When word spread that LIU Post was reinstating its dormant wrestling program after 25 years, it caught the attention of football player Chris DiIorio.
Though DiIorio had become a stalwart on the Pioneers' defense as a linebacker, the Sachem East graduate still kept the memory of the end of his wrestling career in his mind.
"I lost my last match in high school and I thought this could be a way to go out and redeem myself," DiIorio said. "I want to end my career on a high note."
DiIorio is on his way to doing just that -- and also on his way to St. Louis for the Division II NCAA championships this weekend -- after winning the 197-pound title at the Super Region One championships March 1 at West Liberty University in West Virginia.
DiIorio, a senior, will be joined at the NCAA championship by LIU Post freshman and Whitman alum Joe Calderone, who finished fourth in the 133-pound bracket.
The fourth-seeded DiIorio knocked off the top two seeds in the bracket on his way to claiming the championship. Against No. 2 seed Chase Long of Ohio Valley he was able to escape with a 6-4 win in sudden victory.
"I'm confident on my feet and I knew I'd be able to get the takedown eventually," he said. "I worked to get the proper angle and set everything up to get the takedown and win the match."
He faced top-seeded Tyler Richardson of East Stroudsburg in the finals and broke a 1-1 tie with a takedown with under 30 seconds remaining in the match. He held on to win, 3-2.
"In the finals I had a lot of shots but I just didn't finish them," DiIorio said. "I knew going into the last period that I was going to be able to finish one after I tried to wear him out."
Calderone, a two-time state place-winner in high school, reached the semifinals of the Super Region One and won a third-place match by pinning Kutztown's Travis Roper with two seconds remaining in the bout.
"I knew if I didn't win there was a possibility I wasn't going to nationals," Calderone said. "The match was insane -- the kid was tough and I left everything I had out there."
Both will be vying to be Post's first national champion since Richard Duffy won an NAIA title in 1963, according to coach Joe Patrovich.
"I think I have a good chance of winning," DiIorio said. "I'm just going to go one match at a time and hopefully I can win the whole thing."