Quaker Valley’s Kazalas to continue wrestling career at Division I Binghamton

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Friday, January 11, 2019 | 8:24 PM


JohnRocco Kazalas enters every wrestling match with an unwavering confidence.

But announcing his commitment to a Division I school? He didn’t want to draw attention to himself, so he would only tell family, teammates and coaches until it was made public.

Binghamton announced Monday that Kazalas committed to its wrestling program, which makes him the first Quaker Valley wrestler to earn a Division I scholarship.

Kazalas, the Class AA No. 1-ranked wrestler at 145 pounds with a 15-2 record, has been sure for nearly three months that Binghamton would be his school.

“It feels great. I went on a visit there (in October), and I almost had my heart set after my first visit there,” Kazalas said. “It’s the place I’m supposed to be at. It was always my first choice.”

Quaker Valley assistant coach Garrett Frey knew Kazalas had Division I talent more than a year ago when he began to mentor the rising star.

“I always knew he was capable, and I think he’ll do well,” Frey said. “He’s right at home in Division I, and he’ll embrace the challenge. I don’t think he’d be as happy at a lower level, just because it wouldn’t be as much of a challenge.”

Kazalas said he wouldn’t have reached Division I without the help of coaches like Frey and teammates like George Magin, Conner Redinger and Patrick Cutchember, a trio of practice partners who present unique size and technical challenges in every drill.

Frey also likes to push wrestlers to their limit, one that Kazalas hit in the early fall during a workout at One More Period where he is an instructor for the wrestling club.

Kazalas called the 90-minute practice with another wrestler the “hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

“I was pretty broken mentally and physically, and I’m not ashamed to admit that,” Kazalas said. “I was pretty much nearly in tears, but I’ll never have a match that can compare to that. If I’m ever in a tough match, I can always look back to that practice and know I can make it through anything else.”

The workout was a “defining moment,” for Kazalas, Frey said.

“I felt bad, but I knew he needed it,” Frey said. “I think he used to conserve his energy, not because he was out of shape but because I don’t think he trusted his conditioning as much. I wanted him to know he could go through an insanely difficult practice, and that if he can do that, he can give everything he has for six minutes.”

Kazalas hopes he has paved the way for more Quaker Valley wrestlers to compete at the Division I level.

Magin, Redinger, Patrick Cutchember and his brother Donovan have the combination of talent and work ethic to be Division I wrestlers, Kalazas said.

“For JohnRocco to break the ice for us and to be the first (in Division I) is huge,” Frey said. “It’s something for those freshmen, sophomores and middle school kids to see what he did and feel they can do it, too. He’s leading the way for the future of the program for kids that look up to him, Geoff and Conner. They want to be like them.”

Kazalas was also the first Quaker Valley wrestler to win 100 career matches.

If his dreams play out, he also might be the first Quaker to win a state championship.

“I’m extremely excited to go to Binghamton, because I love it up there,” Kazalas said. “I can’t wait to compete at the Division I level, but, at the same time, I’m not thinking about college. My priority is my next match. I’m only focused on winning that.”

Shawn Annarelli is a freelance writer.

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