Running with the Bulls: South Jefferson's Daniel Smith Chooses Buffalo

Daniel Smith estimates that he has wrestled around 100 matches since his junior campaign with South Jefferson came to a close.

“When the offseason started, I went to school, lifted at school and then a few times a week, I drove two hours to Chenango Forks to practice with Team Worldwide,” he said.  “Coach Rick Gumble runs a great freestyle practice and it was worth it to make the drive.  From the end of the high school season, I probably wrestled every weekend.”

While he was busy on the mat, in the weight room and in the car, he wasn’t too busy to decide on his future home – the University at Buffalo.

Smith, who also considered Binghamton, Bloomsburg and Drexel, said that his comfort with the coaching staff was one of the big factors for him.

“My brother [Darrick] wrestled for John Stutzman so I’ve known him for a long time,” Smith said. “They called me on July 1st – the first day they were allowed to call recruits. When I went on my visit, I loved the campus and liked all the coaches.   They were on the coaching staff at Fargo too.  I felt like we had a great relationships and it made my decision pretty easy.”

Courtesy of Daniel Smith

Smith said he expects to compete at 197 pounds at the college level after wrestling at 170 as an 11th grader in Section 3.

“I gained around 15 pounds since last season,” he said. “In college, they’ll put me on a diet and weight program to fill out my 6-foot-2 frame.  I’ll be going up to 182 for this season.”

Smith expects great things in his senior year in the new weight class after a 46-3 junior campaign that didn’t conclude the way he imagined it would.

“I was unhappy with how my season ended,” he said of a 1-2 showing in Albany. “I believe I was better than where I finished.  It was my first time at the state tournament and in a way I don’t think I was prepared because after the first weekend of the season, I didn’t really have a contested match.  Some of my matches weren’t high scoring but I always felt like I was in control.”

He didn’t have to wait long to face a tough challenge in Albany.  After winning his opening bout, Smith faced top-seeded Christian Dietrich.  The nationally-ranked Greene star defeated Smith 3-1 on his way to the title bout.

“I lost that heartbreaker [to Dietrich] and kind of fell apart after that,” he said. “I was really frustrated because I wanted to be in the finals.”

While he didn’t reach the finals as an individual, Smith experienced championships on the team level in 2013-14.  South Jefferson had a stellar season, winning the Section 3 Dual Meet and tournament championships while going 28-0 overall.

“It was great,” Smith said. “It’s a lot of fun when you’re winning. When I was an eighth grader our team went undefeated and it was really exciting.  I was hoping we could do it again.  Then, this year we did it with probably one of the best teams we’ve ever had at South Jefferson.”

He expects good things from the squad again despite the losses of some key performers to graduation.  In addition, longtime coach Pat Conners retired.  (John Babcock, who Smith said has been coaching him since he was in seventh grade, has taken the reins of the program).

In addition to another strong showing on the team level, Smith expects a different ending for himself.  He has demonstrated the ability to wrestle with top notch opponents, including wins this spring over Christian Stackhouse of New Jersey, who went on to place third at Fargo and Pennsylvania’s Ryan Preisch, who was fourth in North Dakota.  Smith picked up All-American honors of his own at the NHSCA Nationals as a sophomore.

He plans to get onto another podium this year —  at the Times Union Center — before moving on to the MAC to wrestle for the Buffalo Bulls.

“I think being at the state tournament before will help me this year,” he said.  “My team is also supposed to go to Eastern States, so hopefully I’ll beat some kids there and have some seeding criteria for the end of the year. My goal is to be a state champion and whoever I have to beat to do it, I plan on beating.”

Buffalo Unveils 2013-14 Schedule, Beginning With the Oklahoma Gold and Including a Trip to Iowa

The University at Buffalo unveiled the 2013-14 schedule, featuring 13 duals and a number of tournaments in head coach John Stutzman’s first season at the helm of the program.

The Bulls will begin action on November 9 at the Oklahoma Gold event in Brockport before participating in the New York State Collegiate tournament on the 23rd of November at Cornell.

The squad will also compete with Empire State foes in duals this year, traveling to New York City to battle Columbia in mid January and hosting Binghamton in February.

The Bulls will meet Iowa for the second consecutive campaign, this time facing the national power at Carver Hawkeye Arena on December 12.  Just a few days earlier, Buffalo will take on two of the MAC’s top teams on the road – Kent State and Central Michigan.

For the full release from the Buffalo Athletics site, see this link.

Buffalo Announces Recruiting Class, Including Nine New York Wrestlers

On Friday, Buffalo announced the incoming recruiting class for the fall of 2013 put together by new head coach John Stutzman and his staff.  The group, which consists of 16 wrestlers from five different states, has a strong New York presence, with nine Empire State grapplers included.

