Top 10 of the D1 Era - No. 5: Desi Green
Despite not competing senior year, Green set bar for UB wrestling
When Rush-Henrietta wrestling coach Mickey Marlowe was coaching his first year of middle school football, he noticed a kid on the field who was small but had serious grit and toughness.
Marlowe watched as the seventh grader sprinted around the field making tackles and didn't back down from anyone.
As a wrestling coach first, Marlowe saw the raw qualities of a wrestler: athleticism, quickness and confidence.
"I would just watch him tackle and I thought he'd be a decent football player," Marlowe said. "But with his size and athleticism, he could probably make a run at the sport of wrestling. I liked his attitude; he had a little swagger to him even though he was small."
That kid was Desi Green (2008-11).
Marlowe knew Green was also a basketball player and getting him to switch from the hardwood and football field to the wrestling mat would be a tough task. For support, he turned to Green's best friend, Mike Mancari, who was already on the wrestling team.
"[Mike] told me, 'Just come out to wrestling and try it. If you like it, then we'll go from there,'" Green said. "I went to one practice and I got to run around and dive around and basically fight all practice. It was just kind of cool."
And in ninth grade, when Marlowe offered Green a spot on the varsity wrestling team, Green jumped at the opportunity. He didn't think about playing basketball or football anymore; he was a wrestler.
Green was a dominant force on the mat for the Bulls. In three seasons, he posted an overall record of 102-23 and became the quickest in school history to reach 100 wins. He is the program's leader in takedowns in a single season (71) and is second in career takedowns (181).
Green grew from a football and basketball player to a polished wrestler at the "Lion's Den" - the wrestling room at Rush-Henrietta High School.
In fours years for the Royal Comets, Green compiled more than 140 wins overall and won a New York State Championship and an Empire State Championship.
"Honestly, I would compare him to a race horse that was just in the zone," Marlowe said. "He just did his thing. [The coaches] taught him a few things but really it was like riding a horse. I just steered him a bit. But he did all the work."
Green earned a scholarship at UB, where he wasted no time getting to work.
He earned a Mid-American Conference Championship during the 2009-10 season, was a runner-up in 2008 and was a three-time Division I NCAA qualifier. He had the second-most wins in a season (40), one behind the single-season leader, Kyle Cerminara (2001-06).
Though Cerminara holds many individual program records, Green had superior dual meet statistics and was on pace to top those individual marks before being dismissed from the team before his senior year. He finished 35 wins shy of Cerminara's career record (137) and was five shy of Cerminara's takedown record (186). Green also holds a better winning percentage in both individual meets and dual meets.
"I had my teammates just push me throughout the week in practice," Green said. "They said, 'Hey, make sure you're doing this, make sure you're doing that' constantly, so that helped. [Also] I'm really competitive. I just hate to lose, but at the end of the day when I'm out there, it's me versus him."
Before his last season of eligibility, Green was let go from the team for violating program rules. He told The Spectrum in Oct. 2011 that it was because of drug use.
Green said he appreciates this recognition for what he did at Buffalo.
"It makes everything better," Green said. "It kind of puts some band-aids over some wounds. It feels good for [people] to appreciate and acknowledge my work. I did learn a lot of my work ethic at UB."
Marlowe touched on Green's time at UB and said that although he didn't finish his last year of wrestling, he did finish what he started in the classroom.
"I know he didn't fully finish his career [at UB]; he had one year left of eligibility," Marlowe said. "But he was going to make sure that he graduated. He has his degree. I remember him saying to me, 'I want to do this MMA thing and I want to see how good I can get at it. And obviously if it doesn't go well, I have my degree later on.'"
Green, now 24, fights Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) for Bellator MMA - a professional promotion industry. He uses his background of wrestling during fights.
"A lot of times when I talk to some of my teammates now that are on my fighting team and other fighters, they always say, 'Oh man, you're lucky that you have that Division I wrestling background,'" Green said. "Wrestling is kind of closely tied with fighting hand in hand. It's three different periods and it's one guy and another guy and a referee."
Green - known as Desmond "The Predator" Green in MMA circles - currently trains in Ithaca, N.Y., for Team Bombsquad. He holds an 11-2 professional MMA record and is set to fight in the Bellator Featherweight tournament final against Daniel Weichel (33-8) May 9 at 9 p.m.
"Basically, when he told me he was going to do something, he did it," Marlowe said. "And it usually always came to fruition."