Rocco Russo has done his share of heavy lifting.
On Monday night the Frontier senior hoisted the 19th annual Ilio DiPaolo Wrestler Award highlighting the dinner at the famed wrestler’s restaurant in Blasdell. Hours of weight training helped the Frontier senior to his share of honors as well as a school-record 237 wins and four Section VI championships.
The award is named for DiPaolo, a man who strongly believed in the values of family, education, community and athletics. It is presented to Western New York’s top high school wrestler as voted on by the Ilio DiPaolo Scholarship committee.
Russo will use the $2,500 scholarship to further his education at the University at Buffalo, where he has signed a national letter of intent. This past season he posted a 52-4 record at 138 pounds. He was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Section VI state qualifier. In his career he placed twice at states – finishing fourth this year and sixth in 2011.
Russo was one of five senior wrestlers recognized before a big crowd. Alex Smythe of Eden accepted the Gary Castanza Award, Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer of Cheektowaga took home the Destroyer Award, Marshall Brooke Taylor of Lockport was tapped for the Bill Hein Dedicated Wrestler Award, and Ryan Kromer of Lew-Port won the Cauliflower Alley Club Award.
Beside Russo, Smythe and Kromer have also signed with UB. Russo and Smythe are also good friends off the mat as they wrestled club and traveled to national tournaments together.
Smythe’s 44-2 record at 160 pounds this year gives him a school-record 227 career wins against 51 lossses. He’s a three-time state place finisher (third, third, fifth).
Rodriguez-Spencer, a three-time Section VI champ, has signed with Iowa State. The 145-pounder was 38-0 this winter with 27 pins before an injury ended his season prematurely. He finished his career 188-13 with 97 pins. In 2013 he was the NHSCA Virginia Beach National Champion, earning Most Outstanding Wrestler along the way. He has twice been invited to the Olympic Training Center.
Brooke Taylor has served his school and community well. He’s a two-time Section VI large school champion at 220 pounds as well as a two-time winner at NCCC and Spencerport. Off the mat he’s a nine-year alter server at his church and for the past four years has been an Athletes Against Hunger volunteer.
Kromer, a 152-pounder, broke the Lew-Port record for wins in a season with 51. He’s a four-time state qualifier with his best finish third place this past winter. He finishes his career with a 203-43 record and was name the Niagara PAL Male Athlete of the Year.