Jordan McLaughlin is used to living a disciplined, regimented lifestyle.
It makes sense that a career in the military awaits the Section VI wrestling champion who is heading to the United States Naval Academy once he graduates from Olean High School. It also makes sense that those characteristics played a vital role in McLaughlin’s selection as the 2017 recipient of the Ilio DiPaolo Award.
McLaughlin received the top honor Monday night during the 22nd Annual Ilio DiPaolo Scholarship Awards Night dinner at the restaurant founded by the wrestling legend and Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Famer.
The award is presented in honor of the late DiPaolo, who strongly believed and supported the values of family, education, athletics and community, to the area’s top wrestler as selected by members of the Ilio DiPaolo Scholarship Committee. McLaughlin was one of five wrestlers honored at the event for excellence in and out of the ring during their scholastic careers.
"It’s a huge honor," said McLaughlin, who placed third at the state championship meet to cap a 46-win season. "I’ve worked real hard to get to this point. I’m just humbled to be compared to the other people who have won this award and to be part of this prestigious group."
Past winners include Amherst’s Kellen Devlin, East Aurora’s Tyler Hall and Frontier’s Rocco Russo.
McLaughlin’s impressive credentials on and off the mat enabled him to join that esteemed group. McLaughlin posted a 110-44 career record.
In addition to winning the overall Section VI Division II title at 220 pounds, he also captured the crown at the Section VI Class B Tournament and won the championship at the annual Southern Tier Wrestling Officials Tournament – one of the top in-season competitions.
The three-sport athlete (football and golf) also ranks sixth in his class with a 99.29 average, was a member of the National Honor Society and Model UN. He’s also involved with Special Olympics, the Salvation Army Bell and is a trained lifeguard.
How does he find the time to do all this and excel in his tasks?
"Sometimes it’s tough," McLaughlin said. "Early mornings, late nights, but whatever I set my mind on something I go hard at that until I get that complete and then I move on to the next thing."
"Jordan’s a triple-threat," said Bob Koshinski, the chairman of the Ilio DiPaolo Scholarship Fund selection committee and dinner master of ceremonies. "He’s a state medalist in wrestling, top academics and he’s a great citizen. He hits all our prerequisites. … It’s rare to get an applicant with such high marks in all three categories. His parents should be proud."
While the disciplined lifestyle of a wrestler lends itself to life in the military, McLaughlin’s interest in serving his country is rooted in family.
His grandfather served in the army. McLaughlin valued that as well as education.
Earning the right to attend the Naval Academy enables McLaughlin, who wants to specialize in ocean engineering, to do both.
"All of the characteristics wrestling gave me will help me with the military lifestyle," McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin wasn’t the only wrestler with an impressive resume (on and off the mat) honored by the scholarship committee. The others were Connor Day of Iroquois, Jacob Peru of Falconer, Matt Cicco of Niagara Wheatfield and Steven Kapuscinski of Lockport.
Day earned The Gary Castanza Award for being community-oriented.
The three-time Section VI champion (230-43) and three-sport athlete with 10 varsity letters is class president. The four-year honor-roll student, who’s heading to Gannon, volunteers for UNYTS Blood Drive and the St. Luke’s Mission for Thanksgiving.
Peru captured The "Destroyer" Award named in honor of Pro Wrestling Hall of Famer Dick Beyer – who was also an accomplished college football player and wrestler at Syracuse. Peru, who’s heading to Binghamton on scholarship, captured the state championship in 2016 but missed most of his senior season with a dislocated elbow. He set the Falconer record for career wins (191) and developed into the face of the Falcons’ wrestling program.
Cicco captured the Bill Hein Dedicated Wrestler Award. After back-to-back second-place finishes, the Niagara Wheatfield Falcon and future RIT athlete captured the Section VI title at 182 pounds. He also helped Niagara Wheatfield secure the first Section VI Dual-Meet Team championship – winning the final match via pin in a 39-35 triumph over Lockport. He won 49 of his 125 career matches last season.
Kapuscinski, who will head to Niagara County Community College, earned the Cauliflower Alley Club Award. The 152-pound Section VI champion went 44-3 last season and won 149 matches in his career.
Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott attended the dinner and spoke to the crowd of more than 160. Bills General Manager Brandon Beane also was among those in attendance along with 2009 Gary Castanza Award Winner and former Section VI champion and state runner-up Carlene Sluberski, who also spoke to the attendees.