Photo by BV

Those New York wrestlers are: Corey Hollister (125 pounds, Perry), Brandon Muntz (133, Falconer), AJ Voelker (165, Monroe Woodbury), Alex Francik (165, Vestal), Rrok Ndokaj (174, Monsignor Farrell/Bloomsburg), Austin Weigel (174, Onteora), Anthony Liberatore (184, Williamsville South), James Benjamin (197, Vestal) and Mike Silvis (197, Holley).


Courtesy of

BUFFALO, NY – With at least one newcomer at every weight class, the 2013 wrestling recruiting class has covered all the bases for first-year head coach John Stutzman. In the mix for the upcoming season will be a group of Division I transfers, and high school standouts from five different states.

Stutzman describes the class of 16 wrestlers as crucial pieces of the team’s future.

“These guys want to be here and build a foundation for future success,” Stutzman said about his incoming recruits. “They want to put UB back on the map and make us a contender. We want to compete in the MAC and become a consistent top-20 team. That’s what this class is all about.”

For the full release from the University at Buffalo Athletics site, see this link.

Buffalo Wrestling Announces Assistant Coaches Joining John Stutzman's Staff

Courtesy of

BUFFALO, NY – New head wrestling coach John Stutzman announced his coaching staff Monday morning, with the hiring of Quincy Osborn and Bryce Hasseman. Both assistants come to Buffalo with success as both wrestlers and coaches, and each of them has experienced life in the competitive Mid-American Conference.

“We want to be a blue collar team, we’re going to get our guys in great shape and create a style of wrestling that will be fun to watch,” Stutzman said about his hopes for the team under the new coaching staff.

Osborn recently finished his fourth year as an assistant with MAC rival Ohio. Over that time with the Bobcats, he helped to recruit two top 25 ranked recruiting classes and coached up Germane Lindsey to All American status in the 2010 season. His first coaching job came at Augsburg College, where he worked for two years after wrestling at the school for two seasons.

After originally started his collegiate wrestling career at Minnesota before going to Augsburg, Osborn qualified twice for the NCAA Division I tournament while with the Gophers. Wrestling for Augsburg in 2007, he was the Division III National Champion at 141 pounds, also leading the Auggies to the national team title. In that season, he had the most team points, takedowns, and falls.

For the remainder of the article from the University at Buffalo Athletics site, see here.

College Commitments – What are the Destinations for the Class of 2013 Wrestlers?

On July 1, recruiting season officially begins for the Class of 2014.  With that in mind, we will be bringing some recruiting-related content, including articles from the perspective of college coaches and a New York State champion headed to Division I wrestling this fall.

For now, here’s a list of where New Yorkers are going for the 2013-14 campaign (as well as out of staters who will attend Empire State institutions). These are commitments we have been made aware of, but if you see something that should be added or changed, please contact



Zack Bacon, Hornell (NY), Football

Kevin Thayer, Unatego (NY)

Air Force

John Diekel, Whitehall (NY)

Conor O’Hara, Sachem East (NY)

Arizona State

James Brundage, Ossining (NY)/Rider

Kyle Colling, Pioneer (NY)/Oklahoma


TJ Brandt, Altoona (PA)

Christian Doyle, McKinney Christian Academy (TX)

Logan Everett, Williamson (PA)

Nick Frank, Urbana (MD)

Ruben Jurado, Concord (NC)

Mason Kumashiro, Los Alamitos (CA)

Lincoln Mallinger, St. Michael-Albertville (MN)

Tristan Manderfield, Foley (MN)

Mark Marchetti, Father Ryan (TN)

Russell Parsons, Blair Academy (NJ)

Trevor Smith, Ripon (CA)

Troy Taylor, Ironwood Ridge (AZ)

Jack Wedholm, Blair Academy (NJ)


David Almaviva, Shenendehowa (NY)

Thierno Diallo, Duval (MD)

Nick Kelley, Shenendehowa (NY)

Kyle Kelly, Chenango Forks (NY)

Bryce Mazurowski, Avon (NY)

Robert Person, Bellmore JFK (NY)

Nick Tighe, Phoenix (NY)

Zack Zupan, Canastota (NY)


Kevin Rodriguez, Patchogue Medford (NY)


Jeff Bechen, Whitman Hanson (MA)

Peter Ottaviano, Colts Neck (NJ)

Pete Hailer, Milton (MA)

Dillon Stowell, Gouverneur (NY)


Lewis Yablans, Jericho (NY)


James Corbett, Wantagh (NY)


Connor Lapresi, Lansing (NY)


James Benjamin, Vestal (NY)

Jake Campana, Southern Regional (NJ)

Roy Daniels, Olentangy Liberty (OH)

Corey Hollister, Perry (NY)

Alex Francik, Vestal (NY)

Nick Flannery, Cleveland State

Carmine Goldsack, Bergen Catholic (NJ)

Anthony Liberatore, Williamsville South (NY)

Brandon Muntz, Falconer (NY)

Rrok Ndokaj, Monsignor Farrell (NY)/Bloomsburg

Tyler Rill, Mount St. Joseph’s (MD)/Bloomsburg

Mike Silvis, Holley (NY)

