By Bill Miller and Matt Diano
In unison, gathered at one end of the wrestling room, pulling and pushing a disc appearing to be the size and weight of a manhole cover, sweat, and pained look upon their faces, the Pride wrestlers locked their eyes and ears on the tall figure with buzz cut hair centered in front and bellowing commands. The soaked t-shirts, grunts, and damp musty scents surfaced mental images of workouts once forgotten. All at once I felt the physical pain and mental torture of pushing yourself beyond your limits in pursuit of glory. That was the Pride wrestling team gathered one Friday morning at 7AM preparing for the 2010/11 season.
After an injury plagued season that witnessed both the Bearcats of Binghamton University terminate the Pride’s CAA Conference dominance at nine consecutive championships, and the lights go dim at the National Tournament in Omaha (where the Pride registered only one team point, finishing 61st in the final standings), the Pride return to the mat, focused on the goal of reclaiming the CAA conference crown.
They’ve nursed injuries to [Steve] Bonanno, [Justin] Accordino, and [Ryan] Patrovich back to full recovery. On the recruiting front, the coaches enjoyed a banner year, attracting a who’s who of standout New York State High School alumni in the persons of Nick Terdick, Matt Loew, Cody Ruggirello, Zeal McGrew, and Pete Detore. Not satisfied, the Shifflet lead staff went out and also added a quartet of impact transfers who will be hungry to quickly endear themselves to the Blue and Gold faithful.
Coming on board are DI veterans Vince Varella, a Senior High School National bronze medalist in 2007 who spent the first two years of his collegiate career at Arizona State, Zach Clement of Virginia, a former two-time NYS DI Champion, as well as the 2009 NHSCA Senior National runner-up, Tim Murphy of Edinboro University (the school in which Coach Shifflet represented to the tune of three All-American finishes), and Mike Doria of neighboring Nassau Community College. The collective addition of this immensely talented group is sure to add the quality of depth and experience that has never been seen before at the Hempstead based institution of higher learning.
Especially loaded following this amazing recruiting effort will be the 141, 149, and 197 weight classes respectively…In an attempt to built camaraderie, as well as reach new heights in their individual wrestling skills, the team spent the entirety of their summer working out together, giving face(s) to the old adage, that champions are crowned in the off-season. They arrive on the season healthy, prepared, and determined to fulfill their potential.
On Thursday evening October 28th at 7:30PM Pride fans get their first peak of what is to come in 2010/11 when HU holds their annual wrestle-off for the starting positions. The event, which will be held at the newly named Physical Education Center (formerly the PFC), will provide the student-athletes with the opportunity to display all the progress that accompanied the hard work, dedication and unmatched commitment put forth during the off-season. A one hour clinic (scheduled for 6:30pm) will precede the festivities. What follows is a brief weight-by-weight preview of the expected matchups.
125 Pound Weight Class
Back, after missing the entire 2010 season from a compound fracture to his elbow, is sophomore Steve Bonanno. Bonanno, a 2009 National qualifier who was in an out of the national top-25 during his true freshman season, suffered the injury in the first period of his December 13th match against Nick Hyatt of Lock Haven University. Attempting to escape, Bonanno was returned awkwardly to the mat by Hyatt, landing straight on the elbow and ending his sophomore campaign. However, now fully recovered Bonanno, who was among the team leaders in wins as a freshman, will be looking to solidify his spot when he faces off against his likely top rival Jamie Franco. Franco, a former 1x State Champion/five-time All-State performer during his scholastic days at Monroe-Woodbury, stepped into the lineup to fill the gap left by Bonanno. Seeing action at both 125 and 133 pounds during his freshman season, the mini Hercules compiled a 6-16 overall record, but did show glimpses of brilliance, such as his 2-0 victory over then #15 ranked Tony Mustari of Northern Colorado during Northeast Duals.
Expect this matchup between these two former New York State champions to offer some exciting moments.
Also vying for the spot is Freshman Pete Detore of Westhampton, who finished third in Section XI in 2010.
133 Pound Weight Class
It’s great to have “King” Louie Ruggirello back in the lineup after his red-shirt season in 2010. Ruggirello, always the bonus point threat, puts fear into top ranked opponents as he has an uncanny ability to blind opponents with the gymnasium lights once he locks his famous double-armbar. Moving into the twilight of his college career, Ruggirello has tallied an impressive 42 falls and 7 tech-falls. This 3-times CAA champion aims to complete his collegiate career at the top of the podium in Philadelphia.
