First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

Wrestling Program Making Its Move at Mount St. Vincent
By DAN PIETRAFESA
Courtesy of College of Mount St. Vincent
College of Mount St. Vincent’s Jakob Cala, left, leads the Dolphins in cheering for a teammate during a match this season. Cala is one of 11 freshmen on Mount St. Vincent’s roster.

Dean Zenie speaks with enthusiasm about his young wrestlers and the future of the College of Mount St. Vincent program.

The second-year coach has guided the Dolphins to a 3-3 start this season, its fifth season as an NCAA Division III program and the only Catholic college wrestling program in New York state.

“I’ve seen a lot of potential,” said Zenie of his wrestlers at the college in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. “Some of my guys are some of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached. That’s saying something. I don’t run easy practices.

“We’re young and making mistakes, but the raw talent and hard work are there. It’s going to translate into good things down the road.”

Zenie knows big bouts await his Dolphins. Mount St. Vincent competes on Sunday, Jan. 8, at the LIU Post Quad Meet against Oneonta, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and LIU Post, an NCAA Division II program that defeated the Dolphins, 56-0, last season.

Later in the season, Mount St. Vincent meets national powers from College of New Jersey, New York University and Delaware Valley University.

“We have a lot of good competition coming up,’’ Zenie said. “It will create an idea of where they are and where they’re going to need work. It will continue the process of developing our wrestlers and our program.”

Zenie, who coached in the 1990s at Wagner College before returning to high school coaching and working with USA Wrestling, took over a program at Mount St. Vincent with six wrestlers, four being seniors, for the 2015-16 season. There are 10 weight classes in college wrestling, resulting in many forfeits for the Dolphins in a 3-7 season.

Mount St. Vincent, one of 18 NCAA wrestling programs in New York state drawing from some 11,500 high school wrestlers in the state, currently has a roster of 16 wrestlers, including 11 freshmen, according to the college’s website.

“I made a choice last year if they are going to have any chance at success, it’s going to fall on my recruiting success,” Zenie said.

“There are opportunities for wrestlers in the State of New York and I’m here to give them an opportunity. I recognize there is talent down here. My goal is to keep talent local instead of letting it go to other places. Mount St. Vincent is a small school offering a great education in the largest city in the world and the business capital of the world.”

The Dolphins also added two coaches this season—head assistant coach Chris Bitetto and volunteer assistant coach Karl Schmitt. Bitetto, a New Jersey state high school champion and a former NCAA Division I wrestler at Northern Iowa, coached six state champions in his seven seasons as head coach at Don Bosco Preparatory High School in New Jersey. Schmitt completed his collegiate career at Mount St. Vincent last year.

“We’re working together and really trying to get the most out of our wrestlers,” Bitetto said. “We’re trying to do our best to get these guys to succeed on the mat and in the classroom. The kids are enthusiastic, working hard and want to succeed. The future is bright.”

Mount St. Vincent, a college with more than 1,800 students established by the Sisters of Charity of New York in 1847, is looking to continue building off its 3-3 start, which includes wins over Farmingdale State and Stony Brook in the Grapple at the Garden at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 28.

Early-season highlights include freshman Jakob Cala winning his two 125-pound bouts by technical fall at Madison Square Garden and sophomore Connor Hay placing seventh at 133 pounds in the New York State Intercollegiate Championships.

“I want to give back to the wrestling community and give back to these kids what wrestling has done for me,” Zenie said.

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