World Team Trials Day 2: Army Graduate Anderson Makes the Finals; Gwiazdowski Takes Third in Challenge Tournament and More

 
 
The World Team Trials continued on Saturday with action in men’s and women’s freestyle and Greco Roman.

Anderson, pilotonline.com

Numerous wrestlers with New York ties took the mat, with West Point graduate Jon Anderson making it all the way to the best-of-three championship series against Andy Bisek in Greco at 74 kg/163 pounds.  Anderson began his journey with a 6-0 victory over Corey Hope and followed it up with a pin of Jake Fisher, the number two seed.  Fisher, a former World Team member, had taken a significant lead over Anderson early in the match, but the former Black Knight fought back to not only tie the score but also get the fall.

That set up the meeting with Bisek. In the first match, there was a lot of action early, but the first points weren’t put on the board until there were just seconds left in the opening period as Anderson grabbed a 1-0 advantage. Bisek didn’t waste much time tying things up in the second and with two minutes to go, the Minnesota Storm wrestler pulled ahead 3-1. Anderson stayed aggressive, but his opponent effectively countered multiple times, resulting in a 10-1 Bisek triumph in match one.

In the second match, Anderson went ahead with a push out less than a minute into the bout for a 1-0 lead.  Seconds later, however, Bisek responded with a takedown and after a series of turns, it was 7-1.  Toward the end of the stanza, Anderson looked in position for a big throw, but Bisek was able to fight it off and in the second period, Bisek ended the bout 9-2 with a pushout to take the World Team spot.

Anderson wasn’t the only placer with Empire State connections on Saturday, as three freestylers made the top four in the Challenge Tournament.

Former Duanesburg star Nick Gwiazdowski, who competes for North Carolina State, took bronze at 120 kg after racking up a 3-1 record.  That included a pair of wins over two-time NCAA champion Tony Nelson of Minnesota.  In fact, Gwiazdowski started the day against the Golden Gopher, getting to his legs often and piling up points in a 9-0 technical fall that ended midway through the second period.  After dropping his next contest to Zach Rey, Gwiazdowski notched a 9-1 triumph over Kyle Massey before beating Nelson for third, 6-4.

Hall, wrestlersarewarriors.com (Tony Rotundo)

Also making the bronze match in the Challenge Tournament were Cornell graduate Cam Simaz (84 kg) and Columbia assistant Adam Hall (66 kg), who both took fourth with 2-2 marks.  Simaz opened and concluded with losses to Jon Reader. In between, he toppled Max Askren and Enock Francois by 7-0 and 9-2 scores, respectively.  Hall’s setbacks came to Challenge Tournament champion Brent Metcalf and third placer Chase Pami while he defeated Kyle Ruschell and Phillip Simpson.

Speaking of Simpson, the Army graduate went 3-2 with wins over Rollie Peterkin, Jason Chamberlain and Kyle Borshoff.  Borshoff, an American assistant coach originally from the Rochester area, dropped a one-pointer to Kyle Ruschell in round one before facing Simpson.

Another Simpson – William Simpson – picked up one victory at 60 kg in Greco with a pin, while Army assistant Enock Francois also had a 1-2 mark (at 84 kg) with a 7-0 win over Austin Trotman.

Yet another West Point coach, Danny Mitcheff, also collected a victory (at 55 kg), eliminating Cornell All-American Frank Perrelli in the consolations.  Mitcheff was then knocked out of the competition by former Buffalo grappler Mark McKnight, who also went 1-2.

On the women’s side, Jenna Burkert, recorded a technical fall at 63 kg against Lauren Louive, while another New York native, Joe Uccellini, competed at 74 kg in Greco.

Wrestling continues on Sunday in Stillwater with the Junior World Team Trials in both Freestyle and Greco.

For full results, see here.

 

What to Watch For From NY Wrestlers at the World Team Trials Beginning on Friday

 
 
On Friday and Saturday, many of the nation’s top wrestlers will take the mat at the World Team Trials in Oklahoma. A number of New York wrestlers will see action during the two-day competition, with representatives in most of the men’s freestyle classes and qualifiers in women’s freestyle and Greco Roman.  For a preview of what to look for from the Empire State grapplers, read on.

Men’s Freestyle

55 kg/121 pounds:

The Frontrunners: 2012 Olympian Sam Hazewinkel and US Open champion Obe Blanc are among the favorites in a deep field.

