Photo by www.phototrens.com
After his tenth grade season, in which he took fourth in Section 11 and excelled at offseason events, Walt Whitman's Vin Feola made a decision.
"I used to play football, but after my sophomore year, I decided to just focus on wrestling," he said. "So it hasn't been that long since I've been a year round wrestler."
It seems like a choice that has paid dividends. And Feola will no doubt continue to be a year round grappler as he committed to continue his academics and wrestling at North Dakota State after also considering Buffalo, Maryland, Navy, Air Force, Hofstra and Rutgers.
"I went out there and I really liked the kids on the team and the coach," Feola said of his chosen school. "I liked the place and the wrestling facilities too and I think I can be successful there. I didn’t really want a big school or a really small school – something in the middle. It's what I was looking for."
While Feola has made his mark at 220 pounds, he said he'll be going higher on the scale at the next level.
"I'm around 218 pounds and I'm looking to get to about 240 in college to be a heavyweight," he said.
The Suffolk standout began to attract attention with his offseason performances prior to his junior campaign. He notched eighth at the NHSCA Nationals in the spring of 2013 and later that fall nabbed fourth at the Super 32 Challenge in North Carolina. Those showings gave him plenty of confidence heading into his 11th grade year.
"I came into last season feeling really good about being All-State," he said. "I had high expectations and I wanted to be a state champ. Unfortunately, I lost in the finals to [Monsignor Farrell's two-time NYS gold medalist] Rich Sisti, but I was still the public school champ. I guess I was happy with the year, but definitely not satisfied."
That season began with some early close losses, but after Feola took sixth at the Eastern States Classic, he hit his stride, winning more than 15 consecutive times to capture the Suffolk crown and advance to the finals against Sisti at the Times Union Center.
"I knew there were things I needed to work on after that," he said. "At school, I mainly train with my coaches and I also work at Vougar's [VHW], training with [Garden City's] Tom Lane. I focused on getting better in neutral, especially working to get the first takedown. I also worked on my defense."
He seemed to apply some of those things on his way to a second straight podium finish at the Super 32 [seventh] and entered the national rankings on some websites. He’s currently ranked second in New York at 220, behind a familiar offseason foe, Youssif Hemida of Mamaroneck, who is also in the national polls.
Feola said he expects his experience in Albany last year to help lift him higher on the medal stand this time around.
"I've been there before and the first time was a little bit hard, but I think that will help relieve some of the pressure," he said. "I’m definitely looking forward to a gold medal at the state tournament this year."
Vin Feola wished to thank his coaches - Vin Altebrando, Chris Cardella, James Salvaggio and Vougar Oroudjov.