Top Wrestlers from All Over the Country Set to Battle at the Journeymen Classic

When describing the top tier brackets at the Journeymen Classic, set for September 29 at Niskayuna High School, the event’s poster said it is “a true battleground for wrestlers on the east coast.”

‘A true battleground’ is certainly the case.  A year ago, a number of eventual New York State champions and placers saw high-level competition at the event. Some, like Yianni Diakomihalis, Nick Piccininni, Nick Kelley and Rich Sisti won their brackets, while others suffered some rare losses.

While the tournament advertisement mentioned the East Coast, it isn’t just an East Coast event anymore.  This year, the first FloMajor of the season has commitments from over 20 states, covering various parts of the country.  A contingent of more than 10 wrestlers is scheduled to come in from California while a similar number from Michigan will make the trip, as will grapplers from Southeastern locations such as Georgia, Florida, Virginia, South Carolina and North Carolina.  There are also expected to be entrants from Texas, Kentucky, Alabama and Arkansas in addition to the large pools of competitors from the Tri-State area and New England.

It’s not just the geographic representation that’s impressive, however. The quality of the participants seems to improve from year to year.

Nine 2013 New York State champions will take part – Journeymen Classic returning champions Diakomihalis, Piccininni and Sisti – as well as Kyle Quinn, William Koll, Alex Delacruz, Louis Hernandez, Corey Rasheed and Adis Radoncic.

In addition, Fargo All-Americans such as Jonathan Viruet (MA), Kent Lane (PA), Christian Stackhouse (NJ) and New York’s Jakob Restrepo, Tommy Dutton and Jesse Porter are registered as are Top 100 recruits Gary Dinmore (NJ) and Jesse Webb (VT).  Webb is a multi-time NHSCA National champion as is South Carolina’s Clay Walker, who is also in the field.

Coaches at the next level have definitely taken notice.  Over 20 college programs have confirmed attendance at Niskayuna High School, including 14 Division I institutions from a range of conferences – the EIWA, ACC, SoCon, EWL, MAC, Big 12 and WWC.

For more information on the event, see this link.

 

Journey for the Journeymen: Albany-Area Club On the Way to Europe for a Wrestling and Cultural Experience

A contingent from the Journeymen Wrestling Club will soon be headed to Austria and Italy, staying for almost two weeks.  But it won’t quite be a European vacation.

“It will be fun, but it’s not a tour of those countries,” Journeymen’s Frank Popolizio said. “It’s not like we’re going to the Coliseum and spending the day there. We’ll see a little bit and do some excursions but we’ll mostly be seeing the mats.  We’ll be getting the feel of the European experience from a wrestling standpoint.”

The trip will continue an exchange program that the Journeymen Club has had with European wrestling over the past decade, especially with Italy.

According to Popolizio, it all started when he attended the 2003 World Championships in New York City.

“I went to see the best wrestlers in the world in our backyard, but I had a secondary thing in mind,” he said. “My brother was fourth on the Olympic ladder at the time, but Cael Sanderson was at his weight.  It didn’t look too promising for him to get the nod for the USA, so I started inquiring about wrestling for Italy since our entire family is from there.  I went with some information and materials to give to the Italian coach and in the process, wound up meeting Michele Liuzzi.”

Liuzzi, perhaps Italy’s best competitor at the time, was at the tail end of his career.  Popolizio saw a great opportunity to work with him in the United States.

“I reached out to him over and over,” Popolizio said. “I really wanted to bring him over for a clinic, but he didn’t want to – he had removed himself from wrestling.  But I was tenacious about it and it took years, but I finally got him to come over.”

A relationship was born.  Liuzzi consistently visited the Albany area and began to bring some Italian athletes with him.  In turn, Journeymen made the journey to Italy.  And an exchange ensued.

“This will be our third time going,” Popolizio said. “We’re bringing a really good lineup of dedicated, focused guys who are all very involved in our club.”

Indeed, the list includes multiple All-State wrestlers from 2013, including a pair of silver medalists – Brandon Lapi of Amsterdam and Levi Ashley of Shenendehowa.  In addition, Frank Nassivera of Queensbury (sixth at 170) made the podium while a number of other grapplers – Jake Ashcraft (Burnt Hills), Josh Logiudice (Guilderland), Connor Lawrence (Duanesburg), John McHugh (Columbia) and Blake Retell (Shaker) were all state qualifiers this February.  (For the full list of attendees, see the end of the article).

