'Back from Hiatus': Dylan Palacio Rebounds from Injuries to Win National Title

 
 
In the third period of his 74 kg (163 pound) semifinals match at the FILA Junior Freestyle National Championships, Dylan Palacio fell behind 3-1 against Patrick Rhodes of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club. And he heard a voice screaming out of the Iowa corner.

“Tom Brands was yelling to his guy talking about me, saying, ‘he’s broke, he’s broke,’” Palacio said. “It was gut check time. I just went after it. You can’t believe for a second that you’ll lose.”

Photo by BV

Palacio started to rack up points, including a takedown with just a few seconds left to seal a 6-3 win in the final stanza and a trip to the title bout.

“After the match, I shook [Brands’s] hand and said, ‘I don’t ever break,’” Palacio recalled.

He certainly didn’t over the weekend.

In the championship, Palacio was matched up against Bison Wrestling Club’s Matthew Gray, in a rematch of the 160 pound third place bout at the Junior National Freestyle Championships last summer in North Dakota. Gray won that one in straight periods.

“He worked me last year at Fargo. He beat me up,” Palacio said.

Gray began strong again, taking the first period by a 3-0 score. But Palacio said he felt this time would be different.

“I wasn’t worried, I had a big smile on my face,” he said. “I knew who he was and was actually okay with my first period because I was feeling him out and figuring out what I needed to do the rest of the match. I knew I could make the adjustments – heavy on the head, more attacks, especially single legs. It paid off.”

In the middle stanza, Gray struck first with a takedown, but Palacio tied it up with about 1:30 left, to take the 1-1 “lead”. Gray came at Palacio with a significant charge, looking to move ahead with a pushout, however the former Long Beach star somehow found a way to stay in bounds to win the period.

“It was like a 360 tiptoe move,” Palacio said. “That’s just all heart right there. I think in retrospect, that’s why I won. Not giving up and circling on that line. He used all his energy for the push and in a way, that was the match.”

Palacio used a takedown and a two-point exposure to go ahead 3-0 in the third and when time expired, he had a 4-2 victory and a national title.

It was a stark contrast to where the former Section 8 standout was in February.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “Not that long ago, I was on a medical table at Edinboro with a torn MCL. I was hurt a lot this year and I was feeling frustrated and skeptical about my future. I won’t forget the people who encouraged me and believed, because without them, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

Palacio acknowledged that his run over the weekend may be a surprise to some, because of the limited tournament action he saw with the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club over the past year. (He said he took part in less than 10 official bouts).  But he added that people didn’t know what he was doing behind the scenes.

“You don’t need to wrestle 100 matches to get better,” he said. “I may not have wrestled a lot of matches, but I was lifting and improving a lot in practice. And I was wrestling the way I wanted to – calm, not crazy, not sloppy. I was moving well, working my scores. And now I’m healthier. I’m back from hiatus.”

He’s back for a lot of reasons, but he pointed to some people he said were essential.

“I hit the lottery having Cam Simaz and Frankie Perrelli in my corner,” he said of his coaches at the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club. “They complement each other so well as and they helped me go in the right direction. I didn’t really know how to wrestle when I got to Ithaca, I hadn’t lifted weights, there were a lot of things I didn’t know. But they saw the potential and never gave up on me.”

So immediately after his hand was raised on Saturday, Palacio said he ran off the mat and hugged Perrelli and Simaz and the other supporters in attendance. And he pointed up at the sky to acknowledge another inspiration.

“It was my best friend’s birthday about a week ago,” he said. “He passed away a few years ago. I believe he watches over me and I won this for him. The plaque I won is his birthday present. I’ll bring it to his memorial when I get home.”

There are lots of things for Palacio to do when he gets back to the East Coast. He said he knows he has a lot to learn from his coaches. And he said he “can always learn something from Kyle [Dake]– whether it’s lifting, running, drilling or just how to act. I’m willing to admit that’s who I want to be like.”

The Long Island native said he can’t wait to start his freshman year at Cornell and has visualized being announced as a starter for the Big Red at the Friedman Center for the first time. (He has his entrance song all picked out).

While there’s still plenty to demonstrate before getting to that point, Palacio feels like he’s now on his way.

“From where I was a month ago to now — things can change so quickly,” he said. “It feels so good to be a national champion but I’ll keep going. The goal is to be an NCAA champ. This is just a stepping stone.”

Weekend Watch: "Battle at the Beach" Goes on Despite Severe Hurricane Damage, Plus Andersen Tournament and the Cliff Keen Invite in Vegas

While the first tournament of the season is always something to look forward to, it’s a little more special for some of those headed to the Lynbrook High School this weekend.

“The start of competition is exciting every year,” said Long Beach head coach Ray Adams. “But this year, it’s definitely a little more exciting than usual.”