Andrew (AJ) Voelker, Monroe Woodbury (NY)

Austin Weigel, Onteora (NY)


Quinton Murphy, Holley/Indiana (NY)

Tim Schaefer, Warsaw (NY)

Danny Sutherland, Mepham, Nassau CC (NY)

Coast Guard Academy

Dan Fiorvanti, Commack (NY)


John Florio, Valley Central (NY)


Chris Araoz, Wantagh (NY)

Britain Carter, Maple Mountain (UT)

Mike Fetchet, South Fayette (PA)

Troy Hembury, Muncy (PA)

Matt Leshinger, Sayville (NY)

Justin Mann, Ladue (MO)

Vince Pallone, Mendham (NJ)

Andrew Psomas, Monsignor Farrell (NY)

Garrett Ryan, Wyoming Seminary (PA)

Markus Scheidel, St. Edward (OH)


Dan Choi, Syosset (NY)

Jake George, Long Branch (NJ)

Griffin Higginbotham, Union Grove (GA)

Dylan Realbuto, Somers (NY)

Jake Taylor, Bald Eagle Area (PA)

Ty Walter, Mifflinburg (PA)


Chris Alianakian, Kellenberg (NY)

Colin Barber, Westfield (NJ)

Nick Bellanza, John Glenn (NY)/Jacksonville

Mat Bradice, William Floyd (NY)

Brian Bulger, Westfield (NJ)

Chris Cataldo, MacArthur (NY)

Lucas Ciancamino, Sayville (NY)

Antonio DeLuco, Rome Free Academy (NY)

Brendan Dent, Connetquot (NY)

Matt Dillon, Nanuet (NY)

Troy Feniger, North Rockland (NY)

Jake Green, Chenango Forks (NY)

Casey Lanave, Chenango Forks (NY)

Tyler Lilly, New Rochelle (NY)

Lance Moore, Johnson City/Binghamton (NY)

Jagger Rebozo, Half Hollow Hills West (NY)

Mark West, Hauppauge (NY)


Alex Tanzman, Westhampton Beach (NY)

East Stroudsburg

Eric Januszkiewicz, New Paltz (NY)


Terrence Cheeks, Newburgh (NY)

Lester Enriquez, Hewlett (NY)

Franklin & Marshall

Tommy Quinlan, Fayetteville-Manlius (NY)


Eric Lewandowski, Lancaster (NY)


Tyler Grimaldi, Half Hollow Hills West (NY)


Mike Hughes, Smithtown West (NY)

Kyle Krasavage, Wyoming Valley West (PA)


Travis Berube, St. Joseph’s Collegiate (NY)

Jimmy Kaishian, Yorktown (NY)

Steven Sabella, Yorktown (NY)

Joe Sprung, Berne-Knox-Westerlo (NY)

Carlos Toribio, Brentwood (NY)

Lake Erie College

Keanu Thompson, Grand Street (NY)


Drew Longo, Ardsley (NY)

Thomas Murray, Yorktown (NY)

Life University (Georgia)

Rowdy Prior, Phoenix (NY)


Chris Reilly, Half Hollow Hills West (NY)


Austin Hedges, Letchworth (NY)

Dan Reagan, Lewiston Porter (NY)


Lucas Malmberg, Marathon (NY)


Josh Bonneau, Minisink Valley (NY)

Gio Santiago, Sachem North (NY)

Vinny Turano, Wantagh (NY)


Anthony Abidin, Nassau CC (NY)

Niagara CCC

Jude Gardner, Fredonia (NY)

North Carolina

Jacob Pincus, Pittsford (NY)


Roman Accetta, Poly Prep (NY)

John Messinger, Putnam Valley (NY)

Amit Naik, Providence Day (NC)

Nick Matthews, West Morris (NJ)

Joey Rizzolino, Campbell

Ethan Walker, Heritage Hall (OK)

North Carolina State

Shayne Brady, Carthage (NY)

Joe Mastro, Yorktown (NY)

Oklahoma State

Chris Koo, Great Neck South (NY)


Simon Greebel, Hewlett (NY)

Taylor Jones, Palmyra Macedon (NY)


Dan McDevitt, Wantagh (NY)

Jun Yoo, Jericho (NY)


Trey Aslanian, Edgemont (NY)


Steven Mills, Sachem North (NY) – Football

Roger Williams

Tom Carta, South Glens Falls (NY)

Sacred Heart

Nick Allesandrini, St. Anthony’s (NY)

TJ Fabian, Shoreham Wading River (NY)

Tom Filipkowski, Mattituck (NY)

Matt Fisher, Oneida (NY)

Brendan Goldup, LaSalle (NY)

Daniel Hayden, East Islip (NY)

Patrick Henn, Lindenhurst (NY)

Austin Hulse, Stony Brook School (NY)

Nick Lupi, Huntington (NY)

Zak Mullen, Shoreham Wading River (NY)

