Hofstra Wins CAA Championship; Vinson and Reed Capture Titles for Binghamton

 
 

Hofstra came into this weekend having won 10 of the last 11 CAA championships. The Pride did it again on Saturday in Boston, led by titlewinners Steve Bonanno at 125 and Jamie Franco at 133. Franco was the #4 seed, but he upended returning gold medalist Scott Festejo of Old Dominion in the semis before topping Binghamton’s Derek Steeley in the final bout.

Franco, Photo by BV

Also picking up significant team points for Hofstra were runner up Jermaine John at 174 and bronze winners Luke Vaith (141), Cody Ruggirello (149), Tyler Banks (157) and Taras Luzhnyy (184).

With their showings, Bonanno, Franco and Vaith all picked up automatic bids to the NCAA tournament.

Binghamton captured a pair of titles on Saturday, as Donnie Vinson won for the second straight year at 149 while Cody Reed defeated Ryan Wolfe of Rider in overtime at 184. For his efforts, Vinson was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler.

Taking second were Nate Schiedel at 197 and the previously mentioned Steeley at 133.

All four of those Bearcat grapplers will be making the trip to Des Moines for the Nationals in a few weeks.

For results and brackets from the event, see here.

CAA Preview: Hofstra and Binghamton Looking for Conference Supremacy

 
 
Hofstra edged Binghamton by just two points at last year’s CAA Championships to win the conference title for the 10th time in the last 11 years.  The Pride will look to keep that streak going in Boston this weekend with expected challenges from the Bearcats and Rider.  Old Dominion, which fields a strong squad, isn’t eligible for a title since the Monarchs are departing the CAA.

Photo by BV

Who are some of the standouts to watch this weekend?  You could start with two of the conference’s returning All-Americans, who will look to go back to Nationals and improve their placing.  At 125 pounds, Hofstra’s Steve Bonanno has a perfect record in league competition in 2012-13 after taking eighth at NCAAs in 2012.   He is the favorite to capture the one automatic qualifying spot.

Also on the podium in St. Louis was 149-pound bronze medalist Donnie Vinson of Binghamton.  The returning CAA Wrestler of the Year has his sights set on a national title to cap off his career.

Vinson isn’t the only Bearcat currently ranked in the top five nationally.  His teammate Nate Schiedel has had a banner year at 197.  Schiedel is the frontrunner for the CAA crown and hopes to capture a medal in Des Moines.

What Other Returning Champions Are Back?

Besides Bonanno and Vinson, two other 2012 CAA champions return – 133-pounder Scott Festejo of Old Dominion and 141-pounder Luke Vaith of Hofstra.

Festejo will have his hands full with some wrestlers with strong New York ties, including Rider’s Jimmy Morris (a former CHSAA star) and Hofstra’s Jamie Franco.  Franco made an appearance at Nationals a year ago, and has rebounded from a slow start to record some solid victories lately, including over nationally-ranked George DiCamillo of Virginia. (There are three automatic qualifying spots at 133).

Vaith will need to contend with a pair of opponents who have wrestled well, especially in conference action – Frank Cimato of Drexel and Chris Mecate of Old Dominion.   And while he has seen limited action, Binghamton’s Joe Bonaldi started off the season on a high note, beating a number of tough foes to capture the Binghamton Open crown.  He returned to the mat in the final dual of the year and will try to recapture that early season form and take one of the three guaranteed CAA slots in the NCAA field.

Other New York Storylines

Photo by BV

Only the champions at 174 and 184 pounds are guaranteed slots at the National tournament.  Could Jermaine John fit the bill at 174? How about Cody Reed at 184?  Hofstra’s John has put together an undefeated campaign in the conference and was second in the latest CAA rankings behind Old Dominion’s Billy Curling, with James Brundage of Rider in third.

Meanwhile, Reed recorded one of the big upsets in the first round of the NCAAs a year ago when he upended fourth-seed Christian Boley of Maryland. While he hasn’t seen the same level of success down at 184, he knows what it takes to win in March and will be someone to keep an eye on.  (Reed is also second in the CAA rankings, behind Rider’s Ryan Wolfe).

