Kicking Off With the Pride: Hofstra 2013-14 Season Preview

Hofstra sent three wrestlers to the NCAA tournament in Iowa in 2013.  Two of those grapplers, Jamie Franco and Luke Vaith, return and with the addition of some fresh faces to the lineup and the development of some returners, there is a lot of optimism in Hempstead about what could be in store. New York Wrestling News spoke to assistant coach Zach Tanelli about changing conferences, the addition of transfers and the projected lineup for the 2013-14 campaign.

New York Wrestling News (NYWN): You had a lot of success in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).  How do you feel about the move to the EIWA conference this year?

Zach Tanelli (ZT): We’re really excited about the opportunity to be in a conference as prestigious as the EIWA. Nothing against the CAA, but we just feel that this is a conference that better suits our team and will provide us with some tough challenges.

NYWN: Last year, you began the season with Minnesota and Wisconsin and faced a number of other top teams in the first half of the campaign, such as Iowa and Ohio State. What are some of the highlights of this year’s schedule?

ZT: We toned down our schedule a little bit, in part because we’ll be seeing some better teams in the EIWA.  A lot of our rivalries were with EIWA teams anyway, so we’re looking forward to those matches having added meaning.

You always want to have a good dual meet team but unless and until scoring is changed at the NCAAs, you need individuals to perform in the tournament setting where there’s adversity and you have to know how to respond if you take a loss.  So it’s always important to go to some of the top tournaments in the country because they’re test runs for the NCAAs. We’ll be doing that by going to [The Cliff Keen Invitational in] Las Vegas and the Southern Scuffle. These tournaments give you an opportunity to show you belong with the top guys.  To win those tournaments or place high, you have to beat some of the best.  Our team will have that opportunity.

NYWN: What do you think are the expectations for the team this year?

ZT: Expectations are lower for us externally, with only Luke Vaith in many of the rankings, but we feel differently.  We feel like we’re a darkhorse.  We think we’re definitely a top three team in the conference. We know there are tough teams like Cornell and Penn, but we feel that we match up well.  We need to win those head to head matchups, but we think a top three finish is likely and that we can sneak in higher in our first year. We definitely think we have guys who have what it takes to be All-Americans this year and other guys who will be national qualifiers. Time will tell.  We’re really excited about the season.

NYWN:  The season is right around the corner.  You have the Hofstra Wrestling Kickoff Banquet [6:30 p.m. at the Long Island Marriott] this Saturday, followed by the season opener against Rutgers at home on Sunday.  Tell us about those two events.

ZT: We like to do our kickoff to bring people together before the high school season starts, to get everyone excited about the season.  It will be an opportunity for people to meet [former Hofstra wrestler and UFC champion] Chris Weidman and see what he has to say.  He’ll also be at the match.  The Rutgers match should be a good dual to start off the season against a local team that we want to be facing every year.

NYWN: Let’s take a look at the wrestlers who look to play key roles for the Pride in 2013-14.

125

Franco, Photo by BV

Jamie Franco started for Hofstra at 133 for the past few years, making NCAA tournament appearances in 2012 and 2013.  This March, he won a pair of bouts in Des Moines.  For his senior season, the former Section 9 star will move down to 125, where he hopes to end his career on the podium.

“Jamie feels great at this weight,” Tanelli said. “I’m amazed at how he’s progressed and how strong he is.  It’s a natural fit for him.  He’s not getting much respect in the rankings, but we don’t care about that.  It’s a good spot to be in – low expectations for now. He wrestles well as an underdog and will prove himself early on.”

133

Jamel Hudson and Maverick Passaro were both Division I New York state champions in 2012.  Hudson had a successful redshirt year for the Pride and looked strong in freestyle, placing at events such as the University Nationals. Passaro returned to Long Island from Rutgers after an year disrupted by injuries. Hudson won the wrestle-off last week by a 7-2 score and will take the mat for the Pride against the Scarlet Knights.

“We think our lower weights are very strong and 133 is a big part of that,” Tanelli said. “Jamel is a really exciting wrestler and we think he can do very well this year.”

