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Max Askren Shifts Gears from Competitor to Coach; Dapper Dan U.S. profiles
By Willie Saylor
When Max Askren walked off the mat in Omaha in 2010 with an NCAA title at 184 pounds, many people, including Max himself, thought the next step in his career would be at the international level.
“After my senior year at Mizzou, I had back issues and got hurt training for the World Team Trials,” he said. “I knew wrestling was something I loved and coaching was something I wanted to do in the future. It’s not a great feeling when you realize that any day your back could turn for the worse and you could be done with wrestling. I decided to start my coaching career then and I’ve never regretted the decision.”
Not long after, Max was sought out by Steve Realbuto to train his son Brian, a state champion who, under Max’s tutelage, wrestled his way to a Fargo title this past summer, prompting his nomination for this year’s Dapper Dan Team at 152 pounds.
“I met Brian and the family and they were great,” Askren says. “Brian seemed to enjoy wrestling and have a mind for it as well.”
“When he was being looked at for the spot on the Dapper Dan Team, I believe it was the director who called me up and asked if I would be interested in being the coach of the Dapper Dan USA team. I told him it would be an honor and that I would love the opportunity.
“It is great to be named the coach. It’s the first big event I’ve really been a part of as a coach other than Fargo (for Team New York) this past summer. I hope that it’s the start of a long career in coaching. I sure hope that I can continue to develop as a coach and improve from year to year as I did as a wrestler.”
Askren has been involved in several All-Star events including the collegiate 2009 NWCA All-Star Classic and as a member of the Dream Team, but this will be his first experience at a Dapper Dan event he’s heard so much about.
“I’ve only heard great things about the event and am excited to experience it first-hand. On the mat I expect PA to wrestle hard and be very prepared as they always are for the event. I only hope the guys from USA take the event equally as serious and perform to their ability.”
Breaking Down USA Team Selected for Dapper Dan
Now in its 38th year, the Dapper Dan annual pits a dual meet between some of the nation’s best seniors against a contingent of seniors from Pennsylvania in what can be seen as a preview, of sorts, to college wrestling stars of tomorrow.
Over the years, Dapper Dan participants have claimed NCAA Division I gold 111 times. Over the previous 37 years, the Dapper Dan can lay claim to an average of exactly three champions (or 30 percent of the total champions) every year.
Additionally 18 more titles have been won by former Dapper Dan participants in Divisions II and III.
Always a highly-anticipated announcement, the Dapper Dan Committee selected the constituents of Team USA this week, along with the Honorary Coach, Max Askren, a 2010 NCAA champion for the University of Missouri, and who now coaches at Somers, N.Y.
Team Pennsylvania, whose 2012 line-up will be determined after their state tournament, has won two of the last three Dapper Dan Classics after the USA squad reeled off eight in a row from 2001 through 2008.
This year’s event will be held on Sunday, March 25, at the University of Pittsburgh’s Fitzgerald Field House.
USA Team Selections and Notes: (College Commitment listed if they’ve signed)
113: #1 Jarred Brooks, Warsaw, IN — Indiana Tech
Brooks has yet to capture a state title, but don’t let that fool you. Indiana has been a meat-grinder in the light weights over the past few years and Brooks has proved his mettle on the national scene. In a banner off-season, Brooks was a runner-up in the FILA Junior World Team Trials. In July, he reached the Fargo Junior Finals where he lost a thrilling three-period bout with Nathan Tomasello. Three months later, he beat Tomasello in the Super 32 finals.
“It will feel great wrestling the best of the best and wrestling with the best of the best,” Brooks said. “For me to be put on this team is a dream come true. Hopefully I perform well and USA can prevail this year. We have some tough guys, so you better watch out PA; we are gonna be ready!”
