96 to Heavy: Former Johnson City Star Peter Capone Moves Up the Rankings for Ohio State

According to his father, Peter Capone has asked for a rematch over and over.  Realistically, though, it’s never going to happen.

Back when he was at Johnson City High School, Capone was beaten twice in close matches by current Buckeye teammate Ian Paddock – at 96 pounds.

That’s worth repeating.  96 pounds, less than half of what Capone weighs currently as a Big 10 heavyweight. (Capone took third in New York at that weight as a freshman, beating current Hofstra 133-pound starter Jamie Franco for bronze).

It’s fair to say the former Section 4 star has come a long way from his high school days to become the 12th ranked 285-pounder in the nation today.

“He’s been around wrestling his whole life,” Capone’s father, Peter said. “But I can definitely say I never expected him to become a heavyweight.”

The Buckeye was certainly born into a wrestling family. In addition to uncles that excelled in the sport, his father was a two-time NCAA All-American at Hofstra, including a runner up finish.

While attending dental school at Buffalo, Capone’s father became a graduate assistant coach. Later, he took the head job at Johnson City, where coached multiple state titlewinning teams as well as eight individual state champions.

“When I was at Buffalo, I wrestled my brother Jimmy pretty much everyday,” the elder Capone said. “When he took third (in Division III) and then fifth (in Division II), it made me really proud. And then coaching my son Peter to the state championship when he was a senior in high school was a huge highlight for me.”

That victory at the 2008 New York State tournament came in a solid bracket which saw a pair of current Division I starters – Buffalo’s John-Martin Cannon and American’s Thomas Barreiro – battle for third.

Following that championship, the younger Capone went to Navy Prep for a year but decided afterwards that he wanted to take a different path for college.  He chose to go to the Big 10 over his father’s alma mater, Hofstra.

The Capones had a strong connection to Ohio State head coach Tom Ryan, who watched the elder Capone wrestle for the Pride while he was a high schooler at nearby Wantagh.  And years later, when Ryan became the leader of the Hofstra program, he often saw the Capone family at alumni events and wrestling camps.

“I’ve probably known Pete since he was a seventh grader,” Ryan said. “There were a lot of things we really liked about him.  First, he’s the son of a coach and that’s always attractive.  He knew the whole team concept and what it takes to be successful.  He was also very, very athletic.  We didn’t think he would be a heavy but we knew he hadn’t quite grown into his body yet.  When guys are winning in high school but aren’t physically mature yet, they often do well in college. We were excited to get him to be a Buckeye.”

Photo by Tony Rotundo, wrestlersarewarriors.com

So, it was off to the Big 10 where Capone spent his redshirt year at 174 pounds, placing in the top three in a number of open tournaments.  However, during his freshman season a need arose for the team and he jumped at the opportunity to start – at 197.

He made his debut in the new class at the National Duals and was a bright spot, picking up two victories.  And he continued to be competitive for the remainder of the season while giving up some weight, including a 3-1 decision over nationally-ranked Tyler Dickenson, a crucial win in his team’s 19-16 dual victory over Michigan State.

“Peter was in almost every match for a lot of reasons,” the elder Capone said. “He’s very good on the mat, which is a big advantage. He’s also very athletic – he played soccer and all kinds of sports growing up. He’s agile and if you’re a good athlete who keeps good position, you can be in every match.”

He earned a trip to the NCAA tournament at 197 pounds, despite only weighing 191 or 192 the night before the event began, according to his father.  He went 1-2, defeating Ohio’s Erik Schuth.

The 2011-12 season brought on a new challenge for Capone with another move up, this time to heavyweight. He had some significant highlights, such as a second place finish at the prestigious Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas in which he came within seconds of winning the title.  He registered some quality victories, including over Ernest James of Edinboro and Ben Apland of Michigan and made a return trip to Nationals, where he again won a match.

Knowing he’d be back at heavyweight again as a junior, Capone got to work in the offseason with no shortage of partners to get him to the next level.

“The bigger he got, the better his workout partners got,” his father said. “He’s wrestling with the best guys in the country. Some like [2012 Olympian] Tervel [Dlagnev] have had a really big influence on him. I think the fact that he’s shooting a lot more has a lot to do with Tervel.”

“I think the word priceless is probably fitting when talking about Tervel,” Ryan added. “He has helped Pete a lot through RTC [Regional Training Center] practices. Tervel isn’t only a great wrestler but he has a great understanding of the sport and a great way about him that makes you want to work harder. He’s been very influential in Pete’s rise up the heavyweight class.”