That has a lot to do with Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, as Long Beach was one of the many communities devastated by the storm.

“Every kid was impacted in one way or another,” Adams said. “We had kids whose homes were destroyed, who lost cars, clothes, heat and so much more.  Families were displaced.  Not a good situation at all.”

Long Beach High School also suffered significant damage to the gym, wrestling room, team uniforms and much more.

It was unclear whether the ninth annual Long Beach “Battle at the Beach” would be held.

“We knew we couldn’t have it at our school,” Adams said. “But we really still wanted to keep the tournament going to start off the season.  We knew a lot of teams would be looking forward to coming.  We are thankful to Lynbrook coach Richie Renz and Athletic Director Tom Graham who have done so much.  They stepped up and offered to run it there.”

While the tournament will be in a new location, it will still have the same tough competition.  In addition to Long Beach and Lynbrook, a number of Long Island squads will be in attendance, including one of the state’s best teams – Wantagh.  They will be joined by East Meadow, Clarke, South Side, Syosset and Hewlett. Representatives from the PSAL will also make the trip, including Eagle Academy, Wingate and a PSAL All-Star team as well as the CHSAA’s Kellenberg.

The full entry list hadn’t been submitted at the time of the interview, but Adams pointed to the 113-pound class as one that would feature many accomplished wrestlers.  Adams mentioned the possibilty of Long Beach’s Steven Sewkumar, Wantagh’s Kyle Quinn and Syosset’s Nick Rondino competing in that bracket, among others.

“Practice has been really good for the kids after everything that happened,” Adams said.  “It helped get everyone back with their friends and into a normal routine again. We’ve been traveling about 20 minutes to Calhoun every day to practice and everyone is working really hard.  We’ve been trying to make the best out of the situation.  We can’t wait to get the season started.”

In addition to the Battle at the Beach, there are a large number of high quality high school tournaments taking place this weekend as wrestling season kicks into high gear, including one not too far away at MacArthur which will include teams from Sections 1, 8, 9, the CHSAA and PSAL.

In fact, there are too many events to mention.  However, one to keep an eye on is the Andersen Tournament at Cicero North Syracuse High in Section 3, featuring not only several strong programs in that Section, such as the host school, Canastota, Fulton and South Jefferson, (among many others), but also squads from Section 2 (Amsterdam), 4 (Chenango Forks, Greene, Windsor, Elmira), 5 (Canandaigua, Rush-Henrietta) and 10 (Massena, Canton-Potsdam).

Zack Zupan, Photo by BV

Among the many storylines will be tournament debut of defending state champions Kyle Kelly and Zack Zupan at new weight classes and the start of a new era at Fulton under Chris Stalker after the departure of longtime coach Mike Connors.  In addition, fans will have a chance to watch Christian Dietrich of Greene, who accomplished a rare feat when he was All-State as a seventh grader in the middleweights (152 pounds).  After missing a full year due to injury, Dietrich made a successful return this week up at 195 pounds, with a pin against Dryden in just over a minute.

College Action

On the college scene, the biggest tournament of the weekend takes place in Nevada.  Two of the Empire State’s squads, Cornell and Army, will participate in the 32-team Cliff Keen Invitational, which features close to 70 ranked wrestlers this year.

Kyle Dake was the champion in Vegas a year ago at 157 and will look to repeat at 165.  In the 2011 version of the competition, the Big Red also had finalists at 125 (Frank Perrelli) and 184 (Steve Bosak).

Cornell’s new starting 125 pounder, Nahshon Garrett, is off to a 13-0 start in his freshman campaign and will look to go deep into the tournament in a class featuring six of the nation’s top 20.  With Bosak not ready to return to the lineup yet, former Palmyra Macedon star Craig Scott will look to keep the Big Red on the podium at 184 and improve upon his 10-2 rookie record.

Both Mike Nevinger and Chris Villalonga have placed at this event in the past and will aim to do so again, at 141 and 149 pounds, respectively.  The Big Red captured the tournament title in 2010.

Army will take part in the Cliff Keen for the second consecutive year.  The Black Knights will be led by nationally-ranked 149 pounder Daniel Young and 184 pounder Collin Wittmeyer, who has compiled a 10-5 record to date.  In his rookie campaign, Bryce Barnes has picked up nine wins at 197 pounds, matching the victory total of 165 pounder Paul Hancock.

In other Division I action, both Hofstra and Binghamton will be looking for their first ‘W” of the season when the Pride take on Penn, Lehigh and Drexel and Binghamton faces Oklahoma.  Meanwhile, Buffalo will participate in the Nittany Lion Open in Pennsylvania.

 

To report results of weekend events, please contact: newyorkwrestlingnews@gmail.com