As a defensive end, it’s Canon-McMillan senior Angelo Broglia’s job to ensure the opposing quarterback has only a few seconds to throw the football.
Which is ironic, in a way, because that’s about how long it took Broglia, who also starts at heavyweight for Canon-McMillan’s wrestling team, to fall in love with the sport he loves the most: mixed-martial arts.
“It was the most fun thing I had ever done in my life,” Broglia said of going to the Pittsburgh Fight Club in Robinson, a move he made after talking to Big Macs assistant Jason Cardillo, an MMA addict himself. “It was just so comfortable. It’s a feeling that you can beat someone, the feeling that you’re better than someone.”
While Broglia won’t soon be headlining an Ultimate Fighting Championship card, he did sign a National Letter of Intent recently to play football for Saint Francis University, an opportunity of a lifetime that Broglia and others attribute to his love affair with MMA.
“There are a lot of similarities with MMA, football and wrestling: the mental toughness, the conditioning,” Canon-McMillan wrestling coach Chris Mary said. “That all ties in to what we stand for at Canon-Mac; we want tough, hard-nosed warriors.”
Broglia, who’s roughly 6-3, 235 pounds – his weight fluctuates 15-20 pounds between football and wrestling seasons – most definitely falls into that category.
But he’s also more agile than other defensive linemen his size, tapping into his MMA background to improve how he uses his hands.
“You punch, and you’re always keeping your hands up,” Broglia said. “It causes you to get your hands strong. To punch an offensive lineman, you want to keep good distance so you can rip off and make a play.”
Broglia was a three-year starter on the offensive and defensive lines for Canon-Mac. He had 85 tackles, six sacks and five fumble recoveries this past fall while being named All-Class AAAA Southeastern Conference.
In wrestling, Broglia boasts a 30-8 record this season for Canon-McMillan, which has won the past four WPIAL Class AAA Team Tournament Titles and four PIAA team titles in the past three years.
He’s not only a favorite to win the Section 4-AAA title this weekend, but he should also contend for WPIAL and PIAA gold.
Not too shabby for someone who waited his turn for two years behind two-time WPIAL champion and two-time state medalist Cody Klempay.
“We always knew the last few years of the talent that Angelo possessed,” Mary said.
“He’s been a leader and a key component of our state championship team.”
Starting his sophomore year, Broglia began needling Cardillo about his MMA career, something the physical education teacher does to stay in shape on the side.
Casually at first then growing more serious, Broglia began peppering Cardillo with questions on where he trained, for how long, what he did and whom he did it with.
Eventually Cardillo invited Broglia out to a session, and Broglia was instantly mesmerized.
Broglia now trains at Pittsburgh Fight Club three or four days in the week in the summer, usually two and a half hours at a time.
Submissions, grappling and striking are all part of the workouts, though the biggest factor has been the focus on his hips – essential in wrestling.
“Similar to wrestling, when you’re throwing punches, you need to make sure your hips are involved,” Cardillo said. “In jiujitsu, you have to engage your hips to hold the opponent down or secure a submission. Same thing when you try to move your hips to get out of a wrestling hold.”
When Cardillo fought last summer at the Southpointe Iceoplex, Broglia and other members of Canon-McMillan’s wrestling team went to cheer him on.
Mary calls Cardillo “the nicest tough guy you’d ever want to meet,” and Broglia had even more glowing things to say, considering the positive impact Cardillo has had on his life.
“I watched a couple of his fights, and I fell in love with the sport,” Broglia said of Cardillo. “He’s such a good wrestler; he’s one of the best wrestlers I know. I just wanted to be like him.”
Broglia knows his future, at least for the next four years, involves football. “It’s a money thing,” he called signing with Saint Francis, which plays in the Northeast Conference and finished 4-4, 5-6 last year, though there will always be a part of him that yearns to get in the gym, to square off with someone and prove he’s the better fighter.
Want proof? Check this out.
“If my favorite team is in the Super Bowl and they’re facing their rival,” Broglia started, “and on a different channel Anderson Silva is fighting for the belt … I guess I’d have to watch the Super Bowl because everyone’s going to watch the Super Bowl.
“But secretly I would want to watch Anderson Silva.”