Judge’s Galasso officially commits to Cornell

Joe Galasso's bril­liant year on the wrest­ling mat for Fath­er Judge led to a com­mit­ment from his dream col­lege.

What a year: Just months after win­ning Phil­adelphia’s first-ever state wrest­ling cham­pi­on­ship, Fath­er Judge’s Joe Galasso (top) has com­mit­ted to wrestle at Cor­nell Uni­versity the sum­mer be­fore seni­or year. TIMES FILE PHOTO

When Fath­er Judge’s Joe Galasso would watch the NCAA wrest­ling cham­pi­on­ships with his fath­er while grow­ing up on Ed­ge­mont Street in Port Rich­mond, something al­ways pulled him like a mag­net to­ward the par­ti­cipants from Cor­nell Uni­versity.

There was a spe­cial, un­ex­plain­able lore about an Ivy League school that was able to com­pete with the coun­try’s best schools on the wrest­ling mat. Someday, Galasso told him­self, that would be him wear­ing the Big Red uni­form and vy­ing for cham­pi­on­ships on the biggest of stages.

“Ever since I knew what I was talk­ing about as far as wrest­ling and col­lege go, I knew I wanted to go to Cor­nell,” Galasso said. “I’d al­ways hear about how those kids just held them­selves to a high­er stand­ard. It’s in the Ivy League, and they do well in wrest­ling. For me, it would rep­res­ent the best of both worlds.”

Last week, Galasso made it of­fi­cial by com­mit­ting to Cor­nell the sum­mer be­fore his seni­or year. For Galasso, it was a dream come true; for any­one who wit­nessed the year he just had wrest­ling for Judge, it came as no sur­prise at all.

Galasso be­came the first state wrest­ling cham­pi­on from Phil­adelphia back in March, cap­tur­ing the 138-pound title at the Pennsylvania tour­na­ment in Her­shey. It was a huge ac­com­plish­ment for Galasso, as well as the city it­self, where wrest­ling is not viewed as pop­u­lar or main­stream as it is in oth­er towns across the state. 

He cer­tainly got the at­ten­tion of Cor­nell head coach Rob Koll, who made the com­mit­ment of­fi­cial dur­ing a re­cent vis­it to Galasso’s home. Galasso will most likely wrestle at 149 pounds for the Big Red; the fact that he was the only one Cor­nell re­cruited at that weight class spoke volumes to Galasso about the op­por­tun­ity in front of him.

“It’s one big re­lief,” Galasso said by phone Sunday from a dorm­it­ory on Cor­nell’s cam­pus in Ithaca, N.Y., where he was at­tend­ing a wrest­ling camp. “All of my life, my dad and I set scary high stand­ards for my­self. Ever since I signed with Cor­nell, the dreams that once seemed scary … now, they’re reach­able.”

While wrest­ling may not be the most pop­u­lar high school sport in Phil­adelphia, it’s an en­tirely dif­fer­ent an­im­al up at Cor­nell. The Big Red hasn’t had a los­ing sea­son since 1985-86, and fin­ished as na­tion­al run­ner-ups in the NCAA Tour­na­ment in 2010 and 2011. This sea­son, seni­or Kyle Dake be­came the face of col­lege wrest­ling, win­ning the col­legi­ate wrest­ler of the year hon­or and be­com­ing the first to win na­tion­al titles at four dif­fer­ent weight classes. 

In fact, wrest­ling at Cor­nell is so big that the pro­gram’s Face­book page has al­most 16,000 likes to go along with more than 7,500 fol­low­ers on Twit­ter. 

Galasso knows what he’s get­ting him­self in­to, and he can’t wait.

“I was do­ing a happy dance after I signed,” he said. “Like I said after I won state, all the hard work I’ve put in­to wrest­ling has paid off, and I’ll con­tin­ue to just try my best. And as far as school goes, I’ve al­ways worked hard in that. As my dad has al­ways told me, wrest­ling is go­ing to end no mat­ter how good you are, so it’s up to you to set your­self up for suc­cess after that. Cor­nell is the best place for me to suc­ceed in both areas.”

When asked to de­scribe Cor­nell’s 4,800-acre cam­pus that sits on a hill over­look­ing Cay­uga Lake, he said, “It’s beau­ti­ful. Ab­so­lutely breath­tak­ing. I really can’t stop smil­ing.”

Galasso said he ex­pects to en­roll in Cor­nell’s busi­ness school, which is na­tion­ally ranked as one of the best in the coun­try. He knows it will be dif­fi­cult, something he’s pre­par­ing for by tak­ing all hon­ors-level classes his seni­or year at Judge.

Al­though Galasso has already com­mit­ted to Cor­nell be­fore his seni­or year has be­gun, don’t ex­pect him to just coast through. There are chal­lenges he’s still yet to cross off his list, namely win­ning back-to-back state titles. He’s cur­rently ranked fourth in the coun­try in his weight class, and he wants to move up.

“I’m not sat­is­fied,” he said. “And I won’t be, not un­til I win two.”

He’s bey­ond thank­ful for his time at Judge, where he trans­ferred after spend­ing his fresh­man year at Mal­vern Prep.

“Judge has made me more of a man,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, Mal­vern is an awe­some school that’s crazy good aca­dem­ic­ally … but at Judge it’s just dif­fer­ent. The teach­ers al­ways talked to me like a per­son in­stead of a stu­dent, and they got the best out of me by al­ways chal­len­ging me.”

Above all else, Galasso is hop­ing his story per­suades oth­er kids to pur­sue wrest­ling at the highest level. He still vo­lun­teers at his loc­al Po­lice Ath­let­ic League club, where he’s be­come a bit of a celebrity amongst the kids. 

“I hope I in­spire them,” he said. “If they take it ser­i­ous to the level I did and be­lieve they can do it, then they can be just like me, a reg­u­lar kid from Port Rich­mond. As soon as you be­lieve you can do it, then you most likely will.

“It’s still very hard for me to put this in­to words right now. I think I’m still pro­cessing all of it, but I’m go­ing to keep work­ing hard to show the coaches at Cor­nell who put all their marbles in my bas­ket that they made the right choice. People kept say­ing, ‘Ivy League, can you do it?’ Hell yeah, I can do it, even if I have to stay up un­til 3 a.m. every night to study. I’m just sit­ting on Cloud Nine right now.” •• 

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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