New York

Iowa, N.C. State headline ‘Armbar at the Armory’ wrestling event

Best known for its professional basketball team, the Washington Avenue Armory will bring together some of the best college wrestlers on Friday night.

Journeymen Wrestling uses the home of the Albany Patrons as the setting for “Armbar at the Armory,” a dual meet-up involving eight schools: Iowa, North Carolina State, Illinois, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Sacred Heart, Castleton and the College of New Jersey.

Journeymen Wrestling founder Frank Popolizio has held a high school wrestling event at the Armory, but this will be his first attempt at colleges in the old building.

“The challenge has traditionally been that our events require a lot of space on the mat,” said Popolizio. “What we’re doing on Friday, we only need three mats and the armory has a perfect setting, really, perfect ambiance. Kinda like the old school boxing, the Friday night fights, stuff like that, back in the day. It’s got that look and vibe that appeals to me… It’s a perfect fit.”

Iowa, ranked second in the nation, has won 24 national team championships, behind only Oklahoma state’s 34. The Hawkeyes will take on Sacred Heart at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Buffalo at 8:30 p.m

NC State, which is in ninth place, meets Central Michigan at 6:30 and Illinois at 8:30.

It will be a homecoming for Wolfpack head coach Pat Popolizio, a Niskayuna High graduate, and fellow 174-pound wrestler Brock Delsignore, a redshirt freshman from Shenendehowa.

Pat Popolizio, Frank’s brother, retired from college wrestling with Oklahoma State at the NCAA Championships in Albany in 2002. He has since brought teams back to the area for the Northeast Duals, also hosted by Journeymen Wrestling.

“First, me and my brother have a really good working relationship with wrestling,” said Pat Popolizio. “He always has some creative ideas and talks to him about the needs we might have. One of them is giving our kids the opportunity to wrestle teams from different conferences. Sometimes that can be a challenge getting teams to come here or go there for us. But it just worked, his connections, putting some teams together and making it a top notch event.

Aside from being in the hunt for two wins, Pat Popolizio said he’s keen to return to the capital region.

“Of course, being from this area, I know that many locals will come there,” said Popolizio. “We have many local ties to New York and the Schenectady-Albany region in particular. Always coming home and seeing friends and family is something unique and special.”

At Shen, Delsignore was runner-up at 182 pounds as a junior with a 44-5 record and 23 pins. His senior season has been disrupted by the pandemic. He is 2-4 this year and is looking forward to his first trip home as a colleague.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “I always love wrestling in front of my folks from home and family… I actually used to wrestle in (the armory) when I was about 100 pounds in eighth grade (at the Wrangle on the Plains tournament).”

“Armbar at the Armory” also brings back Castleton’s Michael Gonyea, a 133-pound Columbia wrestler, and his 157-pound Shenendehowa teammate Jashon Holmes. Castleton meets the College of New Jersey in a Division III matchup Friday at 6 p.m.

Frank Popolizio said he hopes an event like Friday will inspire the next generation of local wrestlers. He founded Journeymen Wrestling to promote, teach, advocate and showcase wrestling throughout the Northeast.

“When people see it, they strive to be it,” he said. “There is no greater impact than when people are up close and personal and can observe all the small details than getting lost in translation at times. Even just to see the guys warm up and how they do it. The intensity and feel of all of that stuff is really important.”

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