Burrell grads Falleroni, Greenwald chasing dreams at NCAA Division II wrestling tournament
Corey Falleroni and Damon Greenwald responded differently to the pomp and circumstance of the NCAA Division II wrestling championships when they competed there for the first time in March 2018.
The bright lights of the tournament affected Greenwald a bit. Falleroni said the stage didn’t bother him at all, but his rigorous training in the days leading up to the competition hampered him some.
Either way, both Falleroni and Greenwald feel more ready as they prepare to take another crack at the NCAA tournament, which begins Friday in Cleveland, Ohio.
“I’m definitely excited that I have the opportunity to make the nationals again and still chase my dreams,” said Falleroni, a senior 157-pounder at Pitt-Johnstown. “Obviously, the big goal here is to be a national champ at the end of the day Saturday, but I would just ultimately like to be put on the wall at UPJ (as an) All-American. That’d be great.”
Falleroni and Greenwald qualified for the NCAA tournament after placing in the top three at the NCAA Super Regional last month at Mercyhurst. Falleroni finished as runner-up at 157, while Greenwald was third at 174.
Greenwald wrestled Pitt-Johnstown’s Steve Edwards, a former Burrell teammate, in the third-place match with a berth at nationals on the line. He won 4-3 in what he labeled a “bittersweet” match.
“You look up to him, especially him because he’s two years older than me,” said Greenwald, a junior 174-pounder at Seton Hill. “Whenever the match was over, that’s the definition of bittersweet. I wanted to win, but I didn’t want it to be against him. I wanted him to move on, too — that’s why I took the semifinal loss so hard, because I knew me and him were going to meet in that position. … But whatever Steve does, I know in the future he’s going to bring so much to the sport, and we still have a great friendship.”
Both Falleroni and Greenwald battled obstacles this season in their effort to get back to the national championships.
Falleroni dealt with a knee injury during the early part of the season, and the regional tournament represented his first full tournament of the campaign. He feels recovered from that, and he feels his technique is where he wants it to be as he heads to Cleveland.
“Honestly, the injury may have been more better for me than worse,” he said. “Missing the first semester wasn’t terrible. I was still practicing while I was out not wrestling matches. I did a lot of matches in the wrestling room and stuff like that, and I really got the second semester to show what I’m made of. Sometimes it’s not always terrible. I got to kind of miss the grueling part of the season.”
Falleroni said in the second half of the season he got back to the style of wrestling he had last year, and that helped him in the regional tournament, where he said he goes in with a game plan of what he wants to do on his feet, on top and on bottom.
He also changed his training for nationals after trying to do too much in the days leading up to last season’s appearance, when he dropped both of his matches and was eliminated. At that time he was wrestling at 149 pounds, which was a more difficult weight cut; 157 pounds feels more natural to Falleroni.
“I think the biggest thing I did this year was not exhaust my body too much,” he said. “I can still get in two workouts in a day when I can, but they’re lighter, less intense workouts. Our coaches always say, you put in all the hard work, so it’s just kind of sharpening the sword now.”
Greenwald’s obstacles this season skewed more mental than physical.
“I’d get really nervous, and I’d shut down in my matches,” Greenwald said. “I would not open up. I wouldn’t shoot or do anything. I caught myself staying in ties and letting them impose their style, whenever that’s not how I wrestle at all. I like to move around and kind of keep my opponent guessing instead of tying them up and staying in a tie.”
Nerves bothered Greenwald in high school as well, even as he won a PIAA individual championship in 2016, his senior season at Burrell. But he thinks he finally put them to bed after Seton Hill’s dual season ended in February.
After his performance at regionals, Greenwald feels encouraged heading into the NCAA tournament. The nerves came up there last season, but he knows what to expect there this time.
“I don’t know what it is, but it’s like a common trend — it goes away towards the end of the year, which doesn’t make any sense because that’s when the pressure should be the most,” Greenwald said. “But I just really focus on what I have to (do) technically and what I need to do to succeed. The nervousness just seems to go away.”