For over a decade Mike Patrovich was one of the most high profile wrestlers competing on Long Island. At Islip High School, Mike was a 3x County Champion, a 3x All-State wrestler and was the 2001 New York State Champion at 152 pounds. He also was an NHSCA High School National Champion in 2001, following Jesse Jantzen and Jon Masa who had won the year prior.
After his tremendous career at Islip, Mike decided to stay on Long Island and wrestle for Hofstra University. At Hofstra, Mike was a 2x NCAA All-American. He advanced to the NCAA semi-finals both his junior and senior seasons, losing both times to the eventual champion. Mike was 4th at the 2006 NCAA Tourney and 6th at the 2007 NCAA tourney. Patrovich is one of only 5 wrestlers to win 100 matches in Section XI during his high school career and also win 100 matches in Division I in college.
Following his college career, Mike has continued his contributions to wrestling on Long Island by serving as the Head Wrestling Coach at Half Hollow Hills West high school as well as by running the new Razor Wrestling Club. Patrovich recently announced that he will be returning to active competition and will compete in events leading up to the 2008 Olympics.
Mike recently discussed his career and future goals with Bill Faxon, exclusively for the Long Island Wrestling Association.
LIWA: People knew your name because of your father and older brother, but really you first made your mark when you knocked off Mike Ingenito in the county finals your sophomore year. Ingenito was returning All-State, a lot of people had him as the favorite to win it that year. What do you remember about that match?
Patrovich: I remember holding on for dear life at the end. *laughs*.
At the start of the year I had watched him wrestle, and I said ďwow, this guy is big.Ē I was real nervous going into that match, but my assistant coach, Steve Arey, said ďI just want you to know, I really think youíre going to beat him.Ē The confidence that he, and my father, had in me was one of the only reasons I felt I could stand up to that guy. I was up 9-8 with 15 seconds left, and now I couldnít hold him down all day, but I just held on for dear life until time ran out.
LIWA: That match was at 119. The next year you went all the way up to 152. What was that adjustment like?
Patrovich: It was a little tough at first. It wasnít just going up in weight, it was the growth spurt that I had. I was a little awkward, I wasnít entirely comfortable with my own weight, but I got used to it as the year went on.
LIWA: You made 145 a few times early that year, why the decision to go 152?
Patrovich: I wasnít sure what I wanted to do. Obviously Jesse (Jantzen) was at 145, so that was the big factor. Early in the year I went down to wrestle him and he went up to wrestle me, so we missed each other. I could have gone 145, but the idea was for the best guys in the county to spread out in weight.
LIWA: You talk about the best guys spreading out. But the following year, after Jesse and Masa and Mike Torriero had all graduated you decided to stay in the same weight as Joe Mazzurco. Mazzurco had beaten you in OT in the state finals the year prior. Did you intentionally stay in his weight?
Patrovich: Yes, that was my goal. After what happened the year before, I wouldnít have felt right winning a state title by going a different weight than Mazzurco. It was a goal of mine from the day that I lost. I worked for it and I looked forward to it and there was no other option in my mind but to go after him.
LIWA: After you beat Mazzurco in the state finals, you went on to win High School Senior Nationals. In the finals you beat Iowa recruit Joe Johnston by major decision. What was that tourney like?
Patrovich: I went there with the intention of winning. I tried not to concentrate on who this guy was or who that guy was. That is just an unbelievable tournament. In the second round I was down by a point in the last ten seconds. I won the match and I donít think the guy I beat in the last ten seconds even made All-American.
LIWA: You had a great career at Islip, and for all of your tremendous individual accomplishments, you were there a few years ahead of the best Islip teams. Do you think about not winning a team county title the way the guys that followed you did?
Patrovich: Definitely. I used to go back there all the time to work out with Ryan (Patrovich) and I used to always tell guys that. Itís something thatís special. Itís a great thing to accomplish things individually, but when you win as a team you just form a different relationship with the guys on your team. I used to tell people that I would have given up one of my individual county titles to have won a county title as a team.
LIWA: What made you decide to go to Hofstra?
Patrovich: Tom Ryan. I had a relationship with Tom Ryan when I was in high school because I wrestled in his club a little. I formed a relationship with Tom, I was very comfortable with him. It was a very easy decision for me because Iím also close with my father and I wanted to be home where he could see me wrestle.
LIWA: You spoke about missing Jesse in some tournaments when you were in high school, but you met up pretty early in college.
Patrovich: We wrestled my freshman year. He was up at 157 because it was early in the year and he wasnít ready to make 149 yet. It was the finals of the Binghamton Bearcat Open, He beat me 1-0, he got an escape and I didnít take bottom against him because I knew how good he was on top. It was funny, there was a lot of buildup and then it wasnít exactly the most exciting match in the world. It was something a lot of people looked forward to, I looked forward to it. Heís an amazing wrestler and it was good to finally compete against him.