“I’m definitely excited,” said John McHugh, who attends Columbia High School. “It’s a phenomenal opportunity not only for wrestling but for the whole cultural experience and a chance to go overseas.”

The impressive group of wrestlers will get plenty of opportunities to hone their freestyle skills, first for five or six days in Austria and then in Italy.

“We’ll train there and then we’ll compete,” Popolizio said. “In Austria, we’ll have a quad meet with teams from Germany, Switzerland and Austria.  And the Italian camp has about 130 kids coming in from a bunch of European nations like Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany and probably some others.”

The competition part is something both McHugh and Popolizio remember well from the last time the Europeans traveled to New York.

“When they were here, we had a dual meet with the Italians and Austrians,” McHugh said.  “That was a crazy experience.  It was at one of our gyms and tons of people showed up to watch. They’ve been wrestling Freestyle and Greco their whole lives, but we did pretty well.”

Popolizio agreed.

“When they came here last time, it was fun training with the guys all week and then there are the matches and it’s like, ok, now it counts,” Popolizio said. “Our style of wrestling in the United States isn’t as technical as the Europeans.  They’re putting a lot of time into freestyle, while it’s secondary for us.  Sometimes, our technique isn’t up to snuff, but from a competitive standpoint, we have an advantage.  When it was time to compete, the mindset changed and we lit them up.  They had no idea what hit them. It was a lot of fun.”

There will be some fun off the mat as well.  Popolizio said that the hosts will dictate the schedule, but he knows of an excursion including a hike climbing in the Alps where the group will wind up in a location that overlooks several different countries at once.

“That should be a pretty exciting day, even though we know we’re not primarily there to see Austria or Italy,” Popolizio said. “It will be heavy wrestling with some pleasure mixed in. We’re there to compete and have a cultural exchange to continue to build relationships with wrestlers in other parts of the world.”

 

Journeymen Wrestling Club – Attendees

Jake Ashcraft, Burnt Hills

Levi Ashley, Shenendehowa

Josh Bressette, Fort Ann

Steve Colbert, Galway

Christian Gramuglia, Burnt Hills

Dominic Inzana, Saratoga

Brandon Lapi, Amsterdam

Connor Lawrence, Duanesburg

Josh Logiudice, Guilderland

John McHugh, Columbia

Matt McHugh, Columbia

Frank Nassivera, Queensburg

Tony Papa, Burnt Hills

Kevin Parker, Shenendehowa

Blake Retell, Shaker

"Olympic Level Good": Friends Remember Jeff Blatnick

National Wrestling Hall of Fame member and Olympic Gold Medalist Jeff Blatnick’s passing was a shock to the wrestling community.  It’s a story that has been covered by both the wrestling and mainstream media as many have articulated his numerous and signficant accomplishments both on and off the mat.

For some additional perspectives, New York Wrestling News asked a few people who knew Jeff Blatnick to provide reflections on the impact he had on their lives.  We’ll let them tell more of the story of Jeff Blatnick.

 

Kyle Dake, Three-time NCAA Champion at Cornell

“When I first met Coach Blatnick, I found out pretty quickly that he was one of the friendliest and most incredible people to be around.  What I really remember is how he was full of wisdom.  I always took to heart what he said, whether it was about wrestling or life in general because it was always wise.

He called me “The Ferret” because when we first met I was a 98-pound freshman who was all over the place with so much energy.  As I got bigger, he tried to think of another nickname, but Ferret stuck.  The years I wrestled at Fargo, Coach Blatnick was there.  He was my second coach with Scott Green.  I always had complete trust in him.  I always felt good when he was in my corner because he was a commanding presence who was so knowledgeable about the sport.

After my freshman year in college I went to Fargo to be a team coach and I got to spend time with him. Not as a wrestler and a coach, but as a friend. We had some great conversations about wrestling and life and it was a really special time that I’ll never forget. We had a relationship where we were really strongly connected even though we didn’t see each other that much. I’m still in disbelief that he’s gone.  I appreciated him and looked up to him so much as a person.”

 

Nick Gwiazdowski, NCAA All-American (now at North Carolina State)

“In eighth grade when I started Freestyle and Greco, Jeff Blatnick started coaching me.  The thing he helped me with the most was my approach to wrestling.  Wrestling is such an exciting sport and it’s easy to get really pumped up and have a lot of emotion.  He taught me how to bring the emotion down, visualize and relax and get prepared for matches.  He simplified things for me and a lot of the little things he taught me, I still do in my matches today.

