After a much lengthier absence than anticipated I am back to officially put a cap on what proved to be a great 2008-2009 season by awarding the first set of what I hope will be a long tradition of Diano Awards….Awards will be given in the following categories: Long Island Scholastic Wrestler of the Year, Long Island Collegiate Wrestler of the Year, NYS Scholastic Wrestler of the Year, NYS Collegiate Wrestler of the Year, National Scholastic Wrestler of the Year, National Collegiate Wrestler of the Year, Long Island Collegiate Rookie of the Year, and National Collegiate Rookie of the Year.
As a friendly note, I ask that anyone who reads this remember that these awards are just for fun, are in no way intended to slight or diminish the accomplishments of non-winners, and are simply the opinion of myself….LHW and other staff members were not consulted and therefore are not to be held responsible for anything that is stated in the remainder of this column.
Unlike several of my past contributions to LHW, I am going to do all that I can to make sure that this piece does not drag on like an unabridged version of War and Peace. While I will officially blame my shortness of pen on the fact that I promised my mother that I would help with yard work this afternoon, the truth is that there are ongoing rumors circulating throughout the national wrestling community that Iowa State Head Coach, Cael Sanderson, is about to accept the vacant position at Penn State. Hence, I want to be free to check in with my well placed sources as much as possible (EDITED: SANDERSON HAS OFFICIALLY ACCEPTED AND WILL BECOME THE 12TH NITTANY LION HEAD COACH)….Furthermore, former 2x All-American, Chris Weidman, will be participating in his second professional MMA fight @ Ring of Combat XXIV. Always a big Weidman supporter, I want to make sure I complete any and all chores (yes, for you high school kids out there, even at 26-years of age, your parents are still going to call upon you to do some rather mundane tasks), so that I can view the fight with a clean conscience.
Without further delay, I present to you the 1st Annual Diano Wrestling Awards.
Long Island Scholastic Wrestler of the Year: John Greisheimer (Wantagh HS)– Greisheimer finished the regular season undefeated, including an early season victory over fellow two-time State Champion, Zach Clemente (LaSalle Institute)….The Edinboro bound wrestler would build off of this instate domination, finishing 2nd at the NHSCA Senior National tournament. 2009 marked the second consecutive year that the current Wantagh senior was a national runner-up in his grade division..Perhaps his biggest accomplishment of all, Greisheimer, along with teammates Nick Fitzmaurice, Paul Liguori, Joe Kavanaugh, and Matt Loew, was instrumental in helping the Warriors claim their first county title since 1968, as well as the unofficial team title in Albany.
Long Island Collegiate Wrestler of the Year: Lou Ruggirello (Hofstra)- An honorable mention All-American (top-12) for the second straight season, the former three-time NYS Champion led the Pride in wins and pins. Going undefeated again in conference play, Ruggirello claimed his third Colonial Athletic Association title at 133-pounds. In the midst of this impressive season, the Valley Central product was successful in avenging previous losses to Cornell’s Mike Grey and the U.S. Naval Academy’s Joe Baker. Ruggirello was the only HU wrestler to make the finals of the Southern Scuffle, finishing as the runner-up to Edinboro’s Rick Deubel….Ruggirello also made his mark in the classroom, finishing with a 3.0+ GPA index in the Fall.
NYS Scholastic Wrestler of the Year: Kyle Dake (Lansing High School)– Undefeated in claiming his second NYS DII title, Dake was successful in knocking off future Cornell teammate and fellow InterMat top-50 recruit, Mike Nevinger in the state finals. Impressive as this may be, Dake was only getting started…A few weeks later, Dake would claim a NHSCA Senior National title, joining current University of Binghamton All-American Josh Patterson and Greene HS junior, Tyler Beckwith as the only wrestlers in Empire State history to earn NHSCA National titles three times in their careers. Rather than rest on his laurels, Dake would travel to Las Vegas and finish 2nd at the FILA Junior National Greco-Roman tournament, earning victories along the way over projected 2010 top-10 recruit, Josh Kindig (PA)…Dake would complete this wild seven day span with a 5th place finish at the FILA Junior Freestyle tournament, posting wins over the likes of R.J. Pena (Oregon; #1 ranked wrestler @145) and Dylan Alton (PA; Projected 2010 top-5 recruit)….Prior to the start of his senior season, Dake represented the United States of America in the Junior World Greco-Roman tournament.
