If you ask the best coaches in the country, a lot of them will tell you that the key to any successful DI wrestling program, is the ability to keep the instate talent home. In recent times, no body in the Empire State has been better at that than Binghamton Head Coach, Pat Popolizio. Today marked a continuation of this trend when it was announced that for the second consecutive year, the #1 ranked recruit in the New York State had elected to make that upstate based school his college destination. In 2010, it was Greene High School’s 2x NYS DII Champion Tyler Beckwith signing with the Bearcats; 2011 will forever be known as the “year of the Gwiz” as the defending 215-pound DII State Champion from Duanesburg High School, Nick Gwiazdowski, revealed on his facebook that he would be heading to Binghamton next Fall….Gwiazdowski, the #19 recruit in the nation according to the InterMat top-100, becomes the third member of the current senior class to formally commit to Popolizio and staff. He is joined by Colton Perry (Windsor High School) and 2009 NYS DII Champion Derak Heyman (Tioga), both of whom made gave verbals to the SUNY school last month.
A bronze medalist as a sophomore in Albany in 2009, nobody had a better junior campaign in New York than did Gwiazdowski. In fact, starting with a third place finish at the 2009 Super-32 tournament, time after time, the future Colonial Athletic Association student-athlete answered the bell, cementing his place on the respective radars of every fan, coach, and ranker in the business. Admittedly, when the year started, I did not know much about the young man with the difficult to spell last name. However, by years end, he was all I could talk about. So impressive was his 2010 season, that when it came time to write the wrestling-49 segment, one person suggested that I give all 10 spots to Gwiazdowski, a testament to his being head and shoulders above the other members of the class of 2011. While I did not go that far, it went without saying that naming the Journeymen Wrestling Club (led by Popolizio’s brother, Frank) product to the top spot was not a tough decision to make.
Going 49-1 (his only loss coming at the hands of 2x NYS Champion/current University of Oklahoma freshman, Kyle Colling by a margin of 1-0), Gwiazdowski was man among boys at the state tournament last season, pinning his first two opponents, before outscoring his semifinal and final opponents by a margin of 13-4 to claim the DII hardware for the first time in his scholastic career. As mind blowing as this accomplishment might have been, the Section II wrestler was just getting started. What awaited him were some national accolades.
Making the trip to the Walsh Jesuit High School campus in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio as an unranked wrestler, Gwiazdowski defeated four opponents (outscoring them 37-12), including a 5-3 decision victory over 2010 Walsh Ironman champion Tank Knowles (the #39 recruit) in the finals to win the 215 pound weight class at the inaugural FloNationals Tournament. The ‘w” would secure the first of what would be a trio of All-American honors for the highly regarded big man…Several months later, he would put an exclamation mark on his high school career by earning a pair of third place finishes in the International styles under the FargoDome.
Having narrowed down his choices fairly early, Gwiazdowski mentioned that the battle for his services was fought primarily between the Bearcats and the Cael Sanderson led Nittany Lions of Penn State University. Ultimately, it was the feeling that the reigning CAA team Champions were moving in the right direction and a desire to be apart of this growing winning tradition that convinced the young man and his family that BU was the ideal fit.
Projected as either a 197 or 285-pounder on the collegiate level, it is likely that Gwiazdowski will be asked to step into the starting line-up as soon as he is on campus. With young and talented workout partners the likes of Beckwith, defending 184-pound conference Champion Nate Schiedel, and 2010 NYS DI Champion/true freshman Lance Moore (285), as well as Popolizio and lead assistant Dennis Papadatos all close enough in weight to him, there surely will be no shortage of guys ready to make the transition as smooth and immediate as possible.
In expressing his gratitude to all of the people who helped him reach these heights, Gwiazdowski requested that I pass along his sincere appreciation to his coaches and teammates.
As always, on behalf of every one here at LHW, we congratulate Nick, his family, and all the wonderful people at Duanesburg for today’s amazing news. We wish Gwiazdowski and his team a healthy and triumphant 2011 season !
2010 FloNationals 215-pound Finals: Gwiazdowski (NY) vs. Knowles (CA)