This year's event will feature seven teams ranked in InterMat's Top 25, an individual NCAA champion, 11 All-Americans, 41 ranked wrestlers, and representation from nine of the 11 Division I wrestling conferences. In addition, UFC legend Randy Couture will be on hand for a VIP party, grappling clinic, and a meet-and-greet session.
"The Northeast Duals has kind of been our marquee event," said tournament organizer Frank Popolizio, who also puts on the Sprawl & Brawl event the weekend prior to the Northeast Duals. "We're trying to keep building it and building it."
Popolizio and his staff have literally built the event from the ground up. In just six years, the Journeymen/ASICS Northeast Collegiate Duals event has transformed from a four-team local showcase event that drew just 300 fans to a 16-team premier early-season, dual meet event that attracts many of the nation's top collegiate wrestling programs.
Popolizio founded Journeymen Wrestling to act as proverbial bridge in promoting collegiate wrestling in New York's Capital Region, which does not have a college wrestling program within a 65-mile radius.
"We started (Journeymen Wrestling) a few years back and tried to break it into divisions," said Popolizio. "We called it the four Cs. Initially, it just started off as doing an annual clinic to bring greatness into our own backyard. That clinic still today is one of our four Cs. We evolved a little bit more into competitions, camps, and the club. Those four Cs have helped us tremendously."
Mike Chaires and Zach Clemente, two of Popolizio's former pupils with Journeymen Wrestling, are now members of Steve Garland's No. 18-ranked University of Virginia team that will be competing in this year's Journeymen/ASICS Northeast Collegiate Duals. Chaires is currently ranked No. 14 in the country at 165 pounds, while Clemente, a two-time New York state champion, will likely redshirt this season as a true freshman for the Cavaliers.
"Those are two guys that witnessed the Northeast Duals and they made a decision right then and there that they were going to wrestle Division I in college and they wanted to wrestle for Virginia in particular because they saw them compete," said Popolizio. "I think that's a pretty strong testimonial that what we're doing is working.
Other wrestlers on rosters of teams competing in the Journeymen/ASICS Northeast Collegiate Duals that have ties to the area include Ken Altarac of Appalachian State, Nate Graham of Bloomsburg, and Matt Kaylor of Binghamton, Matt Cubillos of Virginia, and Brandon Lapp of Sacred Heart, and Ben Krakower of American. There are several other New York natives competing in the event, including All-American Kyle Borschoff of American, who is ranked No. 3 at 149 pounds.
Popolizio's younger brother, Pat Popolizio, will be bringing his Binghamton squad that experienced some program firsts in 2009. Josh Patterson became Binghamton's first All-American ever by finishing seventh at the 2009 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at 184 pounds. Patterson competed in last weekend's NWCA All-Star Classic, becoming the first Binghamton wrestler ever to compete in the annual showcase event.
Every year, Frank Popolizio and his staff put together dual meet matchups for the Journeymen/ASICS Northeast Collegiate Duals that are exciting from a fan's perspective, but also unique in that schools face off against other schools that typically do not see each other during the season.
This year is no different. Northern Colorado, for example, a program that competes in the Western Wrestling Conference (WWC), will be making its event debut and is scheduled to face four Eastern schools: Binghamton, Hofstra, American, and Maryland. Central Michigan, a MAC powerhouse, will face teams from the ACC (Virginia and Maryland), EIWA (American), and the EWL (Bloomsburg).
"I'm sure if you look through the history books, you wouldn't have found Iowa wrestling Binghamton as they did last year," said Popolizio. "Those are some of the things that we try to accomplish. We match up those smaller programs with some of these Midwest, traditional programs. We want to give everybody the opportunity to experience that thrill. With the new qualifying system in place, I think it helps those smaller programs. If they don't have the budget to go all over the United States, at least we created a platform in the Northeast where those Eastern teams can get to see some of those Midwest, ranked teams."
In addition to intriguing dual meets, there will be several highly-anticipated individual matchups that are expected to take place, including No. 1 Mike Miller of Central Michigan vs. No. 5 Chris Henrich of Virginia at 174 pounds (Round 2), No. 7 Steve Bell of Maryland vs. No. 8 Scotti Sentes of Central Michigan (Round 3), No. 6 Zach Rey of Lehigh vs. No. 7 Tucker Lane of Nebraska (Round 3), and No. 5 Matt Moley of Bloomsburg vs. No. 7 Steve Brown of Central Michigan (Round 4).
This year's event has all the makings of a spectacular event, but Popolizio says it wouldn't be possible without the support of the community.
"Hands down the biggest element of our success has been involving our own community," said Popolizio. "They have catapulted us to a different level. I would, without a doubt, not have the opportunity to fathom the ideas that we have put together the last couple years without their support."