141

Vaith, Photo by BV

Luke Vaith topped multiple All-Americans last year and won a bout at the NCAA tournament.  The staff believes he has what it takes for a breakthrough senior campaign.

“Luke will be tested right off the bat, especially on our trip to Virginia [November 8-10],” Tanelli said. “He’ll face All-Americans Devin Carter (Virginia Tech) and Evan Henderson (North Carolina). They’re both ranked in the top five. It’s a heck of a time to show the country you’re a true contender.  We feel confident he can beat both of those guys and we feel strongly as a staff that he can win a national title.”

149

Cody Ruggirello and Cam Tessari faced off in last Friday’s wrestle-offs with Tessari winning by a 5-3 score.  It will be Ruggirello who will begin the season as the starter, however, as Tessari plans to return to action later in the campaign.

“They’ll probably wrestle off again close to the second semester,” Tanelli said. “Cody is our starter for the first half of the year. He looks good. Cam will be ready by the Southern Scuffle.  He’ll acclimate and adjust and be ready to go for the second part of the year.  The National Duals are at Ohio State this year and he’s hoping to compete in front of his family.” [Tessari is from the Buckeye State].

157

Nick Terdick started for the squad as an undersized 165 pounder a year ago, but has moved down to 157 for 2013-14.

“Nick is a super talented guy who has come a long way with his confidence,” Tanelli said. “He was in a weight class that wasn’t ideal for him last year, but he’s put in a nice offseason and is hitting his stride. I think he’s ready for a big jump.”

165

Joe Booth’s sixth-year of eligibility was officially granted by the NCAA a few weeks ago.  Now, the former Drexel grappler, a multiple-time NCAA qualifier, will look to take advantage of the opportunity in his last season as a college wrestler.

“It’s refreshing to have Joe in the room,” Tanelli said. “He’s a guy who really wants to be there because he has perspective from not fulfilling all of his goals.  He was training for the first month without knowing if he’d get the year from the NCAA.  He was training blindly, just hoping to get his shot.  It was a big sigh of relief for him and he views it as a second chance to finally accomplish his goals.  I think he struggled in the past with workout partners and maybe got in his own way sometimes. Having [assistant coaches] Dan Vallimont and Ryan Patrovich to work with has given him a whole new confidence. We feel very strongly about what he can do in March – we expect him to be an All-American.  He’s a pleasure to have in the room.”

174

Last Wednesday, a 174-pound wrestle-off took place, including last year’s starter, Jermaine John, Dave Heitman and Victor Pozsonyi.  A year after splitting time at higher weights (184/197) as a true freshman, it was Pozsonyi, the sophomore from New Jersey, who defeated the other two competitors (3-2 over John and 5-3 over Heitman).  Tanelli said earlier this week that either Pozsonyi or John will start, with the other redshirting.

“Victor has made huge gains since last year,” Tanelli said. “He’s come a long way and we’re excited to see what he can do.  Jermaine has been on a steady incline since he got here.  He’s gotten better every year.  He’s a fighter who is a very good listener and hard worker.”

184

After Pozsonyi won the initial 174-pound competition, the previously mentioned John, Heitman and freshman Dwight Howes took the mat in a round robin event at last Friday’s wrestle-offs. Howes went 2-0 in the mini-tournament, topping Heitman (6-2) and John (6-5).  The freshman from Colorado arrived in Hempstead this year after spending time after high school training at the Olympic Training Center and Tanelli said he will be the starter at this weight.

“Dwight doesn’t mind people shooting on him – he’s actually comfortable when guys get in on his legs,” the assistant coach said. “He scores off other people’s attacks.  He’ll have to make adjustments as the season progresses, but it’s always exciting to watch him compete because he loves to wrestle live.  It’s a good thing – you want guys who enjoy competition as much as he does.”

197

There weren’t any 197 pound wrestle-off bouts last week.  However, according to Tanelli, Heitman will take this spot for the Pride.  In addition, Tanelli said Zeal McGrew, who competed at heavyweight a year ago, has begun to make the move down to be in the mix for the 197 spot.