The New York Connection: Former Cornell All-American Frank Perrelli went all the way to the championship bout at the US Open earlier in the spring and has registered a number of quality victories at 55 kg/121 pounds recently.  He also took bronze in 2013 at the Cerro Pelado International and looks to challenge for the title in Stillwater. In addition, Mark McKnight, a wrestler who spent some time in the Empire State while wrestling for Buffalo, was the Pan American Championships gold medalist earlier this year and the fourth place finisher at the US Open.

Also taking the mat will be Army assistant coach Danny Mitcheff, who gained entry via a sixth place showing at the U.S. Open at 60 kg/132 pounds.  He is currently seventh in the Senior National rankings at that class, but is in the field at the lightest weight for this weekend. Lucas Malmberg, a state champion for Marathon High, who trained with the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club this season, qualified for the event by virtue of winning the Northeast Regional Championship but was not registered as of Thursday morning.

60 kg/132 pounds:

The Frontrunners: Coleman Scott earned Olympic bronze in London, but he’ll be challenged by US Open champion Reece Humphrey (who goes right into the championship series) and two-time NCAA champion Logan Stieber, who looked impressive in beating the World’s number one ranked grappler Opan Sat of Russia this spring.

The New York Connection: Cornell freshman Mark Grey captured the Northeast Regional title to earn a spot at the event, however, he will instead compete at the Junior World Team Trials on Sunday at 60 kg.

 66 kg/145.5 pounds:

The Frontrunners: Kellen Russell clinched a spot in the championship series with his title at the US Open. In that event, he defeated another two-time NCAA champion, Jordan Oliver, in the finals.  Oliver will again be a threat, as will former World Team member Brent Metcalf.

The New York Connection: At the US Open, current EIWA assistants made the podium with Columbia’s Adam Hall notching fourth and American’s Kyle Borshoff, a Section 5 native, grabbing seventh. In addition, Army graduate Phillip Simpson was sixth.

74 kg/163 pounds:

The Frontrunners: This bracket has a huge ‘wow’ factor.  Jordan Burroughs, perhaps the world’s best wrestler over the past year or two, comes in as the favorite.  He is still a flawless 54-0 in Senior level freestyle action.  The weight boasts a number of impressive challengers, however, including Kyle Dake, Andrew Howe, Trent Paulson and David Taylor.

Dake, Phototrens.com

The New York Connection:  Dake made a successful international debut against Iran at the Rumble on the Rails and will look to continue his freestyle success. A year ago at the Olympic Trials, Dake defeated solid freestylers Colt Sponseller and Nick Marable and pinned Taylor.  He also dropped a three-period contest to former World Team member Trent Paulson. Dake will get a chance to avenge that outcome right away, as Paulson will be his opening round opponent on Friday. If he wins that one, his next bout could be a rematch with David Taylor.

Speaking of Taylor, the Nittany Lion will open action against the winner of the Moza Fay vs. Dan Vallimont tilt. Vallimont, a Hofstra assistant coach, registered a seventh place showing at the US Open and a Northeast Regional crown.  He will look to make his presence felt in Oklahoma at 74 kg, while Monsignor Farrell alum Kevin Hartnett, who competes for Bloomsburg, is also eligible join the fray after taking the Northeast Regional championship at 70 kg.

84 kg/185 pounds:

The Frontrunners: Keith Gavin won the US Open and will be challenged by a solid field, including those who finished right behind him in Vegas –  Clayton Foster, Jon Reader, Ed Ruth and Phil Keddy.

The New York Connection: Cam Simaz and Enock Francois battled at the US Open and at the Northeast Regionals. Francois, an assistant at West Point, won the first meeting on the way to a seventh place finish, however, Simaz rebounded to control the rematch.  In the interim, Simaz, the former Cornell NCAA champion, recorded a silver finish at the University Nationals. Both wrestlers have the potential to make noise in this bracket over the weekend. The same could be said for former Section 1 resident Max Askren, who placed second at the Dmitry Korkin International in 2012.

96 kg/211 pounds:

The Frontrunners: London gold medalist Jake Varner isn’t registered for the event. JD Bergman, the US Open champion, will go directly to the best of three championship series, where he could face the foe he defeated for the title in Las Vegas – Chris Pendleton. Another name to watch, Wynn Michalak, took third at the US Open behind Bergman and Pendleton.

