Whatever it takes
Canfield star D’Alesio takes unique style to West Virginia
Each of the best wrestlers Steve Pitts coached over the last few years possessed a seemingly incredible ability on the wrestling amt.
What that innate quality was differed for all of them, but no one’s was as different than senior Anthony D’Alesio’s.
Pitts, the Canfield High School wrestling coach, helped guide four wrestlers to Division I colleges over the past three years. There was Georgio Poullas (Cleveland State, now at Rider), Mason Giordano (Cleveland State), David Crawford (Pittsburgh) and Tyler Stein (Ohio State).
Now, there’s D’Alesio, who committed to West Virginia University last week. He earned his way there with an exceptionally uncommon attribute.
According to Pitts, Poullas was “ultra competitive and driven,” Giordano was “mean with a high motor,” Crawford an “intelligent technician” and Stein boasted “a nasty combo of speed and strength.”
D’Alesio, who won a state title as a junior, brings an even more unique “skill” to the table.
“I’ve never been around somebody who is so willing to give up their own safety,” Pitts said with a laugh. “I don’t really know how to put it. … He just has this natural instinct that, ‘If you’re going to try and score on me, I’m going to stop you, and that means if I get headbutted and I bleed or bust my lip or whatever, that’s going to happen.’ ”
D’Alesio, who has wrestled with his entire face wrapped due to injuries, certainly isn’t afraid to stick his nose in there.
The three-time state placer had his senior season cut short because of the coronavirus outbreak, denying him a chance to become the school’s third two-time state champion in as many seasons (Crawford and Stein are the others). That didn’t deter the Mountaineers of the Big 12 Conference.
D’Alesio’s relentless approach and love for the sport won over WVU coach Tim Flynn and his staff.
“They said I just keep going forward and I have a lot of heart,” said D’Alesio of why the coaches said they pursued him. “They know I’m going to work hard for them. That’s what they look for, if you’re willing to work hard. And you just show them that this actually really matters to you.”
No one showed that more than D’Alesio.
He reached the state tournament as a freshman and, during the tournament, he suffered several scrapes, bruises and lacerations to his face. They got so bad, that in one of the later matches of the tournament, D’Alesio had the majority of his face wrapped in gauze and tape. He went on to win the match.
As a senior, he was wrestling in the nationally renowned Ironman Tournament at Walsh Jesuit High School when he bit through his bottom lip. With blood gushing from his mouth, he had it taped and continued wrestling. Seconds later, he bit through his top lip and had to have his mouth taped shut. He won by way of technical fall (outscoring the opponent by 15) in the first period.
It was that type of toughness and determination that led to D’Alesio becoming one of Canfield’s all-time greats, placing three times at the state tournament (fourth in 2017, third in 2018 and first in 2019). He was the No. 1-ranked Division II wrestler at 182 pounds as a senior before the tournament was canceled.
Pitts believes his success will continue in college.
“The recruiting process, it really kicked off last season at the Ironman when he knocked off some really good kids,” he said. “That’s something colleges are looking for is can you compete with the best in the country, and he’s been able to do that.
“He beat a kid who wrestled for the University of Iowa this year as a true freshman. Abe Assad is the kid’s name, who was ranked top four in the country in college. He beat him when Anthony was a sophomore. … They want to see, ‘Can you compete with the best of the best?’ And Anthony can do that.”
D’Alesio originally committed to Kent State along with teammate Nick Crawford, but Crawford has since switched to playing football in college and is headed elsewhere. D’Alesio, who is best friends with Crawford, reopened his recruiting and eventually joined the Mountaineers.
After missing out a chance to repeat as a state champion, D’Alesio is anxious to get started.
“I’m super excited,” he said. “I can’t wait, and I have a lot of motivation going in. I want to wrestle for coach Pitts, my family and everyone around me that helped me get to this point in the first place by supporting me.”