I hope everyone enjoyed a very safe and joyous New Year. I spent a solid portion of mine trying to recharge the old battery following an extremely busy week of wrestling action….As promised, I made it a priority to get my chubby butt to MacArthur to watch the Long Island Challenge, a decision that in hindsight, I am extremely pleased that I made. While the much anticipated dual between Glenn and Brentwood did not quite live up to expectations (albeit, to me it seemed closer than the final scored would indicate), the overall quality of the day was superb.
Because I positioned towards the back of the gym, I got the chance to see quite a bit of Monsignor Farrell, Garden City, and the host school. While it goes without saying that I came away very impressed with the Generals (including the one point loss to John Glenn in the finals), I must say that I owe Coach Patrovich and his Islip team a huge apology. While I am admittedly a CHSAA enthusiast (having graduated from Chaminade in 2001), this fact had little, if not altogether nothing to do with my prediction of Farrell over Islip. I simply underestimated the latter. In adhering to my resolution to publicly acknowledge any errors I make, I now formally extend my congratulations to Coach P, Troy Mashkow, Kyle Wade, and company for their victory over the Staten Island based institution. A separate and equally sincere congrats to Wade for his “upset” of Connor Hanafee, who recently committed to the United States’ Military Academy (West Point).
Another topic that I want to address in this column, is something that for the last past week has been known as “the punch.” Since I know that all of you who read this weekly piece are among the most dedicated wrestling fans that the nation has, I am sure that you did not require an introduction. Therefore, I will dive immediately into what I saw. From my vantage point (and like the old lady in “My Cousin Vinny,” I admit to perhaps needing a thicker pair of corrective spectacles), it seemed that the young man from Glenn (who I’ve been told was extremely remorseful after the fact), simply got frustrated at repeated head butts and lost his head for a quick moment. In watching the taped footage several times over the course of the past week, my conclusion was that to me, the action did not resemble a punch as much it did a quick flail of the hand. Certainly, there did not appear to be much on the shot (no wind up or anything…)….Personally, having grown up with a brother who is only two years my senior, I know first hand how easy it is to lose your cool and react without thinking. Hence, as long as the young man internally understands that his reaction was not proper, I truly hope that the incident does not follow him like a shadow for the remainder of the season. I chatted with parents from Glenn. All spoke incredibly highly of the young man. Thus, let’s tack this one up to poor judgment and not speak of it again.
When not at the MacArthur gym, I was practically glued to my PC to watch UNC-Greensboro’s webcast of the Southern Scuffle. Before I get into my feelings regarding my alma mate (Hofstra)’s performance, allow me a quick rant regarding the overall quality of said webcast….Those of you who know me (either personally or in the context of message boards) realize that I am not normally one who ever complains about coverage. After all, in a world where wrestling gets little coverage to begin with, I’d feel awful biatching and moaning when it is made available. Therefore, before I start, allow me to thank the people at the host school for making the video available to the populace. That having been said, I was a little taken back by the fact that for a broadcast that they were charging $17 for, I hardly, if ever, got to see the bouts that I wanted to. On day one, I believe I got to see 2.5 matches involving an HU wrestler. In contrast, I get a nice abundance of matches involving Appalachian State, Duke (no Barone matches), and other non-ranked teams. My feeling has always been, if you are offering the coverage free of charge, then by all means, feel free to show any bout you so choice. But, as soon as you put a price tag (granted a fairly modest one) on your product, you sort of owe it to your customers to make an effort to show the matches that they are interested in (if not always, then at least occasionally).
As for the actual wrestling that took place at the Southern Scuffle, I must say, I have mixed emotions. On the one hand, I was incredibly pleased by the results put forth by Steve Bonanno, Jon Bonilla-Bowman, and Alton Lucas (prior to sustaining the injury and having to default out of the tournament). For the guy in the lineup with probably the least hype, it has really impressed me the way Steve Bonanno has wrestled thus far this season. He has by far been the most consistent of the freshmen in the lineup. With regard to JBB, last week was the best that he has looked all season. After spending the better part of the first half of the season concerned about him, I now has reason to believe that Pride fans can expect some deja vu to hit. And, when it hits, it means a helluva lot of bad news for any opponent wrestling in the 157-pound weight class. When JBB is on, he is a scoring machine that few wrestlers in this nation can keep up with.