Hofstra 285-pounder Paul Snyder was in the midst of a solid senior campaign when he sustained an injury against Cornell. He didn’t return and according to gohofstra.com, he will not compete this weekend.  (Zeal McGrew took his place at the National Duals). In any event, look for Binghamton’s Tyler Deuel to be in the hunt with Old Dominion’s Matt Tourdot and Boston’s Kevin Innis at heavyweight after going 5-1 in CAA action.

So, what will we see this weekend? Hofstra has owned this tournament for much of the last decade.  Can the Pride ride the production in the lower weights to another title?  Binghamton will once again be in the mix, propelled by a probable slew of bonus points from Vinson and Schiedel.  And Rider can’t be overlooked, with a solid and balanced lineup.  The Broncs had seven grapplers in the top four in the last CAA poll, while Hofstra and Binghamton had five apiece.  (Old Dominion led the way with nine).  Last year, the team race came down to the wire.  It could be that way again.

** According to gohofstra.com, Snyder will not compete.

Binghamton Bound: Avon's Bryce Mazurowski Adds to the Star Studded Bearcat Recruiting Class

Bryce Mazurowski, Photo by Boris V

Bryce Mazurowski grew up hearing about the excellence of Nate Schiedel, a star at nearby Caledonia Mumford High School.  He now hopes to take the 197-pound spot in the Binghamton lineup, currently occupied by Schiedel, for years to come.

On Tuesday night, the Avon state runner up gave his verbal pledge to the Bearcats, adding yet another high New York state placer to the first recruiting class under head coach Matt Dernlan.  The CAA school also has commitments from state champions Kyle KellyZack Zupan and Nick Tighe as well as third placers (and All-Americans) Nick Kelley and David Almaviva.

“It’s good to see so much talent going to Binghamton,” Mazurowski said. “I think the team has a very bright future.  I definitely liked the coaching staff a lot.  The philosophy they talk about is perfect for me and the fact that it’s a great school that’s close to home is really important.”

The future business management major, who also considered Boston University, North Carolina State and North Carolina, has been competitive in the upperweights throughout his career in Section 5.  Back in 2010, he was the only freshman in the 189-pound bracket at the state tournament.

“I was kind of like a deer in the headlights that year,” Mazurowski said of his 0-2 showing.  “Being in the huge arena with so many high class wrestlers, I think I was a little nervous.”

He returned as a sophomore at the same weight and improved his performance, coming within one victory of making the podium, with his losses coming to the third and fifth place finishers (Zack Diekel and Kurt Shear, respectively).  That near miss provided a spark.

“I really wanted to place the second year and didn’t quite make it,” he said. “That got me so motivated.  I realized how much I wanted to be on top and how good I wanted to be.  I realized what I had to do to get there. It gave me the drive to work even harder and set everything up for last year.”

In 2011-12, Mazurowski had a stellar campaign at 195 pounds, compiling a 46-2 record with 43 wins by bonus points.  After a close setback to Shenendehowa state champion Tony Lock in December, he reeled off more than 30 consecutive triumphs, including a 4-2 win over the top seed in Albany, before dropping a decision to Diekel (currently at Lehigh), in the New York title bout.

“In my mind, I was going to win the tournament last year,” Mazurowski said. “It was great to get to the finals — it was a great experience.  But I’m definitely glad to have one more year to go at it and get that title.”

While he participated in track in the spring and football this fall, he has continued wrestling throughout.

“I’ve been working on refining my skills and lifting,” he said. “I’ve definitely gotten a lot more aware on the mat and I think I’m finding new ways to score points. I want to thank the Paddock family and Dee Gugel, who I’ve worked out with a lot and I want to thank the coaches at Avon for keeping me on track and giving me all the opportunities I’ve had.  And definitely my parents, who have supported me through everything and have helped me do what I wanted to do to get where I am.”

Where he is now is on the verge of another title run.  Schiedel won his New York state crown in his senior season before embarking upon a successful career in the CAA where he is currently ranked in the top 10 nationally.  Similarly, Mazurowski hopes to stand atop the podium in Albany in his final high school campaign before going to work in the upperweights for the Bearcats.

Binghamton 2012-13 Season Preview With Assistant Coach Jasen Borshoff

Binghamton had a terrific 2011-12 season, winning 15 dual meets and earning the best NCAA finish in program history (14th).  The Bearcats boasted two All-Americans (Donnie Vinson at 149 and Nick Gwiazdowski at 285) and had three other wrestlers win at least two bouts at nationals.  The team has undergone change over the past several months, as head coach Pat Popolizio and assistant Frank Beasley moved to North Carolina State and Matt Dernlan and Teyon Ware came on board to replace them.  (Gwiazdowski joined the Wolfpack as well).