More important, he was someone I liked being around.  You could travel to a tournament with him and never talk about wrestling.  He was someone you could always talk to about anything and he would be there for you.  People would introduce him as an Olympic champion, but he would never introduce himself like that.  He was so humble.  He never really mentioned the things he accomplished.  It was all about helping you get better at wrestling or helping you in some other way.  He will be missed by a lot of people.  It will be very different without him.”

 

Alexis Porter, Two-Time Freestyle National Champion

“I remember when I first met him, at a small peewee tournament.  I hadn’t been wrestling for more than a few months.  He saw something in me that day that not a lot of people had seen and he became my coach.  I knew he was a legend who was courageous and inspirational but he didn’t focus on his own story.  He was focused on making everyone in our club the best wrestler they could be and help them achieve the biggest goals possible.

My first year at Fargo, I lost in the consolation finals.  I was upset and angry. He told me I had nothing to be ashamed of and that next year I would be on top of the podium.  He said I had bigger things to look forward to.  Sure enough, the next year, he was in my corner when I won my first national title.  He was one of the best wrestlers and coaches I’ve seen and an even better man.  I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to know him and to call him my coach.”

 

Craig Vitagliano, Team New York Freestyle Coach (Ascend Wrestling)

“I knew about Jeff Blatnick growing up.  He was one of the first wrestlers I saw on the Olympic level and I remember sitting and watching the gold medal match.  I’d heard about all the adversity he had to overcome and the way he focused and won the Olympic gold was inspiring for me. It was an amazing moment in Olympic history.

Fast forward to the past couple of years when I got to know Jeff on the Freestyle circuit.  Our club battled Journeymen a number of times and he was always respectful, friendly and approachable.  There was no arrogance despite all he accomplished.  He was also light hearted with a great sense of humor.  He was behind a big joke played on me at Fargo this year when I was told that I failed my bronze certification test and was going to be removed from the event.  Jeff was the leader of it and had me going for about 20 minutes.  He was a great man and a great ambassador and it’s a huge loss.”

 

Dylan Palacio, High School National Champion and Cornell Recruit

“Even when I was unsuccessful, [Blatnick] believed in me.  He saw some potential and kept pushing me to achieve what he thought I was capable of.  It’s really rare to find someone so genuine, who just wants you to be better and achieve great things.  He truly cared about the sport and the people in it. My biggest regret is that I never told him how much of an impact he had on me. I really want to do things now to make sure he looks down and says, ‘I was right about that kid.’ I could go on for days about all the things he’s accomplished but what really sticks with me is how sincere he was about wanting to see kids succeed.”

 

Mike Kelley, Journeymen Wrestling

“He always went out of his way to help the kids.  There was a tournament in Connecticut that was over two hours away and bunch of kids were supposed to go.  Then kids started dropping out and only two were left.  A lot of coaches would have decided not to go with only two kids.  But he insisted on going. That’s the kind of guy he was.  If he said he was going to do something, he did it. He always took the time.

Last year at Freestyle states, Nick [Kelley, Mike’s son and Fargo All-American] had an injury to his mouth and it got hit again and was pretty bad.  [Blatnick] went around the place asking everyone if they had a facemask for Nick to use.  He didn’t stop until he found one.  He looked out for everyone.  It wasn’t just successful wrestlers.  It didn’t matter who it was.  If it was first-year kids making all kinds of mistakes, he went out of his way to spend time with them.  He went the extra mile.

He was a great coach. He had a calming effect.  Nick said no matter how loud it was, he could always hear [Blatnick] and his instructions even though he didn’t scream.  There was just something about him.  He was a great guy that will be missed.”

 

Frank Popolizio

“Jeff was an enormous part of our organization at Journeymen Wrestling and the wrestling community as a whole.  Above all, Jeff was a gentleman and an ambassador.  A lot of people look at him as a wrestling guy, but he was a lot more than that. He was a major ambassador for the disabled.  He played a big role in the Special Olympics.  He was involved in cancer-related causes.  It seemed like he was always at fundraising events for cancer and helping to raise awareness.

He was a tremendous worker on top of it all.  He spent a lot of time in the wrestling room trying to help the kids.  He was in charge of our Freestyle program.  Freestyle ends in July and so did his obligations and responsibilities to being there for the kids.  But he’d be there in August and September and October.  I’d tell him he didn’t have to be there, but he wanted to be.  That’s the kind of guy he was.  He cared tremendously about the kids and they really responded to him.

