)

138 Pounds: Tom Page (NYSS) dec Vincent Turano (Ascend) 2-0, 6-4

Third: Emin Aliyev (Beat the Streets)

145 Pounds: Matt Greene (Columbia) fall Justin Boone (Copiague), 0-1, 0:54

Third: Brendan Morgan (Journeymen)

152 Pounds: Tial Thang (MVWC) dec Leland Slawson (Team Worldwide), 0-3, 4-1, 1-0

Third: Barry Hart (Beat the Streets)

160 Pounds: Dylan Palacio (Ascend) pin Burke Paddock (Teamten) 0-1, 0:48

Third: Connor Sutton (Happy-Yo)

170 Pounds: Rrok Ndokaj (Beat the Streets) dec Sher Mohammad (Beat the Streets) 2-1, 5-2

Third: Ahmed Elsayed (Beat the Streets)

182 Pounds: McZiggy Richards (Beat the Streets) dec Jeffrey Day (Genesee Valley), 4-1, 1-1

Third: Christopher Loew (Ascend)

195 Pounds: Pat Nasoni (MVWC) pin Alex Moss (MVWC), 3-3, 1:33

Third: Angel Ortiz (Curtis)

220 Pounds: Soslan Gularov (Steplechase) dec Jonathan Babson (Happy-Yo) 4-0, 3-0

Third: Paul Okeke (Clarkstown South)

285 Pounds: Dante Salkey (Ascend) pin Terrence Cheeks (Newburgh WC), 1:18

Third: Jeff Urbina (Copiague)

 

Cadet Freestyle Results

88 Pounds: Joey DiPalma (Islip) TF David Ciciarelli (MVWC)

94 Pounds: Vincent Vespa (Eclipse) dec Sean Miller (Connetquot), 3-2, 8-6

Third: Tony Novotny (Connetquot)

100 Pounds: Chris Donnelly (Ascend) dec Josh LoGiudice (Journeymen), 3-0, 2-2, 6-0

Third: Dolan McColgan (Beat the Streets)

106 Pounds: Jose Rodriguez (Ascend) dec Nicholas Casella (VHW), 8-0, 2-5, 5-1

Third: Donny McCoy (Section Six Freestyle)

113 Pounds: Matthew Morris (ATWA) dec Johnny DiPalma (Islip) 7-1, 2-2

Third: Dominic Inzana (Journeymen)

120 Pounds: Freddie Dunau (Technical Edge) pin Ian Lupole (Team Worldwide), 7-1, 1:15

Third: Zack Barker (Titan)

126 Pounds: Thomas Reina (Ascend) dec Ryan Snow (MVWC), 1-0, 5-0

Third: Mike D’Angelo (Ascend)

132 Pounds: Samuel Ward (VHW) dec Jesse Porter (Journeymen), 1-0, 0-3, 1-0

Third: Sean O’Hagan (Sachem North)

138 Pounds: Thomas Dutton (Rocky Point) TF Jakob Restrepo (Sachem WC), 7-0, 8-1

Third: Brandon Aviles (Huntington)

145 Pounds: Nick Vines (Ascend) dec Nicholas Forget (Celler Dwellers), 4-1, 5-0

Third: Jordan Torbitt (Finger Lakes Wrestling Club)

152 Pounds: Mike Dusold (VHW) pin Louis Hernandez (Ascend), 4-11, 5-5, 0:54

Third: Konstantin Parfiryev (Beat the Streets)

160 Pounds: Angelo Kress (Journeymen) dec Gregory Kleinsmith (Team Worldwide), 5-1, 5-5

Third: Jerrett Norton (MVWC)

170 Pounds: Daniel Smith (MVWC) dec Jack Buell (MVWC), 2-0, 7-1

Third: Sam O’Malley (Smithtown)

182 Pounds: Ben Honis (MVWC) pin Steven Lee (Journey), 3-0, 0:32

Third: Nathanael Rose (Beat the Streets)

195 Pounds: Joe Nasoni (MVWC) TF Chris Tangora (NY Titans), 7-0, 10-3

Third: Nick Weber (Journey)

220 Pounds: Richard Sisti (Beat the Streets) over Matthew St. Onge (Clarkstown South)

285 Pounds: Peter Strassfield (Southhampton) pin Mason Cross (Titan), 1:15

Third: Mark Ifraimov (Beat the Streets)

 

Women’s Freestyle Results

97 Pounds: Kimberly Cardenas (Beat the Streets) over Eleni Sardina (Beat the Streets), 6-0, 5-0

Third: Estrella Velez (Beat the Streets)

105 Pounds: Lissette Ruiz (Beat the Streets) over Lisbeth Pena (Beat the Streets)

112 Pounds: Nyasa Bakker (Beat the Streets) over Kelsey Gray (Genesee Valley), 0-1, 5-1, 6-1

Third: Jennifer Juarez (Beat the Streets)

121 Pounds: Sara Andresen (Beat the Streets) over Sum Yuet Wu (Beat the Streets), 0-7, 0:28

Third: Sarah Tortorici (Beat the Streets)

125 Pounds: Kendra Kenyon (Genesee Valley) over Karen Koag (Beat the Streets), 6-0, 1:47

Third: Kass Rodriguez-Urbas (Beat the Streets)

130 Pounds: Amanda Jackson (Beat the Streets) over Natalie Kuang (Beat the Streets), 5-4, 3-3, 5-1

Third: Kimberly Abudullah (Beat the Streets)

139 Pounds: Alexis Porter (Journeymen) over Rosemary Flores (Beat the Streets), 3-0, 4-1

Third: Manenfy Tavarez (Beat the Streets)

149/159 Pounds: Mary Westman (Genesee Valley) over Lia Heintjes (Beat the Streets)

159/172 Pounds: Mary Westman (Genesee Valley) over Yuneris Diaz (Beat the Streets)

217 Pounds: Laura Zomchick (Beat the Streets)