Dake, Nevinger, Santos, Bonanno, Vinson Among New York Representatives on the NWCA All-Academic Team

 
 
The National Wresting Coaches Association (NWCA) released the 82-member Division I All-Academic team for the 2012-13 campaign, including several New York wrestlers.

Four-time national champion Kyle Dake was one of four NCAA titlewinners on the squad (along with Oklahoma’s Kendric Maple, Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry and Penn State’s Quentin Wright). Joining Dake was fellow Big Red All-American Mike Nevinger.

Santos, Photo by BV

Another wrestler who stood on the podium in Des Moines, Columbia bronze medalist Steve Santos, made the squad, along with his teammates Jake O’Hara and Josh Houldsworth. The Lions were 28th in the team GPA standings (3.0212).

Also chosen for the team were a pair of 2012 All-Americans and current graduate students – Binghamton’s Donnie Vinson and Hofstra’s Steve Bonanno. The Pride 125 pounder, working toward his MBA, was ranked third on the individual academic list with a 3.77 grade point average.

Rounding out the Empire State representatives are Billy Watterson, a former Section 1 standout now at Brown and Section 3 star Ryan LeBlanc, who wrestles at Indiana.

For the full release, see here.

NWCA All-Academic Team – (Wrestlers with Connection to New York)

Donnie Vinson (Binghamton, 149 pounds) – Masters (Student Affairs)

Billy Watterson (Brown, John Jay HS, 125 pounds) – History

Jake O’Hara (Columbia, 157 pounds) – Financial Economics

Josh Houldsworth (Columbia, 165 pounds) – Financial Economics

Steve Santos (Columbia, 149 pounds) – Financial Economics

Mike Nevinger (Cornell, 141 pounds) – Mechanical Engineering

Kyle Dake (Cornell, 165 pounds) – Development Sociology

Steve Bonanno (Hofstra, 125 pounds) – Accounting (MBA)

Ryan LeBlanc (Indiana, Morrisville Eaton HS, 165 pounds) – Fitness Specialist

EIWA Preview: Can Cornell Make It Seven In a Row? Who Will Star For Columbia and Army?

 
 
Wrestlers and coaches always emphasize that what counts the most is performing in March.  Well, March is upon us.  This weekend, wrestlers from all six Division I schools in New York will try to earn their spots at the 2013 NCAAs in Iowa with strong showings at the EIWA, CAA and MAC Championships.  The following is a look at the EIWA event, which will be held at Rutgers University. (We will discuss the other tournaments separately).

Note: We may provide a live blog of all mats at the EIWAs, as we did last year. Please check back at LIVE BLOG link.

Returning EIWA National Champions:

Kyle Dake, Cornell (2012 Champion at 157, now at 165)

Steve Bosak, Cornell (184)

Returning EIWA All-Americans:

Mike Nevinger, Cornell (141)

Steven Keith, Harvard (All-American at 133, now at 141)

Walter Peppelman, Harvard (157)

Robert Hamlin, Lehigh (184)

Micah Burak, Penn (197)

 

Cornell has won six EIWA crowns in a row.  Will the Big Red make it seven?  The squad certainly has the firepower to do it, but has a few more question marks than in recent years. There are a number of teams who have the balance to make legitimate runs at the big trophy. Cornell, Rutgers and Navy all have seven wrestlers pre-seeded in the top 4 of their weights, while Lehigh has five such grapplers, all pre-seeded in the top 2.

Let’s take a quick weight-by-weight look at what we’ll see in New Jersey on Friday and Saturday:

125: (Four automatic bids to NCAAs)

Photo by BV

Nahshon Garrett, the Ivy League Rookie of the Year, has had a stellar freshman campaign.  Currently ranked sixth nationally, he will be the top seed.  One of his few close victories this year was an overtime battle with former EIWA runner up Mark Rappo of Penn.  The two are favored to meet again in the finals on Saturday although some other wrestlers, such as Joey Langel of Rutgers, could throw a wrench in the works.

