Buffalo Announces Recruiting Class, Including Nine New York Wrestlers

On Friday, Buffalo announced the incoming recruiting class for the fall of 2013 put together by new head coach John Stutzman and his staff.  The group, which consists of 16 wrestlers from five different states, has a strong New York presence, with nine Empire State grapplers included.

Photo by BV

Those New York wrestlers are: Corey Hollister (125 pounds, Perry), Brandon Muntz (133, Falconer), AJ Voelker (165, Monroe Woodbury), Alex Francik (165, Vestal), Rrok Ndokaj (174, Monsignor Farrell/Bloomsburg), Austin Weigel (174, Onteora), Anthony Liberatore (184, Williamsville South), James Benjamin (197, Vestal) and Mike Silvis (197, Holley).


Courtesy of buffalobulls.com

BUFFALO, NY – With at least one newcomer at every weight class, the 2013 wrestling recruiting class has covered all the bases for first-year head coach John Stutzman. In the mix for the upcoming season will be a group of Division I transfers, and high school standouts from five different states.

Stutzman describes the class of 16 wrestlers as crucial pieces of the team’s future.

“These guys want to be here and build a foundation for future success,” Stutzman said about his incoming recruits. “They want to put UB back on the map and make us a contender. We want to compete in the MAC and become a consistent top-20 team. That’s what this class is all about.”

For the full release from the University at Buffalo Athletics site, see this link.


From Bronze to Buffalo: Holley's Mike Silvis Stays Close to Home with the Bulls

Mike Silvis grew up less than an hour from the University at Buffalo, but his first-ever trip to the campus came just a few weeks ago when new head coach John Stutzman took the reins of the Bulls program.

He was sold right away.

“I didn’t think I would like a large school and I originally wanted to move away from home for college,” Silvis said. “But when I visited, I really liked it. It’s a strong school academically and I really want to be part of what Coach Stutzman is going to build.”

Courtesy of the Silvis Family

Silvis developed a strong relationship with the coach during the recruiting process when Stutzman was at Bloomsburg. In fact, the Holley senior gave a verbal pledge to the Huskies in the spring and was ready to wrestle in the EWL.

However, when Stutzman was brought on board as the new leader at Buffalo, Silvis began to reconsider.

“When I heard about [the coaching change], I was a little surprised, but I immediately got into contact and arranged my visit,” Silvis said. “Coach Stutzman is a very straightforward guy. He’ll tell me how it is and how it will be and I really believe he’ll build this team into a top notch program. He’ll help me achieve my dreams, even though I didn’t accomplish all my goals in high school.”

While the 220-pounder said he didn’t collect the state title he wanted while competing in Section 5, he did achieve plenty in a Holley singlet. Silvis reached the 150-win milestone and was a two-time state qualifier and placer, taking fifth as a junior and third as a senior at the Times Union Center.

That bronze showing in his final campaign was a highlight for the future MAC grappler, allowing him to not only get his hand raised in his last high school bout, but also to avenge an earlier loss against Nanuet’s Dan Breit.

“I lost to [Breit] in the finals at Eastern States,” Silvis said. “It meant a lot to get another chance against him. It felt really good to win a match I should have won the first time around and also to end my career on a win. That was really important to me.”

It wasn’t the last “big” match for Silvis as a high schooler, however. Although it was an exhibition, Silvis took the mat once again at the Long Island vs. Upstate Challenge at the end of March in Ithaca.

“It was truly an honor to be part of that event,” Silvis said of the All-Star meet. “I was really glad to be asked by the coaches. I met a lot of guys I never otherwise would have met and the atmosphere was great. All the Cornell guys were there, cheering us on, and it was a really good feeling. You had a four-time national champ [Kyle Dake], an Upstate guy, waving his arms, cheering in the crowd.”

Silvis gave Dake and the others in attendance something to clap for, capturing a 7-3 decision over Division I state runner up Steven Mills of Sachem North. Right after the bout, Team Long Island lost a team point in a dual that ended in a 27-27 deadlock.

“[Mills] was substantially taller than me and had a bigger build,” Silvis said. “I think a lot of kids look at me and don’t think I look very intimidating. I don’t think he expected the match to go the way it did. But I always go hard for six minutes and leave it all out there on the mat. It showed. I felt strong and wrestled really well to win.”

That’s exactly what he plans to do next year for the Bulls, likely at 285.

“I think I’ll be at heavyweight to start off with because that’s where the team needs me,” Silvis said. “After that, I may go to 197.”

Wherever he wrestlers, Silvis said he’s excited to be surrounded by other New Yorkers. Since Stutzman’s hire, a number of Empire State competitors have announced their intentions to attend Buffalo, including James Benjamin (Vestal), Alex Francik (Vestal), Anthony Liberatore (Williamsville South), AJ Voelker (Monroe Woodbury) and Corey Hollister (Perry). All, like Silvis, were state placers.