As a result of this training, Capone has had a strong 17-5 season so far, defeating ranked opponents such as David Marone of Virginia Tech, Adam Chalfant of Indiana, Levi Cooper of Arizona State and Bobby Telford of Iowa. (The last two are former All-Americans).

And with the schedule he’s faced, he has rarely had an easy bout.

“The bottom line is, heavyweight is loaded,” said the elder Capone. “There were a lot of top guys returning and then you add in the Olympic redshirts coming back into the weight, which makes it even harder.  If you look at the rankings, not including National Duals, Peter will have wrestled more than half of the top 20 this season. That’s incredible.  When I was at Hofstra, I probably didn’t see more than two or three ranked guys all year.”

Courtesy of OhioStateBuckeyes.com

Perhaps the highlight thus far came in one of the best environments in the sport.  In early January, Ohio State traveled to Carver Hawkeye Arena to meet Iowa in a dual televised live on the Big 10 Network.  The Buckeyes trailed 22-6 going into the heavyweight tilt, but Capone made sure his team left on a high note as he topped the aforementioned Telford, ranked fourth at the time, 3-2 in the tiebreakers.  The Hawkeye had beaten Capone 4-1 in the 2012 NCAAs.

“Peter was fortunate to have wrestled at Carver Hawkeye Arena two years ago as a freshman, so he knew what to expect,” his father said. “He actually enjoyed it because he loved the passion for the sport that you see there. It’s not that common to be in a place where everyone is screaming at you the whole time, even when you’re warming up. It’s a hard place for an opposing wrestler to win a match, so it was a highlight. His experience wrestling there before definitely helped him this time.”

He’s hoping similar experience in front of the sellout crowds at the NCAAs will help him make the podium at this year’s national championships.

“Based on what I see, I believe the sky’s the limit,” Ryan said. “I think he can go win it all. He was even with the defending NCAA champion [Minnesota’s Tony Nelson] with 10 seconds left in the match. He went from being a 174 to being a heavyweight and some things take time.  Wrestling the big guys takes getting used to.  He’s learned how to win matches and he’s building belief that he can get things done in March.”

His parents Peter and Sue will certainly be watching in the crowd in Des Moines as they have been for every one of Capone’s matches this year.  Peter Sr. exited the head coaching job at Johnson City a few years ago (he is still an assistant) to allow more time for travel to see his son and his daughter Emily, who is on the diving team at Allegheny College.

It makes for a lot of long car rides to the Midwest, but it’s been worth it.  While Peter Sr. said he misses being in the corner as a coach, he enjoys other things, such as sharing postmatch meals with his son.

“He was always a skinny kid,” the elder Capone said. “To keep 220, he has to eat five or six times a day. The problem is that Peter isn’t an eater. He was one of those kids who didn’t want to stop playing or whatever he was doing to eat. When we take him out, he doesn’t finish all his food. He doesn’t want to. It’s pretty funny. I keep telling him, ‘Peter, eat all your food, you’re trying to be a heavyweight.’”

“He doesn’t like eating,” Ryan agreed. “Which is what makes it more impressive that he’s done what it takes both with eating and in the weight room to become a better and better heavyweight.”

Years ago, the thought of Capone as a heavyweight might not have been believed.

But now the former 96-pound freshman and 152 pound state champion is among the top 285s in the country.

Videos from the Buffalo Invitational, Including Paddock, Stieber, Kilgore, Lewandowski and More

The Buffalo Invitational included a pair of NCAA champions (Logan Stieber and Dustin Kilgore) as well as several other wrestlers who have gone deep into the postseason in their careers.  One of the highly anticipated matches took place in the 141-pound finals between a pair of Ohio State wrestlers – returning All-American Hunter Stieber and New York native Ian Paddock.  The former Warsaw High star defeated Stieber at the Buckeye wrestle-offs last week.

You can see that match and others, including bouts featuring Kilgore against Andrew Campolattano, the 125-pound and 174-pound finals and a number of others below, courtesy of Laura White.