NY Storyline(s):  Garrett has beaten everyone he’s faced all year – except the #1, 2 and 3 grapplers nationally (Alan Waters, Matt McDonough and Nico Megaludis).  The first time Garrett and Rappo met this season, the Penn grappler wrestled much of the bout on one knee to counter Garrett’s quickness.  However, the Cornell rookie’s mat wrestling led him to victory.   We think it will again.

133: (Two automatic bids)

This weight has only two automatic qualifying spots, the fewest of any class in the conference.  The race for those slots seems wide open.  Perhaps the favorites are Vinny Dellafave of Rutgers and Randy Cruz of Lehigh, the top two pre-seeds.

NY Storyline(s): Jordan Thome wasn’t pleased with his seventh place finish at the 2012 EIWAs but wrestled well at the NCAAs, picking up a pair of victories. He is a multi-time national qualifier and will no doubt push to finish his career at the season’s biggest event.  Cornell’s Bricker Dixon had an effective weekend at the National Duals Regional in Ithaca, topping a pair of solid wrestlers in Jamie Franco of Hofstra and Shawn Nagel of Nebraska.  He also has a quality win over Lehigh’s Cruz. The pair could meet in the semifinals. 

Matt Bystol of Columbia dropped to 133 in early February and won four of five contests, according to the NWCA Scorebook, including a decision over Dixon.  The way this weight class is, any of those Empire State grapplers could make the finals and get tickets to Iowa.

141:  (Seven automatic bids)

While 133 offers just two guaranteed berths to Des Moines, 141 has seven.  And that’s an accurate reflection of the quality of this class. Leading the way are a pair of returning All-Americans, Mike Nevinger and Steven Keith.  Nevinger, the runner up at the EIWAs last year at this weight, registered two wins over Keith earlier this season.  The Harvard wrestler and Long Island native has been very impressive lately, however, including victories over a pair of contenders, CJ Cobb of Penn and Anthony Salupo of Lehigh in February.  (Cobb topped Nevinger in dual meet action).  Not to be forgotten are Trevor Melde of Rutgers, Richard Durso of Franklin and Marshall and another New Yorker – Connor Hanafee of Army.  The former CHSAA star can battle with anyone, as he did while making the medal stand at the Southern Scuffle.

NY Storyline(s):  New York should be well represented here.  We see a trio of Empire State high school stars – Nevinger (Letchworth), Keith (Shoreham Wading River) and Hanafee (Monsignor Farrell) all heading to Nationals after high podium finishes.

149: (Four automatic bids)

Last year’s EIWA finalists, Shane Welsh of Lehigh and Kevin Tao of American, are back, as are the third and fourth place finishers – Chris Villalonga of Cornell and Steve Santos of Columbia.   The return of those medalists should make for an exciting class.

NY Storyline(s): Santos and Villalonga split a pair of bouts a year ago, but didn’t meet in the dual between their teams in 2013.   If pre-seeds hold, they could square off in the semifinals.

However, another Empire State resident has the potential to take the title as well – Daniel Young of Army.  The Black Knight didn’t qualify a spot for the conference, but he has some significant victories, including over All-Americans Cam Tessari of Ohio State and Derek Valenti of Virginia. (He’s also topped Tao and Villalonga this season and earned the third pre-seed as a result).  We expect to see all three make the trip to Des Moines.

157: (Five automatic bids)

Photo by BV

Scott Winston of Rutgers has been an EIWA finalist each of the past two years.  He isn’t the top seed, however. In fact, he’s pre-seeded at number four.  That’s largely because of accomplished grapplers in this class ranked high nationally – Walter Peppelman of Harvard and Joey Napoli of Lehigh. Meanwhile, Columbia’s Jake O’Hara and Navy’s Bobby Barnhisel have also appeared in the polls during 2012-13.

NY Storyline(s): O’Hara won a pair of matches at Nationals last year and is looking to improve upon his 2012 fifth place showing at EIWAs. Cornell’s Jesse Shanaman has had an up and down season but had Peppelman on the ropes as time expired in Cambridge.  His defense and toughness on the mat give him the ability to pull some upsets and grab a qualifying spot.