According to Silvis, it didn’t always seem like All-State status was in the cards.  The three-sport athlete, who also plays football and baseball, said he started to realize that his future was on the mat around 10th grade.

“As a little kid, I wanted to be a pro football player, but then I stopped growing,” he said. “Around my freshman year, I knew football wasn’t a fit for me long term. I didn’t really become a solid wrestler until I was a sophomore. I matured a lot the summer before and had a breakout season, beating kids that killed me the year before. That’s when I knew I wanted to keep wrestling.”

Helping with his transition to become one of the best in the Empire State were his coaches and teammates, especially assistant Andrew Grillo, a former state champion.

“Andrew Grillo has been my right hand man,” Silvis said. “I’m really thankful. He’s always there to practice with me and has made me into the wrestler I am today.”

The wrestler he is today is someone getting ready to take on the challenges of Division I.

“I am truly excited about the opportunity I have at Buffalo, being part of a rebuilding of the program,” he said. “I think we’ll do great things over the next few years and personally, I’m looking forward to showing everybody that I have a lot left in me. I wasn’t a state champion like I wanted to be, but I have a lot of room to grow and I believe Coach Stutzman will build me into a champion.”

All Tied Up: Long Island and Upstate All-Star Squads Battle to 27-27 Result in Ithaca

The poster for the first annual Long Island vs. Upstate Challenge said, “The Debate Will Finally Be Settled.”  But after a great day of wrestling, neither team earned bragging rights as the squads battled to a 27-27 tie at the Friedman Center on the campus of Cornell University.

It’s fair to say that neither team was thrilled with the outcome.

“We weren’t happy.  I actually think were kind of shocked to have tied,” said Long Island 120-pounder Travis Passaro. “I didn’t think it would be a blowout, but I thought we would win.”

Upstate 195-pounder Reggie Williams wasn’t pleased either.

“Even after they tied it up, we were hoping we would still win on criteria,” the Johnson City star said. “We would have won if they went to criteria. We really wanted to win this in the first year of the event.”

The dual featured some of New York’s best wrestlers, including 13 state champions and another 15 placers.  As a result, the fans were treated to a back and forth affair that came down to the final bout, where Connetquot’s Brendan Dent edged Hilton’s Vincent DePrez at 145 pounds 5-4 to complete Long Island’s comeback from eight points down with just two matches remaining.

Photo by BV

The main event began with a pair of 99 pounders who took first (Yianni Diakomihalis of Hilton) and third (John Busiello of Eastport South Manor) in Albany.  Diakomihalis took charge early and never relented, winning a 9-3 decision and giving Upstate a 3-0 advantage.

Long Island responded, however, as state champion Mike Hughes of Smithtown West used a late charge to top Columbia’s El Shaddai Van Hoesen 5-4 at heavyweight.  The Columbia wrestler scored the first takedown and later added a reversal, but Hughes rebounded to knot the team score at 3.

Next to the mat was yet another state gold medalist – 106-pounder Kyle Quinn of Wantagh.  He took an early lead against third placer Jon Haas of Spencerport, but it was Haas who picked up the pace as the match continued, erasing the early deficit and coming from behind to win 7-4.

Building on that momentum for the Upstate team was Holley’s Mike Silvis at 220.  He used a big throw to propel himself to a 7-3 decision over New York runner up Steven Mills and pushed the Upstate group’s advantage to 9-3.   On top of that, the Long Island squad was docked a team point, which would prove costly at the end of the day.

Ready to turn the tide was two-time state titlewinner Nick Piccininni of Ward Melville.  The Section 11 star got his team back on track with a 6-0 blanking of Lockport’s Anthony Orefice at 113 to pull Long Island within 9-5, bringing up a rematch of a quarterfinal tilt at the Times Union Center.

At the state tournament, Syosset’s Dan Choi upended top-seeded Reggie Williams of Johnson City 14-4 on his way to the NYS crown.  Williams couldn’t wait to take another shot at the Section 8 grappler.

“I was really excited to have a rematch because I wasn’t at my best at the state tournament,” Williams said. “I was really looking forward to it.  I wanted to prove that I just had a bad weekend.”

He definitely had a better day on Saturday in an entertaining clash that featured a number of throw attempts by the 195-pounders.  With a lead in the third and time winding down, Williams picked up significant points for the Upstaters when he put Choi to his back and recorded the fall.

“Ending it that way did mean a little more,” Williams said. “I know [Choi] committed to Cornell and he’ll be scarred with his first experience there losing by pin. Getting a pin at this level of competition, at an event like this was big. It really helped my team out.”