Probable PA Candidate (State finishes): #8-Billy Rappo, Council Rock South (1st, 8th)
120: #1 George DiCamillo, St. Ignatius, Ohio — Virginia
One of the fiercest competitors you’ll ever see, “DiCam” has a long list of folkstyle credentials. A reigning state champion in Ohio, he has won the Ironman three times. He’s also placed second, fourth and third at the last three Super 32s.
“To be the only senior selected from the state of Ohio says a lot about how tough of a team the USA has put together,” DeCamillo said. “It shows all my hard work and dedication have paid off. Getting to this point in my career has not been easy, and I could not have accomplished this outstanding feat without the love and support of my friends, my numerous coaches, my drill partners and most importantly my family, especially my father.”
Probable PA Candidate (State finishes): #5-Nicky Roberts, North Star (1st, 3rd, 1st) — Ohio State
126: #7 Cory Clark, Southeast Polk, Iowa — Iowa
A five-time Fargo All-American, Clark has excelled in all three styles; both in-state and nationally. He’s a three-time state champion with just one career in-season loss. In January, Clark won the Cheesehead.
Probable PA Candidate (State finishes): #1-Jimmy Gulibon, Derry (1st, 1st, 1st) — Penn State
132: #3 Zane Richards, Carbondale, Ill. — Illinois
Richards is a non-stop wrestler you’ll enjoy watching. One of the most decorated in the international styles, Zane has accumulated six Fargo medals, including the big stop sign in Greco this summer, which was his third career title. He was also a runner-up in freestyle this year and a FloNationals runner-up in folkstyle. Zane reached the state finals twice, capturing a state title as a Junior.
Probable PA Candidate (State finishes): #4-Randy Cruz, Bethlehem Catholic (2nd, 2nd, 6th) — Lehigh
138: #1 John Meeks, Des Moines-Roosevelt, Iowa — Iowa State
A quick and dynamic talent on his feet, Meeks still has never lost a high school match in his career (in-season). A three-time state champion, Meeks dabbled in international styles this summer for the first time, placing sixth in Junior freestyle.
Probable PA Candidates (State finishes):
#7-Matt Cimato, LaSalle (3rd) — Drexel
#12-Steve Spearman, Erie McDowell (DNQ, 1st, 3rd)
#13-Laike Gardner, Biglerville (2nd, DNP, 8th) — Lehigh
145: #1 Jason Tsirtsis, Crown Point, Ind. — Northwestern
Regarded as perhaps the nation’s top recruit, Tsirtsis has won tournaments everywhere, including this year’s FloNationals and Fargo Junior freestyle. A two-time Super 32 runner-up, Tsirtsis proved his college readiness by competing against college-aged wrestlers at FILA Juniors and placing fourth and sixth the last two years. Jason joins his older brother, Alex (who competed in 2004 at 140 pounds), as Dapper Dan participant.
“Being chosen for this event is a real honor to have,” Jason said. “It’s nice to get acknowledged as one of the best high school wrestlers in the country and compete on such an elite team. It is going to be a fun time.”
Probable PA Candidate (State finishes): #3-Mitch Minotti, Easton (1st, 5th, 7th) Lehigh
152: #4 Brian Realbuto, Somers, N.Y. — Cornell
Realbuto was long considered a top wrestler, ranked nationally by all publications after two state titles and four state placings. But his stock hit another echelon this summer when he upended several ranked foes en route to a Fargo Jr. freestyle crown. Realbuto is also a three-time Eastern States Classic finalist.
“I’m extremely honored to be chosen,” Realbuto said. “I can’t wait to compete in such an exciting dual. I’m looking forward to the high level of competition. It’s also pretty sweet to have Max (Askren) as our coach. It’s going to be an awesome event.”
Probable PA Candidate (State finishes): #20-Cody Copeland, Greenville (2nd, DNP, 3rd) — Lock Haven
160: #2 Zach Brunson, Churchill, Ore. — Illinois
A cerebral and tactical wrestler, Brunson has dominated in-state competition to the tune of three state titles. Nationally, Brunson reached the Reno Tournament of Champion finals each of the last two years at 160 pounds. This summer, he had a phenomenal run, winning Fargo Junior freestyle. He was also a runner-up at FILAs.