165:  (Five automatic bids)

Kyle Dake is a two-time EIWA champion and a three-time NCAA champion.  This bracket is reasonably filled with solid wrestlers, but none on Dake’s level.

NY Storyline(s): Dake is, of course, the big one.  But Army’s Paul Hancock has been solid as a rock all year long for the Black Knights.  He has compiled a 28-9 record and placed at the challenging Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. We expect to see both make the trip to the Midwest in a couple of weeks. The question is whether Josh Houldsworth of Columbia (pre-seeded at #7) can join them as a possible sleeper.  The Lion wrestler has won nine of 11 bouts in 2013, with his only setbacks coming to Penn’s Casey Kent, the #3 preseed, by a 1-0 score and by fall to Dake.

174: (Four automatic bids)

Like at 133, there isn’t a clear favorite at this weight.  Mat Miller of Navy, Greg Zannetti of Rutgers, Nate Brown of Lehigh and Stephen West of Columbia have all had very strong seasons.   All are in the top 21 of the final Coaches’ Panel rankings.

NY Storyline(s): Can Stephen West get his first bid to the NCAAs?  The Columbia coaching staff was surprised he was not awarded an at-large bid to the NCAAs a year ago after a solid campaign and a fifth place EIWA showing. He has followed up with a better senior season and hopes to represent the Lions in Iowa.

Last year’s 165 pound bronze medal match at EIWAs featured an overtime win for Army’s Coleman Gracey over Cornell’s Marshall Peppelman.  Peppelman recently got the starting nod for the Big Red after a season-long battle with freshman Duke Pickett while Gracey didn’t take the mat for the Black Knights until the second half of the campaign.  Neither wrestler is pre-seeded in the top five, but both are capable of strong runs this weekend to earn return trips to the NCAA tournament.

184: (Five automatic bids)

Will we get to see another installment of Steve Bosak vs. Robert Hamlin?  The past two seasons, the two-time All-Americans have met for the EIWA crown.  Both times, the Lehigh grappler used late heroics to take the title. The two are on another collision course and this one could have major implications for not only the team race but also for seeding in Des Moines.  Presumably neither wants to be in the path of Penn State’s Ed Ruth.

NY Storyline(s): Bosak is a national champion but hasn’t collected an EIWA title.  Can he add that honor to his resume this weekend in New Jersey?

197: (Five automatic bids)

Cam Simaz stood on top of the podium at this weight for the past four years. The last three times, his titles came at the expense of Penn’s Micah Burak.  Now as a senior, the Quaker is the favorite to finally get over the hump and take first place.

NY Storyline(s): Jace Bennett is one of the more exciting upperweights to watch in the nation.  27 of his 38 matches have ended as bonus point affairs – some for and some against.  Nick Mills came tantalizingly close to qualifying for nationals two years ago at the EIWAs and has one last chance this weekend.  On the other end of the spectrum, this will be the first shot for Army freshman Bryce Barnes, who has 22 victories in his rookie campaign. A year ago, Army’s Derek Stanley rode a great conference tournament to the NCAAs at this weight.  Barnes could do the same.

285: (Four automatic bids)

Photo by BV

This is one of two classes without a top 20-ranked wrestler (along with 133).  So, who will emerge?  Both Stryker Lane of Cornell and Dan Miller of Navy have placed at EIWAs in the past. Meanwhile, Billy Smith of Rutgers and Blake Herrin of American have both been consistent and effective throughout the campaign and as a result entered as pre-seeds number one and two. 

NY Storyline(s): Colin Wittmeyer of Army has placed in the EIWA tournament in the past.  After spending the early part of the season at 184, he recently has seen action at 285 and enters in the ninth spot.

Cornell’s Lane sustained an injury during the Harvard meet, but came back on the mat to register a late reversal and near fall to clinch the dual victory for his team.  He returned several weeks later and fought through the pain to ensure the Big Red went to the second weekend of the National Duals in Minnesota.  The number three pre-seed, he should be back and ready for Cornell.

For the pre-seeds for this year’s tournament, see here.

