Justin Signorelli wrestled with a decision regarding his college coaching future last summer.
He had to decide whether to gamble on himself and accept Division III Western New England’s offer as a graduate wrestling assistant or remain at SUNY Ulster, a junior-college program that he had recently resurrected after more than 40 years?
Ulster athletic director Matt Brennie pushed Signorelli to tackle the new challenge. If Signorelli wanted to reach his goal of being a four-year-college coach, Western New England was the next logical step.
“I knew the window was shrinking and I knew if I was going to make a move I had the opportunity,” said Signorelli, 28. “I finally decided that would be the best move to bolster my resume.”
Western New England would provide Signorelli a chance to increase his knowledge of the sport and return to the mat to mentor wrestlers like John Boyle. Signorelli would help Boyle capture the Division III 184-pound national title in March.
Signorelli’s Western New England experience then landed him a new position. The 2009 Highland graduate was recently named Division III Alfred State’s head wrestling coach.
“I was betting on myself and I thought that I could be successful there,” Signorelli said of his one year at Western New England.
“I think more times than not you get those younger (graduate assistants) that are still trying to figure out what they want to do. I was a little more seasoned as a 27-year-old. I knew that I could still get on the mat and do all of the things that a 22-year-old could do.”
Signorelli made the unlikely jump from graduate assistant to head coach. Now he’s in charge of establishing Alfred State, which will compete in its second season at the Division III level, from essentially the bottom up.
“Last year, it (Alfred State) might have been overlooked by some people,” Signorelli said. “I hope that we can go out and show on the mat this year. I think more people will start to consider Alfred and we can start building the program.”
Signorelli can draw from his experiences as a wrestler in Highland’s first season, rebuilding Ulster’s program and learning under Western New England coach Mike Sugermeyer.
Brennie isn’t surprised by Signorelli’s rapid rise in the coaching ranks.
“Justin is a visionary and he fit into what I am doing here at Ulster,” Brennie said. "He reminded me a lot of myself when I was his age. We are both ambitious and know what we want to do professionally. I believed that if he gambled on himself, good things would happen.”
Signorelli’s life as a head college wrestling coach begins in earnest starting Sunday. Signorelli will work J Robinson’s Intensive Wrestling Camps in Edinboro, Pa., and River Falls, Wisc., for 42 straight days, building his connections. Then it’s off to the National Wrestling Coaches Association leadership academy for three days.
“I’m doing what I like, so work is fun for me,” Signorelli said.