“[Heitman] has a lot of heart and works very hard,” Tanelli said. “You never have to watch him and wonder – he’s always on track, doing the right things. He’s a great guy for the room who has earned his shot.”

285

Photo by BV

Mike Hughes had a perfect high school season for Smithtown West in 2012-13, winning a state championship with 42 wins and 31 pins.  He has separated himself in the Hofstra room and will get the nod as a true freshman at heavyweight.

“Mike Hughes is our starter,” Tanelli said. “He’s come in and done a great job. He looks very good in the room. We’re excited about his future here.  We just need him to stay healthy and keep moving forward.”

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Can Jamie Franco and Luke Vaith end their Hofstra careers on the podium?  How high will the squad place in its first season in the EIWA? We’ll see very soon what the Hofstra Pride will look like in 2013-14, as the season kicks off this Sunday at home against current EIWA foe Rutgers at 1 p.m.

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Staying Home: All-American Travis Passaro Selects Hofstra

Travis Passaro has traveled around the country seeking the best competition.  But when it came time to decide on his future home, he didn’t want to go far at all.

After considering Cornell, Duke and Maryland, the Eastport South Manor (ESM) senior announced a few days ago that he would attend Hofstra in the fall of 2014.

His arrival will double the number of Passaros on the Pride squad as older brother Maverick is now a freshman on the Hempstead campus.

“My brother transferring to Hofstra made me really want to go there,” Travis Passaro said. “I’ve worked out with him my whole life – he’s a great workout partner.  We’ve been drilling for a long time.  That gave me a big reason to go there. I also think the team will just keep getting better.  There are some really good Long Island kids who want to go to Hofstra. And I like that it’s close to home.”

Travis Passaro, Photo by BV

Passaro will get the chance to stay on Long Island, a place where he is already a three-time Suffolk County placer.  He captured his first Section 11 title in 2013 during a 49-4 campaign in which he made a statement in his initial appearance at the state tournament in Albany.

After winning his first two bouts at the Times Union Center, Passaro dropped his semifinal contest against Steve Michel.  However, he responded in the consolations, topping Commack’s Mike D’Angelo in a rematch of the Sectional finals before majoring Pearl River’s John Muldoon, the number two seed, 12-4 to earn bronze.

“I was looking to win the state title going into the tournament, so taking third was a big letdown,” Passaro said. “But, I have another year to come back and win it, so I’m really happy about that.”

For that last campaign, Passaro has set his goals high.

“I want to go undefeated during the season, win states and then go to the FloNationals finals,” he said.

The FloNationals is a significant event for Passaro.  He has had success at a number of events outside of the Empire State, including a fourth place showing at the NHSCA Nationals as a freshman.  However, he said that his eighth place medal at FloNationals in the spring really stands out to him.

“It’s a great tournament, with great competition,” he said. “I wanted to do better, but placing at Flo was something I was really excited about.”

Before he gets another crack at that event, Passaro will face a loaded field at the Super 32 Challenge in October.  A year ago, he came within one win of the podium at the prestigious tournament, losing to Florida’s Jared Prince twice.

This time, he’ll take the mat in Greensboro, North Carolina at 126 pounds, the weight he expects to wrestle for ESM this year.

He got off to a great start in the new class over the weekend at the Journeymen Classic, taking the title (at 130) in a bracket that included All-Americans Kevin Jack (CT) and Zach Valley (PA) as well as New York state champion Alex Delacruz.  He picked up a commanding 6-0 victory in the championship match over Payton Shuford, a multi-time North Carolina placer/2013 3A State titlist.

The future college 133 or 141 pounder believes it’s only the beginning of what he’s capable of accomplishing this year.

“I’ve been training every day, whether it’s lifting or wrestling,” he said. “I’ve been working out with [two-time state champion Nick] Piccinnini, [NHSCA National champion Chris] Mauriello and [Suffolk finalist] Jimmy Leach. I’m just focused on getting better every day.”