The New York Connection: Former Buffalo All-American Kyle Cerminara, who is currently 9th in the US Senior rankings, qualified for the tournament with a Northeast Regional championship. However, he is not in the brackets.

120 kg/265.5 pounds:

The Frontrunners: Tervel Dlagnev was the 2012 Olympian, but he was upended by Dominique Bradley at the US Open. (Bradley will not compete). Taking third at that event was Tyrell Fortune, who was impressive in winning the University Nationals.  And what about competitors like Zach Rey and Tony Nelson? All could challenge for the top spot, along with Nick Gwiazdowski (see below) and others.

The New York Connection:  Former Duanesburg standout (and current North Carolina State wrestler) Nick Gwiazdowski was seventh at the US Open and third at the University Nationals.  He’ll look to be in the thick of things in a talented heavyweight class.

Women’s Freestyle

Since only the four Olympic weights will be contested in Stillwater (48, 55, 63, 72 kg), a number of wrestlers may move up or down in weight to challenge for World Team positions. This should add excitement to the competition and could lead to some surprises.

At least three New York natives are eligible to compete over the weekend.  Suffolk County’s Jenna Burkert recently earned a fourth place finish at the US Open at 59 kg. There won’t be competition at that weight this weekend, but Burkert, who will represent the USA at the Junior Worlds again this summer, will wrestle at 63 kg.

Mary Westman of Cattaraugas picked up a sixth place finish in Las Vegas at 72 kg, and will look to climb the ladder in that bracket in Oklahoma.

In the lightweights, Fredonia’s Carlene Sluberski recently represented the United States at the “Battle of the Falls” showcase at the end of May. Her third place finish at 51 kg at the US Open qualified her for the weekend, although she was not in the field as of Thursday morning.

Greco Roman

At 55 kg, Brooklyn’s Dmitry Ryabchinsky is always in the mix.  He recently notched fifth at the US Open and will be looking to move up to challenge frontrunners Spenser Mango and Max Nowry.

William Simpson, an Army alum, is entered at 60 kg, while fellow West Point grad Jon Anderson will be at 74 kg. Anderson has seen a lot of success in recent years and has represented the United States in international action. He was third at the Olympic Trials, the 2013 US Open and the Haparanda Cup. He may be joined in the field by another Empire State grappler, Joe Uccellini of Troy, the 79 kg champion at the Northeast Regionals.

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World Team Trials action begins on Friday, June 21 with competition in men’s freestyle (60 kg, 74 kg and 96 kg); Greco (55 kg, 66 kg, 84 kg and 120 kg) and women’s freestyle (55 kg and 72 kg).

"Olympic Level Good": Friends Remember Jeff Blatnick

National Wrestling Hall of Fame member and Olympic Gold Medalist Jeff Blatnick’s passing was a shock to the wrestling community.  It’s a story that has been covered by both the wrestling and mainstream media as many have articulated his numerous and signficant accomplishments both on and off the mat.

For some additional perspectives, New York Wrestling News asked a few people who knew Jeff Blatnick to provide reflections on the impact he had on their lives.  We’ll let them tell more of the story of Jeff Blatnick.

 

Kyle Dake, Three-time NCAA Champion at Cornell

“When I first met Coach Blatnick, I found out pretty quickly that he was one of the friendliest and most incredible people to be around.  What I really remember is how he was full of wisdom.  I always took to heart what he said, whether it was about wrestling or life in general because it was always wise.

He called me “The Ferret” because when we first met I was a 98-pound freshman who was all over the place with so much energy.  As I got bigger, he tried to think of another nickname, but Ferret stuck.  The years I wrestled at Fargo, Coach Blatnick was there.  He was my second coach with Scott Green.  I always had complete trust in him.  I always felt good when he was in my corner because he was a commanding presence who was so knowledgeable about the sport.

After my freshman year in college I went to Fargo to be a team coach and I got to spend time with him. Not as a wrestler and a coach, but as a friend. We had some great conversations about wrestling and life and it was a really special time that I’ll never forget. We had a relationship where we were really strongly connected even though we didn’t see each other that much. I’m still in disbelief that he’s gone.  I appreciated him and looked up to him so much as a person.”