Alex Swanson, Smithtown West (NY)

Johnny Vrasidas, St. Anthony’s (NY)


Corey Ali, Shenendehowa (NY)

Hunter Ayen, Gouverneur (NY)

Zach Joseph, Shenendehowa (NY)

David Varian, Yorktown (NY)


Kevin Tynes, Brooklyn Tech (NY)


Drew Hull, Royalton Hartland (NY)


Tim Raner, Mexico (NY)


Robert Rosenberg, Hewlett (NY)

Western New England

Andrew Cole, Ogdensburg (NY)

Matt Jarvis, Carle Place (NY)

West Virginia

John Pellegrino, Division (Nassau CC) (NY)

Gunnar Van Curen, Portville (NY)

Wheeling Jesuit

Justin Jimenez-Castillo, Irvington (NY)


Pankil Chander, Lawrence (NY)

Buffalo Bound: Onteora's Austin Weigel Set to Join the Bulls

Austin Weigel knows the route from Onteora to the Albany area well.

Extremely well.

At least three times per week, the Section 9 standout made the 1.5 hour trip after school up to Journeymen Wrestling Club practices. And afterwards, he’d get back in the car for another 1.5 hour drive, typically arriving home around 9 p.m. to start his homework.

However, as Weigel talked about his recent commitment to the University at Buffalo, he had no doubt that all the time on the road was worth it, helping him emerge as a Division I prospect.

“I really got into wrestling after my sophomore year,” Weigel said. “Before that I was a three-sport athlete who wanted to get better but wasn’t totally into it yet. As a sophomore, I lost in the Section 9 finals and it motivated me. Wrestling was what I wanted to do and I wanted to win – not just the Section, but everything.”

Courtesy of Austin Weigel

He decided that competing in the offseason, in addition to his training with Onteora, would provide him with a boost.

“Working with Journeymen pushed me to more serious tournaments and competition,” he said. “I went to Super 32 and Fargo. I went to a lot of new and different places and got more experience.”

That experience showed during his 38-4 junior campaign at 160 pounds (after a 26-11 mark as a sophomore).

“It took me a few matches to realize how different things were, how much better I was,” he said. “I wasn’t cutting a lot of weight and I felt good the whole year.”

He captured the Section 9 title with ease, winning all of his bouts by bonus points. And he followed up with a pair of victories at the state tournament, falling one win shy of All-State status.

“Being there in Albany wasn’t good enough,” he said. “I wasn’t seeded but I just wrestled hard and was just one match away from placing. It was a close [3-1] loss [to the eventual bronze medalist] and it definitely motivated me.”

Weigel perhaps used some of that motivation at the Journeymen Classic in the fall, winning a round robin bracket full of accomplished wrestlers – fourth place finishers Daesean Johnson (New Jersey, 160), John Messinger (New York DII, 170) and Dale White (New York DI, 160).

“It was a really tough group up at 170,” he said. “I wrestled really well and had a lot of good wins there.”

He had a lot of good wins as his senior campaign began for Onteora as well, including a major over 2012 All-State grappler Andrew Martinez of Liberty. In the earlygoing, Weigel wrestled up at 170 but wasn’t sure where he would finish the season.

“I contemplated staying at 170 with my coaches but we felt that my best shot at a state championship was at 160,” he said. “I committed to 160 at Eastern States and knew that’s where I would be the rest of the year.”

It looked like a solid choice as he made the medal stand at the prestigious tournament held at SUNY Sullivan. After winning his first two contests, he faced nationally-ranked Burke Paddock in the quarterfinals. In a hard-fought match, Paddock came out on top, 1-0, his closest victory of a dominant season.

Courtesy of Austin Weigel

Weigel then won two of his three consolation bouts, to grab seventh. His setback was to eventual state placer Andrew Psomas in sudden victory.

“I was pretty happy with how that tournament went overall,” he said. “Getting down to weight wasn’t always ideal this year, but I felt pretty good there. I thought I could beat Paddock and wrestled a tough match against him. I was a little shaky afterwards, and had a really disappointing loss to Psomas. I was in on his legs the whole match, but I just couldn’t score. He kept going out of bounds. It was a frustrating loss.”

He rebounded to pin his way to his second straight Section title and picked up his 100th victory during the campaign for good measure.

He began his quest for a state title well, picking up a major in round 1. He then met Greene’s Mike Beckwith, who handed him a defeat in Albany in 2012. One year later, the outcome was the same and Weigel moved into the wrestlebacks where he dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker to Section 6’s Gunnar Van Curen.

“It’s hard to think about, but [Beckwith] just wrestled the better match,” he said. “I didn’t get to do anything I wanted to. He got an early takedown and rode me well. I was really disappointed and tried to get my head straight afterwards. In the next one, I don’t know what it was. It was like the Psomas match because I was in on his legs a lot and couldn’t score. It was one of the worst losses of my career because he escaped with 30 seconds left to win 1-0 and I knew my high school career was over. I didn’t perform like I should have and know I could have. For a while, I felt bad about myself but looking back now, I realize I can’t take away from the rest of my accomplishments because of one disappointing weekend. I’ve beaten kids that did much better at states, but that’s the way it went.”