 

141 Pounds: Ian Paddock (Warsaw HS, Ohio State) vs. Hunter Stieber (Ohio State)

 

197 Pounds: NCAA Champion Dustin Kilgore (Kent State) vs. Andrew Campolattano (Ohio State)

 

174-Pound Championship Nick Heflin (Ohio State) vs. Jake Waste (Buffalo) – Buffalo Invitational

 

184 Pounds: Kenny Courts (Ohio State) vs. Tony Lock (Buffalo) – Buffalo Invitational

 

125-Pound Championship Max Soria (Buffalo) vs. Kory Mines (Edinboro) – Parts 1 and 2

 

165 Pounds: Taylor Simaz (Finger Lakes Wrestling Club) vs. Mark Lewandowski (Buffalo)

 

197 Pounds: Angelo Malvestuto (Buffal0) vs. Cody Magrum (Ohio State) – Parts 1 and 2

 

Former MAC Champion Andrew Schutt (Buffalo) vs. Randy Languis (Ohio State) – 141 Pounds

 

125 All-New York Bout Between Soria (Buffalo) vs. Hunter Wood (Army) – Buffalo Invitational

 

Special thanks to Laura White for all her work!

Back on the Mat: Buffalo Invitational Kicks Off the Season for Many NY Wrestlers (And NCAA Champs Stieber and Kilgore)

On Thursday night, the college season officially started.  But for a number of New York teams and wrestlers, the 2012-13 campaign begins on Sunday at the Buffalo Invitational, which includes competitors from the host school, Army, Ohio State, Kent State, Bloomsburg, Edinboro and the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club, among others.  The following preview takes a look at each weight, both at some of the top wrestlers registered, and a New York storyline or two worth watching.

125 Pounds:

Nikko Triggas, who was an All-American for Ohio State in 2011, makes his return to collegiate wrestling after an Olympic redshirt year in which he focused on Greco Roman.  The wrestler who manned the 125 spot for the Buckeyes in his absence last year, Johnni DiJulius, is also in the field after earning a bid to the NCAA tournament as a true freshman in 2012.  Joining DiJulius in St. Louis last March was Long Island native Max Soria of Buffalo.

Max Soria, Photo by Boris V

New York Story to Watch: Max Soria had a strong run in the MAC tournament to earn his automatic bid to the NCAAs as a freshman. He’ll try to build off that experience for the Bulls, where his competition will not only be from wrestlers like Triggas and DiJulius but also from his twin brother Mike Soria, who is also vying for the starting nod for the Bulls.

133 Pounds:

There are two NCAA champions entered in the Buffalo Invitational and Logan Stieber is one of them.  The Buckeye returns to the mat after his exciting victory over Jordan Oliver a year ago in the NCAA title bout.  On his way to that championship, Stieber defeated Army’s Jordan Thome, who is also scheduled to be in the field on Sunday.

Sam Recco, Photo by Boris V

New York Stories to Watch:  Fans of New York high school wrestling can see the college debut of 2012 New York state champion Sam Recco of Lyndonville, who will hit the mat for Edinboro.

Another heralded newcomer at this weight is Finger Lakes Wrestling Club’s Mark Grey, who piled up accolades at Blair Academy as well as in the international styles.

141 Pounds:

There was a lot of talk in the wrestling world last week about former Warsaw High School standout Ian Paddock‘s 7-2 victory over All-American Hunter Stieber at the Ohio State wrestle-offs.  The Buckeyes could meet again on Sunday.

New York Stories to Watch: Two New York wrestlers will try to disrupt the rematch between Paddock and Stieber.  Former MAC champion Andrew Schutt is back after a redshirt year and looks to move up the national rankings.  In addition, Connor Hanafee will look to make an impact after a convincing win at Army’s Black/Gold Match last week. [NCAA qualifier Tyler Small is also entered].

149 Pounds:

Cam Tessari and David Habat battled as freshmen a year ago, with Habat coming out on top in an overtime affair.  Tessari got the upper hand in March, however, reaching the podium with a fourth place showing. Joining the mix will be Army’s Daniel Young who was off to a hot start in 2011-12 before suffering a season-ending injury.  Black Knights head coach Joe Heskett said he believed Young was on track to make the NCAAs and do some damage.  He’ll likely have a chance to battle some top talent this weekend.  Blake Roulo of Buffalo also looks to be in the running.

New York Stories to Watch: Alex Cisneros won three California state titles and will make his college debut at 149 pounds for the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club.  Fellow Intermat Top 100 recruit from the Class of 2012, two-time New York titlewinner Jimmy Kloc (Buffalo), will compete in college for the first time.

157 Pounds:

Josh Demas and Mallie Shuster saw quite a bit of each other a year ago with Shuster winning their first two bouts and Demas taking the third at the NCAAs.  They will be joined by Shuster’s Kent State teammate Ian Miller, who was an impressive 28-5 in his rookie campaign at 149.