On the flip side, I was less than thrilled by the end results put forward by Justin Accordino and Lou Ruggirello (yes, I am aware that he made the tournament finals). In last week’s column, I vehemently came to the defense of Justin, saying that on the strength of dual record, he belonged in the top-20. After last week, I now feel like a jerk. Not only did the frosh from the Keystone State fail to make it to day #2, he also got majored by the Binghamton backup. Someone please explain to me how the heck you go from earning a major decision victory over the BU starter in the dual against the Bearcats to getting majored by his backup? This is a concept that truly baffles me…..With regard to King Louie, my frustration with him goes only as deep as his seeming struggles to put together a complete tournament effort. If I had to pick one person to lead my team into a dual, I’d pick Lou every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing about a tournament format. For whatever reason, Lou just does not appear to be wired for tournament competition, especially finals bouts (sounds weird considering he won three NYS titles). The same wrestlers that Lou would (and has) beat regularly during duals, seem to always get the best of him when a tournament title is on the line. Last season, it was Iowa State’s Nick Fanthorpe (who Lou pinned in approx two minutes at the national duals) who deprived Ruggirello of All-America honors by eliminating him from the National tournament one round too early. This year, after getting off to a terrific start, claiming the title at the Oklahoma/Brockport Gold Classic, the tournament bug has bit Lou again, as he has proceeded to drop his past two finals matches to Ray Stevens from NAIA Lindenwood and Rick Deubel from Edinboro, who “the King” has beaten numerous times over the course of the past two years. I don’t and will never hesitate to say that Lou Ruggirello has the talent to win a national title for Hofstra. He is that good. However, in order to turn this notion into a reality, he is going to need to figure out what it is that has been plaguing him. Until he does, there is no reason to expect that he will ever find himself on a podium come Mid-March.
Looking to the future, the upcoming week of wrestling picks up where last week left off. In addition to the N.W.C.A National Duals, scheduled for the 10th-11th, the next seven days will also play host to the Eastern States Classic, as well as include the next Hofstra University home match (Jan. 11th against North Carolina State). Unfortunately, of these three events, I am starring at the possibility of only being able to closely follow one of them….On Saturday the 10th, I have a choice between going with Bill Miller to cover the Eastern States or staying home to watch a free webcast of Day #1 of the Nat. Duals…Currently, I am learning towards opting for the former. With my other alma mater (Chaminade) having recently received an 11th hour invite, a large piece of my heart is telling me to make the trip upstate t support them and all of the fierce competitors from Long Island in their quest to claim local and/or regional supremacy. I still have a few days before making my final decision. Therefore, stay turned.
One fact that I am having a hard time bringing myself to accept is that come Sunday, my streak of consecutive Hofstra home matches will be snapped. To put it into perspective, the last time I was not present at an HU home event (including CAA tournaments) was the first semester of my freshmen year. Considering I graduated two years ago, it does not take a Fields Medal Award winner to realize that it’s been quite a while since I last missed. Heck, I was at the dual against Drexel last season, despite having to travel through a blizzard. However, being that one of my other loves in life is the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, I could not pass up the opportunity to attend their playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Should “Big Blue” win on Sunday, I will also be in attendance for the NFC Title game, a privilege I last had in 2000. Luckily, this game will not interfere with any wrestling related commitments…Therefore, since I cannot be there this Sunday to root on the Pride, I ask all of you to come out and take my place…GO Pride.
The time has come to put a wrap on this journal entry and move on to the fun segments of this column. While I have not yet given any thought to who I am going to pick, I will say this, if you like the predictions portion of this blog, then you are going to love this week. In addition to predicting every bout of the National duals, I will also take a crack at forecasting the winners of the Virginia Duals, an event that is immensely strong this season….I also intend to update this column after publication to include predictions pertaining to the semis and finals of Eastern States. Be on the lookout for these either late Friday or early Saturday.
With all of the upsets that went down at the Southern Scuffle and Midlands, be sure to check out the updated NCAA rankings as well. You can expect a sizable shakeup in certain weight classes.
BE WELL, MI AMIGOS !!!