The angle that’s not being covered is an ability that Jeff had as maybe the best, most effective wrestling diplomat.  He was in charge of things that were very political, including the head of USA Wrestling New York.  It’s a difficult position working with many different groups and personalities, but he was able to navigate through it with ease.  I don’t think it was easy, but he made it look easy.  He was really good at it – Olympic level good.  We were all better off for the work he did.

We lost a giant of a guy figuratively and literally.  It’s an enormous void on so many levels and I’m not sure you can ever truly fill it.”

———————————————————————————————————————————————-

We’ll end with an inspiring video of Jeff Blatnick at the 1984 Olympic Games, winning his gold medal and reacting afterwards.  Popolizio said watching it gave him goose bumps and it did the same for us.  RIP, Jeff Blatnick, you will be missed.

Check out Videos and Results from the Journeymen Wrestling Classic

On Sunday, Niskayuna High School hosted The Journeymen Classic, which featured some of New York’s best wrestlers as well as competitors from 17 other states in a round robin format.

Check out some videos from the event (more will be added).

RESULTS are at the bottom of the page.

 

Nick Kelley (Fargo All-American, 2x NYS Placer) vs. Gary Dinmore (NJ State Placer) – 140 Pounds

 

William Koll (NY State Champion, NHSCA All-American) vs. Travis Passaro (NHSCA All-American) – 125 Pounds

 

David Almaviva (Fargo All-American, NYS 3rd) vs. Thomas Dutton (Fargo All-American) – 145 Pounds

 

Vincent DePrez (NY State Runner Up) vs. Scott Delvecchio (NJ State Champion)

 

Yianni Diakomihalis (Ranked #5 Nationally among Jr High wrestlers) vs. Jesse Dellavecchia (Sachem East)

 

Louie Hernandez (Section 8 Champion) vs. Brad Drover (New England Runner Up)

 

Yianni Diakomihalis (Ranked #5 nationally among Jr High wrestlers) vs. Tommy Aloi (All-American)

 

More videos to come . . .

 

RESULTS

103A:  Champion: Yianni Diakomihalis (G2)  Second Place: Jesse Dellavecchia

Diakomihalis dec Dellavecchia 8-1

103B: Champion: Vitali Arujau (VHW) Second Place: Josh Logiudice (Journeymen)

Arujau dec Logiudice 7-0

113A: Champion: Nick Piccininni (Ward Melville) Second Place: Joseph Trovato (Apex)

Piccininni dec Trovato 7-0

113B: Champion: Bryan Lantry (Wayne) Second Place: Nick Barbaria (Ascend)

Lantry dec Barbaria, 3-1

113C: Champion: James Szymanski (X-Cel) Second Place: Benjamin Defronzo

Szymanski dec Defronzo, 5-2

113D: Champion: Ben Lamantia (VHW) Second Place: Jim Slendorn (Triumph)

Lamantia dec Slendorn, 12-5

120A: Champion: Brent Fleetwood (Tyrants) Second Place: Ryan Pomrinca (North Hunterdon)

120B: Champion: Blake Retell (Journeymen) Second Place: Josue Beltran Jr (Mountain View)

Retell dec Beltran Jr, 3-1

120C: Champion: Craig DeLaCruz (Bound Brook) Second Place: John Amato (Timber Creek)

DeLaCruz pin Amato, 1:33

120D: Jean-Luc Lemieux (Pinkerton) Second Place: Dylan Lafountain (Mount Anthony)

Lemieux dec Lafountain, 7-0

125A: Champion: Sal Profaci (Monroe) Second Place: Travis Passaro (631 Elite)

Profaci dec Passaro, 4-2

125B: Champion: Justin Cooksey (VHW) Second Place: Joseph Ghione (Brick Memorial)

Cooksey dec Ghione, 8-5

125C: Champion: Connor Muli (Shore Thing) Second Place: Michael Raccioppi (Minisink Valley)

Muli dec Raccioppi, 4-2

125 D: Champion: Kyle Fletcher (Catamount) Second Place: Blaise Rufo (Monsignor Farrell)

Fletcher pin Rufo, 2:17

130A: Champion: Anthony Giraldo (North Bergen) Second Place: TJ Fabian (X-Cel)

Giraldo dec Fabian, 7-1

130B: Champion: Jared Staub (Elite) Second Place: Patrick Lacroix

Staub dec Lacroix, 6-4 (OT)

135A: Champion: Scott Delvecchio (Hercules) Second Place: Geoffrey Verallis (NMH)

Delvecchio dec Verallis, 6-4

135B: Champion: Michael Pongracz (Delaware Valley) Second Place: Miguel Calixto (Silverback Wrestling)

