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Grappling Tackler Antonio Garay goes to the mat for Boston College, but his future is on the gridiron

When it comes to the art of the takedown, Boston College senior
Antonio Garay prefers to keep it simple. "I like to slam
people," the 6'4", 281-pound defensive end says with a shrug.
Garay goes beyond the ordinary lineman's zeal for violence.
Although he's the recipient of a football scholarship, Garay is
also a two-time All-America heavyweight wrestler. "I'll use
certain moves with my hips and hands to control my opponents,"
says Garay, who had six tackles, including two sacks, last
Saturday in BC's opener, a 34-10 win over West Virginia. "I
treat every down as if it's a wrestling match: Either you win or
you lose."

After tearing the medial collateral ligament in his left knee on
the first play of the 2000 opener against West Virginia--he was
recently granted a medical redshirt year for 2000 by the
NCAA--Garay used last winter's wrestling campaign to try to regain
full mobility in the joint for football. In March, with his
healed knee protected by four layers of padding, he reached the
quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. Four days later he was
punishing tackling dummies in spring football practice and is now
pain-free. "The mental toughness needed in wrestling definitely
carries over," says coach Tom O'Brien, who was so impressed with
Garay's physical condition that he moved him from tackle to rush
end. "Then there is simple, God-given talent."

The eldest son of Antonio Sr., a former Hofstra defensive end
who was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1971 but didn't play
as a pro, and Marsha, a former Hofstra tennis captain, Garay was
encouraged to play sports the way some kids are urged to finish
their vegetables. As an 85-pound second-grader, he was deemed
too heavy to play midget football by Pop Warner officials, so
wrestling became his favorite sport. However, by the time he
reached Rahway (N.J.) High, for which his father and three
uncles had been football-wrestling standouts, Garay was
upholding both ends of the family tradition, earning state and
national wrestling titles as a senior and collecting 38 career
sacks and gaining all-state recognition in football. Of all the
football recruiters that came calling, O'Brien was the only
coach who promised Antonio that wrestling, a nonscholarship
sport at Boston College, could take priority over off-season
football conditioning.

Nevertheless, during wrestling season Garay still squeezed in
football workouts before classes and got in his lifting before
wrestling practice. He considers himself one of the luckiest guys
in the world. "I'm inspired all year long by those guys," says
Garay of the wrestling team, which will lose its athletic
department funding after the 2002 season in a budget-cutting
measure. "Their love for their sport is so pure." The first
wrestling All-America in Eagles history, Garay, it appears, will
also be the last.

Although wrestling coach Rod Buttry says his top performer has
Olympic potential, Garay is pointing to the NFL. Still, next
winter he will take one last shot at the NCAA wrestling
championships, during which he could run into the next great
Garay--younger brother Dan, a 6'1", 225-pound freshman at
Hofstra. Regardless of the opponent, Garay figures that a
wrestling match can't be half as tough as facing, say, Miami's
offensive line, as he will on Nov. 10. "I spend five months out
of the year taking on two or three guys at once," says Garay.
"No way I should let one little guy beat me."