By Jim Nordland

Nassau Communtiy College, located in Garden City, Long Island, has been a perennial wrestling power in the NJCAA Division III (Non-Scholarship) national scene year-after-year. Some of the major reasons are, recruiting and coaching. Nassau CC has attracted many of Long Island, upstate New York, and recently Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania prepped wrestlers, that are ready to excel to the next level. In fact a plethora of Nassau matmen have gone on to earn Division I scholarhips, such as Chris Weidman (Baldwin), an All-American for Hofstra  University. Over the years, the storied program at Nassau has produced eight national junior champions, 14 national finalists and 72 NJCAA All-Americans.

      The program's first two-time All-American was Neil Nugent (1962-63), who later served as Dean of Students at the college. Nassau CC, the defending NJCAA champions, are ranked first in the nation and hope to capture their fourth NJCAA title, the Lions have garnered three NJCAA crowns; 2003, 2004 and 2008. Currently they have two wrestlers ranked first in their respective weight classes, defending NJCAA champion Brandon Williamson (Greenwich, CT), at 285, and Silas Murray (Brentwood), at 125, along with Eduardo Delgado (Long Beach), who is rated 7th at 157 pounds. Behind their success, is the consumate head coach Paul Schmidt. At the recent LI Open Championships, Schmidt was seen coaching his team, running the tournament and making sure one of his wrestlers was able to get medical care following the competition. In simple terms, he does it all, and does it well. Schmidt has been at the helm for the past 12 years and has produced five NJCAA champions. He reminisced a coaching highlight, "Winning the first national title was very special, because we were so close for many years and that brought national recognition to the program." Also contributing was assistant coach Chris Edmond (Freeport), a 1985 Division I NCAA champion for Tennessee. Edmond coached at Nassau for ten years and was very instrumental in the three NJCAA team championships and the two NWCA National Dual meet titles won during his tenure.

      Before Schmidt came to Nassau CC, the foundation had been set by the legendary and affable Charles "Chuck" Henke. Coach Henke was the head coach for 25 years (1971-1996) and recently inducted into the NJCAA Hall of Fame. During his tutelage, along with able assistant Larry DellAquilla, he produced three national champions, including two-time winner Willie Gadson (Huntington), who went onto a stellar career at Iowa State, and developed 26 NJCAA All-Americans. In the 1972 campaign, Nassau defeated rival and national champion Farmingdale (LI Aggies), 24-16 for the Region XV dual meet title. That team was led by Frank Cassi (Seaford) and three Massapequa HS standouts, state finalist Gary Jaeger, Dan Lannak and the late Rudy Fiorvanti. Nassau CC has never missed a beat and the dual victories and championships are evident during every season for this storied program, that both Coach Henke and Schmidt built around pride and a commitment for excellence.

        Coach Schmidt has three assistants, Vougar Oroudjov, Sam Thomas and Tyshawn Scarlett, the entire staff feel they can successfully defend their title. Schmidt commented on the season, "We hope to win the NJCAAs, we have the talent and will score points, we could have three national finalists." Schmidt has an intersting background, he was a two-time Arm Wrestling National Champion (1979-1980), and after many years in the PE Department, is currently a full-time Professor of Criminal Justice at the college. He is a great family man and resides in Wantagh with his wife, Mary, and three daughters, Dara, Collen and Paula.
A Proud Tradition
Coach Schmidt and Family