Pongracz dec Calixto, 9-3

140A: Champion: Nick Kelley (Journeymen) Second Place: Corey Stasenko (Triumph)

Kelley dec Stasenko, 5-3

140B: Champion: Fritz Hoehn (Doughboys) Second Place: Daniel Reagan (Lew Port)

Hoehn dec Reagan, 2-1

145A: Champion: Maaziah Bethea (Elite) Second Place: David Almaviva (Journeymen)

Bethea dec Almaviva, 4-3

145B: Champion: Jake Spengler Second Place: Christian Labrie 

Spengler dec Labrie, 9-8

152A: Champion: Chad Walsh (Camden Catholic) Second Place: Louie Hernandez (Ascend)

Walsh dec Hernandez, 3-1 (OT)

152B: Champion: Dylan Painton (Triumph) Second Place: Jimmy Ryan (Doughboys)

Painton maj Ryan, 12-2

160A: Champion: Jonathan Schleifer (Triumph) Second Place: Jake George (Long Branch)

Schleifer dec George, 6-1

160B: Champion: Joe Mastro Second Place: Andrew Psomas (Monsignor Farrell)

Mastro pin Psomas (SV)

160C: Champion: Mikey Amorando (Atlas Wrestling) Second Place: Dan Tracy (Ascend)

Amorando pin Tracy, 5:00

170A: Champion: Chris Chorzepa (Northeast Elite) Second Place: Dan Wojtaszek (Shore Thing)

Chorzepa dec Wojtaszek, 3-0

170B: Champion: Austin Weigel (Journeymen) Second Place: Daesean Brown (Triumph)

Weigel dec Brown, 5-3

170C: Champion: Johnny Vrasidas (St. Anthony’s) Second Place: David Bunn (Copiague)

Vrasidas pin Bunn, 1:41

182A: Champion: Peter Renda (Brandywine Heights) Second Place: Joe Balboni (Apex)

Renda dec Balboni, 4-2

182B: Champion: Stephen Suglio Second Place: Levi Ashley (Journeymen) 

Suglio over Ashley, 9-1

182C: Champion: Giovanni Santiago (VHW) Second Place: Austin Price (Mount Anthony)

Santiago pin Price, 4:11

195: Champion: Leonardo Trindade (Doughboys) Second Place: Bryce Mazurowski (Avon)

Trindade pin Mazurowski, 2:58

225 Champion: Richard Sisti (Monsignor Farrell) Second Place: Joe Sprung (Journeymen)

Sisti dec Sprung, 7-3

285 Champion: Jesse Webb (Catamount) Second Place: Matt Montesanti (Medina)

Webb dec Montesanti, 4-2

 

All-American David Almaviva of Shenendehowa Discusses His Commitment to Binghamton

After dominating his way through the Section 2 championships, Shenendehowa’s David Almaviva came to the state tournament in February with hopes of a 138-pound title.  When he dropped his first bout against Fox Lane’s Tom Grippi, 4-1, he quickly turned his disappointment into motivation.

“At first, I was pretty upset,” Almaviva said. “But then I realized I couldn’t be upset because it wouldn’t help.  I knew I needed to wrestle back tough and take third.”

Photo courtesy of Anthony Almaviva

He took care of business, winning five straight matches to earn the bronze.  His path wasn’t easy, as he faced the bracket’s top two seeds.  However, he was in control most of the way, outscoring his opponents 21-3.

“I thought the way I handled it could be the deciding factor on whether colleges would look at me,” Almaviva said.

That might have been the case.  Several Division I programs were excited about Almaviva, including Binghamton.

This past weekend, while Almaviva was on his official visit to the CAA institution, he became the third top 10 senior in New York State to commit to the Bearcats.  While he enjoyed playing paintball and participating in other team bonding activities on the trip, he listed many other reasons for his decision.

“I really like the campus and it’s not too far from home,” he said. “I know I’ll get a good education there.  I also feel like I have a pretty close relationship with the coaches and the team feels like a family.  I know the team is working hard to be national champs and that’s what I’m looking to do.”

Helping Almaviva reach for those goals in Division I wrestling will be his longtime teammate Nick Kelley, who committed to Binghamton a few weeks ago.

“We’ve been workout partners since fourth grade.  [Kelley’s commitment] was definitely part of my decision to choose Binghamton,” Almaviva said, adding that he also strongly considered North Carolina State. “We’ve always been around the same weight and we’ve always pushed each other to get better.”