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Travis Passaro wanted to thank his workout partners, his parents and his coaches.

What's Happening at Hofstra? Assistant Coach Zach Tanelli Talks About All-American Tessari, Transfers and More As the Season Gets Closer

Hofstra brings back a pair of NCAA qualifiers –  Luke Vaith and Jamie Franco – and has added a number of transfers and other newcomers to the roster for the upcoming campaign.  New York Wrestling News caught up with assistant coach Zach Tanelli to talk about some of the new faces and the outlook for this season.

 

New York Wrestling News (NYWN):  Is the transfer of [2012 All-American] Cam Tessari from Ohio State official?

Zach Tanelli (ZT): Yes. [Last week] Cam Tessari was accepted to Hofstra and he’s enrolled in classes.

We’re really excited about it.  Cam was looking for a home and it’s a weight class [149 pounds] where we felt we needed more experience.  It’s a great thing that it worked out. It really solidifies the lower part of our lineup.

He has a redshirt available, but we’re not looking to redshirt him this year. Right now we’re looking to have him ready to go for the Southern Scuffle.  He is coming off an injury and we’ll be easing him back. We expect him to be healthy and strong and ready to make a deep run at the national tournament.  He has two years of eligibility left and three years to do it in.

NYWN: Joe Booth, who wrestled for Drexel, has also been rumored to be transferring to Hofstra.  Is there anything you can share on that?

ZT:  Joe has been accepted into grad school at Hofstra, so it’s just a matter of waiting to hear whether the NCAA will grant him a sixth year of eligibility.  He’ll be at Hofstra next year in grad school, in a business-related program that they didn’t have at Drexel.  We feel pretty confident that the NCAA will grant him the extra year, but you never know. We’ll just have to wait and see.  We have some experience with sixth year guys, like Justin Accordino last year. It’s great to have guys like that around the team.  Justin was a role model and a leader; a voice the guys listened to.  Having those sixth year guys around has benefits beyond wins and losses.  If Joe gets the year, he would wrestle at 165.

NYWN: In addition to Tessari, Booth and Maverick Passaro, who we profiled a few weeks ago (here), do you expect any other transfers on your team this year?

ZT: I’d say our roster for next year is full.  Those three transfers are the only ones we expect this year, and I’ll definitely take it.  We’re really excited about them.

NYWN: There are some other new faces that could see mat time this year.   One wrestler who had a good redshirt year and some success in freestyle in the offseason is 2012 state champion Jamel Hudson.  What expectations do you have for him this year?

ZT: The plan right now is for him to go 133.  It looks like he will be competing with Maverick Passaro for the spot. He had a good redshirt year with some impressive wins.  Probably the best win was against Franklin & Marshall’s Ricky Durso, who made the Round of 12 at NCAAs.  Jamel was one of Durso’s few losses coming into the NCAA tournament.  Jamel showed signs of being able to perform at a very high level.  He’s a performer – he really enjoys the spotlight. I think the sky’s the limit if he has his weight under control.  He needs to grow throughout the season and mature wrestling-wise.  But he’s a very confident young man and he could have an impact on the national scene.

NYWN: Another newcomer familiar to New York wrestling fans is Smithtown West state champion Mike Hughes at 285.  Do you expect him to step on the mat right away?

ZT: It will be a competition between him and Zeal McGrew, two New York guys. We’ll see how it goes. They’ll wrestle off.  It looks as though Mike is the frontrunner at this time. But Zeal’s been working and is motivated to try and get in the lineup.  We’re excited about that weight class because we feel like we’ll be scoring points there this year.

NYWN: What can you tell us about [184-pounder] Dwight Howes, who spent time at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) after graduating high school?

ZT:  Dwight spent the majority of 2012 and 2013 at the OTC competing in freestyle, trying to make a US World Team.  He’s done a nice job and really developed with some great wins on the freestyle circuit. Now, he’s adapting to college wrestling.  He’s done a great job so far; he really loves wrestling.  He also loves Hofstra. He wants to put that singlet with an ‘H’ on his chest and represent this university. He’s excited to come to the room every day – he doesn’t care if you’re 125 pounds, 225 pounds or 325 pounds, he wants to wrestle and wrestle hard.  He needs to get his conditioning up and work on his mat wrestling like most freshmen.   I feel optimistic about his future in this program.

