Next Stop, Binghamton: State Finalist Steve Schneider of MacArthur Selects the Bearcats

When asked about his goals, MacArthur senior Steve Schneider didn’t hesitate.

New York State champion. High school national champion.  NCAA champion.

On that last one, he and Binghamton University head coach Matt Dernlan are certainly on the same page. And that’s one of the reasons Schneider committed to the Bearcats a few days ago.

“Coach Dernlan sat across the table from me in my dining room with my parents and said that he would make me a national champion,” Schneider said. “To hear that in his voice, especially after all he did for Penn State, it gave me great vibes.  He sees my potential and my dedication and my motivation to get things done even though on paper, I don’t have all the trophies.”

He may not have all the trophies, but he has racked up plenty of impressive wins.  As a sophomore in 2011-12, he went 41-4 at 152 pounds and went into the Section 8 championships as the top seed.  However, he was upset by Mepham’s Dan Tracy, a wrestler he had defeated earlier in the year, and took third.  He waited patiently to see whether he would get the opportunity to compete at the Times Union Center.

“I had a heartbreaking loss in the semis, but I beat everyone in my weight class during the year,” he said. “My coaches thought I would get a wildcard to states, but it didn’t happen.”

Schneider still made the trip to Albany to cheer on some of his teammates, including 2012 state finalist Justin Cooksey.

“Even going just as a fan to support Cooksey let me get some nerves out,” Schneider said. “It’s important to go to big events like that because when you’re there for the first time it can affect you on the mat.  Being there before was a big part of why I did so well this year.”

It may have played a role in Schneider’s stellar junior campaign, but so did all the offseason work.

“After I lost in the counties, I was so motivated to devastate the county and win it all the next year,” Schneider said. “I trained my butt off. I did a lot of wrestling — so many tournaments — and a lot of lifting. I got a lot bigger and stronger. I didn’t only want to win the county, I wanted to win the state tournament too.”

It was an objective that he reminded himself about constantly.

“Last year, I wrote ‘160-pound New York State champion’ in my book every day,” Schneider said.

And he did make it to the 2013 state finals bout after an impressive campaign, which featured a third place showing at the Eastern States Classic. At that event, Schneider topped several wrestlers who placed in Albany in 2013, including Nick Gallo, Mike Beckwith and Andrew Psomas.

Photo by BV

That showing at SUNY Sullivan, his first Nassau County title, as well as his performance throughout the 47-4 season earned him the second seed at the Times Union Center.  But he found himself in a battle in the opening round with Amsterdam’s James Marquez, a bout he won 3-1 in extra time. [Marquez then won five in a row to take third].

“My first match – the nerves were there,” he said. “You have to feel it to totally understand it.  I felt like I had stone feet. It was more mental than physical.  In overtime, I woke up and snapped right out of it.  After that, I felt like I opened up more each match. I thought I was getting better and better and I was ready to take another shot at Grimaldi.”

Tyler Grimaldi of Half Hollow Hills West was a returning state runner up who had handed Schneider two of his three losses during the season.  The two did indeed square off in the state title match this February, with Grimaldi (now a freshman at Harvard), grabbing a 9-3 victory.

“When you look up on that yellow mat in the finals and see all those faces – it’s just a different level of excitement,” Schneider said. “It was good to experience it already.  So next year in the state finals, I’ll be ready to take it home.”

Taking home a state championship in wresting isn’t something Schneider was thinking about when he first began in the sport in elementary school.  In fact, he said he got involved simply to “keep in shape for baseball.”

However, due largely to the efforts of youth coach Colin Curnuck, Schneider said he continued in wrestling and was hooked, especially when he began working out at Vougar’s Honors Wrestling in eighth grade.

“As soon as I walked into Vougar’s gym, he threw me in there with the big guys,” Schneider said. “I got pulled up to varsity as an eighth grader and started to really take it seriously.  I also started training with Jamel Hudson when I was a freshman and I stopped playing baseball. I chose wrestling.”

And last week, he chose Binghamton as his future home after also considering Hofstra and North Carolina.

“The coaching staff seems great – I think they are a great combination together,” Schneider said. “It feels like a good fit for me athletically and academically.  Not only am I going to Binghamton for wrestling, but I’m also going because it’s a great school and I know I’ll be able to achieve all of my academic goals while I’m there.”

Those academic goals include majoring in computer engineering.

Schneider, who said he will likely wrestle at 174 or 184 pounds for the Bearcats, mentioned that he is also excited about training with so many familiar faces.

“When I went for the unofficial visit, I felt like I knew almost everyone on the team already,” he said. “I feel like it will make me more comfortable there.  I’ve won with a couple of these guys already – Rob Person in Section 8 and Nick Kelley on the national level in Florida [Disney Duals]. There’s already a bond.  Also, Ryan Conrad was my drill partner in high school.  I think it will make the experience even better.”