Ruggirello will likely be challenged by Jeff Rotella. Always the team player, Rotella has been a steady all purpose back-up for the Pride where he has stepped up to the call at three different weight classes in a single season.
141 Pound Weight Class
Luke Vaith, a former 4-time All-State Minnesota wrestler (2009 State Champion), 3-times Freestyle All-American, and 2-times Greco-Roman All-American, was the top recruit in the class of 2009. Wrestling most of the season at 141 to strengthen the dual meet lineup, Vaith dropped to 133 for the Conference championship. One of two Pride finalists in 2010, Vaith lost a narrow 2-1 decision to Steve Mytych of Drexel where riding time was the deciding factor.
Vaith’s likely opponent will be Vincente Varela, a Rio Rancho High School (NM) product, who in addition to aforementioned Senior National bronze medal, added a Junior National title and four state titles to his scholastic resume en route to being named the #18 ranked recruit in the class 2007. Initially electing to stay close to home by signing with Arizona State, Varela was a two year starter for the Sun Devils. This veteran transfer was sold on the Hofstra program after speaking with coaches and future teammates.
The matchup between Vaith and Varela may be one of the most anticipated of the evening.
Also factoring into the mix at 141 will be Cody Ruggirello, the younger brother of Lou, who signed with the Pride after an illustrious high school career where he was 5-times All New York State, including a title in 2007 when he pinned future 3x DI State Champion and current American University freshman Nick Arujau at 5:01. Trying to make it two in a row, Ruggirello lost a two overtime heartbreaker to current teammate, Bonanno, 5-4. While it is likely that he will redshirt in 2011 to get acclimated to the collegiate scene, expect him to battle strong and offer the crowd a pleasing glimpse into the future lineup.
Mike Doria of Massapequa, who transferred from Nassau Community College is another one to watch at this weight class. As a prep, he captured 4th in New York State at 130 pounds in 2008. Quick, competitive, and tough, the top competitors cannot take him for granted.
Jordan Colon and Dan Manley will also be competing for the nod at 141.
149 Pound Weight Class
Also back to prove that last season’s season-ending injury is a thing of the past is 2009 CAA finalist, Justin Accordino, who after turning in a clutch 25-13 record and wrestling deep into the National tournament in 2009, made the move up to 149 as a sophomore to fill the vacancy in the lineup left when teammate P.J. Gillespie was asked to jump to 165. Accordino was off to a strong start in 2010, winning three of his first four bouts before having his season cut short by the injury to his ACL while competing at the North Carolina State Open. A PA AAA state bronze medalist, Senior National bronze medalist, and All-American in both international styles during his high school days, Accordino will be challenged by New York State alumnus, Clemente.
Clemente, a veteran transfer from the University of Virginia, is well known to New York fans. A 3-times All State wrestler, 2-times state champion, and Greco Roman and Freestyle All-American, Clemente is no stranger to the big match. In fact, prior to making the decision to leave UVA to accept a higher position at Lock Haven, Cavalier assistant Coach Scott Moore was said to be extremely high on Clemente and saw an endless amount of potential in the product of LaSalle Academy;
Accordino and Clemente, each known for pushing the action and delivering a lightening quick pace, will deliver an action packed performance as they battle for the starting role at 149.
157 Pound Weight Class
Freshman Nick Terdick of 2010 New York State champions John Glenn makes his collegiate debut when he faces off against Pride veteran Tyler Banks. Banks, a 3-times Connecticut State champion and NHSCA Senior All-American aims to remain in the HU lineup after bouncing between starting duties at 141 and 149 last season. Compiling an 11-19 overall record for the Pride as a sophomore, Banks, who really surprised the crowd at the 2009 wrestle-off when he put on a display from the top position, riding out Vaith to win the 141-pound slot, will be looking to experience some déjà vu against his true freshman opponent.
165 Pound Weight Class
P.J. Gillespie moved into the weight last year from 149 in 2009 where he was a CAA Champion, the CAA rookie of the year, and one victory short of earning All-American honors at the National tournament. The adjustment to the new weight was challenging, but Gillespie ended the season strong, taking 2nd at the Colonial Athletic Association conference tournament, with a double OT 2-1 loss to eventual Division I All-American, Chris Brown, of Old Dominion University. Demonstrating a tremendous amount of heart and perseverance, the former Long Beach High School legend, rebounded with 9-5 decision over Rider’s challenger and fellow National qualifier Rob Morrison in the match to determine true second place. For the year, Gillespie, who spent considerable time in the national top-25 rankings throughout the season, earned a team leading 31 victories versus 15 losses in 2010. Now an upperclassman and one year settled into the new weight, expect Gillespie to improve upon his promising performances the past two seasons.