 

Nick Gwiazdowski, NCAA All-American (now at North Carolina State)

“In eighth grade when I started Freestyle and Greco, Jeff Blatnick started coaching me.  The thing he helped me with the most was my approach to wrestling.  Wrestling is such an exciting sport and it’s easy to get really pumped up and have a lot of emotion.  He taught me how to bring the emotion down, visualize and relax and get prepared for matches.  He simplified things for me and a lot of the little things he taught me, I still do in my matches today.

More important, he was someone I liked being around.  You could travel to a tournament with him and never talk about wrestling.  He was someone you could always talk to about anything and he would be there for you.  People would introduce him as an Olympic champion, but he would never introduce himself like that.  He was so humble.  He never really mentioned the things he accomplished.  It was all about helping you get better at wrestling or helping you in some other way.  He will be missed by a lot of people.  It will be very different without him.”

 

Alexis Porter, Two-Time Freestyle National Champion

“I remember when I first met him, at a small peewee tournament.  I hadn’t been wrestling for more than a few months.  He saw something in me that day that not a lot of people had seen and he became my coach.  I knew he was a legend who was courageous and inspirational but he didn’t focus on his own story.  He was focused on making everyone in our club the best wrestler they could be and help them achieve the biggest goals possible.

My first year at Fargo, I lost in the consolation finals.  I was upset and angry. He told me I had nothing to be ashamed of and that next year I would be on top of the podium.  He said I had bigger things to look forward to.  Sure enough, the next year, he was in my corner when I won my first national title.  He was one of the best wrestlers and coaches I’ve seen and an even better man.  I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to know him and to call him my coach.”

 

Craig Vitagliano, Team New York Freestyle Coach (Ascend Wrestling)

“I knew about Jeff Blatnick growing up.  He was one of the first wrestlers I saw on the Olympic level and I remember sitting and watching the gold medal match.  I’d heard about all the adversity he had to overcome and the way he focused and won the Olympic gold was inspiring for me. It was an amazing moment in Olympic history.

Fast forward to the past couple of years when I got to know Jeff on the Freestyle circuit.  Our club battled Journeymen a number of times and he was always respectful, friendly and approachable.  There was no arrogance despite all he accomplished.  He was also light hearted with a great sense of humor.  He was behind a big joke played on me at Fargo this year when I was told that I failed my bronze certification test and was going to be removed from the event.  Jeff was the leader of it and had me going for about 20 minutes.  He was a great man and a great ambassador and it’s a huge loss.”

 

Dylan Palacio, High School National Champion and Cornell Recruit

“Even when I was unsuccessful, [Blatnick] believed in me.  He saw some potential and kept pushing me to achieve what he thought I was capable of.  It’s really rare to find someone so genuine, who just wants you to be better and achieve great things.  He truly cared about the sport and the people in it. My biggest regret is that I never told him how much of an impact he had on me. I really want to do things now to make sure he looks down and says, ‘I was right about that kid.’ I could go on for days about all the things he’s accomplished but what really sticks with me is how sincere he was about wanting to see kids succeed.”

 

Mike Kelley, Journeymen Wrestling

“He always went out of his way to help the kids.  There was a tournament in Connecticut that was over two hours away and bunch of kids were supposed to go.  Then kids started dropping out and only two were left.  A lot of coaches would have decided not to go with only two kids.  But he insisted on going. That’s the kind of guy he was.  If he said he was going to do something, he did it. He always took the time.

Last year at Freestyle states, Nick [Kelley, Mike’s son and Fargo All-American] had an injury to his mouth and it got hit again and was pretty bad.  [Blatnick] went around the place asking everyone if they had a facemask for Nick to use.  He didn’t stop until he found one.  He looked out for everyone.  It wasn’t just successful wrestlers.  It didn’t matter who it was.  If it was first-year kids making all kinds of mistakes, he went out of his way to spend time with them.  He went the extra mile.

He was a great coach. He had a calming effect.  Nick said no matter how loud it was, he could always hear [Blatnick] and his instructions even though he didn’t scream.  There was just something about him.  He was a great guy that will be missed.”

 

Frank Popolizio

“Jeff was an enormous part of our organization at Journeymen Wrestling and the wrestling community as a whole.  Above all, Jeff was a gentleman and an ambassador.  A lot of people look at him as a wrestling guy, but he was a lot more than that. He was a major ambassador for the disabled.  He played a big role in the Special Olympics.  He was involved in cancer-related causes.  It seemed like he was always at fundraising events for cancer and helping to raise awareness.