NYWN: You mentioned Jamel Hudson and Maverick Passaro at 133 earlier.  Is Jamie Franco moving down to 125 for his senior year?

ZT: Yes.  It’s a little more of a natural weight for him. He built himself up to be a 133, but 125 is his natural class.  I think he’s right around the weight he should be right now.  He’s done a great job. He’s really focused and motivated and taking all the necessary measures to be an All-American.

NYWN: Will Luke Vaith be back at 141 pounds?

ZT: Yes. I think Luke is going to have a breakout year.  He’s a very self motivated wrestler. He’s always asking to work.  He had a great season last year; although a little inconsistent at times.  The biggest thing he learned is that he belongs at this level.  He belongs in the conversation with All-Americans and national champions.

The biggest change this offseason for him is his mat wrestling. He’s worked a lot with [Edinboro NCAA champion] Gregor Gillespie, who was one of the best in the NCAA in top wrestling.  Luke has been hammering the mat work.  We’ve had lots of conversations that at the highest level, you have to be able to ride those last 15 seconds or you have to be able to escape in those last 15 seconds. It’s pivotal and he gets that.

He’s a really tough critic of himself.  He almost didn’t believe how good he was until after he looked back at his total body of work last year. When he looks back at last season, he sees he beat All-Americans like [Minnesota’s Nick] Dardanes and [Cornell’s Mike] Nevinger.  He has a lot more confidence and I think he’s poised and ready to make a deep run this year.

NYWN: Anything else going on at Hofstra that you’d like to share?

ZT: We’re just soaking up these last two weeks, and before you know it, school’s here. Everyone is on their summer programs and we’ll be hitting the ground running in a few weeks.  We’re excited for a new year. We feel like we have a nice mix of guys, new and veteran, who will help us do much better and outperform what we did last year.

Back to Long Island: State Champ Maverick Passaro Joins Hofstra

Maverick Passaro is back on the Island.

After spending a year at Rutgers University, the former Eastport-South Manor state champion is now a member of the Hofstra Pride, where he plans to wrestle at 133 pounds in 2013-14.

Photo by BV

“It’s a much better fit for me,” Passaro said. “It’s really good to represent the Island and be part of building a team here with the best Long Island wrestlers.  I’m happy to be closer to home and I think I’ll also be able to pursue my career better at Hofstra.  They have the major that I want and I think it’s a better place for me as a wrestler.”

Another bonus to being a member of the Pride is the chance to work with a familiar face.

“I’m really excited to be back with [assistant coach] Ryan Patrovich, who I know for a long time.  He coached me in club wrestling for years.”

But Passaro emphasized that while he’s excited about the change, there were many positives about his experience in New Jersey.

“I had a good time at Rutgers,” he said. “I got along with the coaches and I had great teammates.  I made some big improvements in my wrestling — I spent a lot of time on the mat rather than on my feet and I improved a lot in the top position.”

That time on the mat was more limited than Passaro hoped, however.  He got off to a solid start with a 2-2 performance at the Hokie Open in his first collegiate action.  However, as the squad prepared to face Clarion a week later, Passaro suffered a dislocated thumb in practice.

“I didn’t get to wrestle as much as I wanted because of injuries,” he said. “When I was getting back from the first injury, I ran into another one when I really hurt my back lifting.  It threw me off completely. It was tough to go through a year like that because I was never really hurt before in my life.  It was frustrating to not be able to be out there on the mat the way I wanted to be.”

After only wrestling a few matches all season, Passaro said he applied for a medical redshirt and will find out by the end of the summer whether it has been granted by the NCAA.

In the interim, he’s healthy again and ready to get back to the competition he missed.