Cornell's Kyle Dake Earns Ivy League Wrestler of the Year; Nahshon Garrett Named Top Rookie

The All-Ivy Teams were announced on Wednesday and New York was well represented.

Cornell picked up the two big individual awards when senior 165-pounder Kyle Dake won his first Ivy League Wrestler of the Year Award and 125-pounder Nahshon Garrett earned Rookie of the Year honors.  It was the fifth consecutive time that a Big Red team member won the Wrestler of the Year trophy.

Photo by BV

Dake has been dominant throughout his 28-0 season, including pinning all five of his Ivy opponents, while Garrett also registered a 5-0 mark in conference action with four of those victories by bonus points.

Both Dake and Garrett were unanimously chosen to the All-Ivy first team.  Other New York wrestlers joining them were Cornell’s Steve Bosak (184) and Jacob Aiken-Phillips (285), Columbia seniors Steve Santos (149) and Stephen West (174) and former Shoreham Wading River High School star Steven Keith (Harvard, 141).

Quite a few wrestlers with ties to the Empire State made the All-Ivy second team as well.  They include Cornell’s Chris Villalonga (149) and Stryker Lane (285) and Columbia’s Jake O’Hara (157) and Matt Bystol (133).  In addition, Syosset’s Steven Graziano (Penn, 285) and Carmel’s Ryan Osleeb (Harvard, 133) also earned spots on the squad.

For the full list of the first, second and honorable mention All-Ivy teams, see below:
FIRST TEAM ALL-IVY
*Nahshon Garrett, Cornell (Fr., 125 – Chico, Calif.) – Rookie of the Year
*Jeff Canfora, Penn (So., 133 – East Hanover, N.J.)
Steven Keith, Harvard (Sr., 141 – Shoreham, N.Y.)
Steve Santos, Columbia (Sr., 149 – Brick, N.J.)
*Walter Peppelman, Harvard (Sr., 157 – Harrisburg, Pa.)
*Kyle Dake, Cornell (Sr., 165 – Ithaca, N.Y.) – Wrestler of the Year
*Stephen West, Columbia (Sr., 174 – Fresno, Calif.)
*Steve Bosak, Cornell (Sr., 184 – State College, Pa.)
*Micah Burak, Penn (Sr., 197 – Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Jacob Aiken-Phillips, Cornell (So., 285 – Lawrenceville, Ga.)

SECOND TEAM ALL-IVY 
Mark Rappo, Penn (Sr., 125 – Holland, Pa.)
Matt Bystol, Columbia (Jr., 133 – Libertyville, Ill.)
Ryan Osleeb, Harvard (So., 133 – Carmel, N.Y.)
C.J. Cobb, Penn (So., 141 – Williamstown, N.J.)
Chris Villalonga, Cornell (Jr., 149 – Totowa, N.J.)
Jake O’Hara, Columbia (Sr., 157 – Mountaintop, Pa.)
Casey Kent, Penn (Fr., 165 – Norristown, Pa.)
Ian Korb, Penn (So., 174 – Cincinnati, Oh.)
Ophir Bernstein, Brown (So., 184 – Allen, Texas)
James Fox, Harvard (So., 197 – Plainfield, N.J.)
Stryker Lane, Cornell (Sr., 285 – Redvale, Colo.)
Steven Graziano, Penn (Jr., 285 – Syosset, N.Y.)

HONORABLE MENTION ALL-IVY
Jeff Ott, Harvard (Fr., 125 – Chelmsford, Mass.)
Bricker Dixon, Cornell (So., 133 – Kansas City, Mo.)
Mike Nevinger, Cornell (Jr., 141 – Perry, N.Y.)
Zach Bintliff, Princeton (Sr., 149 – Gladstone, Mo.)
Jesse Shanaman, Cornell (Jr., 157– Blairstown, N.J.)
Giuseppi Lanzi, Brown (Jr., 165 – Amsterdam, N.Y.)
Cameron Croy, Harvard (Jr., 174 – Brentwood, Tenn.)
Canaan Bethea, Penn (Jr., 184 – Trenton, N.J.)
Jace Bennett, Cornell (So., 197 – Amarillo, Texas)
Nick Gajdzik, Harvard (Fr., 285 – Rochester, Mich.)