LIWA: Your first few years at Hofstra you had weight issues and one injury after another. Was there ever a time you thought it just wasnít going to work out?
Patrovich: Absolutely. My redshirt freshman year I was cutting a lot of weight to make 157 and I was miserable. I got pinned a few times by guys I thought I would crush. It was a real tough time for me, I didnít place at nationals. At the NCAAs I got beat up by Shane Roller, who took 3rd that year, I got hurt that match. I hurt my shoulder and needed surgery. After the surgery I was in a sling, it was just real discouraging. It was a real tough time in my life, but I had a great support system. I made it through because I had two coaches, I had Tom Ryan and I had my father. They were both always supportive of me.
LIWA: Your sophomore year you missed All-American by one match. Your junior year the good new is you make it to the semi-finals, you earned All-American. The bad news is your opponent is Ben Askren. What was that like?
Patrovich: I honestly felt like I was ready to wrestle with him. We met during the year and he beat me something ridiculous like 14-3. But I felt like he caught me in some positions the first time around and I thought I could compete with him. But thatís not the way it went, and as a competitor itís something that still sticks in my mind. It was a bad match-up for me. Heís a funk guy Iím a hard nose type. I donít want to scramble, he really wants to scramble. It was always a tough match for me with Ben.
LIWA: In spite of that, are you still able to come away from the NCAAs feeling good that you made All-American, took 4th in the country?
Patrovich: If that was the end of my career I probably would have been pretty disappointed. Like last year, when I lost 3 matches in a row to finish 6th after being in the semiís, that was real disappointing. But I can look myself in the mirror, because the amount of work I put in was unbelievable. I was working out 3 or 4 times a day to keep my weight down, keep myself in shape. Last year I lost in the semis by a point or two to the guy that won it, so even though I finished lower it was easier to live with.
LIWA: When you made the decision to drop back down to 165 from 174 for your senior year, was that about Askren, was it about the team and finding a spot for Alton Lucas? Both?
Patrovich: It was definitely a little of both. It was a little to avoid Askren to be honest. As a competitor thatís had success I like to think I can beat anybody, and now that Iím competing again heís going to be in my weight again so I have to think I can beat him. But you have to go where you think your best shot to win is.
Before Tom Ryan left I spoke to him about it, and we felt my best shot to win was at 165. And when Coach Shifflet came in we spoke about it and came to the same conclusion. It was a harder cut, I struggled at the beginning of the year, I had some weight issues, but eventually I got into a good routine where my weight was around 170 all of the time.
LIWA: As you pointed out, you lost a close match in the semifinals to Mark Perry from Iowa. Were you surprised Perry beat Johny Hendricks in the finals?
Patrovich: I had wrestled them both and I would have bet my house on Johny Hendricks winning. But thatís wrestling.
LIWA: In some ways itís the opposite of your HS career, in that you came a little short of your ultimate individual goal, but you were part of the best team in Hofstra history. At least the team that placed the highest at the NCAAs. Is that something you were able to take pride in at the time?
Patrovich: Absolutely. The guys that were there on that team, guys like James Strouse and Chris Weidman and Dave Tomasette, I had spent a lot of time with. To accomplish that as a team, with guys you spent so much time with, you form a different type of bond and itís something I take a lot of pride in.
I had been there for 6 years, and I can remember being there when we struggled to beat Sacred Heart by a point. So to come from where we were my true freshman year to where we are now, thatís something I take great pride in.
LIWA: You guys had a lot of great dual meet wins over the years, but what was it like when you knocked off Minnesota, the #1 team in the country, last year?
Patrovich: It was unbelievable. I know itís something Coach Shifflet will never forget. It was basically his first match. We faced Wagner College and thatís it, then Minnesota. It was something Iíll never forget, to knock off the #1 team. Nobody else beat them in a dual meet all season.
LIWA: You had a great relationship with Tom Ryan. How close were you to following him out to Ohio State?
Patrovich: I definitely considered it. But Hofstra had already lost Mike Pucillo, we had lost a lot, and Iíd spent a lot of time there. Like I said, I take a lot of pride in how far Hofstra came while I was there, and it would have been a really selfish decision on my part to leave.
And when Coach Shifflet came in, I still had some doubts. But we worked out the first day and he really put me at ease. I knew right away he was an intense and committed guy and it made me feel comfortable.
LIWA: How is Tom Shifflet different than Tom Ryan?
Patrovich: Heís 180 degrees different. Heís more laid back, heís very VERY technical. He helped me a lot in that aspect. I was always a bruiser, I was a good hand fighter, and I wanted to make guys tired. I already had the ďIowa StyleĒ for lack of a better term. When Coach Shifflet came in he brought some more technique into my style and it really helped me. Shifflet can be intense too, but itís more like you know whatís expected rather than him getting on you. Itís two different styles, two different philosophies, and they both work. I honestly feel that I wrestled for two of the best college coaches in the country.