He got a chance to face some of those that fared better in Albany this spring, at the Journeymen Freestyle Duals. He said he expected to wrestle at 182, but due to team needs, he cut to 170.

In the first dual of the day, Journeymen met Vougar’s Honors Wrestling (VHW), the eventual winner of the event. Weigel was set to face Division I 160-pound state runner up Steven Schneider of MacArthur.

“I was really tired that morning after the cut, but I was excited because we were wrestling a team of Long Island studs first,” he said. “I saw Schneider at Eastern States – he beat Psomas and other guys I lost to. My teammate Jimmy Marquez got a pin at 160 and he came off the mat and slapped my hand and got me all amped up because he lost to Schneider at the state tournament. He told me I could beat him and I got fired up.”

Weigel took the first and third periods to get the victory in what he called an important win for him.

“I was in a funk, still getting over the season and that was a big momentum moment – wrestling to my potential against a great wrestler. I was relaxed and wrestled the match I wanted.”

There wasn’t much time to celebrate, however, as he next faced Matt Fisher, the Sacred Heart-bound senior who earned bronze in the same bracket as Weigel at the state tournament.

“I knew he beat Beckwith to take third at states,” he said. “I was thinking about the win I just had and there wasn’t a time I was worried about giving up points or losing. I got back on track and showed what I didn’t show at the state tournament.”

The future exercise science major hopes to keep showing what he can do at Buffalo, where he believes he will begin at 174 pounds but could go up higher given his six-foot-one frame.

“I took trips to other schools and liked every school I saw,” he said, mentioning Binghamton and Bloomsburg, among others. “I really liked Coach Stutzman when I went to Bloomsburg and when I heard he moved to Buffalo, I felt like I was basically done with the process. I liked everything about Buffalo – the campus, the facilities, the big school atmosphere. I’m really excited to be part of a program that’s going in the right direction and revamping everything. I think Coach Stutzman will rebuild the program strong.”

Austin Weigel had a long list of people he wanted to thank.

“I want to thank my family, friends, coaches and the community for everything. The support for the program is amazing and helped me to get where I am.”

He mentioned the huge contributions of Journeymen’s Frank Popolizio and his high school coaches Lou Chartrand and Eric Pezzello “who are more than coaches – they are second and third fathers to me.” He also thanked Donnie Van Buren, CJ Goldizen and Dustin MacKenzie for being influential workout partners and his “brother” Avery Leighton who “was my best practice partner because we did everything together. I owe a lot to him. He made me the hardest worker I could be and was a huge part of my wrestling career.”

No Bull: John Stutzman Returns to His Alma Mater to "Lead This Program to Greatness"

When he was in seventh grade, John Stutzman knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“I started wrestling pretty late, but as soon as I set foot on the mat, I said I would be a Division I head coach one day,” Stutzman said. “People said you can’t do it or you’re not going to do it. But I’m a worker, a persistent guy. I’ve always been able to motivate and relate to people. Coaching is a natural thing for me and I was determined to do it.”

Years later, when he arrived as a transfer to the University at Buffalo, he added to his goal. He not only desired to lead a wrestling program; he wanted someday to lead the Bulls.

“In 1995 when I first walked on campus, I said it right then and there,” he recalled. “Buffalo was where I wanted to be. One day, I would come back and lead this program to greatness.”

When UB Athletic Director Danny White announced in March that Jim Beichner would not be back at the helm for the 2013-14 campaign, Stutzman immediately took notice.

And in early May, he officially began his tenure in the position he had dreamed about for years. Now, the hard work begins.

But hard work is nothing new for Stutzman, who graduated from the institution as the all-time wins leader for the Bulls. While he got his hand raised often in a Buffalo singlet, he is driven by what he didn’t do.

“Not achieving my goals of being an All-American or a National Champion motivates me to get the guys I coach to the next level,” he said. “I understand how to get wrestlers where they need to go.”

That drive is part of the equation. But Stutzman also has prepared for his new role for years during his previous stops as an assistant at Buffalo, Northern Illinois and Bloomsburg and then his eight seasons as the head coach for the Huskies.

“When I coached at Buffalo under Coach Beichner, he gave me leeway to run some things like the offseason program and we had some success,” Stutzman said. “At Northern Illinois, I was able to become the recruiting coordinator and helped to sign two top 25 classes there, which was a great experience.”

At Bloomsburg, he had the opportunity to wear many hats.

“I grew so much as a coach,” he said. “I learned how to run a program. It’s an awesome university but there aren’t a lot of resources. So I was the strength coach, the academic advisor, recruiting coordinator, camp coordinator. I worked with financial aid. It taught me how to run a program inside and out because I got my hands on all aspects of the program.”