That was true this summer when both wrestlers became Freestyle All-Americans at Junior Nationals at Fargo.  Almaviva took eighth at 145 pounds in North Dakota after defeating eventual national runner up Quinton Murphy at the New York State Freestyle championships.

With those victories behind him, Almaviva is now focused on ending his senior season on a high note.

“I’m looking to be a state champ this year,” Almaviva said. “My high school coaches [Rob] Weeks and [Frank] Popolizio work with me every day to make sure I’m the best I can be.  That’s true for my teammates too – we push each other.  I think if we keep working hard and stay focused our team can win states this year.  And I won’t stop working so that I can finally finish first individually.”

Update: Nick Kelley Discusses His Commitment to Binghamton (Over Iowa, Among Others) and Working Towards a State Title

Photo by BV

 

Shenendehowa’s Nick Kelley has achieved quite a bit in his athletic career.  He was a taekwondo national champion when he was 10 and was also successful in judo.  And he has piled up numerous medals in wrestling, ranging from his trips to the podium at the New York state tournament (fourth at 130 in 2011 and third at 132 in 2012) to his All-America performances (third at NHSCA Freshman Nationals at 125, fifth at FloNationals as a sophomore and fourth at Fargo this past summer in freestyle at 132 pounds).  But when asked what he considered to be his best accomplishment to date, he didn’t hesitate.

And he didn’t choose any of the previously mentioned accolades.

“I think it’s committing to great college like Binghamton and getting ready to take the next step,” he said.

The Section 2 star’s verbal to the Bearcats gave Coach Matt Dernlan and his staff the pledges of two of the Empire State’s top seniors, as Canastota’s Zack Zupan committed a few weeks ago.  The competition for Kelley, Intermat’s #93 ranked recruit nationally, was fierce, as he gave consideration to Iowa, Virginia Tech, Rutgers and North Carolina State before informing the Binghamton coaches on Friday that he would be staying in his home state after graduation.

“It’s a really good fit for me,” Kelley said of the CAA institution. “The coaches have the same philosophy as me – working hard and working smart.  I like the campus, the program and the coaches.  Really, I like everything about it. I feel like the staff really cares about the wrestlers.  I know there will be some tough New York kids there and we think we can make some real noise across the country.”

The future Business major is first concerned with making noise for one more season as a member of the Plainsmen.  He emerged on the Empire State wrestling scene as a seventh grader when he qualified for the state tournament.  Over the years, he has won over 200 matches and several Section 2 titles.  In his mind, there’s only one thing missing.

“The main focus is definitely to win states this year,” Kelley said, adding that he will likely compete at 138 pounds. “I am completely focused on winning a state title.”

As a junior, Kelley compiled an impressive 45-1 record, with 40 bonus point wins.  His sole setback was a one-point semifinal defeat in Albany against eventual state champion and Most Outstanding Wrestler Jamel Hudson, now a freshman at Hofstra.

“I think I was good at states, but not my best,” Kelley said.  “I put all my athleticism out there and I wrestled hard, but I could’ve wrestled smarter, especially in the semifinals.  I kept going after him and made some mistakes doing it.”

Going after opponents throughout the match is characteristic of Kelley’s style, one that has been fostered in the Shenendehowa room and at the Journeymen Wrestling Club.

“Our room is so tough and competitive,” Kelley said.  “It has been since seventh grade and it’s helped me so much.  I kept getting better and stronger by wrestling the bigger guys and the older guys and with workout partners like [2012 New York third place finisher and Fargo All-American David] Almaviva. Now, after all these years, I feel like I’m one of the stronger guys.”

He certainly is, but he believes it will take more to reach his ultimate high school goal.

“I’ve been wrestling a ton since the season ended,” Kelley said. “I got a lot of matches at the Disney Duals in Florida and at Fargo and training camps.  I’ve been working with Journeymen and coaches Rob Weeks and Frank Popolizio.  I’ve been running and getting stronger.  I’ve also spent a lot of time focusing on my match strategy.”

Kelley has still found time to paint houses over the summer with Weeks.  And he often finds good spots to engage in another of his favorite activities – fishing.  In fact, he was on the water while answering questions for this story.  But while he said that he loves fishing, few things compare to wrestling.

“My dad got me into combat sports early – I think I started when I was three,” he said. “Taekwondo and judo helped me with balance and core strength and they made me tougher.  But I stopped those other sports by eighth grade to focus on wrestling.  To me, wrestling is the best. It’s harder and requires so much commitment.  You can’t stop working.  I’m doing everything I can to get ready for the season and I can’t wait to do some damage in college.”