* Unanimous selection

Head Coach Carl Fronhofer Previews the 2012-13 Columbia Lions

In 2011-12, Carl Fronhofer’s first season as head coach, Columbia took third place in the Ivy League (losing a 19-18 nailbiter against second place Penn) and sixth at the EIWA tournament.  The Lions sent three wrestlers to the NCAA tournament, where Steve Santos came within one win of becoming an All-American at 149 and 157-pounder Jake O’Hara and now graduated heavyweight Kevin Lester each won a pair of matches.

What’s next for the Ivy League squad in 2012-13?  Fronhofer gave New York Wrestling News a preview of what to expect in the upcoming campaign, beginning with a weight-by-weight look at the team.

125 Pounds – Former Section 1 standout Penn Gottfried returns after taking last season off with a shoulder injury.  He’ll be in a battle with Robert Dyar, who won 16 matches last year, for the starting role in 2012-13.  Adding depth is California state champion Johnson Mai.

Coach Fronhofer: “Penn and Dyar are pretty competitive in the room and at this point, it’s hard to tell what will happen.  Penn’s rehab went great and his arm is strong.  But, he’s only been back on the mat for a couple of weeks.  I think it’s close enough between those two guys that I’ll remove myself from that situation and see how it plays out. As for Johnson Mai, he’s a tremendous athlete who is very skilled.  He’s good enough to find ways to win.  But he’s probably at least a year away from getting big enough to compete nationally.  It’s similar to Dyar when he first came in – he needed time to grow enough to compete at 125 pounds.”

133 Pounds – The departure of starter Kyle Gilchrist, who went 27-15 a year ago, leaves a spot that several wrestlers are hoping to grab.

Coach Fronhofer: “It’s definitely wide open. We have Andrew Grabfelder, who was a starter earlier in his career.  He took a year off, was injured when he came back and is a senior now.  If he can stay healthy and keep it together, he can do well.  We also have some young guys from Ohio – Ryan Murdock and Angelo Amenta who are pretty talented kids who work hard.  Also add in California freshman Joe Moita.  This is the most wide open race for a starting spot in our lineup this year.”

141 Pounds – Last season, Matt Bystol, Ryan Ponte and Elijah Sullivan all manned the 141-pound spot at times, until Bystol earned the nod down the stretch.  He and Ponte will be back, with Sullivan taking the year off. But it may be a three-way race again as Top 100 recruit Alec Mooradian, a Michigan native, will also look for time.

Coach Fronhofer: “We had several wrestleoffs last year at 141 and it went in circles. When the dust settled, it was Bystol who won the job.  He was really steady and consistent and that’s why he found himself in the lineup at the end of the year.  Ponte will battle with him again and so will Mooradian.  [Mooradian] was a four-time state finalist and a three-time champion and lost only a few matches in his entire high school career.   He’s tough and he’ll be fighting for the spot too.”

149 Pounds – Unlike the first three weights, 149 isn’t up for grabs.  Four-year starter Steve Santos will be back a year after making the Round of 12 at the NCAA tournament.  Santos has racked up several impressive victories during his career, including wins over Mario Mason, Donnie Vinson and Edinboro’s David Habat.  In 2011-12, he compiled a 26-11 record and took fourth at the EIWA tournament before winning three bouts at nationals.

Coach Fronhofer: “Last year, Steve was solid.  When he was a freshman and sophomore, he was a little inconsistent. He took some bad losses here and there.  But if he continues to be consistent, he’s a top 10 guy in the country and is capable of more than that.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he took top four at NCAAs this year.  He has what it takes to be an All-American.”

157 Pounds – Like Santos, fellow senior Jake O’Hara got his hand raised at nationals in 2012.  The Pennsylvania native won two matches in St. Louis to cap off a 30-victory campaign.  According to Fronhofer, he and Santos will be the team captains and are the leaders of the squad who “take care of business inside and outside the room and do everything right”.