“I’ve been training four times a week for about four weeks now,” he said. “I moved in to Hofstra a few days ago and now that I’m living here, it’s a lot easier and it’s different. I feel like I’m really a part of it. I’ve been working with guys like Jamie Franco, Jamel Hudson and Kyle Krasavage.  I can’t wait for the season to get started.”

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Maverick Passaro became the first-ever state champion from Eastport-South Manor High School when he defeated Sam Speno of Fox Lane 2-1 in 2012 at 126 pounds.  Speno was an NCAA qualifier for North Carolina State as a true freshman in 2013.

Passaro isn’t the only anticipated addition to the Hofstra program for the 2013-14 campaign. More details will be provided when available.

Winning and Not Getting Pinned: John Passaro's New Book "6 Minutes Wrestling With Life"

 
 
When the toughest challenge of his life struck, John Passaro understood.

He had been bitter.  He had stayed away from wrestling – no participating, coaching or even following what was going on in the sport.  After all, he had spent six years doing far more than he was asked.  And then his dreams of county and state glory ended when he was injured and didn’t make the podium at the Suffolk tournament for William Floyd High School.

“I remember putting everything I had into it – total dedication, total discipline,” Passaro said. “If it was an hour and a half practice, I stayed for two and a half.  If we were supposed to a run a mile, I ran three.  My goals were to win leagues, win counties and win states.  I damaged some ribs in the league tournament as a senior and didn’t even place. I lost to a kid who I teched earlier in the year.  I couldn’t believe it.  I asked myself what the heck I did everything for.  I hated wrestling for a while; I probably avoided it for 17 years or so.  I wanted no part of it.  I felt like it wasn’t worth it – I did everything I should do and felt like I got nothing out of it.  Of course, I was wrong.”

While he slowly changed his mind and got back into the sport with sons Maverick and Travis, it was when his daughter Jess was suddenly rushed to the hospital with a brain injury in 2009 that he realized wrestling gave him the tools he needed to face a foe more powerful than ever before.

“I never realized what wrestling meant to me until I had adversity,” Passaro said.  “It just kicks in and you go into wrestling mode. You block everything out, you figure out what the obstacles are and figure out how you will overcome each one. There are setbacks and you work harder. You work as hard as you think is possible and then you have to work harder again.  It’s about constantly moving forward and not listening to the noise around you.  The biggest thing about wrestling is that you always reach a point when you’re on the mat with someone better than you.  You have to find a way to win anyway.  Life is the same way.  There are things bigger than you; my family was faced with an opponent much bigger than us.  You still have to come up with a plan to win.  You realize you have the ability to take yourself to levels you never thought possible.”

In his book, Passaro brings it all to life, telling the tale of what can happen when a family believes and sacrifices, even in the face of unlikely odds.  It details the battle Jess and the Passaro family had (and have) in dealing with significant illness and talks about the trials and triumphs of sons Maverick and Travis, both All-State grapplers in New York.

We don’t want to give away too much because the book is worth reading. It pulls no punches and will move, touch and inspire.  You’ll feel the power of the story.

Instead, we’ll share some of the answers John Passaro gave us about his work in an interview last week.

New York Wrestling News (NYWN): The book provides such a compelling story.  Have you done a lot of writing before?

John Passaro (JP): It was the right time and place to write about my own personal experience.  As the events of the book were going on back in 2009, I was sending out text messages to close family and friends. I saved all of those and that was where I was drawing from.  It allowed me to remember minute details.  I took me about two months, writing a few chapters a day.  I really wanted it to be simple to read, a book you could read in one sitting.  I love to read, but a lot of times I get into a book and a paragraph or a chapter goes on forever and it loses me.  I didn’t want that – I wanted it to be something that would be hard to put down.

The funniest thing is that whenever I wrote in high school and thought I wrote a really good paper in honors English, I would get a grade much worse than I expected.  I was always baffled by it. I thought I could write. Let’s just say I wasn’t encouraged to write by my teachers, especially because I wrote about things like politics and religion, which were controversial.

But I always loved to write and I always knew I was going to write someday.

