Last April, when the news broke that then 2x New Jersey State champion (he has since added a third crown), Andrew Campolattano, had elected to bypass wrestling on the collegiate level and instead accept an offer to play football for the Scarlet Knights of rising EIWA contender, Rutgers University, the hearts of nearly every division I head coach broke at the notion of such a unique, once-in-a-lifetime talent leaving his wrestling shoes in the center of the mat. Instantly, memories of all of the great scholastic grapplers that the world’s oldest sport had lost to the gridiron in the past few years flashed back all at once in their collective minds. For me, names like Grant Miller, Jimmy Lawson, Dexter Lattimore, Arthur Jones, Justin Tougas, and Trevor Laws among others flooded by brain with thoughts of what if. And none of these fine multi-sport athletes had the resume of the Bound Brook stud. At that moment, I could not help but wonder, when is it finally going to end? When would wrestling finally win out over the all powerful football? When would the possibility of one day representing your county in the Olympic Games take precedent over the opportunity for fame and riches that goes with making it to the National Football League?….Yesterday, I got my answer as the “when” became the “present” with the announcement that Campolattano had a change of heart and will now be utilizing his limitless potential as a 197/285 pounder on the mat, and not as a linebacker on the turf of Rutgers Stadium. Victory had been achieved and the “w” question shifted from when to where. This is a question to which that those same formerly broken-hearted coaches now hope their respective colleges/universities will be the answer.
Two programs that are already getting heavy mention in the rumor mill are current #1 team in the nation, Penn State, and the aforementioned Rutgers who some might say have an advantage in that they already got the 3x State Champ to commit to the school once. Hence why couldn’t they make it two for the money? A third school that can never be neglected when it comes to landing Garden State talent is Lehigh which many moons ago successfully signed the first four-time state champ in Jersey history, Mike Grey, before ultimately losing him at the 11th hour to conference rival, Cornell. With Campolattano being a heavy favorite to join Grey in the exclusive “4xer Club”, it goes without saying that Mountain Hawk coach, Pat Santoro will go far beyond the call of duty in enticing the three-time National Champion in the international styles (2008 Cadet double gold medalist; 2009 Junior Greco Champion) to bring his act to Bethlehem, PA.
While the addition of Campolattano (151-1 in his career) would add to the already impressive assortment of talent attracted by Rutgers and Lehigh from the class of 2011, for PSU, his signing would be the final nail in solidifying their second consecutive top-3 recruiting class. He would join the following blue-chippers who are Happy Valley bound: #2 Morgan McIntosh (184/197) #6 Nico Megaludis (125/133), and #26 Luke Frey (141/149); Not bad when you consider that they landed the #2 and #5 ranked wrestlers from the class of 2010, the Alton brothers, as well as welcomed the #1 recruit from the class of 2009, David Taylor, who was released from his National Letter of Intent to Iowa State, and chose to follow when Coach Cael Sanderson accepted the position to lead the Nittany Lions…Campolattano is currently the #12 recruit in the nation, by was as high as top-5 before his initial decision yielded a drop in his status.
The recruiting classes for the other top challengers include the likes of the following nationally ranked student-athletes, #10 Mason Beckman (125/133) and #54 Nate Brown (174/184) who are headed to Lehigh, and Garden State household names, Doug Hamann (157/165), Billy Smith (285) and Anthony Perrotti (125), as well as former NYS runner-up/multiple-time All-American, Steven Rodrigues, who will continue their athletic careers under the guidance of Scott Goodale at Rutgers.
The waiting game and the recruiting war begin again…To the victor will go the spoils and quite possibly a future national champion !!!
note: While Campolattano had a change of heart, one member of the class of 2011 who will trade wrestling for football at the next level is #35 overall recruit, Austin Blythe, who will state in state to play for the Iowa Hawkeyes. With blue-chip big man, Bobby Telford, currently in the midst of a productive redshirt year as a true freshman, this loss should not be overwhelming in Iowa City.
2010 NJ State 189-Pound Semifinals: Campolattano (BB) vs. Holliday (BT)