He was a tremendous worker on top of it all.  He spent a lot of time in the wrestling room trying to help the kids.  He was in charge of our Freestyle program.  Freestyle ends in July and so did his obligations and responsibilities to being there for the kids.  But he’d be there in August and September and October.  I’d tell him he didn’t have to be there, but he wanted to be.  That’s the kind of guy he was.  He cared tremendously about the kids and they really responded to him.

The angle that’s not being covered is an ability that Jeff had as maybe the best, most effective wrestling diplomat.  He was in charge of things that were very political, including the head of USA Wrestling New York.  It’s a difficult position working with many different groups and personalities, but he was able to navigate through it with ease.  I don’t think it was easy, but he made it look easy.  He was really good at it – Olympic level good.  We were all better off for the work he did.

We lost a giant of a guy figuratively and literally.  It’s an enormous void on so many levels and I’m not sure you can ever truly fill it.”

———————————————————————————————————————————————-

We’ll end with an inspiring video of Jeff Blatnick at the 1984 Olympic Games, winning his gold medal and reacting afterwards.  Popolizio said watching it gave him goose bumps and it did the same for us.  RIP, Jeff Blatnick, you will be missed.

Top Talent Comes Together for Fourth Annual Adam Frey Classic On Sunday

Adam Frey

It’s hard not to be excited about the Adam Frey Classic this year.  Just ask Penn State National Champion Ed Ruth.

According to Adam Frey Foundation Board Member Josh Liebman, Ruth was in the middle of a special family occasion when he was contacted about the event.

“Ed had a lot going on, but he called back right away and said he definitely wanted to do it,”  Liebman said. “It was on his mind enough that he couldn’t wait until the next day to call.”

In the fourth annual event for the Adam Frey Foundation, Ruth will square off against Lehigh’s two-time All-American Robert Hamlin in the feature bout in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

“We were trying to think of matchups that would be really exciting for wrestling fans and we knew [Hamlin] would be involved,” Liebman said. “He and his family have been really supportive of the Foundation and with the event being at Lehigh this year, it was a great fit.”

Ruth has posted first and third place finishes at NCAAs, while Hamlin has taken second and fourth.

After holding the first three Adam Frey Classics at Rider, Liebman is excited for the new location at Grace Hall on Lehigh’s campus.

“So far, it’s been nothing but great,” he said. “Everyone has been very supportive and interested in being part of the event and helping it grow.  The sports marketing staff has helped out and the coaches have too. I really wanted to get Pennsylvania involved since Adam was from there.  It’s like he’ll be closer to home, at least for a year.”

Besides the new arena, another addition in 2012 is a match of high school stars with the top rising junior in the country, Chance Marstellar, taking on New Jersey state champion Johnny Sebastian.

“We’ve never done a high school vs. high school match before,” Liebman said. “Last year, because of an injury, [Blair Academy’s] Brooks Black stepped in to wrestle Zach Rey.  But this year, Marstellar really wanted to be a part of it.  The college kids weren’t in a hurry to wrestle him, but [Sebastian] was excited.  He loves to test himself.  I expect Johnny to start next season ranked in the top 5 or 10 at his weight, so I think it’s a premiere matchup.”

It’s one of many bouts Liebman is looking forward to viewing.  (The full lineup is listed below). He believes the tilt between 141 pound All-Americans Boris Novachkov (Cal Poly) and Perry, NY native Mike Nevinger (Cornell) will be one to watch.

“That match may not jump out at people, but I can’t wait for it,” Liebman said. “They’re both so tough on top and a little funky on their feet.  I think it could steal the show.”

While heavyweight battles aren’t typically the most entertaining affairs, Liebman is anticipating 2012 All-American Nick Gwiazdowski’s meeting with former Pittsburgh Panther Ryan Tomei. He predicts good action and “not a lot of the hanging on you often see at heavy.”

Liebman added that having Gwiazdowski, a former star at Duanesburg High, in the event is exciting for another reason.  When he was a senior in high school, the recent NC State transfer participated in the New York-New Jersey Charity Challenge, which benefitted the Adam Frey Foundation.  In fact, Gwiazdowski’s pin sealed the victory for the Empire State.