This weight will feature a tbd exhibition match.
174 Pound Weight Class
Patrovich suffered the third season ending injury to the Pride lineup in 2010. This famed New York product and local darling is fully healed and eager to improve upon his 2009 performance when he defeated #1 seed and 2010 NCAA national runner-up, Mack Lewnes of Cornell, and wrestled within one victory of earning AA honors, losing a 3-2 decision to Nick Marable of Missouri who went on to a 7th place finish. Before being lost for the season, Patrovich was successful in recording a 16-7 overall record in 2010, good enough to keep him in the national rankings for the majority of the first half of the season. Now that he is back to 100 percent, he will be as determined as ever to join older brother, Mike (2x) as a member of the All-American club at HU.
This weight will feature a tbd exhibition match.
184 Pound Weight Class
Ben Clymer, a PA State AA Champion from Northwestern Lehigh HS, earned his first NCAA berth in 2010 after placing 2nd in the CAA conference championship when he fell to Binghamton’s Nate Schiedel in a 4-3 decision. A monster from the top position, in his first two seasons as a starter for HU, Clymer has drawn several comparisons to former 3x CAA Champion/4x NCAA qualifier Joe Rovelli. Like Rovelli, Clymer is at his best when he is riding his opponent. In fact, so talented is Clymer from the top position, than often times, it is the riding point that ends up being a deciding factor in close matches. A winner of 24 matches in 2010, Clymer should again be among the favorites to win a conference title. In the night’s only match-up between Keystone State alumni match, Clymer’s challenger will be Pat Murphy of Nazareth High school. A reliable reserve the past two years for the Pride, Murphy valiantly accepted when called into duty last season for a pair of duals. Despite being undersized as a natural 174-pounder wrestling up two weight classes, Murphy gave it his all, saving the pride two team points by holding Drexel University’s Shawn Fausey to only a major decision. It is this team first mentality that makes Murphy an ideal teammate and asset the Pride wrestling program.
197 Pound Weight Class
In a battle of newcomers, it will be another New York alumnus and local favorite, Matt Loew making his college debut when he squares off against transfer Tim Murphy, formerly of Nazareth High School and Edinboro University. Loew, a 2x NYS DI runner-up, 3x NHSCA All-American, and 2010 Junior National Freestyle All-American, graduated from Wantagh High School early in 2010 to train against the best at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
Murphy, who saw very little time in the varsity line-up as a freshman for the Fighting Scots, is coming off of a 6-11 (0-2 in duals) record in 2010, highlighted by a 4th place finish in the Freshmen/Sophomore division of the EMU Open. A two-sport athlete while in high school, Murphy was a 3x district XI placewinner for Nazareth….Expect an exciting matchup when the NY Freshman aims to capture the starting role over the more seasoned PA veteran.
285 Pound Weight Class
Paul Snyder, a 2-time AA All-State PA wrestler of Mount Pleasant High School, begins his red-shirt sophomore campaign with the Pride. A winner of 11 matches in 2010, Snyder had a very strong off-season, winning the USAW NE Regional Senior Freestyle tournament. An agile big man, Snyder, who when he was recruited by HU had many enthusiasts calling him the first real All-American threat at Heavyweight for the Pride in a number of years will be challenged by 2010 New York state runner-up, Zeal McGrew of Burnt Hills. McGrew, like Snyder, had a very impressive off-season, splitting a pair of finals matches with 2010 NYS DI Champion and future CAA rival Lance Moore of Binghamton, beating the future Bearcat to claim the Junior State freestyle title, and dropping a close one to finish as the state runner-up in Greco-Roman. In addition to the 2010 DI runner-up finish, the product of the Journeymen Wrestling Club also has a pair of NHSCA All-American finishes (Champion as a Sophomore; 7th as a junior), as well as a 3rd place finish at the 2009 NYS DI tournament to his name. Competing in the international styles, McGrew was a 2008 Cadet Freestyle All-American, finishing 7th in Fargo.
This is another weight where the NY freshman aims to capture the starting role from the PA veteran. Collegiate experience is likely to prove too much for this freshman standout to surmount.
In a lineup where New York athletes come first to mind, the Pride lineup features a strong crew of Pennsylvania talent. They will be challenged by many of New York’s best alumni for starting roles this season. Clear your calendars for the evening of October 28th. Be there at 6:30Pm for an outstanding clinic by Hudson Taylor, the 5th all time NCAA leader with pins. Stay glued to your seats for 7:30PM wrestle-off when Pride athletes whet your appetite for the exciting season to come.