On Track and Arriving: Stony Brook to Grapple at the Garden

 
 
Last week, MSG Sports announced that the second annual Grapple at the Garden will take place on December 1 in New York City. A number of New York teams were mentioned in the press release, including Cornell, Hofstra and Army.

But that’s not all.  Two more squads from the Empire State will take part as Stony Brook will take the mat against Westchester Community College at the World’s Most Famous Arena.  How did the second-year NCWA program from Suffolk County get involved?

“I was there last year and I was thinking, Stony Brook should be here,” said Seawolves head coach Shaun Lally. “I saw the Division I wrestling and the high school wrestling and thought it would be great if every single level of wrestling was showcased.  I happened to call [Cornell coach] Rob Koll about something else and asked him about this year’s Grapple at the Garden. He got me in touch with the organizers and after talking to them, they were sold on the idea.”

So, Stony Brook was in the field, but needed an opponent.  The answer wasn’t too far away.

“For an event in New York City, it made sense to go local,” Lally said. “You can’t get much more local than Westchester.  Some of the guys on the team there are from the Beat the Streets program.  They’re very close to the city. Getting to the city is easy for us too – our kids can get on the train, take it to Penn Station and basically just walk upstairs to wrestle.”

Wrestling at the prestigious arena during a high profile event is something the Stony Brook squad isn’t taking lightly.

“It’s so exciting to be a part of this,” Lally said. “It gives us an instant credibility and brings attention and turns people’s heads.  There’s still that club tag associated with Stony Brook for some people because we’re not Division I. I think participating in this event is another way of showing people that we’re a legitimate program that has shown a lot of growth and progress in a short period of time.”

Courtesy of Stony Brook wrestling

Indeed, it’s only been a little over a year for Lally and Stony Brook as a NCWA program.  In season one, six wrestlers qualified for the Nationals in Texas with two, 197 pounder Michael Lloyd and 235 pounder Kyle Folk-Freund, coming within one victory of All-America status.

“For the kids to just get there was a great experience that validated all the hard work they did,” Lally said. “The team bought into the system right away.  Right before those two matches (in the Round of 12), I said to myself, ‘Win or lose, this has been a complete success.’  The matches didn’t go our way, but now we keep putting the question out there – who will be the first All-American for this program?”

Who will it be?  Lally doesn’t think it will take long to find out as he has a strong group of returners and a set of newcomers he believes will make an impact.

“We have some very good guys back and we have six incoming freshmen from all over the state who, if they buy in like the kids did last year, could walk in right away and have success. I’m excited that we’re bringing in kids from upstate, the City, Nassau and Suffolk. The future is bright.”

According to Lally, that future includes the goal of winning a conference championship in 2013-14 and some interesting opportunities, including a potential exhibition match against the backups from Hofstra and, of course, the appearance at the Garden.

“It’s huge for us to get exposure and compete in that kind of setting,” the coach said.  “We want to show people we’ve arrived as a program.”

For more on Stony Brook wrestling, see here.

NCWA Nationals Update: Risaliti Prepares for the Quarters; Stony Brook's Lloyd and Folk-Freund to Battle in Consis

 
 
The NCWA National Championships began on Thursday in Allen, Texas. After Session 4 of the event, a pair of Stony Brook wrestlers remain in the field, trying to become the first All-Americans for the Seawolves. Michael Lloyd has a 2-1 mark at 197 while Kyle Folk-Freund is 3-1 at 235 and has pinned his past three opponents.

Also alive in the wrestlebacks is US Military Prep’s Samson Imonode, who is 2-1 at 174.

Imonode’s teammate Tony Risaliti is still in the championship round at 165 pounds. He’ll face Liberty’s Robert Clymer in the quarterfinals this evening.

Session 5 gets underway at 5 p.m. Eastern on Friday. The tournament concludes on Saturday, with the finals scheduled for 3 p.m. Eastern.

For the tournament home page and information, see here.  Results are also available on http://www.trackwrestling.com.

For results from participants from New York schools as of 5 p.m. Eastern on Friday, see below:

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
125: Alec Vogel (1-2)
165: Will Bonagura (1-2)
174: Enrico Cascio (1-2)
184: Stuart Curtis (2-2)
197: Ray Douglas (0-2)
197: Omar Abdoun (0-2)
285: Brad Huizinga (0-2)

Stony Brook
133: Bobby Beneventano (2-2)
149: Mike Shimer (1-2)
165: Scott Dunkirk (0-2)
197: Michael Lloyd (2-1)
235: Kyle Folk-Freund (3-1)
285: Juan Velasquez (0-2)

US Military Prep
141: Chris Monge (1-2)
165: Tony Risaliti (2-0)
174: Samson Imonode (2-1)

Cortland Wins DIII Northeast Regional With Four Champions; Stony Brook Earns First National Qualifiers as NCWA Program

On to Nationals! A number of wrestlers from New York schools punched their tickets this weekend in Division III and the NCWA on Saturday and Sunday.