“It’s something I’d like to have on a regular basis — having guys be a part of an event in high school and staying involved with our organization in college.  It feels like watching guys grow up through your peewee program,” Liebman said. “That’s what’s great about the wrestling community.  Everyone, even if they didn’t know Adam personally, wants to know his story and get involved.”

Adam Frey’s alma mater, Blair Academy, has been very involved from the start.  This year, the event will be set up as a dual meet between Blair and Angry Fish with several alums of those squads coaching and competing.  As a bonus, Monroe Woodbury’s Vinny Vespa, who is fighting Stage 4 cancer, may serve as an honorary coach.

Nevinger and Gwiazdowski won’t be the only representatives from the Empire State.  All-American Justin Accordino of Hofstra will take the mat, as will John Jay graduate Billy Watterson (Brown), Brockport native Christian Boley, Columbia’s Jake O’Hara, Cornell’s Caleb Richardson and Binghamton’s Pat Hunter and Cody Reed.  In addition, Beat the Streets (BTS) wrestlers from New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore will participate in exhibition bouts between 1 and 2 p.m. before the main event begins.

“I’m really excited about having BTS,” Liebman said. “It’s a chance for kids to get outside the city.  One of the important parts of the BTS program is for kids to strive for a college education, even if it’s outside of wrestling.  This is a great chance for the kids to visit a college campus and see that it’s something they may want.”

What Liebman wants is to fill Grace Hall as close to capacity as possible.  He wants the wrestling community to come together to support the Foundation and celebrate Adam Frey’s life.

“In the past, our events have had a fun atmosphere,” he said. “Top talent comes but since it’s not a pressure situation, the guys go out there and relax and wrestle.  It’s more open, more fun. It quickly becomes a feeling of reunion rather than a somber event where we’re memorializing Adam.  Adam wouldn’t have wanted that; he wouldn’t want a moment of silence.  He’d rather have everyone having a good time.”

Exhibition Matches 1-2 p.m. – Beat the Streets New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore

Main Event Matches, Beginning at 2 p.m.

Chuck Zeisloft (Rider) vs. Billy Watterson (Brown)

Nic Bedelyon (Kent State) vs. Steve Mytych (Drexel)

Mike Nevinger (Cornell) vs. Boris Novachkov (Cal Poly)

Tyler Small (Kent State) vs. Vinnie Fava (Rider)

Caleb Richardson (Cornell) vs. Pat Hunter (Binghamton)

BJ Young (Newberry) vs. CJ Cobb (UPenn)

Justin Accordino (Hofstra) vs. Jake O’Hara (Columbia)

James Fleming (Clarion) vs. Joey Napoli (Lehigh)

Ian Miller (Kent State) vs. Shane Welch (Lehigh)

Chance Marsteller vs. Johnny Sebastian*

Bekzod Abduakhmanov (Clarion) vs. Josh Asper (Maryland)

Nathaniel Brown (Lehigh) vs. Jimmy Resnick (Rider)

Jimmy Sheptock (Maryland) vs. Ricky McDonald (Brown)

Christian Boley (Maryland) vs. Andrew Campolattano (Ohio State)

Nick Gwiazdowski (NC State) vs. Ryan Tomei (Pitt/ OTC)

Max Wessell (Lehigh) vs. Cody Reed (Binghamton)

Robert Hamlin (Lehigh) vs. Ed Ruth (Penn State)**

*High School match

**Featured bout

***Match-ups provided by Josh Liebman

To purchase tickets in advance: http://ev6.evenue.net/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/SEGetEventList?groupCode=S&linkID=global-lehigh&shopperContev6.evenue.net

For more information, please visit adamfrey.us

The Newest Member of the Wolfpack: All-American Nick Gwiazdowski Discusses His Transfer

When Pat Popolizio took the head coaching job at North Carolina State in April, freshman Nick Gwiazdowski, who reached All-American status in his first season with the Bearcats, started mulling his future options.  In early May, the Delanson, NY native got his full release from Binghamton. 

On Saturday night, while on a visit to the Raleigh campus, Gwiazdowski announced that he was transferring to the ACC school.  He answered a few questions for New York Wrestling News from the airport on his way back to the Empire State.

New York Wrestling News: What has happened over the past few weeks since Binghamton gave you your release?