Coach Fronhofer: “Jake made a big leap last year.  I think the difference between Jake as a sophomore and as a junior was pretty astronomical.  It’s a credit to him.  He works very hard – he stays the course and gets better every day.  I think having [assistant coach] Adam Hall [an All-American at Boise State] to work with was very beneficial.  Without question, Jake’s goal is to be on the podium in March.  There’s no doubt in my mind that he can do it.  The middle weights are always loaded but you have to show up and wrestle.  He’s capable of placing at the NCAAs.”

165 Pounds – NCAA qualifier Eren Civan graduated and a number of young wrestlers are lining up to take his spot.  Michigan native Josh Houldsworth, who started at 141 as a freshman in 2010-11, is moving up a few weights while 2012 spot starter Adam Fondale is in the mix with sophomore Eric Fajardo.

Coach Fronhofer: “Josh Houldsworth is pretty tall and we always thought he could grow. We’ve gotten such consistent work out of Steve [Santos] and Jake [O’Hara] that we asked Josh to move up and he’s making that move. Fondale won about 20 matches last year, wrestling in duals, opens and all over the place. Fajardo is a super talented kid who did a lot of judo growing up.  He didn’t have the pure wrestling experience of a lot of other guys, but he’s a great athlete who has developed well.  He took second at the FILA Junior Nationals this spring in Greco and has made some big gains in a short time.”

174 PoundsStephen West joined the lineup as soon as he arrived at Columbia and is ready to enter his fourth year as a starter.   Despite 33 wins last season, he didn’t receive a bid to the NCAA tournament and looks to qualify for nationals and more in his final season in a Lions singlet.

Coach Fronhofer: “It was almost unbelievable that [West] wasn’t at the tournament last year. It was shocking to me after he qualified a spot for our conference and placed only one spot out [of automatic qualifying]. He had the most wins at the weight in the country.   He was completely devastated – we all were.  But he has the right attitude about the sport and life and he snapped out of it pretty quickly and went back to work in the spring and summer.  He has the right focus.  I assume that in March he’ll be competing at a pretty high level nationally.  He’s shooting to be an All-American. He has the experience, the athleticism and the skill set that makes it possible.”

184 PoundsShane Hughes came in as a freshman and racked up 22 wins.  He was an exciting wrestler to watch, recording 11 pins and going for big moves at 184 pounds.  Several other freshmen, such as Zack Hernandez, Austin Coniker and Chris Loew are also listed at the weight.

Coach Fronhofer: “Shane is definitely very dangerous in certain positions.  To make a jump this year, he’ll have to be more consistent and tighten up his game a little bit.  You can’t put the reins on guys like him because part of why he’s good is that he’s so open.  But he’ll have to improve a little on fundamentals and managing matches to take the next step.”

197 Pounds – In 2011, Nick Mills made Second Team All-Ivy at 184 pounds and took fifth at EIWAs.  He began last season at the same weight and then transitioned to 197, going 12-15 overall.

Coach Fronhofer: “Nick had a rough year last year. He puts a lot of pressure on himself and was trying to figure out how to compete that way.  If he does that, he’ll be back in a position to get to the NCAA tournament. He’s a great athlete and physically can compete with anyone.  Chris Manna and Matt Idelson are two other guys who will be at that weight.  They haven’t figured out a way to beat Mills yet, though.”

285 PoundsWyatt Baker notched a 13-5 record in his first year with the Lions while backing up NCAA qualifier Kevin Lester.  He was busy in the spring and summer competing in the international styles.  Baker represented the United States at 120 kg in Greco Roman at the Junior World Championships in Thailand, taking 10th place.  The native Californian is looking to make his mark in the EIWA and nationally in his initial campaign as a starter.

Coach Fronhofer: “Wyatt has made a huge leap.  He’s a kid that comes from Servite, a major football factory and he was a big time football player.  He only wrestled a few months of the year.  He has a tremendous attitude – he’s a happy kid that gets the most out of every situation.  I think it’s really hard to start right out of the blocks at heavyweight, so he was in a good position last year to come in and develop with Kevin Lester here.  Having that year of development plus the great summer he earned by making the World Team really benefitted him and we expect him to compete at a high level right away.”

