Run by Greg Gurenlian, Chris Mattes and Jerry Ragonese, the second annual Faceoff Academy surpassed expectations for just about everybody involved, combining on-field instruction, recruiting education and the much anticipated bracket play on Sunday. Nearly 150 face-off specialists from both established hotbeds and non-hotbeds from all over the country made the trip to northern New Jersey to learn the tricks of the trade from the MLL’s wizards, be seen by top college coaches and compete for coveted national championships on Sunday.
In the end, it was Rutgers-bound senior Paul Rasimowicz (Immaculata, N.J. ) who came out victorious as the National Champion, winning the 2015 bracket then knocking off the other respective champions to take home the high honor and a swank gear package.
The champions and semifinalists in the other age groups were as follows:
2015: Paul Rasimowicz (Immaculata, N.J. / Transition Lacrosse – Rutgers) over Will Beecham (Roswell, Ga. / LB3); Semifinalists – Michael Pellegrino (Ridge, N.J. / Ridge Futures) and Nolan Little (Downingtown East, Pa. / Twist – Hartford)
2016: Peyton Smith (Athens Drive, N.C. / Tar Heel – Marist) over Isaac Avon (Damascus, Md. / Lax Factory); Semifinalists – Jack Cash (Westfield, N.J. / Leading Edge – Providence) and Tyler Hugo (Bernards, N.J. / NJLC)
2017: Kyle Prouty (New Egypt, N.J. / Leading Edge – Princeton) over Justin Shockey (Landon, Md. / Blackwolf); Semifinalists – Brian Hanley (Delbarton, N.J. / BBL) and Michael Abizaid (Landon, Md. / VLC)
2018: Jordan Ginder (Poly Prep, N.Y. / Team 91) over Zac Tucci (Bedford, N.H. / NH Tomahawks) – Semifinalists – Nicholas Rowlett (Robinson, Va. / VLC) and Clayton Baker (Ravenscroft, N.C. / Carolina Cannons)
2019 & 2020: Considering they’re not yet in my wheelhouse, I shied away from watching any middle schoolers, however Gavin Tygh ’19 (Dukes HHH) and Andrew McAdorey ’20 (Team 91) won their age groups and have bright futures.
The event drew coaches from schools from power conferences like the Big East, ACC and the Ivy League to join the paid staff for the weekend, taking it as an opportunity to not only evaluate the wealth of uncommitted talents, but revolutionize the way they coach face-offs to their Division I teams.
Coaches I spoke to at length all raved about what Greg, Jerry and Chris – who emphasize the “face-off athlete” term rather than FOGO” – have done for the advancement of face-off men and their adjustment to the new college rules. It’s definitely a niche type of culture, which was evident throughout the weekend at the SuperDome in Waldwick, NJ. There have always been comparisons between drawmen and wrestlers and there’s no doubt that Sunday’s competition had the vibe of a high school wrestling tournament, serving as déjà vu for me after spending much of my youth’s attending my father’s matches during his time as a coach in the MIAA.
I loved the passion and attention to detail that the company’s founders showed for their craft, helping every kid improve leaps and bounds, whether they were committed or not and whether they had previously worked with FOA or were new to the whole thing. In addition, they brought in Penn State’s I’ve dealt with hundreds of people in lacrosse, however these were some of the more committed guys out there, putting in tons of hours throughout the year to help kids on and off the field. That was all clear this weekend and I’m certainly looking forward to being back at another event.
Here are some comments from a few of the bracket winners on the weekend and what The Faceoff Academy has done for them:
“I couldn’t have possibly had any better competition here and I just trained through the fall week after week to prepare for this, expecting the best competition in the country and that’s what I got… I was absolutely nervous this morning with butterflies in my stomach but I buckled down and luckily I was able to pull through…. These guys [at The Faceoff Academy] have done absolutely everything for me. Without them teaching me life skills, face-off skills, classroom skills and everything, I don’t know where I’d be and really couldn’t ask for better mentors.”
–Kyle Prouty, ’17 champion
“When I first came here I was sort of intimidated by all of the competition and all of the kids who are committed, then I realized that all I had to do was what Greg, Jerry and Chris have taught me. I just needed to piece all of those tips together and I would end up doing the best I possibly could and that’s winning my age bracket…. Those guys have stressed not being a face-off man and being a face-off athlete, using your hand speed and body without elbows and without cheating, definitely no cheating!”
–Jordan Ginder, ’18 champion
“It’s been awesome, I’ve been working with them for while after winning one of their first combines last year and also attended their National Showcase last year… I really liked how they worked on the new college rules and it’s going to help me transition to college eventually, I was really excited to be here and learn…. My mindset was just one step at a time, go through my routine and make sure I take my breathes and keep making my way inch by inch… I want to keep working on college rules, it’s a big change but I’ll be able to do it better. Just want to get faster with my feet and hands, get stronger and a little bit bigger and have a great offseason.”
–Peyton Smith, ’16 champion