As for now, he’s looking for an ‘even better’ high school season as a senior.  After the state tournament was over last season, he began writing ‘2014 New York State champion’ in his book every morning.

And whether he winds up going for the title at 170 or 182 pounds in 2013-14 (he said he isn’t sure yet), Schneider feels that he has benefited from nationally ranked competition at offseason events such as the Pop & Flo, Waterway and Disney Duals.

“The Disney Duals changes you – I came out a totally different person and wrestler,” he said. “Everybody that I lost to was top 10 in the country. The level of competition is insane.  It’s the best thing that happened to me before my senior year because I learn more from my losses than my wins.  I’ve gotten so much stronger since last year and I have so much motivation from the loss in the state finals. It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish.  My sophomore year was ok, my junior year was better and in my senior year, I’m ready to take home the gold.”

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Steve Schneider wanted to thank his youth coach, Colin Curnuck who kept him involved in wrestling.  He also wanted to thank his parents for all their support and Vougar Oroudjov for “always making sure there is someone in the room for me to train with, keeping my wrestling and academic goals on my mind and always having confidence in me.”

 

Team NY Kong Moves to 5-0 at Disney Duals After Three Lopsided Wins on Sunday

 
 
On Saturday, Team New York Kong cruised through the competition on the way to two dominant dual victories. On Sunday things were even more lopsided in the squad’s three victories over Doughboy Blue, South Dakota Red and Team Ohio Mafia.  In fact, the Empire State grapplers shut their opponents out in the first two meets and overall captured 40 of the 42 individual matches during the trio of dual wins, according to John Passaro.

Day three of action on Monday will begin bright and early for the New Yorkers, as they start at 8 a.m. against Brawlers Fire. After that, it will be a match with Michigan Freeze in the early afternoon.

And then, the “playoff” portion of the event begins as a national championship team will be crowned. Stay tuned for further updates.

Team New York Kong

106 Kyle Quinn

106 Jesse Dellavecchia

113 Nick Piccininni

120 Travis Passaro

126 Alex Delacruz

132 Matt Leshinger

138 Nick Kelley

145 Brandon Lapi

145 Frank Garcia

145 Jakob Restrepo

152 Joe Mastro

160 Steven Schneider

170 Carlos Toribio

182 James Corbett

195 Nick Weber

220 Josh Bonneau

285 Mike Hughes

Long Island's X-Cel Advances to the Semifinals at Pop & Flo National Duals on Saturday

 
 
X-Cel won the title at the Pop & Flo National Duals last year.  The Long Island group will try to repeat that feat on Sunday after advancing to the semifinals on the first day of competition.

The squad looked completely dominant early, opening with a 84-0 blanking of Kryptonite Wrestling Club, followed by a 71-6 triumph over Journeymen Gold.  The quarterfinals brought a tougher challenge, however, as X-Cel squared off with Dark Knights of Pennsylvania.

Two-time state champion Nick Piccininni got the New Yorkers off to a good start with a major decision at 120 pounds.  However, the opponents from the Keystone State responded with three consecutive victories from 125 to 135 to take a 12-4 advantage.

Fabian, Photo by BV

The two teams then traded wins over the next several matches, beginning with a pin by Sacred Heart-bound TJ Fabian of Shoreham Wading River at 140.  The Dark Knights were victorious at 145 and 160, while state champion Louis Hernandez of Mepham earned a 5-4 win at 152 and Steven Schneider got his hand raised at 170 with an overtime triumph.  After regulation ended deadlocked at 1, and there was no scoring in sudden victory, Schneider rode his opponent out for the entire 30 seconds and then escaped when it was his turn on bottom to make the team score 19-16 in favor of the Pennsylvania squad.

After the Dark Knights extended their advantage to 22-16 with a decision at 182, Chris Chambers put four big points on the board for X-Cel with a major at 195, followed by a 9-3 decision by Steven Mills at 220 to put the Long Island group ahead for the first time since early in the dual.  When a forfeit at heavyweight was tacked on, X-Cel took a 29-22 lead as the meet returned to the lightweights.

At 106, the Dark Knights made things interesting, earning a fall to make it 29-28 in favor of X-Cel with just one match remaining.  In that contest, former Wantagh star Jose Rodriguez took control with an early takedown and got his hand raised to push X-Cel to the 32-28 win and to the semifinals on Sunday against Iron Horse (New Jersey).

The 32-team High School field included many squads from New York, including teams from Ascend, Cellar Dwellers, Cobra, Finger Lakes Wrestling Club, Iowa Style, Journeymen, Port Jervis, Razor and 631 Elite.