Brian Realbuto, Photo by Boris V

New York Story to Watch:  This weight class could provide a great opportunity to see what some of the Empire State’s best look like as they begin their careers on the college level.  Four of last year’s New York state champions are registered at 157 – Brian Realbuto and Dylan Palacio for the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club, Chris Nevinger for Buffalo and Tyler Button for Edinboro.  They won titles in 2012 for Somers, Long Beach, Letchworth Central and Phoenix, respectively.

165 Pounds:

Mark Lewandowski (Buffalo) and John Greisheimer (Edinboro) were both within one victory of being All-Americans at 157 pounds at the 2011 NCAA tournament.  Greisheimer logged a quality redshirt year with wins over NCAA participants such as Daniel Kolodzik, Joey Napoli, Jake O’Hara and Donnie Corby.  Lewandowski dealt with some injuries in 2011-12, according to his coaches, but head coach Jim Beichner is very optimistic about what a healthy Lewandowski can accomplish on the national stage. Lewandowski and Greisheimer could be on a collision course, with highly touted Ohio State freshman Mark Martin another grappler to keep tabs on.

New York Stories to Watch: Justin Lozano spent most of his first year as an NCAA wrestler at 174 pounds before moving up to 184 for the end of the season.  Now, he’s headed in the opposite direction – moving down to 165. His first matches at the new weight will be a story to watch.  In addition, the second Simaz brother in the Empire State, Taylor, will begin his college career.   One of his coaches is older brother and NCAA champion Cam Simaz.

174 Pounds:

John-Martin Cannon took fourth at the Midlands last year during a redshirt season that Beichner called perhaps the best he’s seen from a Buffalo wrestler.  He’ll have a chance to make another statement with All-American Nick Heflin of Ohio State in the bracket.

New York Story to Watch: Buffalo’s Jake Waste had a strong rookie year, going 24-9 after starting at 184 and moving down to 174.  In fact, he was 17-4 at the lower weight and will look to get ready for a full year at that class.

184 Pounds:

Casey Newburg won 30 matches as the starter for Kent State last year, including a major decision against Vic Avery of Edinboro.  Avery is also taking part in the Buffalo Invitational after winning more than 20 matches in his first season of college wrestling.  Making his return after sustaining a season-ending injury early in the 2011-12 campaign is Army’s Collin Wittmeyer.  Ohio State freshman Kenny Courts was one of the top recruits in the country a few years ago.

Tony Lock, Photo by Boris V

New York Stories to Watch: Tony Lock, an undefeated state and national champ from Pioneer, will get some early tests from the aforementioned wrestlers as will Phoenix graduate Austyn Hayes, who took third at 195 pounds in his final season for the Firebirds in 2011-12. Another first year college wrestler worth following is Michigan state champion Gabe Dean, who will be making his first start for the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club.

197 Pounds:

The second NCAA champion signed up to wrestle is Kent State’s Dustin Kilgore. He will have a pair of Buckeyes to contend with in his first action back after an Olympic redshirt year.  Andrew Campolattano made the Round of 12 in his freshman season, while teammate Cody Magrum has represented Ohio State at both 184 and 197 during his career.

New York Stories to Watch:  After two years in the ACC with Virginia Tech, Angelo Malvestuto returned to his home state as a transfer to Buffalo.  He bolsters the Bulls lineup and looks to compile wins right away.  In addition, a wrestler Army head coach Joe Heskett spoke very highly of in the preseason, Bryce Barnes, will get started for the Black Knights.

Ernest James, Photo by Boris V

285 Pounds:

A pair of New York natives head the field at heavyweight, with Peter Capone (Johnson City) coming off a successful campaign for the Buckeyes that included a runner up finish at the prestigious Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas. Edinboro’s Ernest James (Longwood) is looking for a strong follow up to his 30-12 campaign for Edinboro in which he beat NCAA bronze medalist Mike McMullan of Northwestern.  (Capone won an early December one-point match over James in overtime). A darkhorse may be Kent State’s Keith Witt, who picked up more than 25 victories for the Golden Flashes at 197 pounds and has made the move up to the heaviest class.

New York Stories to Watch: Justin Heiserman competed at 197 in his rookie season for the Bulls, but has made the transition up to 285 for his sophomore year.  Meanwhile, Oney Snyder, who was the Cornell starter for a portion of the 2010-11 season, will look to get off to a strong start to his senior campaign.

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New York Wrestling News plans to post match videos after the event.  Please check back later.

** The article was written according to the event’s registration as of the morning of November 2