Assistant coach Jasen Borshoff is back and he spoke to New York Wrestling News about the upcoming season, beginning with a weight-by-weight look at the lineup.

125 Pounds  – Last year’s starter Derek Steeley returns, but he’ll be challenged by two accomplished wrestlers — former 125-pound Junior College national champion Patrick Hunter (who manned the 133 spot for the Bearcats in 2011-12) and Army transfer David White, who placed at the EIWAs in 2011 as a true freshman.

Coach Borshoff:  “We have a three-way race for 125.  Right now, I’m not sure who will win the job.  Steeley is back and White has three years left after coming in from Army.  He beat a handful of Top 25 guys last year before transferring and redshirting.

Pat Hunter may have been the smallest 133 pounder I’ve ever seen in my entire life.   When [Hunter] came in to Binghamton, he had a lot on his plate.  We wanted him to focus on starting a new school, meeting new people and wrestling without having to worry about weight. But he’s really matured a lot in the year he’s been here and he’s ready to be back at 125.”

133 Pounds – Two years ago Dan Riggi filled the 133 slot and after a redshirt campaign, he’ll try to earn the nod again.  But he’ll have competition from another wrestler who took a redshirt last year – Tyler Pendergast.

Coach Borshoff:  “Just like at 125, it’s not clear who will win the spot.  Riggi had a pretty good year last season and he’s a goer who always wrestles hard. Tyler wrestled in the second half of the season and got hurt.  He was a three-time Delaware state champion and a Beast of the East finalist.  So, he has a very good pedigree and has the chance to show it in college.”

141 Pounds:  Joe Bonaldi and Derak Heyman know each other pretty well.  The Empire State natives wrestled in high school and now they will compete for the Binghamton starting job. Another potential contender is junior college national runner up Vinny DiGravio, who transferred in from Mercyhurst Northeast.

Coach Borshoff: “There will be a lot of competition at this weight.  Joe Bonaldi wrestled as a true freshman and I think he faced more ranked opponents than anyone else on the team.  He’s ready for the next step.  Derak was injured last year but he did wrestle at the Penn State Open and placed as a true freshman.  Those two are very close in the room – they really battle it out and make each other better.  It’s possible that Vinny may redshirt.”

149 Pounds – While the first three weights are undecided, 149 isn’t in question.  Donnie Vinson comes off a third place finish at NCAAs in which he won seven matches in a row following a first round loss.  He also captured Most Outstanding Wrestler honors at the CAA tournament and compiled a 40-5 record overall with 28 bonus point wins.  He will be among the favorites to stand on top of the podium at nationals in 2013.

Coach Borshoff:  “Donnie’s the man at 149.  He’s taken ownership of being a team leader, which is great to see.   He’s been working on some little things like head and hand position. He’s so aggressive and explosive that he opens himself up sometimes.  The third place match at NCAAs was a perfect example. He took it to his opponent but made little mistakes at crucial times. Last year, he thought he was good enough to win nationals.  The difference this year is that he knows he’s good enough to win.”

157 Pounds/165 Pounds – Justin Lister and Matt Kaylor were two very successful multi-year starters for the Bearcats in the middleweights.  Three candidates are in the mix to replace them – Joe Chamish, Vinny Grella and Adam Lepkowsky.

Coach Borshoff:  “It will be interesting to see how these weights play out for us.  Joe Chamish spot started for us last year at 157.  Vinny and Adam are both redshirt freshmen.  They’re all young and none have ever been there.  It’s a new frontier for them.  They have to go out and work hard and capitalize on their opportunity to start.”

174 PoundsCaleb Wallace (11 wins in 2011-12) and John Paris (the 2011 CAA Rookie of the Year) squared off for the spot last season at 174 and they’ll do it again.