Meanwhile, close to half of the squads in the Youth field came from New York as well.

In addition to Sunday’s action to determine placement in the team standings, there will be some great bouts on Saturday night.  At 8:30 p.m., some of the top individuals will take the mat for an All-Star dual.

Included are a number of New Yorkers, for example (matches subject to change):

83: Adam Busiello (631 Elite) vs. Patrick Glory (A&B Core)

88: Dillan Palaszewski (Journeymen) vs. Gavin Teasdale (Young Guns)

106: Yianni Diakomihalis (Cobra) vs. Devin Brown (Young Guns)

120: Nick Piccininni (X-Cel) vs. Mickey Phillipi (Young Guns)

125: William Koll (FLWC) vs. Kevin Jack (Iowa Style)

140: Nick Kelley (Journeymen) vs. Anthony Ashnault (SKWC)

182: Dan McDevitt (Ascend) vs. Luke Farinaro (Iron Horse)

220: Rich Sisti (Apex) vs. Michael Boykins (Rt. 100)

100: Sam Sasso (Dark Knights) vs. Vince Andreano (APEX)

140: Jason Nolf (Young Guns) vs. Scott Delvecchio (Iron Horse)

152: BJ Clagon (Apex) vs. Miguel Calixto (Catamounts)

170: Chris Koo (Ascend) vs. Ethan Ramos (Iron Horse)

195: Reggie Williams (FLWC) vs. Evan Ramos (Iron Horse)

285: Mike Hughes (X-Cel) vs. Jesse Webb (Catamount)

Vougar's Honors Wrestling Goes Undefeated to Win the Journeymen Freestyle Duals

 
 
Freestyle season is well underway.  That much was clear on Sunday at Messa Rink on the campus of Union College as some of the top teams in the region clashed at the Journeymen Freestyle Club Duals.

When it was all said and done, it was Vougar’s Honors Wrestling (VHW) taking top billing after going 4-0 on the day.

“This is a very hard tournament with very good competition,” said Vougar Oroudjov. “It was our first freestyle tournament this year.  We had a few guys get hurt right before it and we didn’t have a 220 pounder, but we were committed to coming and getting some good matches.  Our team had a variety of wrestlers – some guys who are first and second year wrestlers, some who have not been all-county and also a state champion and other state placers. All the guys came together and wrestled hard and did a great job.”

VHW began action against the host squad from Journeymen in a contest Oroudjov called “a great dual against a very tough team.”  The score was all tied up going into the final bout (at heavyweight).

In that match, Seaford’s James O’Hagan, the third place finisher at the state tournament this year in Division I, got his hand raised to give VHW the victory.  It was the first triumph of an unbeaten day for the Nassau County 285 pounder.

It came down to the wire once again against Shamrock, with the final bout once again decisive.  (This time it was a forfeit).  VHW also had a strong performance against Iowa Style and wrestled well in a win against Ascend.

In that matchup of Long Island powers, Oroudjov pointed to some key victories from his squad, including bonus wins by Ben Lamantia, Steve Schneider and Carlos Toribio.  According to Oroudjov, Toribio, in his first-ever freestyle event, dropped the first period and was trailing in the second when he recorded a fall.  In addition, in a meeting of two of the state’s top lightweights, Vito Arujau topped John Arceri.

Santiago, Photo by BV

The wrestlers that came up big in that dual were strong throughout the day.  Lamantia, Toribio and Arujau all had unblemished records, as did the previously mentioned O’Hagan and a pair of Sachem wrestlers – East’s Jakob Restrepo and North’s Gio Santiago, according to Oroudjov.

“Restrepo wrestled really great,” Oroudjov said. “He lost by pin to one of his opponents last week, but came back and beat him this week.  I have a lot of respect for Gio Santiago.  He kept the team together; he was a leader.  He pumped everyone up and kept everyone going. It was just one tournament, but it was a good experience for us.”

It clearly was a good experience for the squad. And several other teams also had strong showings, with Journeymen taking second, and Shamrock and Ascend next in the overall standings, according to Frank Popolizio.

Freestyle season has begun and with the New York States only a few weeks away, the chance to watch many of the Empire State’s best compete in the international styles again is fast approaching.

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The VHW team: (as provided)

105 Pounds: Vito Arujau

112: John Twomey, Daniel Murray

119: Ben Lamantia, Nick Casella

125: Tim Johnson

130: Joe Russ

135: Hunter Sharf

140: Anthony Messina

145: Jakob Restrepo

152: Gino Titone/James Farrell

160: Zack Small/Eric Hunson

170: Steve Schneider

185: Carlos Toribio

195: Gio Santiago/Robert Ng

225: None

285: James O’Hagan