“It feels great to be selected for the team,” Brunson said. “I’ve watched the meet the last few years and always wanted to be a part of it. I hope when I get there I get the chance to wrestle some high level competition and test myself.”
Probable PA Candidate (State finishes): #7-Brian Brill, Central Mountain (1st, 5th) — Lehigh
170: #4 Kyle Crutchmer, Tulsa Union, Okla. — Oklahoma State
Crutchmer is a beast. A physical specimen who can both overpower and out-technique most opponents, Crutchmer was double AA in each of the last three Fargos and both of the last FILAs. He’s also won the last two Reno Tournaments, beating fellow Dapper Dan Team member, Brunson, in the finals in 2010.
“It is such an honor to be selected,” Crutchmer said. “I am very excited! I get to also hang out with a future teammate Jordan Rogers. I hope I get to wrestle a tough opponent and get better for college.”
Probable PA Candidate (State finishes): #12-Elliot Riddick, Bethlehem Catholic (4th) — Lehigh
182: #3 Jordan Rogers, Mead, WA — Oklahoma State
A two-time state champion, Rogers wowed the crowd at Fargo the last two years. He loves underhooks and has a penchant for big throws. And his international style resume is second to none. Rogers won both freestyle and Greco in 2010, and placed third and second, respectively, last summer. He also won FILA Cadets the last two years and competed on its World Team in Romania. This season, he won Tri-State, the Northwest’s deepest in-season tournament.
“I am very excited to be selected for the Dapper Dan USA team,” Rogers said. “It is an honor to be one of three Washington wrestlers to ever be selected to the team. I am looking forward to wrestling some of Pennsylvania’s toughest wrestlers and to have the opportunity to wrestle alongside some of the nations top wrestlers, including a future teammate, Kyle Crutchmer.”
Probable PA Candidate (State finishes): #6-Wes Phipps, Grove City (2nd, 3rd, 5th) Penn State
195: #1 Devin Peterson, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisc. — Wisconsin
Of all the Fargo champions featured in this year’s Dapper Dan, perhaps no title run was more impressive than Peterson’s. He beat eight ranked foes in his march to the stop sign. And he won Greco, too, a style in which he was the Jr. World Team alternate.
“It’s pretty amazing to be representing Team USA,” Peterson said. “Hopefully I can learn some things from other top wrestlers in the country.”
Probable PA Candidate (State finishes): #7-Perry Hills, Pittsburgh Central Catholic (4th) Maryland (FB)
220: #1 Josh Marchok, Schaumburg, Ill. — Stanford
Marchok has done battle with a field of big men which has been loaded in Illinois the last few years. He was third as a sophomore and won the state title last year. Over the past three summers, Marchok has collected five Fargo medals.
“I feel it is a great honor to be selected to participate in the Dapper Dan,” Marchok said. “It is a wonderful event filled with some of the top wrestlers from around the country and I’m excited to be a part of it. I expect it to be a great learning experience and to be able to learn from the other wrestlers.”
Probable PA Candidate (State finishes): #6-John Rizzo, Richland (1st, 1st, 5th) Unsigned
HWT: #2 Doug Vollaro, Oviedo, Fla. — Lehigh
Vollaro is a huge specimen, and extremely athletic for a guy of his size. He’s placed highly in all styles in national competitions, reaching the finals of the Ironman, FloNationals, Super 32, Filas and Fargo in both styles.
“It’s an honor to be recognized for all the hard work I have put in this sport since I was little,” he said.
Probable PA Candidates (State finishes): #5-Cody Klempay, Canon-McMillan (3rd) — North Carolina
#9-Avaree Robinson, Susquehanna (1st-6th) — Temple (FB)
#10-Dawson Peck, Chambersburg (2nd) — Virginia Tech