In the process, Bloomsburg saw plenty of success. Stutzman earned EWL Coach of the Year honors three times and boasted 33 NCAA qualifiers and three All-Americans during his tenure. And all of that was achieved with a fraction of the scholarships that he will now have at his disposal.

In fact, Stutzman said last year’s squad had around 3.5 scholarships (a full allotment is 9.9), and even with some starters redshirting, the squad captured the EWL Dual Meet title.

“My philsophy is about year round training and good lifestyle choices,” he said. “I think when you do those things and get the parents and the kids to buy in 100%, you can win whether you have 0 scholarships or 9.9. It’s all about getting the right kids. With the 3.5 scholarships, you can’t make mistakes. We limited our mistakes the past five years and were able to have some success.”

So what part of that success stood out to Stutzman during his time in Pennsylvania?

“We’re proud of taking walk ons or kids who were never state champions or even in the top 3 of their state and having them wrestle to their potential. I love coaching people like Frank Hickman and Mike Dessino, who get better and better, winning a lot of matches and going to the National tournament. There are also guys like Matt Moley and Mike Spaid, who nobody really recruited, but they became All-Americans.”

Another wrestler Stutzman pointed to was Monsignor Farrell graduate Kevin Hartnett, a wrestler he believes will have a great season in 2013-14 for Bloomsburg given his work ethic and passion for the sport. Hartnett was one of six New Yorkers on the Huskies roster in 2012-13 (out of 30). It’s not surprising given that Stutzman has always kept tabs on the Empire State.

“I think New York wrestling is underrated to say the least,” he said. “There are so many good kids and with so few Division I programs, many of them get overlooked. There are so many great high school programs and the kids compete – in Fargo, in the club system, year round. The talent is there and we’re very excited about it. We want to come in and win the state.”

Thus far, in a short time at the helm, Stutzman has certainly made the Empire State a priority.  Since his hire, the commitments have piled up, including from numerous New York State placers. For more, see here and here.

“Recruiting has been a huge priority and it’s been a process,” he said. “Coming in here, my job was to look at everyone not committed and get them here. We’re moving in the right direction. At the end of the day, we’re looking to bring in 12-15 kids this year. I think we’re on course.”

Stutzman believes that many of the new faces will see time on the mat in 2013-14.  But it won’t be only newcomers, as he points to a solid group of returners, including (but not limited to) Max and Mike Soria, Justin Farmer, Wally Maziarz, Andrew Schutt, Erik Galloway, Angelo Malvestuto, Tony Lock and Jarred Lux.

“I’ve seen guys come in and work unbelievably hard already,” he said. “They’re awesome kids who will continue to get better. We have a good nucleus. The biggest thing is changing the culture here where guys are coming in to be MAC champions, National Champions and get a great education. Anything else, and this isn’t the right program. We want kids that want to train and compete every day. We’ve only had one Division I All-American here [Kyle Cerminara]. When guys are shooting to be National Champions, All-Americans start to happen on a regular basis. That’s the mindset we want to instill and it’s a work in progress.”

With this mix and mindset, Stutzman said the team will surprise some people this winter and beyond.

“When we put the system in place, they’ll respond to it,” he said. “It will be more work than they’ve ever done. I’m not saying they didn’t work hard before, but I think the system will make them successful. Being young as a team is good and I think we’ll be better than people think next year because of our effort level and in two years, we’ll be dynamite. When guys give great effort, it’s fun to watch and it always gives you a chance to win. We want to make UB wrestling exciting.”

Helping Stutzman with these goals will be head assistant coach Bryce Hasseman.

“I’ve been around Bryce for years – there’s a lot of familiarity there,” he said. “He’s an unbelievable coach. He’s competed on the international level and has trained at the Hawkeye Wrestling Club and in Colorado Springs with Terry Brands. He’s coached at Oklahoma State and with me at Bloomsburg. He’s the kind of guy people like to be around.”

The search for the remaining two members of the staff – the second and volunteer assistants – is ongoing. Those who do come in will likely play a role in the development of the Buffalo Wrestling Club/Regional Training Center. Stutzman has long been involved in the international styles and believes integrating them into training is a huge component of success.

“We’re working on establishing the Buffalo Wrestling Club, working with some local clubs like Super Six and Cobra,” he said. “Solidifying it and putting it into place is really important. Major programs have a freestyle program, a 365 day a year program, and we’re building that.”

It has clearly been a busy first few weeks on the job for Stutzman. And what’s next? For one thing, he and his family are searching for a place to live. But even though he’s yet to find a house, he feels like he’s already where he belongs.

“I claim Buffalo as my hometown and I welcomed a chance to come home,” he said. “I have a lot of great relationships in the Buffalo area and a love for the school, Western New York and wrestling in New York in general. Everything about the university is first class from the academics to the athletic department. I believe in this place. I came through here and can’t wait to put us back on the map. It’s time to put Buffalo where it belongs – in the top 10. It’s a fun time to be a Bull.”