In a field consisting of 18 squads, Cortland took top honors at the Division III Northeast Regional in Massachusetts, with four champions. It was the first year of the new Regional format in which the top three finishers move on to Nationals.

B. Dierna, Photo by BV

Leading the way for the Red Dragons were gold medalists Bobby Dierna (149), Troy Sterling (157), Lou Puca (174) and Jared Myhrberg (197). Also getting a bid to the NCAAs in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on March 15 and 16 were Alec Dierna (third at 133) and Corey James (third at 285).

Ithaca also had a strong showing at the event, earning bronze in the team race. Ricardo Gomez (125) and Alex Gomez (133) won titles for the Bombers, while Jules Doliscar (second at 174) and Dominick Giacolone (third at 141) are also heading to the NCAAs after notching spots high on the podium.

A few additional Empire State representatives will be joining those wrestlers in Cedar Rapids – Oswego State’s Blake Fisher grabbed second at 157, while Oneonta State’s Shaun Gillen was the bronze placer at 165.

Full brackets and results are available on http://www.trackwrestling.com.

First Qualifiers for Stony Brook . . . And Many for RPI

It may be Stony Brook’s first season in competition, but that didn’t stop the Seawolves from making their presence felt at the NCWA Northeast Regional tournament in New Hampshire.

The Suffolk County school took sixth place in the team standings and qualified six wrestlers for the Nationals, which will take place in Allen, Texas on March 14-15. Mike Shimer was the runner up at 149 pounds while Bobby Beneventano (133) and Juan Velasquez (heavyweight) were third. Also locking up spots for the big show were a trio of fifth placers, Scott Dunkirk (165), Mike Lloyd (197) and Kyle Folk-Freund (235).*

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) will take seven placers to the NCWA Nationals, according to head coach Brad Nelson. Automatically qualifying by finishing in the top five in New Hampshire this weekend were: Will Bonagura (second at 165), Alec Vogel (third at 125), Stuart Curtis (fourth at 184), Omar Abdoun (fourth at 197) and Enrico Cascio (fifth at 174).

Earning wildcard spots were Brad Huzinga at 285 and Ray Douglas at 197. RPI finished seventh out of 22 teams despite not having scorers in five weight classes.

 

*Results from Stony Brook’s Facebook page

** RPI results from head coach Brad Nelson

 

 

Stony Brook Brings College Wrestling to Section 11 With Dual at Ward Melville on Saturday

Suffolk County’s prominence in high school wrestling is obvious. After all, Section 11 has won the Division I title at the state championships each of the past four years, including outscoring runner up Nassau by almost 80 points in 2012.

Courtesy of Stony Brook wrestling Facebook

However, when it comes to college wrestling in Suffolk, things have been a bit more quiet. In fact, according to first-year Stony Brook coach Shaun Lally, there hasn’t been a collegiate wrestling event in Section 11 in well over a decade.

That’s about to change. On Feburary 16 at 1 p.m., the Seawolves will host Cortland in an NCWA dual at Ward Melville High School that will mark the first home event for Lally’s team and an opportunity for Long Island wrestling fans to see what the Stony Brook program is all about.

“We’re so excited about this event,” Lally said. “From day one, we knew we wanted to have a home dual and pack the gym. We want to get as many people there as possible to show the university and Long Island how much we want this and how much we need this. We want to show what we’re building at Stony Brook.”

The building process is very important to Lally. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, he stayed involved in wrestling, coaching or officiating in a number of places in Pennsylvania, New York and Texas before buying a home in Suffolk County.

“With my roots laid down, I knew I wanted to build a program,” he said. “Stony Brook had a wrestling club for at least 10 years but it was more of a bunch of guys getting together to drill. It was time to start to get into competition.”

When he took over, Lally began by asking the wrestlers a question. (The same question he asked the author of this article when they began their interview).

Can you cook a cheeseburger better than McDonald’s?

“Of course you can cook a cheeseburger better,” Lally explained. “But you’re not a multi-billion dollar business like McDonald’s. That’s because it’s not really about the quality of the cheeseburger, it’s about the quality of the system. McDonald’s has a proven system in place that works all over the world. I’m a man of the system and I think it’s really important in wrestling.”

That system was instilled into Lally throughout his life in the sport.

“I was never an All-American in college. I was a .500 wrestler,” he said. “But I was around a lot of All-Americans and national champions. My coaches achieved those things. My high school coaches accomplished great things. In the summers, I practiced with teams at Lehigh and East Stroudsburg. I was always around the right systems and I didn’t know it at the time, but I was being educated on the right way to run a program. I’m trying to put all those things I learned in place here.”

That system seems to have yielded some big gains in a short period of time.

For one thing, the days of practicing in a racquetball court without a high quality mat will be over soon. The Stony Brook grapplers will have significantly more space, a (shared) locker room area and a brand new mat. They’ll even get laundry service.

