All I can say is finally ! For those of you who loyally read all of these recruiting press releases, you know that in the past two years, I have written about just about every demographic possible; I’ve covered a Minnesota kid taking his act to Buffalo; I’ve highlighted back-to-back #1 recruits opting to become Bearcats; I even managed to sneak in an article about three kids from the same wrestling club all heading to different elite academic colleges. What follows is hardly the first Ivy League related piece that I have written, and with the way things are looking, it certainly will not be the last. Therefore, why does this particular story appeal to me? Because it hit me just a few seconds ago that today marks the first time that I will have the pleasure of paying tribute to a young man from my own hometown….After the countless recruiting updates (all of which I should note were a joy to pen), I finally get to pay homage to a Levittownian, thanks to the work, both in the classroom and on the wrestling mat of General Douglas MacArthur High School senior, Chris Perez, who just short of a week ago realized his personal dream when he formally committed to Princeton University. In making the big decision, the pride and joy of the Generals’ wrestling program became the second Long Islander to select the Chris Ayres Tigers as his next home. He joins All-Suffolk wrestler, Steven Leshinger of Sayville, who in early November, was the first member of the class of 2011 to opt for the New Jersey based institution of higher learning. Now, all that remains is for a wrestler from the CHSAA to pledge his allegiance to the Orange and Black in order to complete the clean sweep.
A two-time Nassau County finalist (Champion @112 in 2010), the ability of Perez has long been known to the L.I. wrestling community. However, it was his performance in the 2009 NHSCA Sophomore National tournament that propelled him to stardom, as his sixth place finish in Virginia Beach represented the first of a growing number of All-American distinctions that currently sits at three in the past two years. A silver medal performance at the often overlooked 2009 NHSCA Preseason National tournament would further solidify the future Tiger’s presence among the nation’s creme de la creme. However, it would be his most recent performance on the big stage, the 2010 Super-32 Tournament, that would put his name on the tongues of nearly every DI coach college in the country. Traveling to Greensboro, NC as a long-shot and overshadowed by fellow Empire Stater, Steven Rodrigues, Perez put forth perhaps the best effort of his scholastic career, beating some of the who’s who of studs (North Carolina signee, Cam Throckmorton; Tennessee-Chattanooga signee Nick Soto; as well as WIN-Magazine Preseason #1 ranked Tyler Liberatore) en route to a fifth place finish under the roof of the Coliseum.
Feeding off of the momentum created by this amazing showing in the Tar Heel State, Perez is already off to the perfect start to his senior campaign as last weekend, before a packed house consisting of the MacArthur student body, he successfully bumped up to 135 pounds to earn the hardware at the annual Generals’ Wrestling tournament…While victory is never guaranteed in this sport, one thing is for sure; if Perez wrestles the remainder of 2010/2011 the way he has the past two months, he is about as big a challenger for the 130-pound state crown as they come. This is a quite the honor when you consider that some experts are predicting the aforementioned weight class to be the most stacked one in the state this season.
Projected as a 133/141 pounder on the next level, Perez spoke about his decision to attend the EIWA Conference member, summing up the exciting recruiting process by stating the following: “Princeton was always my top choice. Obviously the school sells itself on the academic side; I love the connections that can be made and the fact that the alumni really strive to help you move on to get good jobs and get in with the right people after you graduate. The thing that attracted me most to the program is Coach Ayres. I loved the energy that he’s put into the program and they’re definitely going in the right direction…Princeton wrestling is definitely on the way up and it’s something that I want to be a part of. I also like the fact that I’m going to have great drill partners around me. Garrett Frey is a returning EIWA finalist at 125 along with a good young group of guys around the 133/141lb range that will push me to my limits physically and mentally.”
As humble as he is gifted, Perez, who while unsure of his exact focus of study did indicate an interest in pursuing a career in the medical field (Molecular Biology, Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, etc.) wanted to take a moment to express his appreciation to all of the people who helped him achieve his dream. He spoke from the heart in saying the following: “I’d just like to thank everyone who has supported me over the years; I really appreciate the help I’ve gotten from my parents, Coach Greenblatt, coaches Paletta and Bobal at MacArthur, both of whom have pushed me to be the best. In addition, my sincere gratitude to Coach Craig Vitagliano and Coach Vougar [Oroudjov] who have put in so much time and effort into helping me succeed.”
Prior to making his final decision, Perez shared that he was considering offers from the likes of Duke, UPenn, Lehigh, and Columbia to name a few of the blue-chip institutions jockeying for his services.
On behalf of all of us here at LHW, I extend our deepest congratulations to Chris, his family, and the MacArthur staff. We wish the Generals the very best of fortunate and success in 2011.