By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
Minnesota State wrestling coach Jim Makovsky admits he has focused his recruiting efforts on southern Minnesota the last couple of years. But when he got a call from a high school coach in Sandwich, Ill., he decided to pay attention.
The prep coach was calling about a senior he had named Alphonso Vruno. Vruno was a two-time Illinois state champion who was looking for a place to wrestle in college.
Makovsky listened, did some investigating, and opted to recruit the Illinois native to his program. So far, it appears to be one of the best recruiting moves Makovsky has made the last few season.
Vruno, a true freshman, is off to a 23-4 start with all of his losses coming against Division I wrestlers. He is ranked sixth in the nation at 133 pounds and has been by far the Mavericks’ most consistent winner in 2012-13.
“He’s the complete package,” Makovsky said. “He’s a smart kid, a wise kid. He’ll look you in the eye when you’re trying to teach him something.”
Vruno said he went through a fairly thorough process before deciding to attend Minnesota State. He had had contact with some Division I schools and a lot of Division III schools.
MSU was one of the few Division II schools to show an interest and he opted to schedule an on-campus visit.
“I probably visited about eight schools total,” Vruno said. “MSU was one of the last ones.
“As soon as I got to campus it felt right. I liked coach Makovsky’s style and philosophy about wrestling. I looked at the facilities and the minute I met the guys in the wrestling room I knew this was the place I wanted to be.”
Makovsky said from the start of preseason drills that Vruno was going to be a good addition to the program.
“He walked into the wrestling room on Day 1 and just stood out,” Makovsky said. “He respected everybody but was intimidated by nobody. He just got after it right away.”
Although Vruno has gotten off to a great start, both he and his coach know there’s still a lot of tough wrestling ahead this winter.
Most notably, he has yet to wrestle No. 1-ranked Andy Pokorny of St. Cloud State and second-ranked Trevor Franklin of Upper Iowa. Both battles are on the horizon as part of Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference dual meets.
“Those are going to be big tests for him,” Makovsky said. “Pokorny is the two-time defending national champion and Franklin is the defending runner-up.”
Vruno agrees: “The goal for all of us to win a national championship. We’ll see where I’m at after those two matches. I should learn a lot from both of them.”
The Mavericks host Upper Iowa on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Bresnan Arena. The St. Cloud State dual is scheduled for Feb. 14 in St. Cloud.