'The Right Fit': Monroe Woodbury State Placer AJ Voelker Chooses Buffalo

AJ Voelker left his recruiting trip to Bloomsburg with an interesting dilemma.

“After visiting and meeting Coach Stutzman [at Bloomsburg], AJ felt the coach was the right fit, but not the school,” said Bob Voelker, AJ’s father.

So Voelker continued to look around, focusing on institutions such as George Mason until he heard that Stutzman was leaving the EWL college to take the reins of the Buffalo program.

“I started looking at Buffalo right away,” AJ Voelker said. “Once I saw the campus and talked to [Stutzman] again, that was pretty much it. The campus is unbelievable. It’s just what I wanted. The facilities are very nice. Coach Stutzman is very intense; his practices are very tough and give me the best chance of placing at Nationals. He reminds me a lot of my coaches now [at Monroe Woodbury].”

Photo by BV

Voelker saw a lot of success for the Crusaders throughout his career, placing in Section 9 multiple times. But 2012-13 was a breakthrough year, as he made the podium at the Eastern States Classic, won the Sectional crown and took fourth in New York in his first trip to the state tournament.

That success came as a result of a lot of offseason effort. After missing out on a spot in Albany as a junior, Voelker wanted to make sure he was ready to make the most of his last chance. He said he worked out at Apex Wrestling, trained with Champion Athletes, lifted on his own and spent a lot of time with Coach Johnny Gartiser.

He also continued his move up in weight, going from 112 as a sophomore to 145/152 as a junior to 170 for his last high school run.

“I cut a lot of weight my freshman and sophomore years,” he said. “Since then, I grew a lot and my coaches recommended that I cut less weight because they thought I wouldn’t be as tired at the end of the season. It worked out. Size wise, I wasn’t the biggest guy out there at 170, but I felt strong and I thought I could wrestle with anyone.”

He set his objectives: to be top four in New York, to control everyone in Section 9 and to join the 100-win club. He accomplished all of them, spurred by his performance at the Times Union Center in February.

After winning his opening two matches against Sonny McPherson of Indian River and Cedrick Stephens of Wingate in Albany, he said he injured his knee in the semifinals in a loss to St. Anthony’s Johnny Vrasidas. In order to make the bronze medal bout, he needed a victory against Franky Nassivera of Queensbury in the consolations.

“That was a really big match for me,” he said. “My knee was all messed up and I was down by four. I had to wrestle different because I couldn’t put pressure on my knee, I couldn’t really shoot the way I normally do. I hit a throw with about 30 seconds left to take the lead and rode him out to win it.”

That 5-4 triumph pushed him into the third place match, where he was defeated by Wantagh’s Dan McDevitt.

So with all those victories, what was the highlight of Voelker’s final high school season?

The future MAC grappler discussed Monroe Woodbury placing at the Union-Endicott Duals and earning a state ranking. And of course, he talked about winning the Section and making the medal stand at his last high school event. However, when asked about the top moment of the year, Voelker mentioned something else.

“The first highlight was seeing Vinny [Vespa] step on the mat,” he said of his teammate, who fought cancer to return to action about six months after being diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma. “I absolutely knew we’d see him wrestling again sometime because he’s the toughest kid I know. But for him to do it this year, it was insane.”

Voelker and his family were deeply involved in the fundraising activities for the Vespa family. At the Takedown Tournament held last summer, Voelker stepped on the mat against Vinny’s older brother Michael in an exhibition match. In an entertaining bout, Vespa hit a “flying squirrel”.

“It was a lot of fun,” Voelker said. “We were just going out there to goof around and [the flying squirrel] happened. It was actually something I was teaching him earlier that week and he did it.”

Voelker clearly did a good job of teaching and that’s something he hopes to do a lot more as he plans to pursue a degree in early education at Buffalo.

In addition to his academic path, Voelker also expects to pursue success on the mat – right away. He said he will compete for a spot in the lineup as a true freshman.

“I don’t plan to redshirt my first year,” he said. “I talked to Coach Stutzman and he thinks I’ll be fine after working out in the room with the way I push the pace on my feet and my top and bottom wrestling. I trust him. I can’t wait to get back on the mat. There aren’t a lot of guys that go Division I from Section 9. I want to rack up wins at the college level.”

From Bronze to Buffalo: Holley's Mike Silvis Stays Close to Home with the Bulls

Mike Silvis grew up less than an hour from the University at Buffalo, but his first-ever trip to the campus came just a few weeks ago when new head coach John Stutzman took the reins of the Bulls program.

He was sold right away.

“I didn’t think I would like a large school and I originally wanted to move away from home for college,” Silvis said. “But when I visited, I really liked it. It’s a strong school academically and I really want to be part of what Coach Stutzman is going to build.”

