Only the most talented and notable freshmen are able to garner attention before they step out for their first performance, and very few are actually able to live up to this hype.
Freshman wrestler Michael Colaiocco is coming to Penn with a high pedigree and has all the tools to live up to the hype and turn into the Red and Blue's next superstar.
For high school, Colaiocco attended Blair Academy in New Jersey, known for fielding one of the top wrestling teams in the country. Individually, Colaiocco was ranked No. 1 in the country by FloWrestling for his weight class. His resume includes a plethora of individual and team accolades and championships, including an individual National Prep Championship in 2016.
“I felt like I couldn’t have a better high school experience; the family at Blair definitely gave me all of the resources I ever asked for,” Colaiocco said.
Colaiocco committed to Penn as a junior in high school over Princeton, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech, among others. He cites the program’s coaching and culture as big factors in attracting him to Penn.
“I feel like the coaching staff here really cares about the individual,” Colaiocco said. “They all really want to help me max out my potential as a person, not just as a wrestler.”
Coming in as a very talented freshman, Colaiocco has very high expectations for himself this season, but that does not stop him from striving to improve his game. He keeps a list of notes on technical aspects of his game that he needs to work on and practices them daily.
“I’m looking to win a national title, but I think what’s more important is if I can measure my progress throughout this year,” Colaiocco said. “If I can really grow and develop this year, I feel like that would be a win for me.”
With the recent return of legendary coach Roger Reina and a strong recruiting class, Colaiocco also has strong aspirations for the team this year. He hopes the group can create a culture of camaraderie and lifting each other up, which will only reinforce the talent it puts on the floor.
“I feel like we can be in the top-20 [nationally] this year,” he said. “We have five or six guys that should definitely be in NCAA qualifiers and at least three All-Americans.”
Despite just entering the college atmosphere, Colaiocco feels comfortable when he’s on the mat. He finished the Quakers’ opening tournament at the Michigan State Open with a 4-2 record, placing fourth overall at 125 pounds.
“[The differences between high school and college wrestling] are not as big as people make it seem. It’s still wrestling; you know how to wrestle,” Colaiocco said. “Riding time is a huge factor — I found that out after my first open – but as long as you’re improving, there’s going to be a pretty smooth transition from high school to college.”
Colaiocco, who is currently training with three-time All-Americans and NCAA finalists Joey McKenna and Ethan Lizak at the Pennsylvania Olympic Regional Training Center, thinks the mental aspect of the game is what sets him apart from other wrestlers in his weight class.
“I feel like I’m ahead of the game with regards to how mature I am mentally, and I’ve also been put in a great position with mentors and guys that I can look up to,” he said. “I have [McKenna] and [Lizak] that I can learn a ton from, not only wrestling and technique-wise, but also for the mental part of the game.”
At the end of the day for Colaiocco, it’s about having fun.
“As long as I’m scoring points, having fun, and I’m entertaining, that makes me happy,” he said.
Penn's next tournament is the Keystone Classic on Nov. 24 at the Palestra, where Colaiocco hopes to build on what’s shaping up to be a standout career.
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