“We actually like our wrestling room in the racquetball court,” Lally said. “It’s pretty thin, but it’s ample with its padded walls. But we’re definitely moving in a positive direction. The school let us know with these changes that they’re behind us now. They want to support us and see us do well and win.”

That sentiment goes beyond the Stony Brook Athletics department. Lally said he has seen the awareness of the Stony Brook program go up significantly within the surrounding wrestling community as well.

Courtesy of Stony Brook wrestling Facebook

“I’m constantly recruiting,” he said. “At the mall, I’m shopping with a Stony Brook wrestling t-shirt and talking to people with wrestling t-shirts on. I attend the high school coaches meetings and talk about our program. It’s rewarding that I’ve been getting a slew of e-mails from parents and kids, telling me they’re interested. It’s really exciting.”

So far, there have been some solid victories on the mat, as well as some setbacks that would be expected in the earlygoing. However, Lally likes a lot of what he’s seen to date.

“We’ve really stretched our dollars and made it work on a $3,000 budget,” he said. “We’ve had some good matches and some that weren’t good, but we’ve seen some competition which will help us in March.”

March 1 is when the regional tournament takes place at the University of New Hampshire. That event determines who makes the trip to Dallas for the NCWA championships.

“We’re really looking forward to regionals,” he said. “We’ll find out who our first national qualifier will be. We expect to have several guys qualify.”

Sending as many wrestlers to the Nationals in Dallas is one of the main goals for the squad, according to Lally. Another is to have a great golf outing fundraiser on August 19. But right now the focus is on having a successful first home dual meet in front of a packed audience this weekend.

“I remember watching some of the best high school wrestling in the country in Pennsylvania and wanting to be a part of it,” Lally said. “As a little kid, you see someone out there and maybe they’re your neighbor or a family friend or someone you know about and you start thinking about how much you want to do it too. We want kids to realize they can wrestle for Stony Brook. We have great wrestling on Long Island and not everyone wants to go upstate or can afford Hofstra. Not everyone will get a scholarship. At the college level, wrestling programs are dissolving left and right. We’re excited to be providing another opportunity for wrestlers to continue after high school in a great school and great environment. There’s really a melting pot of kids here. You come on campus now and you can feel that it’s on the up and up. New buildings are being built, money is being pumped into athletics. It’s a great place to be.”

Courtesy of Stony Brook wrestling Facebook

One of the reasons for the influx of investment in sports is the recent success of the baseball team, which went from being a Division III school just over a decade ago to the College World Series in 2012. Lally believes the journey that the Seawolves took on the diamond is a real inspiration.

“22 years ago, [head baseball] coach [Matt] Senk was kind of in the same position as me right now,” Lally said. “He had a club team that went Division III. And then in 2000, they went to Division I. Then last year, they made the College World Series and had a bunch of guys that were taken in the Major League Baseball draft. So they’ve come a long way and put Stony Brook on the map nationwide. We’re thinking the same way. We don’t have alumni or history in wrestling, but that’s attractive in some ways because everyone wants to be the first. Someone is going to be Stony Brook’s first All-American and Stony Brook’s first National Champion. I was talking to a friend who coaches at Mount St. Vincent [also a first-year program, but in Division III]. We were saying that this will probably be the toughest year for our programs wrestling wise but we’re building. Things are only going to keep getting better.”

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Admission is free for kids for the Stony Brook vs. Cortland NCWA Dual at Ward Melville High School. Regular admission is $5.

For more information on the dual, see here.

The expected starting lineups for the dual are:

STONY BROOK SEAWOLVES vs. CORTLAND RED DRAGONS

125 Pounds: Andy Levanti (Ward Melville) vs. Justin Altro (New Paltz)

133 Pounds: Bobby Beneventano* (Hicksville) vs. Julian Staiano (Saugerties)

141 Pounds: Mase Kochath (Sachem East) vs. Anthony Padulo (Baruch)

149 Pounds: Dylan Clay (Smithtown East) vs. Nicholas Wolff (Monroe Woodbury)

157 Pounds: Mike Shimer* (Mepham) vs. Daniel Tammaro (Valley Stream South)

165 Pounds: Scott Dunkirk (Central Moriches) vs Joseph Byrne (West Islip)

174 Pounds: Matt Frey (Ward Melville) vs. Nicholas Olson (Glen Cove)

184 Pounds: Frank Modica* (Jericho) vs. Tyler Cobe (Northport)

197 Pounds: Mike Lloyd* (Hampton Bays) vs. Thomas Merenyi (Goshen)

235 Pounds: Kyle Folk-Freund (Ward Melville) vs Andrew Westman (Long Island Lutheran)

Heavyweight: Latauro Epstein (Miller Place) vs. Daniel Paulan (Raritan, NJ)
* Denotes seniors