NYWN: What was the most difficult part of writing the book?

JP: What was really hard for me was I always knew the first chapter had to be gripping as well as accurate and detailed and emotional. I wanted to write a long time before I really got going because I probably started the first chapter five or six times before it finally really came together.  After that, I never forced myself to write. I needed to go chronologically and any time I felt the next chapter, no matter where I was, I sat down and did it.

NYWN: You spent a lot of time talking about the early times when Jess got sick, but then skipped over multiple years of time.  Why did you choose to take that approach?

JP: The hardest part of the book was making it as positive as possible.  It’s highly emotional.  I don’t think people want to hear about the day-to-day since Jess came home. I wanted people to focus on the messages instead.

NYWN: What do you see as the key messages you wanted to get across?

JP: A lot of it is about keeping the faith and not allowing yourself to get pinned.  At a tournament, no matter what the score, you’ll see guys flop over and get pinned.  Then you’ll see guys who are down 10 points with 10 seconds left and they’re still fighting. You can’t break them. That’s the whole point.  Whether or not you’re broken is up to you. I never wanted to break. Wrestling taught me never to give in.

I also believe that things happen for a reason. If I was successful in wrestling earlier on, I probably wouldn’t have married my wife or had the desire to coach as much as I did or get my kids involved as much as I eventually did.  In the end, the prize was that I didn’t get the prize. It’s funny because I feel like I won by not being as successful in wrestling as I wanted to be.

NYWN: Were there things you wanted to put in the book but couldn’t?

JP: When you go through something like this, you’re part of a special club.  Your take on life is different.  You see other people with difficult circumstances and you hurt with them.  It’s a different way of looking at life. Things are hard, but I wouldn’t trade it because it gave me a new attitude and approach to life. You have to believe that somehow, some way, something good will come out of everything.  And more than believing it, you have to make something good come out of it.

There have been some situations in the wrestling community that I felt a connection to over the years.  When [Hauppauge’s] Nick Mauriello was on life support [in 2011], I didn’t know the family but sent his father an e-mail, telling him I kind of knew what he was going through.  I told him to hang in there and believe, and we’ve become good friends.   Nothing made me happier than seeing Nick make a full recovery.

When I heard about Aaron Paddock’s injury, I felt the pain that was involved. Same thing with Vinny Vespa.  It’s been great to see them bounce back too.  I know wrestling had something to do with those guys getting better.

NYWN: Were you ever hesitant to put such personal experiences in the public eye?

JP: My wife is very private and didn’t want me to do it.  She lived everything and didn’t want to re-live everything.  I definitely saw her point of view and there have probably been only one or two things in my life I overruled her on, but this was one of them.  I felt like it was something I needed to do.  Sometimes you write an e-mail and don’t know whether or not to send it.  The book was the same way because of how personal it was.  But I hit send.

The outpouring of support brings some happiness.  The wrestling community has been unbelievable; it’s been heartwarming.

NYWN: Any last thoughts you wanted to get across?

JP: There is one other part I wanted to mention – in sports, people always say it’s not about winning or winning isn’t important. I disagree. It is important. If you don’t have the burning desire to win a wrestling match, you won’t figure out how to score points or what you need to do.  If something’s important in life, you figure out what you need to do.  You need to win. We had an opponent much bigger than us, probably the most ferocious opponent we’ve ever faced, but we needed to figure it out.  The best wrestler doesn’t always win, it’s the guy who’s willing to do whatever it takes.  It’s about winning and learning; not winning and losing.  I can guarantee that if I wasn’t involved in sports, wrestling in particular, I never, ever would have made it through this situation. Our family never would have made it through and never would be where we are now.

 

To find out more about the book, you can go to amazon.com, where it is available in the paperback ( here) or Kindle edition (here).  The Kindle edition is available on iPad or iPhone or any type of tablet.

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Editor’s Note: Maverick Passaro was the 2012 New York State Champion at 126 pounds and is now at Rutgers University. Travis Passaro took third in New York in 2013 at 120 pounds.