ALBANY, N.Y. – Iona Prep senior Matt Kelly couldn’t have asked for a better way to end his high school wrestling career.
Kelly, who attended Somers schools before transferring to Iona as a junior, captured the 195-pound Division 1 title at the New York State championships on Feb. 29 at the Times Union Center in Albany. He scored an 11-0 major decision over Farmingdale’s Nicholas Franco in the finals.
“Winning a state title my senior year is so important to me,” said Kelly, who dedicated the victory to his father, Paul, who died when he was 11 years old. “I started wrestling when I was 9 years old and I never won a state title even in youth. I had been determined to put all my effort and time into training this year and coming out on top at the state tournament.”
The dominant senior didn’t allow a point in his four matches at states, outscoring his opponents 49-0.
“A big reason I didn’t give up a point was my riding on top,” Kelly said. “Once I get a leg in on a guy, it’s so hard for them to get out. I’m stingy with a leg in and I don’t give anybody an easy escape point. This allows me to find success in my riding and turning abilities.”
After being upset as the top seed at the prestigious Eastern States tournament, Kelly was determined to prove himself and bounce back. Kelly, the top seed, started the tournament off with a 16-0 technical fall win. He then secured a 7-0 victory in the quarterfinals in his closest match of the tournament. In the semifinals, he scored a 15-0 technical fall win over Anthony Cascen of Harry S. Truman.
For years, it’s been a full-time commitment for Kelly to get to the point that he’s at today.
“I attribute a lot of my growth and improvement as a wrestler from working hard and putting all my time into wrestling,” Kelly said. “I eat, sleep and breathe wrestling. All that is on my mind is wrestling and what I need to do to get better. I train all off season, wrestling at Empire Wrestling Academy and by lifting on my own time. Wrestling is a demanding sport that you need to make sacrifices for to find success.”
Kelly, who placed third at states last season, will continue his wrestling career at Binghamton University. He went 47-3 this season and finished his high school career with a 173-30 record.