Nick Gwiazdowski: I received some calls from other schools – some were coming after me pretty hard. I wasn’t that interested – you can’t jump on the ship after it sails. It came down to a small chance of staying at Binghamton or going to NC State.

As far as NC State goes, I needed to come down and look at the school, meet with the academic advisors and straighten out some financial things.  On my visit this weekend, everything fell into place and I knew NC State was where I wanted to be.

What were some of the things you really liked on your trip to Raleigh this weekend?

This place is awesome.  It felt like a vacation with the warm weather.  I had fun with all the people I met.

The coaching staff was the biggest factor for me.  I know [Popolizio] and Frank Beasley really well and they know me.  They were so important in helping me be an All-American this year. I just met Jamill Kelly this weekend and he seemed like a great guy.

The facilities were great.  Everyone I talked to said that [Athletic Director] Debbie Yow is all about winning and she’ll do whatever it takes.  People told some stories.  Like about her letting go a strength coach that had been around for a while but who wasn’t getting the job done; wasn’t putting winners out there. The coaches said that she’s basically put every coach on campus on notice. She’s serious about winning and that type of commitment to winning is exciting.

I also thought academically it would be a good fit for me. (Editor’s Note: Gwiazdowski made the NWCA All-Academic team this season).

What are you interested in studying?

I didn’t declare a major yet at Binghamton. My meetings with the academic advisor here were good. NC State has some programs I’m interested in like sports management and a parks, recreation and tourism major.  I spoke with some people who were in those areas.  One wrestling alum talked about his experiences after college with minor league baseball teams, USA Baseball and now as a young athletic director.  There are a lot of good opportunities for graduates.

Did you meet a lot of the team?

I met a few of the guys who were on campus. I hung out with [Long Island native] Ryan Fox who committed to Binghamton but switched to NC State a little while ago.  I plan to go back to NC State in July and I’ll probably meet more guys then as everyone adjusts to how [Popolizio] runs things.

What’s next for you this summer?

Honestly, I’m a little out of shape.  I won’t be going to the University Nationals.  I’ll be working out and getting back into shape.  My next thing is the Adam Frey Classic where I’m supposed to wrestle Ryan Tomei.  I was excited that Josh Liebman asked me to participate.  It will be great to wrestle for a cause like that in front of a lot of people. Then, I’ll head back down to Raleigh.  Right now, the plan is for me to redshirt next year.

Congratulations on your decision.  Is there anything else you want to add?

Thank you.  I will miss my family and friends in New York. It’s a little hard to leave and it will be an adjustment, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it.  I felt good about NC State for the last few weeks but after visiting this weekend, everything came together. I knew I liked the coaching staff but everything else is there too – the academics, athletic department, the campus, financials.  I’m sure that it’s the place I want to be.

———————-

Gwiazdowski went 30-9 as a true freshman at heavyweight for Binghamton.  He was the CAA Rookie of the Year after capturing a conference championship and earned All-America honors after taking eighth place in St. Louis.

Gwiazdowski Gets Release from Binghamton; NC State "High on the List"

Nick Gwiazdowski attributed much of his success as a true freshman this year, including his All-American finish at the NCAA tournament, to the coaches he worked with at Binghamton.

So when Pat Popolizio left the Bearcats in April to take the head coaching job at North Carolina State, Gwiazdowski began reassessing his future.

Now, after being granted a full release from the CAA university, Gwiazdowski has a decision to make.

“Now that I have my release, I’m allowed to look around,” he said on Sunday. “Some people have drawn conclusions, but there is a process I need to go through before anything becomes official.  It’s fair to say that NC State is very high on my list.”

Gwiazdowski said he has not yet visited the ACC institution or any other schools, but knows he would fit in with the Wolfpack coaching staff.

“It would be tough to leave New York,” he said. “This is where I’m from and I have a lot of close friends at the school and on the team.  But my family and I have to consider what’s best for my career.  I only have four years of school left and only three of competition to achieve my dreams.  I think I can do that under [Popolizio’s] leadership.”

In the interim, Gwiazdowski and many of his teammates have been involved in the process of hiring Popolizio’s successor.  In addition, the Delanson native has been training with Bearcats assistant coach Jasen Borshoff and the rest of the squad.

“I will go through the process I agreed on with Binghamton and make my decision soon,” he said.

 

–Betsy Veysman