Adam Busiello’s Atop a Pinnacle

Arizona State feels like home to him, he said
His instincts were so sure his first coach thought he’d acquired them in a former lifetime. Craig Macnaughton

When Adam Busiello, the only five-time state high school wrestling champion Suffolk County’s ever had, was a toddler, his mother, Denise, said, during a conversation at her house in Sag Harbor the other day, “he was always getting out of the car seat . . . he’s always been strong, with a great grip . . . we had to build a specially high fence around the pool. I used to call him Houdini.”

Joe Russo, Busiello’s first coach, in East Hampton’s KID wrestling program, was equally impressed. “When I brought him to his first competition, as a kindergartner, he was so good — even then he had all the natural instincts that you try, often without success, to teach kids — that it seemed like he had picked them up in another life. He was a natural wrestler. How do you explain that? I wasn’t surprised when [recently] I saw he’d won his fifth straight state title. He’s New York’s finest.”

“And, remember,” Russo continued, “he was a state runner-up when he was in seventh grade, losing only in the final seconds. Watching him you couldn’t believe what you were seeing. We always wrestled him up, with the first graders when he was in kindergarten, with the second graders when he was in first grade. . . .” 

“His accomplishments have been so great since he moved away [to Eastport] in the fourth grade, and he’s had such great mentors and coaches behind him that there’s no way I would want to take any credit. He’s going to have a great future. I’m definitely looking forward to following his career in college.”

Speaking of which, for a long while, ever since his freshman year at Eastport-South Manor High School, it seemed as if Busiello, who hasn’t been beaten in high school matches in the past three years, and whose career record is 280-8, was headed to Penn State. 

But a visit to Arizona State in early November, where Jacori Teemer, Nassau’s five-time state champion, is redshirting, and where Zeke Jones, a former Olympic coach, is heading the program, proved to be persuasive. “I felt at home there,” Busiello said during a recent online interview, in explaining the flip.

With Teemer and Busiello, who will also redshirt as a freshman, as well as numerous other recent top-notch recruits, the Sun Devils could well be going toe-to-toe soon with the nation’s best.

Busiello’s father, John Sr., who Russo said was a state runner-up when he was a student at Hauppauge High School in the mid-1970s, had been the one to suggest he give wrestling a try, Adam said, “when I was 5. . . . I wasn’t that good when I started, but in fourth and fifth grade I got better. I was working hard and my dad was driving me everywhere. Mymom was supportive too — she wasn’t too nervous. . . .”

Actually, Denise Busiello was to say later, she was, and still is, “though I’m quiet about it.”

“I sit next to her,” her boyfriend, John Fischetti, chimed in, “and she’s a ner­vous wreck, even though people tell her, ‘Don’t worry, your son is going to kill him.’ But in wrestling things can happen and she knows that. You can slip and find your shoulders on the mat. . . .”

In the state tournament just past, and in the county tournament that preceded it, Busiello made sure that his opponents’ shoulders were the ones winding up on the mat, including those of the defending 138-pound state champion, Willie McDougald of Niagara Falls, whom he pinned midway through the second round.

“He will wrestle his heart out,” Bu­siello’s mother volunteered when the interview with her youngest son was done. “He’s always attacking — he’s not a counterpuncher. He’s not afraid to try moves he’s learned, not afraid to apply them.”

Of wrestling, she added, with a smile, “He loves what he does and having a child [she has five] love what they do makes you love that for them. That’s who he is — he’s a wrestler.”

Interestingly, all five of his state and all five of his county championships have come at ever-increasing weights — at 99 as an eighth grader, at 106 as a freshman, at 120 as a sophomore, at 126 as a junior, and, as aforesaid, as a 138-pounder as a senior. 

“Over all, I don’t love to cut a lot of weight,” Busiello said. “If you cut weight, you don’t focus on getting better. You want to focus on your wrestling rather than on how much weight you should lose.”    As for college, he said he thought he’d probably wrestle at 141. 

Red-shirting next year wouldn’t mean he’d be idle. He will wrestle in open tournaments (there would be one in Chicago “around Christmastime,” said Fischetti), though not in National Collegiate Athletic Association matches.        

When asked what it was he loved about wrestling, Busiello said, “You get out of it what you put into it — it’s a humbling sport,” one that because of its great demands generated mutual respect among its devotees. There was no trash talking in wrestling, no excuses. 

As for learning from his losses, which have been very few and far between during the course of his career, which, by the way, has included six national Super 32 championships, Busiello said, “You learn something from every match, win or lose . . . every match is different.”

He still remembers quite clearly the details of his state-final loss as a 99-pound seventh grader. “I was winning 7-5 and Jacori caught me in an awkward cradle with a minute left.”

            And what did he learn from that loss?  

            “I learned that I shouldn’t stop wrestling.”

“He’s always attacking, always applying the moves he’s learned,” said Denise Busiello, Adam’s mother. Craig Macnaughton
Adam Busiello, at left, recently became the only Suffolk wrestler ever to win five state championships. He’s won six national Super 32 championships as well. Craig Macnaughton