Nick Gwiazdowski’s quest to repeat as an NCAA All-American wrestler won’t be as a Binghamton Bearcat.
The 2011 Duanesburg graduate, who placed eighth at heavyweight as a true freshman in this year’s tournament, was released from his scholarship by the Colonial Athletic Association school recently.
He asked for a release soon after coach Pat Popolizio left the school for the head coaching position at North Carolina State. Gwiazdowski is likely also headed to Raleigh.
“After Pat left for N.C. State, I asked for my release,” said Gwiazdowski, who is finishing up his exams this week, “They understood, because of my connection with Pat. They just wanted me to stay and give some feedback in the hiring process for the new head coach.”
Gwiazdowski said since the release was granted by the school, and he is not intending to enroll at another CAA school, he will be able to compete next season.
“If it’s not within the same conference, they’re good about it,” said Gwiazdowski. “So I won’t lose any eligibility, and I can wrestle next season.”
Gwiazdowski was Popolizio’s prize recruit among a good current freshman class. He was ranked in the top 20 nationally for much of the season, and earned his spot in the NCAAs by winning the CAA Championships.
At the NCAAs, he won five matches and became Binghamton’s fourth All-American and first freshman to finish in the top eight. He was one of just six true freshman at the event, and the only one in his weight class.
“A lot of it was because of the way Pat and the other coaches pushed me,” Gwiazdowski said. “I learned a lot this year.”
That success further strengthened his bond with Popolizio, who gave Gwiazdowski a heads-up when he knew he was leaving for N.C. State.
“He felt he should tell me, knowing my situation,” said Gwiazdowski, who along with Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake grad Matt Kaylor, was named to the NWCA all-academic team. “At first, it was tough. I didn’t want him to leave. But I understood Pat’s decision.”
Popolizio cited the reputation of Wolfpack athletic director Debbie Yow as a big reason for accepting the job at N.C. State. Gwiazdowski echoed the sentiment.
“The athletic director is very committed to wrestling, and the budget for the sport is tremendous,” he said.
The Wolfpack have two heavyweights returning in senior Eloheim Palma and junior Josh Davis, the latter a 2012 NCAA qualifier.
Gwiazdowski expects to make his decision official soon.
“I’ve talked with them, and I’m going down there for a visit next week,” he said.