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.