Galasso is impressing at Lyco

Standing on the sideline as players poured out of the locker room for practice, Steve Wiser called out to fellow Lycoming coach Steve Radocaj on Wednesday.

“Hey, Rad, how long did it take us to know Galasso was a player,” Wiser asked.

“I don’t know,” Radocaj said. “An hour? Yeah, about an hour.”

The conversation would have been funny if it weren’t true. Matt Galasso has turned heads since stepping foot on campus as Lycoming. Even as a late edition to the football team, joining less than a week before the first game at Susquehanna, the true freshman defensive lineman has made his presence known to Wiser’s defense and Radocaj’s defensive line.

At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Galasso is a specimen of a human being, especially for a freshman. Strong and athletic, nearly 20 percent of Galasso’s tackles this year have been for a loss. He’s had an instant impact on Lycoming’s defense and last week played on 55 of Lycoming’s 75 defensive snaps.

He’s become the kind of player, in just a short time, who is capable of playing all three downs. Not bad for a player who wasn’t on the team when fall practice started.

“He hit a spin move in practice (Tuesday) night that was like, whoa,” Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. “I don’t want to make comparisons, but he’s pretty good.”

Galasso was a two-sport standout at Roman Catholic in the Philadelphia Catholic League. He was a wrecking ball of a linebacker in the fall who hit like Aaron Judge teeing off on a batting practice fastball. In the winter, he was a state qualifier on the wrestling team, finishing fourth in the Class AAA Northeast Regional to reach Hershey for the first time in his career.

As he did his recruiting, he had initially decided to come to Lycoming to join both the football and wrestling teams. He eventually decided he was just going to join the wrestling team and pass on football.

But late in the summer, as he was hanging out with offensive lineman Dan Sipps, Galasso said he was already missing football. He asked Sipps to check with Clark and see if it was too late to join the football team.

“In most circumstances, I might not allow someone to join the team that late because they missed preseason. But we felt like he could be a pretty good player,” Clark said. “He certainly hasn’t disappointed us. Aside from being big and strong and reasonably athletic, he has great leverage and you know he’s tough. For him to do what he’s done with not having a preseason, I think it speaks volumes about what he is. He’s really starting to figure it out.”

Galasso opened his career with four tackles against nationally-ranked Delaware Valley. He then went two games without recording a tackle. But since then, Galasso has made his biggest impact.

Twenty-five of his 29 tackles this season have come in the last five games, including all five tackles for loss and both sacks he’s recorded, including a solo sack last week against Lebanon Valley. It’s all come even as Wiser and Radocaj have had Galasso working at both defensive end and defensive tackle.

He said his time as a wrestler — he’ll join the Lycoming wrestling team after the football season — has helped him in areas of leverage, hand-fighting and being able to get a jump from a stationary position. Wrestling is a family sport for the Galassos. His cousin, Joey, was a state champion at Father Judge High School and is currently on the Cornell wrestling team.

Galasso said he’s been able to grasp the subtle differences between playing tackle and end mainly just by studying after practice.

“End is probably more simple because our tackles move around a lot. But you get used to it,” Galasso said. “There’s a lot more plays here than in high school. I think in high school we ran four or five blitzes, but here we’re learning new blitzes every week, so you’re learning a new play sheet every week. But it’s not that hard, you just have to rep it.”

“He’s a worker, too. He and Sam Romanofsky will run together after practice, they do extra hills,” Clark said. “He put himself, knowing he was behind, with the right people to get caught up. Wise and Rad do an awesome job with our defensive line as it is anyway, and I’m sure they have spent additional time with Matt. But I think he’s done a good job of getting caught up with the other guys.”

It all added up to Galasso’s best game of the week last week against a physical front at Lebanon Valley. He recorded a season and career high eight tackles, five of which were solo and two of which were for loss.

Galasso came to Lycoming full of potential. It’s taken only eight games for him to start to realize that potential. And it was a potential which took Wiser and Radocaj only an hour into his first practice to see.

It’s a potential Galasso himself sees. It’s part of the reason he puts so much time into learning his craft. He knows understanding the mental side of the game will make him a better player each Saturday afternoon, much like last Saturday.

“The coaches know I care and I want to work hard to come back out here next year and be even better,” Galasso said. “It’s definitely worked out pretty good.”

“I think some people missed the boat on him,” Clark said.