LIWA: Your brother Ryan is in his first year starting at Hofstra. What advice do you give him about coming from a great high school career into the college ranks?
Patrovich: After he lost his first match against Missouri, the first thing I told him was ďthis thing is a roller coaster.Ē If you have a bad day in Division I college wrestling you ARE going to take a loss. You wrestle a guy from some school that you donít think is that good and heís probably still a two time state champ. You have to keep your focus on the future, because really all that matters is how you do at nationals.
LIWA: After you graduated, how did you get involved with the Razor Wrestling Club?
Patrovich: My father and Teddy DiPasquale had started it the spring before I got involved. After I graduated my father approached me about getting involved. Heís towards the end of his coaching career, he doesnít want to be highly involved in starting up something new. This is what I want to do. Going back I had spoken with Tom Ryan about this when he was here.
There was no club on Long Island that offers what ďThe EdgeĒ in New Jersey offers or ďOvertimeĒ in Illinois. Wrestling on Long Island was missing that, a club team that travels out of state for competition, that does freestyle, that practices as a team, that brings the best kids in the area together to work together and make each other better. This is something weíve been missing on Long Island.
LIWA: How has the response been so far?
Patrovich: Itís been unbelievable. We had 120 kids in the fall session and we have 110 Junior Razor kids in the youth group.
LIWA: And youíve merged with North Shore?
Patrovich: Yes. Iíve had a good relationship with Darren (Goldstein) since I wrestled in high school. He approached me, he knew what I was doing with the high school kids. I was working with (Anthony) Volpe from Rocky Point. So Darren and I got to talking and Darren really wanted us to come in and do his kid program.
LIWA: Is there the potential for a conflict of interest? What happens if a Razor kid meets a Hills West kid in the county finals?
Patrovich: Iím the club coach, I donít really coach them during the season, they have their own practices. If I wasnít coaching at Hills West Iíd be sitting in the stands, I wouldnít be able to coach the Razor guys anyway. I have an obligation to my Hills West guys during the season. Would it be awkward if that happened? A little, but during the season my obligation has to be to the high school where Iím coaching.
LIWA: You were a great all around athlete in HS, a star quarterback. But today there seems to be a trend with more kids wrestling all year. Is it necessarily better to be a multi-sport athlete or to focus on just wrestling?
Patrovich: I donít want this to come out the wrong way, but football was basically like a break for me. I wrestled all season, then another 40 to 50 matches in the off season, and when I got to football it was basically just a way to have fun. I went to a small high school, if you donít have kids that play two or three sports you canít field teams. I had a lot of fun playing football and I made relationships with a lot of guys I still talk to today. Wrestling was my sport, but I played football because I enjoyed it.
LIWA: Whatís different about high school wrestling on Long Island now than when you competed?
Patrovich: I like that the best guys are friendly with each other, that theyíre willing to work out together to make each other better. I did it a little with Mike Torriero, Jesse Jantzen, Kyle Bernholtz, weíd get together and wrestle, but we never had a coach standing over us running a practice. The fact that kids now are willing to come together and wrestle is a credit to whatís going on here on Long Island.
LIWA: Whatís your goal with Razor? If things work out, where is it in 5 years?
Patrovich: My main goal in doing this was to get the best kids around to workout together, and weíve basically already done that. Iíd like to see my club be a lead-in to Fargo (Cadet/Junior Nationals). Either Fargo or the Empire trials because you have two levels of kids. You have your kids whose goal is to place in the counties, and they are going to go to Empires. And then you have your kids that want to win the states, or maybe already have won the states, and they are going to go to Fargo. I want my club to travel to get ready and go to the qualifiers and lead in to the Fargo camp.
This was a problem, there was an uproar in the Long Island community about the way New York as a whole deals with Fargo. I think itís a big deal, itís something that hurt me in high school and itís something I really thought about when I started the club.
Besides that, weíd like to have a full time facility, have a place where kids could work out all the time. Have someone at the desk, have a coach there all the time, and kids can come workout when they want.
And even though we are going to prepare for Fargo and the Empires, we will have some folkstyle practices in the summer because I know not everyone likes to wrestle freestyle. My goal is to cater to every type of kid, every age, every ability level, every type of wrestler. I want to give every kid that loves wrestling the ability to train in the environment that is best for them.
LIWA: And you are going to start competing again yourself?
Patrovich: I do have tentative plans to start competing again. I spoke to Sonny Greenhalgh from the NYAC and I decided to give it another shot. I enjoy competing. Which isnít to say that I donít think I can make a run for a World team or the Olympics, but in general I just enjoy competing.
Wrestling is something thatís been a part of my life for so long. If I can still walk I want to keep wrestling.