Rizzo Prefers Football

After winning a state wrestling title as a sophomore in a state like Pennsylvania, one would assume that any athlete would prefer wrestling. Such is not the case for Richland athlete John Rizzo.

Johnstown (Pa.) Richland junior fullback John Rizzo is a dual-sport athlete, of course in high school everybody is. Rizzo is an FBS recruit in football and after capturing a state championship in wrestling as a sophomore he will likely have a number of scholarships in wrestling.

There aren't many states as good at wrestling as Pennsylvania, so winning a state championship there is a very big deal, especially as a sophomore. Rizzo could potentially win two more and have his choice of colleges to choose from. Surprisingly though, Rizzo prefers football.

"I just like football more," Rizzo told Scout.com "I haven't spoken to that many schools about wrestling. I get a few letters here and there, but not what you would think. When I went down to visit Pittsburgh I stopped and spoke with them a little bit, but nothing major. My whole family has played college football, so it's always been part of my life."

To be an elite level wrestler requires training outside the school and a lot of time outside of the regular season. Rizzo trains at two of the top mat clubs in the region and with two of the best wrestlers the state has produced.

"I train at Young Guns with Jody Strittmatter who wrestled at Iowa," Rizzo said. "I also go to Cold Steel MMA and roll with Carlton Haselrig (UPJ)."

Haselrig was a former six-time NCAA champion in D-I and D-II. He is the reason why D-II wrestlers are no longer allowed to compete for the D-I championships. Haselrig was also a former NFL All-Pro guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets.

The 6-foot-1, 235-pound, fullback has received interest from Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Navy, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Ohio State and Maryland. He recently visited Penn State to see the Nittany Lions take on Michigan.

"I had a great time at Penn State," Rizzo said. "I have never seen anything like it. The atmosphere there was great. There must have been like 100 recruits there and I spoke with a lot of them. I talked to Coach (Tom) Bradley a little bit. It's nice that he is from Johnstown, so we can relate to each other."

Penn State used to always employ a fullback, but nowadays it is forgotten weapon at times. Rizzo still thinks he is of value to the Nittany Lions.

"They (Penn State) always have two-three fullbacks on scholarship," Rizzo stated. "The still use a fullback some and they will rotate two of them in a game."

Rizzo has also visited Pittsburgh a number of times, including the Pitt-Rutgers game. He is close with former Richland Ram and Pitt walk-on safety Marco Pecora.

"I have been to Pitt a lot and I really like it there," explained Rizzo. "It is a different type of an atmosphere than Penn State, but I like that with the city and everything. I know Marco Pecora pretty well from wrestling and he is friends with my brother.

"Coach (Greg) Gattuso has been to the school a few times and he told me they are going to be needing a fullback to eventually replace Hyno (Henry Hynoski)," Rizzo continued. "I sent them my mid-season highlights, so hopefully after their season they will take a look at it and let me know."

Rizzo has also been to Atlanta to visit Georgia Tech.

"I just sent Coach (Mike) Sewak two game films," Rizzo stated. "I went to camp there and it went really well. I also went to their spring game. Their offense is great for a fullback and I think it would be a good spot for me. We also visited Kentucky, Cincinnati and Ohio State on the drive back." Rizzo and his Richland teammates (5-4) play Central Cambria this Friday and the Rams need some outside help to make the playoffs.

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