This article is from 12/19/13
LIU Post recently announced the addition of seven sports, including wrestling. The institution had a successful wrestling program before it was discontinued in 1988. National Wrestling Hall of Fame member Joe Patrovich (who currently coaches Hauppauge football and Islip wrestling on Long Island) will be the leader of the squad, which will begin competition as a Division II program during the 2014-15 campaign. New York Wrestling News spoke to Patrovich to learn more about the newest addition to Empire State college wrestling.
NYWN: When did you start to get involved with the reinstated program at LIU Post?
Joe Patrovich (JP): The Athletic Director called me about two months ago, and explained that they were bringing the program back. I was obviously excited that a program was coming back to Long Island and New York State. Post had great tradition in the past, so I knew right away it was a great opportunity. But, I had to give it some thought. I didn’t want to get involved until I knew things would be done right. When I found out that the driving force behind the program was the President [Dr. Kimberly R. Cline], I felt pretty comfortable that things would be done right and that the program would get the necessary support. I heard what I needed to hear.
NYWN: You finished the football season with Hauppauge and are now coaching wrestling at Islip. Have you also begun working on your new job?
JP: Yes, definitely. I’m trying to hit the ground running. There’s so much going on, so much to do. There’s everything from finding a convenient place on campus for the room, to buying mats and uniforms, to developing a schedule. There are a thousand things to think about. It’s a busy time, but I would call it a fun, busy time. I consider myself relatively organized, but now I have to be super organized.
NYWN: What kind of reaction have you seen from alumni at Post to this point?
JP: The alumni are behind it – so many people are very, very excited. Post had a really good program in the 70s and 80s and people are so happy to have it coming back. In general, I am just amazed at the support there has already been from so many places. Some people think wrestling is isolated -- they would be surprised how many people have called and offered help. The National Wrestling Coaches Association has offered a ton of support and it’s amazing what NYWAY has offered to help with, including buying mats.
NYWN: The conversation around wrestling often focuses on the dropping of programs, but there have been several added, including one at SUNY Sullivan last year. What does bringing LIU Post back into the mix mean to you?
JP: I think it’s important for wrestling. There’s a lot of negative talk about the state of wrestling. Wrestling people keep talking about how bad things are with programs being lost, especially in Division I. It's totally different than what you hear in other sports, like lacrosse. You have lacrosse people talking about growth and how great things are all the time. There are more wrestling programs on every level than lacrosse programs. A bunch of new wrestling programs are being picked up this year across different levels of college – NAIA, Division II, Division III. Nobody seems to know that. We need to get positive because there is growth and sometimes, it’s about what we say.
NYWN: Long Island obviously has great wrestling and is represented in the college ranks by programs like Hofstra, Nassau and Stony Brook. What does adding Post to the mix mean for Long Island wrestling?
JP: It’s just great for Long Island. There are so many kids who leave the Island now who might not want to leave. It’s another avenue to pick up 25-30 kids who want to continue their wrestling careers. It gives them another choice.
At this point, there have already been a lot of kids who have called me with interest. I’m just fielding calls. There’s been a mix of high school seniors and kids at junior colleges who have called. Once I can get out and really recruit, when all the smoke clears, I think there will be a lot more interest. As a Division II program, we’ll have scholarships. We’re just not sure of the scholarship situation yet – we’ll probably start out small and hopefully keep adding each year.
NYWN: What kind of schedule do you hope to put together?
JP: There are some DII programs in the Northeast area – Massachussetts and Pennsylvania and some in North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia. I can’t speak for the Athletic Director, but I think our goal is to wrestle six or seven Division II opponents and then add a couple of Division I and III teams to give us a mixed bag of teams to round out the schedule. It would be great to also take a couple of trips, maybe to a place like Virginia Duals where we would get a bunch of dual meets on the weekend. And we'll probably add in some tournaments.
NYWN: As a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame, what are you looking to add to your list of achievements at LIU Post?
JP: For me, it’s just a matter of being excited. It’s something different, a new challenge. I’ve been in building situations before for both football and wrestling. This is a nice opportunity that involves everything - so many details and decisions to be made. There are all kinds of new challenges involved.
NYWN: When you look back at your career, what stands out for you?
JP: I don’t do a lot of reflection of what’s gone on the past because the way I look at it, there’s so much to look forward to. That’s the way I’m wired and what keeps me going. If I’m not looking to keep getting better, it’s time to retire. After all these years, I’m still learning a lot of things. I think once you look back, it’s over. I’m proud of things we’ve done and more proud of the kids we’ve had and the coaches I’ve worked with. Being able to coach my sons was something I’ll always remember.
NYWN: Switching gears a little bit - your Islip team got off to a solid start last weekend at the Autism Duals at William Floyd. What are you looking forward to this high school season?
JP: We weren’t sure how we would be this year. We graduated a pretty good group of seniors and we had a very solid team last year. It’s early, but we wrestled better than I expected last weekend. Brad Wade is looking very good at 132 and Ronnie King is legit at 170 or 182. Craig Hinrichs will be in the hunt at 195 or 220. He had a big pin over Devin Doran of William Floyd last weekend. Johnny DiPalma will be tough at 120 too. We should have a good year.
NYWN: After this year, what are your plans from a coaching perspective?
I won’t be coaching high school wrestling, but I’m not sure what will happen with football. To do things right at Post will be very time consuming. I guess we’ll cross that bridge in January and February.
NYWN: Anything else you’d like to add?
JP: I’m just really excited. A lot of people were upset when the program was dropped. The excitement at having it back is obvious. I’m thankful to people like Jim Davey, who led the program in the past; the Davey family has been instrumental in Long Island wrestling. An opportunity like this reminds you how many tremendous people there are in wrestling and I’m excited to work with so many of them.