Tristin DeVincenzo may not have started his varsity wrestling career at Port Jefferson on the highest note but he left a mark, as the two-time All-State wrestler, who will be heading to the University of Pennsylvania
in the fall, racked up the most wins in program history.
“He was a little kid with a bad haircut,” Port Jefferson head coach Mike Maletta said of DeVincenzo, one of the first wrestlers he brought up to the varsity level as an eighth-grader, laughing. “He won about 13 matches that year. He still had a lot to learn — he was a little undersized — and over the next couple of years, he continued to work at his skills and worked on his body and got into shape to where he was one of the best wrestlers in the state.”
DeVincenzo knew he had a passion for the sport, and set his sights on improving his grappling game.
“Right away I loved the fact that it’s an individual sport and it all revolves around you,” he said. “I knew the work I needed to put in to be the best. At first I had no mental strength and I didn’t know how to win matches, but as the years progressed I developed a lot of mental strength and a very, very good work ethic and both of those together helped me progress in the sport.”
He did significantly better his freshman year, and signed up for the 28-day J. Robinson Intensive Training Camp in Minnesota in the next two offseasons.
“When he started to show the discipline and the dedication for the sport, I got more excited because I’m a wrestling guy and I wrestled in high school and college,” said Tristin’s father Matt DeVincenzo, who is the athletic director in neighboring Comsewogue. “You have to know where Tristin came from as a wrestler. He always loved the sport, but he wasn’t always a gifted wrestler. Now he’s an All-State wrestler and no one can ever take that away from him.”
The training camp, along with support from his coach, his father and his younger brother Matteo, who is also a Royals wrestler, directly impacted Tristin DeVincenzo’s game, and the athlete began to climb the ladder toward the state championships.
“I surrounded myself with guys that had the same goals as me and the same mindset to improve and get better,” he said of his time at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. “Being on a small school team was also awesome. Everyone looked up to me and I served as more or less a role model, which not only helped me teach others but it taught me a lot about myself.”
Once his junior year arrived, DeVincenzo realized he was on track to surpass the school’s win record, which had been established more than 20 years before. He finished his high school career with 137 wins, topping the previous 134 mark.
“There’s only been eight other wrestlers that have won over 100 matches for Port Jefferson wrestling, which has been around since the 1950s,” Maletta said. “He’s at the top of the heap now.”
DeVincenzo’s now-former coach, who began working with him when he was a quarterback on the junior varsity team, said it wasn’t surprising that his athlete was able to achieve the feat.
“He had the will to succeed — that’s key,” he said. “He didn’t want to fail, so he did what he could to improve on his skills to always be successful. He continues to improve at every level and keeps setting new goals for himself.”
DeVincenzo is used to overcoming setbacks.
After his 39-4 junior-year campaign, he hit trouble in the state bracket but bounced back to place fifth. The wrestler did the same thing at the Eastern States Classic that same season, winning four consecutive contests in the consolations to make the finals, which included three nationally ranked wrestlers.
DeVincenzo won back-to-back Suffolk County championships in 2014 and 2015, and was named a 2015 National High School Coaches Association Academic All-American. Besides athletics being a major part of his life — the competitor also had brief stints on the football and baseball teams — he also plays the piano and trumpet.
“I love playing the piano because it’s another thing that’s on you, kind of like wrestling,” he said. “The work you put into it directly correlates with how good you are.”
Maletta recalls his wrestler earning the All-State honor, and compared the feeling to being similar to the sensation he had when his children were born.
“I had chills down my body,” he said. “When he turned and looked at me after becoming All-State and he jumped in my arms, I had the same feeling. He put so much effort into this and the journey was such an up-and-down one.”
His grit and determination to get to the top helped him attract the attention of multiple colleges and universities and ultimately, after stepping onto the campus of the University of Pennsylvania, DeVincenzo’s decision seemed obvious.
“It’s a Division I program, so it’s good wrestling,” Maletta said. “He’s going to have a great experience and I’m excited to see where the next few years take him.”
To be successful on a big stage, Maletta said he hopes DeVincenzo can continue to carry the same mindset he had in high school onto the college level.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Maletta said. “There’s going to be an adjustment period. There will be days he’ll want to quit and every day he’ll have to wake up, put his feet on the floor, set some new goals for himself and tell himself that he’ll get better every day.”
Alex Tirapelle, a second-year head coach at the helm of UPenn’s program, is looking forward to what the members of his first recruiting class will bring to the program.
“When I arrived on campus in August, I knew it would it would be important to find the right people for the class of 2019,” he said. “While Penn Wrestling will always recruit high-achieving student-athletes, it was particularly important for us to find young men that were representative of the program’s core values — integrity, passion, confidence, persistence and commitment. I believe we have done exactly that.”
DeVincenzo would like to see himself as a multiple placer in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association tournament and, by doing so, qualify for nationals. His ultimate goal would be to become an All-American.
“It’s been a crazy journey, especially from where I started in eighth grade,” he said. “I didn’t really have the confidence in eighth grade and by junior/senior year, I had the confidence that I could do things beyond that. I’m happy it all paid off and I can look back and see I’ve accomplished things in the sport. Wrestling means a lot to me. It’s a lifestyle. I love it.”