Being more aggressive Win at Easterns in the cards? F&M's Rick Durso has grown into wrestling success quickly. By Paula Wolf, Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
A few years ago, when Franklin & Marshall College wrestling coach Mike Rogers recruited Rick Durso, it was obvious the Malvern Prep grappler possessed a lot of natural ability.
"I knew he was something special," Rogers said.
So the potential was there. What wasn't clear was how quickly Durso would develop into an elite wrestler at the college level, which has exceeded even Rogers' expectations.
The 19-year-old sophomore from Broomall, Delaware County, is ranked 18th in Division I in the 141-pound weight class, according to InterMatWrestle.com. His 31-3 record makes him only the second wrestler in F&M history to record multiple 30-win seasons.
Durso's especially been on a roll since the end of November, winning 20 of his last 21 bouts.
With 61 victories already in his first two seasons, he's on pace to break the college's career win record of 117, set by Craig Blackman ('81).
Durso said he began wrestling in kindergarten, encouraged by his dad. He is the son of Rick and Susanne Durso and has three sisters, Nicole, 23, Gina, 22, and Jaclyn, 18.
"I didn't really like it too much, but kept at it," he said of the sport.
Actually, Durso said, "I kind of hated it" -- until he got to high school.
He experienced much success wrestling in the lighter weights at Malvern Prep, an all-boys school that sends a sizable number of wrestlers to Division I programs.
His choice of where to attend college came down to F&M and the University of Maryland.
Durso said he selected Franklin & Marshall because of "the great education" it offered -- he hopes to declare a major in business -- and the presence of Mike Rogers.
"I really liked Coach Rogers and his coaching philosophy," he said.
Durso said he appreciated Rogers' willingness to work with his wrestlers to help them improve.
"It's like a mutual effort," he said.
As a freshman, Durso compiled a 30-16 record and qualified for the NCAAs after placing at the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association tournament, known as Easterns. The EIWA is the conference in which F&M competes and includes such schools as Lehigh, Army, Navy and several Ivy League institutions.
He lost 4-2 in the first round of the NCAAs to Ohio State's Hunter Stieber, who finished fifth and is ranked No. 2 this year.
Getting a taste of nationals -- and seeing the best wrestlers in the country -- gave Durso greater motivation to return to the tournament in 2013, and place among the top eight.
Between his freshman and sophomore seasons, he also gained a little size and muscle. The dark-haired Durso stands around 5-7.
His approach changed as well.
"I'm much more physical in my wrestling," Durso said.
The heightened aggressiveness "clicks when I'm out there," he said.
"I'm pretty quick on my feet," Durso said. "I kind of have a unique style" and like to improvise.
Muscle memory -- which is something he can count on after 14 years of wrestling -- also comes into play, he said.
Durso said his parents -- Rick Sr. works in the construction field and Suzanne is a real estate agent -- attend both his home and away matches.
Outside of wrestling and academics, he doesn't have much room for other activities, although he does spend time with his girlfriend, freshman class president Alex Ambrogi.
The EIWA championships, Durso's road to the NCAAs, take place March 8-9 at Rutgers. "I think I can win or make the finals of Easterns," he said.
According to the InterMat rankings, three wrestlers from the EIWA are ahead of Durso: Penn's C.J. Cobb; Cornell's Mike Nevinger; and Harvard's Steven Keith.
The EIWA ranks Durso fifth in his weight class, trailing Cobb, Nevinger, Keith and Rutgers' Trevor Melde.
His three losses this year are to Joe Locksmith, of Navy, by a 3-1 score; 16th-ranked Chris Mecate, of Old Dominion, 4-1; and Jamel Hudson, of Hofstra, 7-6.
The NCAA championships are March 21-23 in Des Moines, Iowa.
His coach said Durso has the attitude and desire to succeed at the next level.
He "wants to dominate," Mike Rogers said, not just win. Also, he's "one of the most coachable athletes."
Durso "takes instruction and applies it," Rogers said. "He makes adjustments on the fly."
The 141-pounder "has as much chance as anyone else" in his weight class to win Easterns.
Durso possesses great balance, flexibility and coordination, Rogers said, and can turn an opponent on his back in the blink of an eye. In fact, Durso is "probably the most dangerous when you're about to take him down," he said.
Rogers said he once heard someone remark, "I wouldn't want to face [Durso] in the first round of the NCAAs."
He's humble and quiet off the mat, his coach said, "but a switch goes on" as soon as he walks into that ring.n