A Few More Questions . . . 

What do you feel were the biggest things you took away from your first year as the head coach?

Coach Fronhofer:  I think I learned about managing the guys.  It’s a bit of a balancing act.  A guy like Stephen West probably wrestled too many matches last year.  He’s just so tough and so consistent, you can lose sight of the fact that he could use some time off.  I think you learn as a head coach when to put the hammer down and when to pull back a little bit; how to manage individuals and keep the team’s best interest in mind.  The decision making process is constantly evolving.

I also got to see that as a head coach you manage to wear a lot of hats at once.  You have responsibilities to the team, the administration, the parents, recruiting, alumni and so on.  You’re constantly learning on the job as you go through different experiences.

What goals have you set for the team for 2012-13?

Coach Fronhofer: I think we’ve done some great work in the offseason.  You saw our guys wrestling a lot of freestyle and Greco.  Our attitude is that if there’s a wrestling tournament, we’re going.  We’re passionate about the Olympic movement in our country and we’re going to wrestle as much as we can.

I think our goal as a team at the EIWA tournament is to finish top 3.  After that, I think we’re capable of sending six-plus wrestlers to the NCAAs.  We have a few guys with very high level individual goals.  They expect to become All-Americans and their goals are to win national titles.  We can achieve some big things this year. I’m always excited in the fall, preparing for what’s coming next.  We’re really looking forward to getting started.

Top Talent Comes Together for Fourth Annual Adam Frey Classic On Sunday

Adam Frey

It’s hard not to be excited about the Adam Frey Classic this year.  Just ask Penn State National Champion Ed Ruth.

According to Adam Frey Foundation Board Member Josh Liebman, Ruth was in the middle of a special family occasion when he was contacted about the event.

“Ed had a lot going on, but he called back right away and said he definitely wanted to do it,”  Liebman said. “It was on his mind enough that he couldn’t wait until the next day to call.”

In the fourth annual event for the Adam Frey Foundation, Ruth will square off against Lehigh’s two-time All-American Robert Hamlin in the feature bout in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

“We were trying to think of matchups that would be really exciting for wrestling fans and we knew [Hamlin] would be involved,” Liebman said. “He and his family have been really supportive of the Foundation and with the event being at Lehigh this year, it was a great fit.”

Ruth has posted first and third place finishes at NCAAs, while Hamlin has taken second and fourth.

After holding the first three Adam Frey Classics at Rider, Liebman is excited for the new location at Grace Hall on Lehigh’s campus.

“So far, it’s been nothing but great,” he said. “Everyone has been very supportive and interested in being part of the event and helping it grow.  The sports marketing staff has helped out and the coaches have too. I really wanted to get Pennsylvania involved since Adam was from there.  It’s like he’ll be closer to home, at least for a year.”

Besides the new arena, another addition in 2012 is a match of high school stars with the top rising junior in the country, Chance Marstellar, taking on New Jersey state champion Johnny Sebastian.

“We’ve never done a high school vs. high school match before,” Liebman said. “Last year, because of an injury, [Blair Academy’s] Brooks Black stepped in to wrestle Zach Rey.  But this year, Marstellar really wanted to be a part of it.  The college kids weren’t in a hurry to wrestle him, but [Sebastian] was excited.  He loves to test himself.  I expect Johnny to start next season ranked in the top 5 or 10 at his weight, so I think it’s a premiere matchup.”

It’s one of many bouts Liebman is looking forward to viewing.  (The full lineup is listed below). He believes the tilt between 141 pound All-Americans Boris Novachkov (Cal Poly) and Perry, NY native Mike Nevinger (Cornell) will be one to watch.

“That match may not jump out at people, but I can’t wait for it,” Liebman said. “They’re both so tough on top and a little funky on their feet.  I think it could steal the show.”

While heavyweight battles aren’t typically the most entertaining affairs, Liebman is anticipating 2012 All-American Nick Gwiazdowski’s meeting with former Pittsburgh Panther Ryan Tomei. He predicts good action and “not a lot of the hanging on you often see at heavy.”