NYS Collegiate Wrestler of the Year: Troy Nickerson (Cornell)– After sitting out all of the 2008 college season to rehab a surgically repaired shoulder, Nickerson claimed the first of what will hopefully be a pair of national titles at 125-pounds. A three-time NCAA All-American, Nickerson has yet to finish any lower than third in his collegiate career. To earn his national title, Nickerson was successful in defeating the previous two NCAA champions at the weight class (2006-Paul Donahoe; 2007-Angel Escobedo). Despite being plagued by a shoulder that continues to pop in and out of its socket, Nickerson finished the season with a 25-0 record….For his accomplishment, he was named the EIWA Wrestler of the Year….On behalf of everyone at LHW, I dedicate this award to the memory of Bob Nickerson, Troy’s father, who lost his battle with cancer this past weekend. Troy Nickerson fulfilled his father’s final wish.
National Scholastic Wrestler of the Year: David Taylor (St. Paris Graham)– Despite moving up several weight classes between his junior and season seasons, the Iowa State bound wrestler cruised to his fourth Ohio State title at 135 pounds in 2009. Yet another of our award winning wrestlers to finish the season without a blemish, the five-time Cadet/Junior GR/FS titlist scored bonus points in four of five matches in earning the hardware at the Walsh Ironman invitational…Taylor would continue to add to his already astounding resume, going up to 140-pound to defeat then #2 wrestler in the nation (and fellow 4x Ohio State champion), Collin Palmer in the dual between Paris Graham and St. Edwards….Taylor would cap his senior season by pinning and Tech falling Joey Walters and Casey Rowell in the Dapper Dan and Dream Team Classic respectively….Always regarded as a wrestler who put his team first, Taylor was also successful in leading Paris Graham to a #2 National ranking.
National Collegiate Wrestler of the Year: Jake Herbert (Northwestern)– After sitting out the entire 2008 season to chase the olympic dream, the Wildcat senior picked up where he left off in 2007, crushing one opponent after the other on his way to recording his second career undefeated season, culminating in a second NCAA title. Much like Nickerson, in order for Herbert to lay claim to the hardware, he had to go through defending champion, Mike Pucillo….Building up an early lead, Herbert’s defense proved impenetrable, as he hung on for a decision victory in his final collegiate match….Overall, the Communications Studies major finished his senior campaign with a 34-0 record with 29 of those “ws” coming by way of bonus points. For this dominating effort, Herbert has named the 2009 recipient of Dan Hodge trophy, wrestling’s equivalent to the Heisman…..Not content to win just one title in 2009, Herbert was a US National Senior Freestyle title just last weekend….With the win, he becomes the top seed at the World Team Trials in late May. As icing on the cake, Herbert was named the O.W. of the tournament.
Long Island Collegiate Rookie of the Year: Steve Bonanno (Hofstra)– The second Wantagh native to be honored today (joining former teammate, John Greisheimer), it would be an understatement to say that the HU true freshman surprised a lot of people in 2009 with how quickly he adapted to the college scene….Finishing his frosh campaign with an overall record of 29-15, the 2008 NYS Champion finished second on the team in total wins….Beginning the season as a virtual unknown, Bonanno would find himself a regular member of the top-20 by the halfway point. With victories over the likes of Penn State’s Brad Pataky, Bakersfield’s Brandon Zoeteway, and tOSU’s Nikko Triggas, Bonanno demonstrated that on any given day, he was a major threat to pull the upset….Similar to his predecessor Dave Tomasette, Bonanno would finish second in his first CAA tournament appearance….Bonanno would go 1-2 at the NCAA tournament. However, one average weekend does not cancel out what was a great showing in 2009.
National Collegiate Rookie of the Year: Andrew Howe (Wisconsin)– Like Bonanno, Howe made his mark in 2009 without the luxury of a redshirt year. Compiling an overall record of 30-5, Howe competed against and defeated a who’s who of college wrestlers at 165 pounds. With regular season wins over Andy Rendos, Moza Fay, Jon Reader, Tyler Sherfey, Ryan Morningstar, Colt Sponseller, etc…it came as little shock when the Indiana native went on to win the Big-10 title in early March…Remaining poised and confident, Howe would wrestle his way into the national finals before finally being upset by #12 seed, Jarrod King of Edinboro. The defeat snatched a 19 match win streak; An unheard of feat for a true freshman competing in one of the power conferences….Howe would go on to be named the Big-10 Freshman of the Year….Not ready to call it quits in 2009, Howe competed and finished 5th at the US National Senior FS tournament….It is likely that he will enter 2010 as the preseason #1 wrestler in the nation.