Hofstra freshman Dylan Ryder has one enormous goal: win a national wrestling title. No one has been able to accomplish that at Hofstra since Nick Gallo won the 126-pound NCAA championship in 1977.
Ryder, who will wrestle at 125, is all in on trying. “One hundred percent. That’s why I’m here,’’ Ryder said this week. “That’s why I’m wrestling at Hofstra, that’s why I’m wrestling in college. My goal is becoming a national champion and I’m going to give it everything I have and work as hard as I can to accomplish that goal throughout my career.’’
Gallo, 62, who follows the Pride, said, “How proud I would be for them to say, ‘Since Nick Gallo won, he’s Hofstra’s second champion.’ I’d like to see that in my lifetime.’’
Hofstra assistant and alumnus Mike Patrovich, who has coached Ryder since the second grade, tried to emulate Gallo. Patrovich is from Long Island’s first family of wrestling. His brothers, Mike and Ryan, wrestled at Hofstra. His father, Joe Sr., a state high school Hall of Fame coach for his years at Islip, now runs the program at LIU Post.
Mike Patrovich firmly believes in Ryder, who won the 106-pound state high school title in 2017 for Half Hollow Hills West and was 125-6 in three varsity seasons. He missed his freshman year with an injury. Patrovich wants Ryder to accomplish what he could not.
“I was in the semifinals and didn’t get there,’’ he said. “That’s part of the reason why I’m here for kids like Dylan who have the drive and determination to get there. And how close I am with him makes me even more motivated to get him there.’’
Ryder was ticketed for Hofstra the moment Patrovich was hired by the university three seasons ago. “My relationship with coach Patrovich, I knew that Hofstra was the perfect school for me,’’ Ryder said.
Pride coach Dennis Papadatos said he was amused by rival coaches thinking they could land Ryder. “They were like, ‘Hey, I’m going to come to your backyard.’ I said, ‘Please do. Waste your time.’ . . . He has that attitude where he doesn’t want to win, he refuses to lose. Because of that, you would expect the highest limit . . . My expectation is he’s going to be competitive with anyone he wrestles with in the country.’’
Papadatos also has expectations for his other key freshmen, 197-pounder Trey Rogers from Hastings, Minnesota, and 138-pounder Holden Heller from Chicago Heights, Illinois.
Ryder nearly earned two state titles in high school but fell short in triple overtime last season, when he was beaten by three-time state champion Greg Diakomihalis of upstate Hilton High. Diakomihalis also beat him in 2016.
Ryder wasn’t at his best in the 2018 states after suffering a torn meniscus in his right knee at the Suffolk semifinal. “It just kept locking up as I was wrestling,’’ he said. “That was a match I was really looking forward to ever since I lost to [Diakomihalis] in my sophomore year. I went out there on one leg, basically, and gave it everything I had.’’ The knee was repaired after the season.
Ryder beat Diakomihalis at the Eastern States Classic in 2016 in one of only two losses sustained by Diakomihalis in 142 high school matches. The two could meet again. Diakomihalis has committed to Cornell, where his brother, Yianni, won the 141-pound national championship last season as a true freshman. “Yeah, I thought about it,’’ Ryder said of the potential matchup. “I’m excited about it. I’m looking forward to getting revenge and show everybody I’m one of the best in the country.’’
Because Ryder is moving up in weight, there’s still a chance he could be redshirted this season or even in the future. “If they think that’s best for me, I believe in their coaching abilities,’’ he said. “If they do decide to wrestle me, I know that I can perform with any kid that’s in my weight class.’’