Courtesy N. Casella
The Buffalo wrestling roster includes numerous New York state champions, including junior Bryan Lantry (Wayne), who came within one win of All-American status last year at 133 pounds after a breakout season.
More NYS titlewinners have joined the Bulls in 2017-18, with Noah Grover and Matt Caccamise part of the freshman recruiting class. However, a few additional New York champs will represent the Bulls in the upcoming season as well after transferring to the MAC squad -- Nick Casella (Locust Valley) and Christian Dietrich (Greene). (Another transfer, Danny Boychuck, also arrived from Maryland).
Casella, who won the NJCAA national championship in 2017 for Nassau at 141 pounds, will join the Bulls in the second semester.
The Locust Valley alum, who placed in the NYS tournament four times, including three finalist appearances and a state title, took a redshirt year right after high school at the University of Maryland.
He returned home to Nassau for the 2016-17 season and liked what he saw right away.
"For me, the biggest thing was having great partners in the room and being able to help each other out," he said. "In a junior college, no one gets a scholarship, but it was great to be part of a team that 100% cared about the sport. Working with guys like [Huntington state champ] Johnny Arceri, changed my wrestling completely. Having Vougar [Oroudjov] there and so many other Nassau guys - it was an experience that helped me so much."
While he wasn't familiar with the junior college competition level right away, Casella quickly set his goals high.
"I had Vougar talking me up, and others say you’re gonna do it - you're gonna win a championship," Casella said. "But everyone can say whatever they want. You have to put in the effort. On my phone screen it said, 'National champ.' Every day I saw that and every day I focused on what I needed to do to be a national champ. I knew it wouldn't be handed to me. That was my main purpose. When I got to nationals, I said, this is it; this is what I came to do."
And he did it. Casella went 5-0 with three bonus point victories (2 majors and a fall) on the way to the national title.
"It was a great feeling," he said. "It’s hard to describe. It’s really amazing just to prove to myself that I can do what I set my mind to. It was one of the best feelings ever."
When he started at Nassau, Casella said he wasn't considering a return to Division 1. But that started to change as the season progressed.
"I wasn't looking at any Division 1 schools at first," Casella said. "But I was watching NCAAs and I saw kids from New York and other kids I wrestled and I was thinking, if they can do it, why can't I? I started talking to Division 1 schools, took some visits and realized it was definitely what I wanted to be doing."
In the end, Casella said it came down to Buffalo and Hofstra.
"One of the big things for me was I like being away -- I didn’t want to be so close to home," he said. "I like to be able to do my own thing and figure things out for myself; be a grownup. I loved Buffalo when I went on my visit -- I loved the guys and the coaches. I need coaches to push me like my club coach Vougar and I think it's a really good fit."
For the first semester, Casella will compete in open tournaments as he finishes up classes at Nassau.
"I'm looking forward to starting school at Buffalo," he said. "There were some things I took away from my experience in Division 1 before. You need to have a great team that supports you and a coaching staff that supports you but is also a stern group that's pushing you all the time. I have two and a half more years to make a name for myself and for my team, but also to be as good of a student as I can be and get my degree. I've had a great experience at Nassau and I know I'll have a great team at Buffalo."
Christian Dietrich will be part of that team. The sophomore from Section 4 won nine matches as a true freshman for the University of Pittsburgh in 2016-17. He has a redshirt available.
Dietrich made an impact on the high school scene in New York right away, placing as a seventh grader at 152 pounds at the state tournament for Greene. He nabbed a second place finish as a freshman before capturing NYS gold as a sophomore at 182 pounds. Dietrich finished his high school career at Wyoming Seminary, where he was a National Preps runner up and is looking to make a big impact back in the Empire State.
The talent pipeline will continue for Buffalo, as the Bulls received a verbal commitment from nationally-ranked 220 pounder Peter Acciardi of Don Bosco Prep over the weekend. Troy Keller, an NJCAA All-American, gave his pledge a few weeks ago, as profiled in this article.
One more note on Buffalo: On December 18, Cornell and the Bulls will be squaring off in a unique location - the Center for the Arts on the Buffalo campus. According to Wikipedia, it is typically a “venue for theatrical and artistic performances and showings, and also as a teaching facility for students in disciplines such as media studies, art, theatre, and dance." However, in mid December, the Center for the Arts will hold a big dual between a pair of New York teams instead (see venue picture below).