Wrestling: Dante Montanaro at NYU was meant to be

It is a home to an elite few — the wrestling room. Mats covered floors, with some often attached to the walls, like mirrors to the soul. It indicates to each individual what is currently taking place, and with dedication all that is still possible to occur.

Dante Montanaro from Trumbull High walked into such a room his freshman year with only one year of seasoning. Many wrestlers begin at an earlier age. Those feeder programs are reflected each season in the state’s Top 10 polls, where Trumbull is currently ranked fourth.

“I was fortunate to be joining a great program, where winning was expected,” said Montanaro, who celebrated signing with New York University to wrestle and study finance on Jan. 7. “I saw I had the potential to do well; and I had teammates to show me the way.”

Montanaro, wrestling at 138 pounds this season, is closing in on 100 career wins despite missing some of his junior season because of a knee injury. He finished fifth in the FCIAC as a sophomore. As a junior, he was third in FCIAC and third in Class LL.

“When I think about wrestling, I think of the camaraderie,” Montanaro said. “The respect one has for teammates and opponents alike. We all go through the same process; turning doubt into victory. We are a family of 14 in a match and even larger in the wrestling room.

“The soul of the sport begins in that room and then moves to the mat. It’s one on one. All failures are yours and yours alone. You drill every day, and lift, to have a better chance not to fail.

“Once you get that feeling, getting your hand raised, you want to do whatever it takes to earn that feeling again. It’s ‘Wow, look what I accomplished.’ It’s unique I think to wrestling.”

Coming back from injury isn’t.

“I was hurt midway through last season when I had a bad case of bursitis,” Montanaro said. “Then the bursa started to shred and my knee would blow up. If I had surgery I would probably miss three months and I didn’t want to do that...But it began to impair my ability to even move my leg.”

Knee bursitis is inflammation of a bursa located near your knee joint. A bursa is a small fluid-filled, pad-like sac that reduces friction and cushions pressure points between your bones and the tendons and muscles near your joints. A sharp blow to the knee can cause symptoms to appear rapidly. But most cases of knee bursitis result from repetitive injuries

Each of your knees has 11 bursae. While any of these bursae can become inflamed, knee bursitis most commonly occurs over the kneecap or on the inner side of your knee below the joint.

“I was lucky to go to a great guy in Doctor Amit Lahav,” Montanaro said. “I would go twice a week and he would use a two syringes to drain forty cc’s of fluid. He removed the bursa, stitched it up and about two and a half months I was back.

“The scar healed fine, sometimes it can leave a bulky scar, but mine is a nice thin line. After a few practices, the fear just melted away. I just had to trust the knee.”

Montanaro gave a tip of the cap to his coaches at Trumbull High and added, "I attribute a lot of my success to offseason wrestling. With that, I'd like to give a huge thank you to my offseason Coach Blair Tugman. My hard work in the offseason in combination with his coaching greatly aided me in being as successful as I am in this sport.

“His support, which included traveling with me all around the country to face the best competition, really helped me get to the level that I'm at. I thank him for his unwavering commitment to my success and the success of everyone at Team Tugman Wrestling Club."

Montanaro was wrestling for the Club at the Journeyman Classic in upstate New York and fortuitously won Pool A to draw the best from Pool B.

Montanaro is joining head coach Bruce Haberli’s Purple Knights.

Serving as head coach of the New York University wrestling team since 1995-96, Haberli has compiled a 236-165-3 (.587) career dual-meet record over his first 20 seasons, including a program-best 21 wins (21-3) in 2014-15.

Last season, the grapplers won their fourth consecutive University Athletic Association (UAA) Championship and the eighth in program history — all of which have come during Haberli’s tenure. NYU won its final 14 dual matches of the season, including a perfect 8-0 mark in the Centennial Conference.

As it turns out, Montanaro didn’t need a Global Positioning System to find the college.

“It is the school I’ve wanted to attend since I was in seventh grade,” he said. “I was always looking for a top academic school and NYU’s Stern School (The Leonard N. Stern School of Business) is the number two business school in the country.

“To go to school at NYU, in the financial capital of the world (the school is located on NYU's Greenwich Village campus) is truly a dream come true.”

Montanaro was quick to point to another advantage.

“I’ve been blessed with a great family,” he said. “My dad’s family is close by here in Trumbull. My mom’s mother lives right on East 89th St. on the upper East Side. I remember spending many weekends there when I was there growing up. To be close to her for the next four years, and maybe longer, will give me a real chance to spend time with her.”