It definitely did, giving Upstate a 15-5 lead. With that 10-point deficit, Long Island sent bronze medalist Travis Passaro out to face 120-pound champion Alex Delacruz of Ossining.  Thanks to some outstanding work on the mat, including a number of turns for near fall, the Section 11 standout beat Delacruz by major decision to pull his squad within striking distance, 15-9.

“I really wanted to wrestle him; I felt like I should have been in the state finals,” Passaro said. “It was a big match for me. Top is one of my best positions and when I got on top, I was able to work for turns and score a lot of points.  I wasn’t expecting to score so much, but I wasn’t surprised.  I felt like I did what I should have done.”

And not too long afterwards, Gio Santiago answered the pin by Williams with a fall of his own to bring the scoreboard to a 15-15 tie.  Santiago, a prolific pinner throughout his career, ended his bout with Warsaw’s Tim Schaefer with an exclamation point.

Photo by BV

“Gio Santiago came through with a huge pin to tie it up and bring us right back into it,” Passaro said. “That was really big.”

So, eight matches down, seven to go and it was deadlocked between the squads.  What could make things even more exciting?  How about a clash between a pair of 2013 state champions?

TJ Fabian of Shoreham Wading River and William Koll of Lansing met at 126 pounds at the Eastern States Classic in January, with the Long Island wrestler walking away with the triumph and the tournament title.  This time, the tables were turned as Koll jumped out to a quick lead with a takedown and back points.  Despite Fabian’s strong top work in the third period which earned points both for riding time and stalling against the Section 4 wrestler, Koll came away a 5-4 winner and pulled the Upstate squad ahead 18-15.

Long Island then briefly took its last lead of the day on the strength of Danny McDevitt’s major decision over Clarence’s Jake Weber at 170.  McDevitt showed his dominance on the mat, reversing his opponent on multiple occasions and collecting nearfall to put the Section 8 and 11 squad up 19-18.

However, the next three bouts went to the Upstaters as Brandon Lapi and Connor Lapresi both registered shutouts over their opponents, Chris Mauriello and Vinny Turano (at 132 and 138).  Both Lapi and Lapresi notched first period takedowns and then demonstrated strong work on the mat, with significant riding time.

In between those two performances came one of the most anticipated matches of the event – a meeting between Division I state champion Tyler Grimaldi and his Division II counterpart Burke Paddock at 160 pounds.  Grimaldi said before the weekend that it was the “grudge match” as he had beaten Paddock in Freestyle while Paddock had returned the favor at the Eastern States.

After some early handfighting, the Warsaw junior grabbed control, throwing Grimaldi to his back for a 5-0 advantage.  He added to his lead in the second to enter the third up 7-1.  Despite a comeback from the Hills West star, who earned some takedowns late, Paddock came away with a 9-5 victory.

And so entering the final two bouts of the afternoon, at 152 and 145 pounds, Upstate was in front 27-19.

“I was confident in [Corey Rasheed and Brendan Dent]; I felt like they could both win,” Passaro said. “I thought we had a chance to win the dual.”

Rasheed, one of the most dominant grapplers in all of New York this year was set to face  fellow 152-pound state champion Kevin Thayer of Unatego.

Photo by BV

Those present at the Times Union Center saw Rasheed cradle his opponent and end the state title bout in less than a minute.  That move led to many falls during the campaign for the Longwood junior.  He slapped that cradle onto Thayer more than once, but the Section 4 wrestler refused to give in, fighting off his back multiple times.  In the end, Rasheed was just too much and with less than 20 ticks left in the third period, he finished off a 15-0 technical fall, putting his squad behind by just three points, 27-24.

“Kevin Thayer is a good wrestler who goes hard, but Corey Rasheed is just a really, really tough kid,” Williams said. “I was proud of Kevin because even though he was losing, he kept fighting. He never stopped fighting and he didn’t give up the pin.”

So it all came down to the 145 pound contest.  It was two-time state runner up Vincent DePrez of Hilton for the Upstate squad, (second at 138 in 2013) against NYS fourth placer Brendan Dent of Connetquot.

Dent got on the board first with a takedown and ended the first ahead 2-1. He added to his lead with an escape in the second, but DePrez made it 3-3 with a takedown in the middle stanza. In the third, DePrez moved ahead 4-3 when he got out from bottom, but Dent answered with a takedown with just over a minute remaining to lead 5-4. DePrez worked for the reversal as time ticked down, but Dent held on for the 5-4 victory.

Following the match, the scoreboard changed to 27-all and that’s how it would end. One thing was unanimous – neither team liked that deadlocked tally.

“There’s always tension between Upstate and Long Island,” Passaro said. “It was a really fun weekend, but we wanted to win it.”

Williams felt the same way.

“We had a great time as team; did a lot of bonding.  When good wrestlers get together, you learn a lot and make new friendships.  It was a good weekend, but no one wants to end on a tie,” he said. “We really wanted to come out on top in the first year. But, there’s always next year.”