Since the beginning of time, coaches have been repeating to their athletes cliche phrases such as “hard work pays off”, “no pain, no gain”, “don’t rest on your laurels” as well as a plethora of other famous sports sayings…On December 19th of this year, Monsignor Farrell senior, Ben Villaret, changed the aforementioned from empty words into action when he pinned Salesian’s Nick Terp with 13 seconds remaining in the opening period to claim his 148th career victory, making him the all-time career wins leader in New York City. The Lion captain had tied record of Petrides’s Brian Traub (2006-2009), early in the day with a 9-0 major decision over Eric Benito of Fordham Prep….As of this past Tuesday, the new record has grown to the 150 win mark, thanks to Villaret’s pin of Sachem East’s Frank Merante….With still plenty of season left to wrestle, the 2x defending Catholic State Champion finds himself in a good position to break the CHSAA career wins mark of 178, set by former St. Anthony’s and University of Iowa wrestler, Lucas Magnani (1999-2002 @ St. Anthony’s).
If you are someone who travels throughout the tri-state area to various wrestling tournaments, it is likely that the name Ben Villaret is familiar to you. An individual who has a passion for this sport rivaled by few, if any, Villaret is a 12 month a year wrestler who routinely seeks out the best competition by jumping in the car and making the journey to Long Island, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania (who for the record, I know is not technically part of the tri-state)…In fact, this past off-season, I recall a stretch where in a two week span, Villaret competed at the Super-32 tournament (winning several matches) in North Carolina one weekend, before finishing as the runner-up at the VHW Tournament (forfeiting to teammate Tony Carlo in the finals) and winning the Strong Island tournament (competing up two weights from the previous weekend) on the campus of Hofstra University on back-to-back days the next weekend…Every step of the way, Villaret has been accompanied by his mother, Rima, who next to public address announcer Sandy Stevens and referee Marcia Heise, may be the most knowledgeable female on the topic of amateur wresting that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting….If you ever are in need of a historic fact or a statistic, go find Mrs. Villaret; She will no doubt be able to provide you with the desired information.
Commenting on her son’s remarkable scholastic career thus far, Mrs. Villaret said “Ben’s drive will serve him well in life. He hasn’t let massive growth in a short time and very young age (turned 17 two days prior to setting the record) affect any of his goals; It amazes and impresses me daily.”…These are sentiments that all of us in the wrestling community certainly concur with.
Beginning his wrestling career in fourth-grade as a part of the Lions Wrestling Club (the brainchild of current Farrell coaches Lou DeStefano and Phil Squatrito), Villaret’s love for competition has been epic…In the Spring prior to starting school at the Staten Island based high school, Villaret was a state Schoolboy double medalist in the international styles, winning the freestyle portion of the competition and placing as the state runner-up in Greco-Roman. It was here that the Farrell coaches realized just how immensely talented and special the young gentleman they were getting truly was…For the past three and a half years, Villaret has not failed to live up to their praise.
As a freshman, Villaret finished 5th at the Catholic State tournament, but just as easily could have been a finalist, dropping a 3-2 decision to eventual runner-up Troy Sampson of Chaminade (a loss he has since avenged) in them 119-pound quarterfinals. Villaret would later go on to beat the other semifinalist in his half of the bracket, Matt Rynne of Fordham Prep in the placement round.
During his sophomore campaign, Villaret would punch his own ticket to his first trip to the NYS tournament, defying the odds to win the 125-pound weight class…Pitted against Sampson for a second consecutive year, Villaret demonstrated great patience and perseverance. Following behind early in their bout, Villaret waited to seize his opportunity, and when it came, he took full advantage of it, countering the Flyer wrestler’s shot by hitting a Schalles to get the pin and the win….In a battle of S.I.’s finest, Villaret would earn bragging rights over Jesse Cusimano (St. Joe’s by the Sea) with a 6-1 decision victory in the Catholic State finals.
Last season, Villaret continued his dominance over the Catholic League, pinning his first opponent one minute into the second period and outscoring his final three opponents by a margin 29-12 (including a 7-5 decision over Kellenberg’s Joe Fiore in the title bout)….However, Villaret, whose title win in 2008 made him the first known wrestler of the Jewish faith to win a Catholic State title, would save his best wrestling for this past Summer, making it to the round of 1o in Fargo, one victory short of becoming a junior freestyle All-American at a stacked 152-pound weight class….For many, it is was this performance that launched the still unsigned wrestler onto the radar’s of several NCAA Division I programs…At the time of this publication, a person familiar with the situation indicated that Boston University currently stands as the favorites to land the services of the likely three-time NYS qualifier.
With individual glory already having been accomplished, the goal for Villaret now becomes to sit at the head of the table and lead the Lions in their efforts to repeat as Catholic State champions, having won the team in 2009 for the first time in nearly 20 years…Gone are the likes of Connor Hanafee (West Point), Kevin Hartnett, Tim Monaghan, and Christian Psomas (all currently attending the United States’ Merchant Marine Academy), and Antonio Sparaco (East Stroudsburg University; Not currently wrestling) If the previous 3.5 years have been any indication, Lions fans have reason to feel good about their chances….If there is anything that Ben Villaret knows how to do best, it is winning…If you don’t believe me, just ask the 150 opponents that watched him with his hand raised high !
EDITOR’S NOTE: After this story was published, members of the Monsignor Farrell wrestling community learned that the NYC record book had not been updated in the past year. During the 2009 season, Horace Mann wrestler, Cam Wertheimer finished his career with 158 victories…Since the publication of the article, Villaret was gone on to surpass the correct mark. Following a third place finish at the Eastern States Tournament, the Lion senior stands at 163 wins in his career.