21 Questions with 2x NCAA Champ Vincenzo Joseph

Vincenzo Joseph is the first Penn State wrestler to ever win NCAA titles as a freshman and sophomore. The junior from Pittsburgh is currently 8-0 on the season and ranked #1 at 165 pounds. Last Friday, the #1 Nittany Lions beat #15 Arizona State 41-3 and Joseph picked up an 11-2 major decision over All American Josh Shields. 

1. You come across as a stress-free, laid-back guy. What’s your secret? Or is that just an act?

It’s really just a mindset that there’s something bigger than sports. It helps me stay focused but not worry too much. If I ever start to get nervous before my matches though, I throw on one of my self-help audio books that I keep on my phone. My coaches also make me practice talking to people in public, which makes me more stressed than anything.

2. Plans after college? Freestyle? Coaching? The Peace Corps?

I plan on wrestling freestyle for a little while then probably go into coaching after. Anything can change, but that’s the plan for now.

3. Penn State is known for their prominent greek life scene. Do you and your teammates ever go to fraternity parties? Have you ever been denied entry to a frat party?

We have never been to one, not for lack of trying though. My dad doesn’t have enough money and we don’t play football so the odds of us ever being allowed into a party are always extremely low. I’m forcing my kids to rush a Penn State fraternity in hopes that the guys let me in on parents weekend.

4. What do you hate the most about Mark Hall?

Easily the slowest eater I have ever seen. Every time we go out to eat I start a timer when everyone else is finished, and it usually takes Mark a good 22 extra minutes to finish his food.

Mark is a 2x NCAA finalist and 2017 NCAA champ. He’s currently ranked #1 at 174 pounds. 

5. Do you have any pre-match rituals or superstitions? 

Our team has a little chant we repeat in the locker room before we go out to each match. I won’t go over it because it takes about 20 minutes and involves some physical activity and advanced choreography, but that is a must before every competition.

6. As a 2x Keystone Classic and 2x Allegheny County champion, have you had any weird or creepy encounters with obsessive fans?

I couldn’t tell you the amount of people who approach me on a daily basis congratulating me on my accolades. I understand it isn’t often you see an Allegheny County champ, especially a 2 timer, but I have a life to tend to and would appreciate a little more privacy.

7. Who’s your funniest teammate? Most annoying? Most attractive? 

Funniest: 2-way tie between Bo Pipher and Dom Giannangeli. Most annoying: Pat Higgins. Most attractive: Anthony Cassar without question.

Cassar’s Instagram (for the curious)

8. Making the transition from Central Catholic High School (all boys school) to Penn State University (boys AND girls school), did you find it difficult to approach or talk to girls when you first arrived on campus? 

This is kind of an embarrassing topic for me, but I still have a very hard time approaching and talking to girls. I’m typically easily intimidated and socially awkward, but it’s something my coaches are working on with me after practices. We’ll review film and role-play social scenarios — it’s a learning process

9. Any interesting hotel experiences with your team? 

My redshirt year, I traveled to Big Tens with the team. Apparently, Zain (3x NCAA champ Zain Retherford) lit the bathroom up so bad, they had to move our whole team from the 3rd floor up to the 4th. The entire floor was shut down for the weekend.

10. Do you do any extracurricular activities on campus that don’t involve wrestling? 

A few of us are into roller skating. I personally enjoy shoveling sidewalks in the winter time. Some nights when I’m having trouble falling asleep, I’ll just go outside and shovel random sidewalks and driveways in State College. Sometimes people say “thank you” and sometimes people say “get off my property.” The cops have only been called on me once.

11. Jason Nolf seems like a mysterious guy. What’s an interesting fact about him that most wrestling fans probably wouldn’t know?

I would say that he’s married but I think everyone knows that. I heard from Bo Pipher though that he eats hot dogs with his left hand and everything else with his right. Also, he has incredible focus and can slow his heart rate to almost nothing and increase it to around 220 on command.

Jason is a 2x NCAA champ and currently ranked #1 at 157 pounds.

12. Last season, you had a huge win in the NCAA finals against Isaiah Martinez to defend your loss to him in the Big Ten finals. Tell me exactly how you felt when you walked off the mat after losing to Alex Marinelli 9-6 in your dual match against Iowa in February? 

Right after the match he got up and flexed in my face, then I just smiled back at him. I felt confident that I was the reason for that loss, so I just shrugged it off and kept a good attitude.

13. Penn State’s wrestling team seems to be extremely tight-knit and close with each other, especially compared to other teams. Is there any behind-the-scenes drama or bad blood between any of the guys?

[long pause] I wouldn’t say so. We all get along really well and have the same interests. There are some disagreements sometimes, but that’s going to happen when you’re around the same people all the time.

14. I heard a rumor that you have bizarre eating habits. What do you typically put in your body after weigh-ins?

We always get meatball subs catered in from whatever local Italian restaurant has the best rating on Yelp. The only exception is when its McRib season at McDonalds; can’t pass those bad boys up.

You lost in the finals of the 2006 North Hills Open at 10U 65 pounds. Conversely, I won that same tournament at 12U 75 pounds. This isn’t a question, I just wanted to let you know. 

Looks like I entered the wrong bracket then.

15. What’s a fun fact about Cael Sanderson that you think the average person wouldn’t believe?

Not sure if he still drinks them but I’ve seen this guy chug a 6 pack of Mountain Dew Kickstart like it was water and he was dying of dehydration.

16. Aside from your NCAA finals matches, what was the most memorable moment of your college career?

There have been so many good moments so far, so it’s hard to choose. I would have to say getting thrown on my head twice in less than a minute during my first match in Rec Hall. It really put things in perspective for me.

(Vincenzo lost to unranked Keaton Subjeck of Stanford 18-12 in his home debut as a freshman.)

17. What college team or wrestler do you hate the most and why?

I try not to hate anybody, especially somebody I am competing against. Ohio State.

18. Do you have any particular hobbies or activities that keep you distracted from the grind during wrestling season?

Other than shoveling snow, Xbox, and Netflix, prank calling the guys that work at FloWrestling is one thing that takes my mind off the stresses of the season.

19. In your opinion, what is Bo Nickal’s biggest flaw

The guy can’t stand not being the center of attention. Huge ego. Always pins guys in really cool moves just to show off and one-up his teammates. He got our one teammate an extremely nice and expensive Secret Santa gift that everyone can use just to show off. He even leads a pre-match bible study just to show us how cool he is.

Bo is a 2x NCAA champ and currently ranked #1 at 197 pounds. 

20. As far as practices and workouts go, what do you think Penn State does the most differently from other teams?

We run a lot. I know college wrestling teams do a lot of running but we take it to another level. Sometimes we’ll go a week or so without wrestling just to get our cardio up by running Beaver Stadium countless times.

21. If you could go back and re-wrestle any match, which would it be and why?

I would love to get another shot at Ryan Easter at the North Hills Open, which you previously brought up. It was 12 and under (I was 11 and he was 12 so he had an unfair advantage) and I was winning the match until I got pinned in a spladle. I practice my spladle defense a few times a week in case I ever get that rematch.


Vincenzo and Penn State will be competing at the Southern Scuffle on January 1-2. You can watch all the action live on FloWrestling.