Much like a wrestler seizing a chance for a quick pin, Stony Brook University National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) Head Wrestling Coach Shaun Lally went to the mat to get his second-year club the chance to wrestle and gain exposure at Madison Square Garden in the second annual Grapple at the Garden on December 1.
“I attended the inaugural event last year, and I got us involved on a whim,” said Lally. “As an ambassador of the sport I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity.” Knowing that Division I and high school wrestling were already involved, Lally thought that the NCWA program should be showcased as well. Displaying a few smooth moves of his own, Lally reached out to a wrestling contact and asked to be put in touch with the event’s organizers and then made his pitch.
“I told them that to my knowledge there is no other university where its students can board a train that goes directly to MSG, and just walk upstairs to wrestle. Stony Brook is just 66 miles from Manhattan and I guaranteed we’d have a large contingent from the school there,” said Lally.
He also mentioned that Suffolk County is home to the best wrestling in New York State and that made it a natural fit. The organizers bought the idea and then Lally only needed to come up with an opponent for the Seawolves. Once again, Lally called upon his connections, this time from his days in the Beat the Streets program, which is aimed at establishing a wrestling program in every New York City school. He suggested the NCWA Westchester Community College team because of its proximity to the Garden.
The Seawolves will be in the presence of some of the best NCAA Division I wrestling programs in the country, which will square off in dual meets. That list includes Army, Bloomsburg, Boston University, Cornell, Drexel, George Mason, Hofstra, Illinois, Maryland, NYU, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, Rutgers and Stevens according to Lally.
“This is a great opportunity for our kids and our University. Our amazing sport will be front and center with 15 other elite collegiate institutions at Madison Square Garden in the best city in the world,” said Lally.
Now that the club has moved to the state-of-the-art Campus Recreation Center from its more humble beginnings in the Pritchard Gymnasium, its 30 or so wrestlers in 11 weight classes are able to hone their skills to compete in the NCWA and against other NCAA and NJCAA teams. In its maiden season, six wrestlers qualified for the Nationals in Texas with two, 197-pounder Michael Lloyd and 235-pounder Kyle Folk-Freund, coming within one victory of All-American status.
“It’s so exciting to be a part of this,” Lally said. “It gives us instant credibility. I think participating in this event is another way of showing people that we’re a legitimate program that has shown a lot of growth and progress in a short period of time.”
Associate Dean and Director of Student Life Susan DiMonda agreed. “Our sports club program is only recently achieving notoriety and expanding due to the new Campus Recreation Center. DiMonda continues: “Students are choosing to come to Stony Brook knowing that they can continue participating in their sport on a club level and still have the opportunity to compete nationally.”
In the near future, Lally hopes to raise more money to augment the club’s $4,000 annual budget. That includes his plan to ask the club’s growing fan base to contribute $20.14 as a show of support for the 2014 team.
— Glenn Jochum