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Lizards faceoff specialist Greg Gurenlian: No 'FoGo', but always on the go, go

Greg Gurenlian of the Long Island Lizards tries

Greg Gurenlian of the Long Island Lizards tries to avoid a Charlotte Hounds defender during the first half. (May 19, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

Greg Gurenlian would love to forgo the FoGo label. Instead, the 29-year-old faceoff midfielder for the Lizards would rather be called a "FoSho."

The term FoGo is short for "faceoff, get off." The acronym is reserved for lacrosse players who take faceoffs, then scurry off the field before reappearing in a game only after a team scores and a faceoff battle is again needed.

"It's outdated and I hate it and I hate the idea of cheating which is attached to it," said Gurenlian, who was referring to the belief by many that all faceoff guys use their hands to secure the ball, which is not allowed.

The cheating aspect and the FoGo term that implies all faceoff guys can't shoot, dodge, pass and defend like other athletic players are real hits to Gurenlian's pride because he is widely considered the best faceoff midfielder in Major League Lacrosse.

"In an era of FoGos, I'm an athlete facing off. With the ball in my stick, I'm a legitimate weapon," Gurenlian said. "The idea of cheating makes everything I have fought for in this game a lie. You're basically saying I don't have skills and that makes it sound really awful. It basically means that I'm the best cheater and that sucks."

It's especially disheartening for Gurenlian because he said he's never cheated and he isn't a FoGo; he's a professional athlete. Actually, he believes he's a "FoSho," because of his other abilities on the field.

The seven-year veteran earned Defensive Player of the Week honors last Monday for the second time this season. His 117 faceoff wins and .650 win percentage are both tops in the league. His 47 groundballs collected are the most among midfielders and last year he set the Lizards record for most groundballs in a single season (124). He also has five points in seven games this year.

"He's probably the best faceoff guy on the planet because he is more of a complete athlete than the other guys in the league," said midfielder Jerry Ragonese, who played for the Charlotte Hounds last season.

Gurenlian's strong dislike toward the FoGo stigma has motivated him to revolutionize the position.

When Gurenlian, nicknamed "Beast," wears an extra-large sized T-shirt, the sleeves become obstructed by massive blocks of mass, referred to as shoulders for others. If the sleeves of the shirt somehow aren't halted by then, they are met by a pair of triceps, resembling boulders, which end its length. His legs, hips and glute muscles are equally impressive -- he can deadlift more than 600 pounds.

It's rare for a lacrosse player to have a burly figure -- Gurenlian is 6-1 and 225 pounds -- and it's a large part of his success.

Gurenlian has used his two passions, lacrosse and physical fitness, to help others. In the case of physical training, he believes that many people who are not knowledgeable about nutrition and strength training are taken advantage of by those who lack necessary education and charge clients a hefty amount of money.

The oldest of four (he has two brothers, one sister), he constantly feels the need to help others, almost to an extreme, which extends to physical training and faceoffs.

Gurenlian, who earned a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology, the study of human movement, at Penn State in 2006, is the owner of Brawlic Strength, and works for the company as a full-time personal trainer. He stresses the importance of training like an athlete: deadlifting, goblet squats and Olympic lifting exercises. Gurenlian also blogs, offering training tips and motivational tools.

One such tool is his YouTube channel which offers videos taken during his rehab sessions in 2011 when he tore his ACL in a game and later learned he needed microfracture surgery in order to play again. He recorded his rehab and put it online to inspire others, he said.

"If I can help one kid get back on his feet after something like this," he said, "then it's well worth it."

A few months ago, along with Ragonese and Chris Mattes of the Boston Cannons, Gurenlian started another company, The Faceoff Academy, to help even more kids. The trio hold clinics across the country, even in states like Minnesota, which is not considered part of the lacrosse "hotbed," and instruct players on all facets of the game and the recruiting process for high school kids. The idea is to "clean up" the way the game is taught, reach an untapped audience, help more kids earn scholarships and do so at an affordable rate. The clinics are usually three hours long and the cost is between $100-$300, depending on the age of the players.

Between running his personal training company and lacrosse academy, Gurenlian is still focused on helping the Lizards (3-4) reach the playoffs.

Described by coach Joe Spallina as having a "battle-tested attitude that we know we can rely on," Gurenlian, characteristically, has vowed to get his team to the postseason despite its slow start.

Said Gurenlian, "I'm going to kill myself to make that happen."


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