Coach Borshoff:  “Last year, the guys were so close and Caleb actually won the wrestleoff.  But it was such a close match and John had such a great season the year before, we were planning to start whoever did better in competition.  Then in his second match of the year, John tore his ACL and was out for the year.  Caleb stepped in and did very well.  He took third in the CAA and showed a lot of improvement. Now, John’s back and healthy and they’ll battle it out.  They’re very different wrestlers.  John’s more explosive from the outside and Caleb likes to roll around. Both wrestle hard and are young and improving.  This is a weight where we’ll be more mature and better than last year.”

184 PoundsCody Reed, who has racked up 47 victories while starting at 197 pounds the past two seasons, will move down to 184 for the upcoming campaign.

Coach Borshoff: “Cody Reed was an undersized 197.  He was trying to keep his weight up during the season.  Cody had a great end of the year, upsetting the #4 seed [Maryland’s Christian Boley] at the NCAAs.  It was a huge confidence builder for him.  He saw that he was good enough to compete at the national level and he’s been working on a lot of little things to get better.  I think he’s good enough to be an All-American but that’s up to him.  He’s very strong and explosive for the weight.”

197 Pounds – After three seasons of wrestling well and qualifying for nationals at 184, Nate Schiedel moves up to 197 for his senior campaign.  He sported a 30-10 mark in 2011-12.

Coach Borshoff:  “Nate’s a leader and a captain and guys really respect him.  In hindsight, he was too big for 184 last year.  He’s a house right now.  When [head coach Matt Dernlan] got here, he couldn’t believe Nate made 184.  Honestly, we were contemplating having him go heavyweight.  Last year, he was always in great shape, but you could see him hurting at times.  He sucked it up and won matches because he’s a winner, but it was tough.  He’s had a good career so far where he’s been ranked in the top 10 several times.  At 197, we’re expecting a huge, huge year from him.”

285 Pounds – With the departure of All-American Nick Gwiazdowski to North Carolina State, New York native Tyler Deuel will step into the heavyweight role.

Coach Borshoff: “Tyler spot started last year at 197 but he’s a big-sized heavyweight now, probably around 250.  Starting in May, we put him on a weightlifting program and he’s put on a lot of good weight.  He’s doing pretty well so far; his body is getting used to carrying around the extra weight.  The spotlight will be on him and we’ll see how he handles it.  He’s young and inexperienced, but he’s talented and capable of doing a great job.”

A Few More Things . . .

Tell us a little bit about being part of the new coaching staff.

Coach Borshoff:  “It’s been awesome. We’ve meshed really well.  We have the same philosophies and are focused on working hard but working smart.  We want to make sure guys are enjoying competing.  Sometimes you get to the national tournament and guys are done. They’re sick of the season and the grind.  Our job is to make sure that doesn’t happen and that’s the philosophy and training [Dernlan] brought in.

One thing I thought was cool was to see the guys who competed at the Olympics call [Dernlan] to thank him for helping them reach their goals.  When you see the guys who are competing for World and Olympic titles, you realize there’s another level out there and that winning national titles isn’t the biggest thing.  It takes some pressure off the guys and it lets them see that [Dernlan] has impacted very high level wrestlers.”

What are the team’s goals for this year?

“We were excited about last year, but we’re not satisfied with being 14th in the country.  There were 13 teams ahead of us and every year we want to plug away and get better and better.

We want national champions and All-Americans.  But the goal setting is the job of the guys on the team.  Ultimately, if our goals as coaches are bigger than theirs, it won’t matter. Binghamton is on the map now and I think everyone wants to keep Binghamton moving up the totem pole.”

Who are some of the freshman entering the room this year?

“One of the main reasons Coach Dernlan took the job was that he believes New York State is untapped.  There’s so much talent here.  We believe you can do really big things with New York kids and we brought in a lot of good ones.

Tristan Hamner (Medina) never won a state title and that’s surprising when you see how talented he is. We also have state runner ups Brady Baron (Pittsford) and Dylan Cohen (Williamsville East) as well as Dylan Caruana (Kenmore West), who took fifth.  Nick Mauriello (Hauppauge) was fourth in a tough weight last year and Jack McKeever was third in New England.  All the guys are pretty talented and they’re all good, hard working kids.  They’re real student-athletes who are here to compete in the room but also understand that they need to work hard in school because wrestling doesn’t pay the bills for most people.”

What else should we look for from Binghamton this season?

“We can’t wait for the season to start.  We’re ready to start practice and get the guys in the room.  They worked all summer and we’ll see where we are.  We’re excited for another great year.”