Liebman added that having Gwiazdowski, a former star at Duanesburg High, in the event is exciting for another reason.  When he was a senior in high school, the recent NC State transfer participated in the New York-New Jersey Charity Challenge, which benefitted the Adam Frey Foundation.  In fact, Gwiazdowski’s pin sealed the victory for the Empire State.

“It’s something I’d like to have on a regular basis — having guys be a part of an event in high school and staying involved with our organization in college.  It feels like watching guys grow up through your peewee program,” Liebman said. “That’s what’s great about the wrestling community.  Everyone, even if they didn’t know Adam personally, wants to know his story and get involved.”

Adam Frey’s alma mater, Blair Academy, has been very involved from the start.  This year, the event will be set up as a dual meet between Blair and Angry Fish with several alums of those squads coaching and competing.  As a bonus, Monroe Woodbury’s Vinny Vespa, who is fighting Stage 4 cancer, may serve as an honorary coach.

Nevinger and Gwiazdowski won’t be the only representatives from the Empire State.  All-American Justin Accordino of Hofstra will take the mat, as will John Jay graduate Billy Watterson (Brown), Brockport native Christian Boley, Columbia’s Jake O’Hara, Cornell’s Caleb Richardson and Binghamton’s Pat Hunter and Cody Reed.  In addition, Beat the Streets (BTS) wrestlers from New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore will participate in exhibition bouts between 1 and 2 p.m. before the main event begins.

“I’m really excited about having BTS,” Liebman said. “It’s a chance for kids to get outside the city.  One of the important parts of the BTS program is for kids to strive for a college education, even if it’s outside of wrestling.  This is a great chance for the kids to visit a college campus and see that it’s something they may want.”

What Liebman wants is to fill Grace Hall as close to capacity as possible.  He wants the wrestling community to come together to support the Foundation and celebrate Adam Frey’s life.

“In the past, our events have had a fun atmosphere,” he said. “Top talent comes but since it’s not a pressure situation, the guys go out there and relax and wrestle.  It’s more open, more fun. It quickly becomes a feeling of reunion rather than a somber event where we’re memorializing Adam.  Adam wouldn’t have wanted that; he wouldn’t want a moment of silence.  He’d rather have everyone having a good time.”

Exhibition Matches 1-2 p.m. – Beat the Streets New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore

Main Event Matches, Beginning at 2 p.m.

Chuck Zeisloft (Rider) vs. Billy Watterson (Brown)

Nic Bedelyon (Kent State) vs. Steve Mytych (Drexel)

Mike Nevinger (Cornell) vs. Boris Novachkov (Cal Poly)

Tyler Small (Kent State) vs. Vinnie Fava (Rider)

Caleb Richardson (Cornell) vs. Pat Hunter (Binghamton)

BJ Young (Newberry) vs. CJ Cobb (UPenn)

Justin Accordino (Hofstra) vs. Jake O’Hara (Columbia)

James Fleming (Clarion) vs. Joey Napoli (Lehigh)

Ian Miller (Kent State) vs. Shane Welch (Lehigh)

Chance Marsteller vs. Johnny Sebastian*

Bekzod Abduakhmanov (Clarion) vs. Josh Asper (Maryland)

Nathaniel Brown (Lehigh) vs. Jimmy Resnick (Rider)

Jimmy Sheptock (Maryland) vs. Ricky McDonald (Brown)

Christian Boley (Maryland) vs. Andrew Campolattano (Ohio State)

Nick Gwiazdowski (NC State) vs. Ryan Tomei (Pitt/ OTC)

Max Wessell (Lehigh) vs. Cody Reed (Binghamton)

Robert Hamlin (Lehigh) vs. Ed Ruth (Penn State)**

*High School match

**Featured bout

***Match-ups provided by Josh Liebman

To purchase tickets in advance: http://ev6.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/SEGetEventList?groupCode=S&linkID=global-lehigh&shopperContev6.evenue.net

For more information, please visit adamfrey.us