Ulster fields program for first time since 1979
For first time since 1979, the Senators will field a team poised for Saturday’s season opener
Wrestling returns to SUNY Ulster for the first time in 37 years Saturday when the Senators host club squads from Cortland and the University of Albany in a triangular meet at Senate Gymnasium.
The newly reinstated program is coached by Justin Signorelli — his assistant is William Parks.
Signorelli was an assistant coach of Highland High’s wrestling squad the past three seasons, including 2014 when the Huskies won a Section 9 title.
A 2009 Highland graduate, Signorelli joined the wrestling program in its first year in 2006. He also played football and lacrosse for the Huskies.
The Senators original wrestling program ran from 1967 to 1979. In January of 1980, the program was dropped due to a lack interest. While the team had several who enjoyed a level of individual success, the program found little success as a team during its original run.
Signorelli has 10 members on this year’s roster: Kingston’s Patrick Carroll, Catherine Devlin, Matt Fusco, Lakell Martin and Eliot Marzano; New Paltz’s Mohammed Khan, Dominick Massaro and Miles-Whitmore-Parr; Rondout’s Josh Santiago and Alex Muñoz of Saugerties.
At a recent practice, Signorelli acknowledged the team faces many challenges including fundraising for equipment — that included mats that cost more than $9,000 — and travel.
And Signorelli had a bit of a late start to the recruiting season.
“I was only hired in March,” he said.
Ulster has an enrollment of 3,500 students compared to Dutchess which has 10,000 students, but has no wrestling program, Signorelli noted. The nearest community college with a wrestling program is Sullivan, he said.
The Senators’ eight-meet schedule will take them throughout Eastern New York, Northeastern Pennsylvania, New Jer-
sey and Western Massachusetts.
After Saturday’s opener, SUNY Ulster travels to Cornell University for the New York State tournament on Nov 20 before competing in the: Cyclone Open at Centenary University in Hackettstown, New Jersey on Dec. 4; the Northeastern Duels at Nassau in Garden City on Dec. 17; the Williams Invitational at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts on Jan. 7; and Keystone College in La Plume, Pennsylvania on Jan. 22.
Ulster plans to take college vans in lieu of busses on the shorter trips, Signorelli said. Despite these challenges, he remains optimistic.
“We got a good group of guys coming in everyday and working hard,” he said. “These guys got it down. We’re just going to have to keep building and try to get more guys moving forward.”
On top of his coaching duties, Signorelli works full-time at Craft Beer Guild in New Paltz where he works from 6 p.m. to anywhere from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. depending on the night, he said.
Signorelli typically gets to the college at noon and remains there until he goes to his night job. He said, despite the long hours, coaching is totally worth it.
“I like making a difference, showing a guy something and then seeing them do it 20 times better,” he said.
Signorelli said he enjoys being there for his wrestlers even if that means just to talk with them.
“That’s the most rewarding part,” he said.
Signorelli excited about the growing buzz around athletics on campus under Athletic Director Matt Brennie, who came to the college in August 2015.
“Brennie is building more tradition and athletics pride,” he said. “More kids at Ulster are wearing their wrestling, baseball and basketball shirts and showing their Senator pride, which is pretty cool to see.”
Next year Signorelli plans to expand his recruiting sphere to include more of Section 9, Section 1 and farther downstate.
“If we can pull guys from that area, and just keep bringing in quality wrestlers who want to be here and work hard and have success at the collegiate level that’s going to give us a great opportunity to compete for regional and national championships,” he said.
Signorelli is no stranger to collegiate wrestling as he wrestled for Cortland for four years, including two as team captain.
“I won a couple of college tournaments,” he said.
He graduated in 2013 with a bachelors in communications. But he admitted it’s been a bit of an adjustment moving from a four-year school to a twoyear college.
“There are no dorms here, and a lot of the kids have part-time jobs and commute to school,” he said. “But it has its benefits. It’s way more affordable, and they can live at home, save a lot of money and come in and wrestle locally with guys they know from the area.”
Among them is Josh Santiago, a criminal justice student, who graduated from Rondout Valley last year, and is in his first year at Ulster.
Santiago said he heard about the wrestling program and he remembered Signorelli from when he was a Highland assistant so he decided to join the team.
Santiago said so far he’s found the college schedule to be easier than his high school routine.
“I have more time during the day to work out,” Santiago said.
And with the season just days away Santiago feels things are coming together.
“We have a real good bunch of guy, we’re definitely going to improve,” Santiago said.
SUNY Ulster head coach Justin Signorelli watches over Alex Munoz of Saugerties, top, and Eliot Marzano of Kingston during recent wrestling practice at Senate Gymnasium.
Head coach Justin Signorelli, stands in the middle of the mat as his Seantors warm up.
New Paltz’s Miles Whitmore-Parr tries to break free from Lakell Martin of Kingston’s grip during practice.
Mohammed Khan of New Paltz does some shadow wrestling moves during recent SUNY Ulster practice.