My colleague Dan DeFrancesco, who does a great job running @LoHudCollege on Twitter, focused his notebook this week on a few local wrestlers who are looking to go out on top in their senior seasons:
Not many athletes get to go out on top, to be crowned a champion before they leave their sport forever.
For Springfield wrestler Joe Grippi, however, it is a realistic possibility. The Fox Lane graduate enters the NCAA Division III Championships on March 16 as the top-ranked wrestler in the country at 141 pounds, according to the National Wrestling Coaches Association.
“I’m pretty anxious and excited to get out there and see what I can do,” said Grippi, who placed first at the Northeast Regional Championships last weekend. “Hopefully win a national title in my last year and go out on top.”
Grippi, who is 15-0 this season, is no stranger to the big stage, having qualified for the NCAA tournament the previous three seasons.
After failing to place as a freshman and sophomore, Grippi earned All-American honors when he placed seventh at 133 pounds in 2012.
“To come so close two years in a row and to finally get it, it was almost like a relief,” said Grippi, who couldn’t practice in the weeks leading up to the tournament due to an in-grown toenail. “Being an All-American, it’s almost hard to put into words how happy I was.”
Grippi credits wrestling at a higher weight class this season with allowing him to concentrate on his technique as opposed to cutting weight.
“Going to practice every day I’d feel tired and exhausted,” said Grippi of wrestling at 133. “Going to 141 instead of 133 allowed me to focus on just wrestling.”
Grippi isn’t the only member of the Pride making his last trip to nationals. Derrick Longo, an Ardsley graduate, qualified at 165 pounds. The senior, a 2012 All-American after placing third, is ranked fifth in the country in his weight class.
Grippi could have been speaking for Longo as well when he summed up his sentiments.
“It’s a weird feeling knowing this is going to be my last tournament I’m ever going to wrestle in,” Grippi said. “It’s exciting and it’s weird at the same time knowing that after I step off that mat that last match that I’ll never be putting on those wrestling shoes again.”