Courtesy of the Silvis Family

Silvis developed a strong relationship with the coach during the recruiting process when Stutzman was at Bloomsburg. In fact, the Holley senior gave a verbal pledge to the Huskies in the spring and was ready to wrestle in the EWL.

However, when Stutzman was brought on board as the new leader at Buffalo, Silvis began to reconsider.

“When I heard about [the coaching change], I was a little surprised, but I immediately got into contact and arranged my visit,” Silvis said. “Coach Stutzman is a very straightforward guy. He’ll tell me how it is and how it will be and I really believe he’ll build this team into a top notch program. He’ll help me achieve my dreams, even though I didn’t accomplish all my goals in high school.”

While the 220-pounder said he didn’t collect the state title he wanted while competing in Section 5, he did achieve plenty in a Holley singlet. Silvis reached the 150-win milestone and was a two-time state qualifier and placer, taking fifth as a junior and third as a senior at the Times Union Center.

That bronze showing in his final campaign was a highlight for the future MAC grappler, allowing him to not only get his hand raised in his last high school bout, but also to avenge an earlier loss against Nanuet’s Dan Breit.

“I lost to [Breit] in the finals at Eastern States,” Silvis said. “It meant a lot to get another chance against him. It felt really good to win a match I should have won the first time around and also to end my career on a win. That was really important to me.”

It wasn’t the last “big” match for Silvis as a high schooler, however. Although it was an exhibition, Silvis took the mat once again at the Long Island vs. Upstate Challenge at the end of March in Ithaca.

“It was truly an honor to be part of that event,” Silvis said of the All-Star meet. “I was really glad to be asked by the coaches. I met a lot of guys I never otherwise would have met and the atmosphere was great. All the Cornell guys were there, cheering us on, and it was a really good feeling. You had a four-time national champ [Kyle Dake], an Upstate guy, waving his arms, cheering in the crowd.”

Silvis gave Dake and the others in attendance something to clap for, capturing a 7-3 decision over Division I state runner up Steven Mills of Sachem North. Right after the bout, Team Long Island lost a team point in a dual that ended in a 27-27 deadlock.

“[Mills] was substantially taller than me and had a bigger build,” Silvis said. “I think a lot of kids look at me and don’t think I look very intimidating. I don’t think he expected the match to go the way it did. But I always go hard for six minutes and leave it all out there on the mat. It showed. I felt strong and wrestled really well to win.”

That’s exactly what he plans to do next year for the Bulls, likely at 285.

“I think I’ll be at heavyweight to start off with because that’s where the team needs me,” Silvis said. “After that, I may go to 197.”

Wherever he wrestlers, Silvis said he’s excited to be surrounded by other New Yorkers. Since Stutzman’s hire, a number of Empire State competitors have announced their intentions to attend Buffalo, including James Benjamin (Vestal), Alex Francik (Vestal), Anthony Liberatore (Williamsville South), AJ Voelker (Monroe Woodbury) and Corey Hollister (Perry). All, like Silvis, were state placers.

According to Silvis, it didn’t always seem like All-State status was in the cards.  The three-sport athlete, who also plays football and baseball, said he started to realize that his future was on the mat around 10th grade.

“As a little kid, I wanted to be a pro football player, but then I stopped growing,” he said. “Around my freshman year, I knew football wasn’t a fit for me long term. I didn’t really become a solid wrestler until I was a sophomore. I matured a lot the summer before and had a breakout season, beating kids that killed me the year before. That’s when I knew I wanted to keep wrestling.”

Helping with his transition to become one of the best in the Empire State were his coaches and teammates, especially assistant Andrew Grillo, a former state champion.

“Andrew Grillo has been my right hand man,” Silvis said. “I’m really thankful. He’s always there to practice with me and has made me into the wrestler I am today.”

The wrestler he is today is someone getting ready to take on the challenges of Division I.

“I am truly excited about the opportunity I have at Buffalo, being part of a rebuilding of the program,” he said. “I think we’ll do great things over the next few years and personally, I’m looking forward to showing everybody that I have a lot left in me. I wasn’t a state champion like I wanted to be, but I have a lot of room to grow and I believe Coach Stutzman will build me into a champion.”

It's Official: Buffalo Names Alum John Stutzman Head Wrestling Coach

Now, it’s official. A familiar face has returned to Buffalo to lead the Bulls program.

1998 graduate John Stutzman, who was the all-time leader in victories at Buffalo upon his graduation, has been named the new head coach of the wrestling team, following the departure of Jim Beichner in March.

It will the second time on the staff of his alma mater, as Stutzman served as an assistant from 1998-2000 before working at Northern Illinois.

Stutzman became the head coach at Bloomsburg in 2005 and in his eight seasons, the Huskies won 97 dual meets and boasted three All-Americans and 33 NCAA qualifiers.

For his efforts, Stutzman has been named EWL Coach of the Year three times.

The Delaware native also has significant coaching experience in the international styles, having been a member of the USA Wrestling staff since 2009 and working with the New York Athletic Club.

For the full announcement from the University, see here.