Last year, the Stony Brook wrestling team took the big step of finishing sixth in there conference, and establishing themselves as one of the top club teams on campus. Now, just one month into their second season, they find themselves ranked 18th in the latest National Collegiate Wrestling Association coaches’ poll.
“They have exceeded expectations and improved at a rapid rate that is probably not seen very often,” head coach Shaun Lally said.
The team started their season off with a 3-0 record, as they defeated UConn, Montclair State and Rutgers.
Then in the team’s most recent meet at Cornell University the team took on NCAA Division 1, Division 3, NJCAA and NCWA competitors, and more than held their own.
“It’s very positive for a club team to go up there and tussle with those teams and do well,” Lally said.
133-pound freshman Mike LaNassa finished in fourth place at the New York State Intercollegiate Open Championships at Cornell University. Mike recorded two falls in 8:20 and won a decision that got him to the tournament’s semifinals.
Senior Mike Shimer, sophomore Joe Jackson, freshman Jon Campanelli and freshman Robert Tkach have also found success early on this season. Lally says he has been particularly impressed by his freshman wrestlers.
“I knew the growth and success would come, I just didn’t know it would come this quickly,” Lally said.
On Sunday the team had their biggest stage yet as they went to Madison Square Garden to participate in the “Grapple at the Garden”. Stony Brook was one of 16 teams competing at the event, which featured 14 Division 1 programs.
Lally was thrilled to have his team wrestle at the World’s Most Famous Arena, and has been using social media to promote the event. Lally has helped set up Facebook and Twitter accounts for his team to help keep students on campus informed about the club.
A viral video featuring the school mascot Wolfie was also posted online to help promote the Grapple at the Garden event. The video featured members of the team, as well as Wolfie beefing up in the Recreation Center’s gym.
Even though the club is starting to get recognition around campus, they still have to deal with monetary restrictions.
“There are always financial challenges, because you want to have the same opportunities that other colleges have,” Lally said. “They obviously have more money to play with, but we’ve been very creative with our spending.”
Part of that creative spending has involved staying local as much as possible. The team’s first two meets this year took place at Stony Brook University, the first time the school has hosted a wrestling meet since the 1960s.
Now, Lally is trying to make sure his team does not get too obsessed with rankings, and focuses on keeping up their current level of play throughout the rest of the season.
“You have to peak at the right time of year,” Lally said. “You can’t peak in December or January. You want to be in your best physical and mental shape, come March.”
The club will have more meets over the next three months, as they prepare for the NCWA Northeast Conference Championships in New Hampshire and the NCWA National Championships in Dallas, Texas. Both events take place in March.