Out of the Ashes

Jules Doliscar ’13 had just come home from wrestling practice when he saw his house burning to the ground.

“My brother picked me up at practice. He knew what had happened but didn’t tell me,” said Doliscar, who was a member of the Nassau Community College wrestling team at the time. “We were pulling around the block, and I saw all these fire trucks. We pulled up to the house, and it was in flames. I was shocked. I was hurt. I had just lost everything.”

But Doliscar immediately started looking for the positive in the midst of disaster. No one was injured. He knew he didn’t have that much stuff to begin with, and it was, after all, only “stuff.”

“I thought about what was really important: I’m healthy. I have people who love me, who are offering to take me in,” said Doliscar. “I really didn’t want to focus on the negative because you know what? That really doesn’t help anything.”

The son of Haitian immigrants, Doliscar had faced other challenges in his young life besides the fire. Growing up on Long Island, he didn’t very often get to see his father, who worked long hours as a New York City taxi driver. His parents separated when Doliscar was just starting school, and when his father wanted him to attend a private school, he had to rely on scholarships. When his mother and stepfather moved away, Doliscar stayed behind and lived with his older brother, who was 20, so he could continue to attend the high school where he wrestled. He was still living with his brother while he attended NCC, and that was when his house had burned down.

Doliscar’s upbeat attitude during difficult times exemplifies his character. The 175-pound wrestler, who shares the record with his teammate Matt Mahon ’12 for the most pins per season in IC history, listens to music from The Little Mermaid before matches. He doesn’t talk to his opponent when he takes the mat because he believes his opponent won’t be intimidated.

“Once they hear my voice, they can tell I’m a nice guy,” he said.

It was Doliscar’s nice-guy demeanor that first brought him to the attention of David Mattana ’83. An avid wrestling fan, Mattana is part of an informal network of Ithaca College alumni who keep wrestling coach Marty Nichols 90 apprised of promising wrestling prospects. Mattana’s son pinned Doliscar in a match when they were both freshmen in high school and the way Doliscar handled himself afterward impressed Mattana.

During the next few years, Mattana got to know Doliscar as their paths crossed at various high school and college wrestling events. Mattana was charmed by Doliscar’s engaging personality and impressed by his maturity. “He was always interested in the other kids and what they were doing, who they were wrestling, the kind of year they were having,” recalled Mattana. “He was just such a friendly and nice kid. You couldn’t help but notice him. He was deservedly one of the most well-liked kids in Long Island wrestling.”

Mattana saw Doliscar wrestle several times and often offered him encouragement after matches.

“He always told me, ‘Keep at it, kid,’” said Doliscar.

Mattana thought Doliscar’s personality and talent made him a perfect candidate for Ithaca College.

“The first thing I told Marty was, ‘Check out this kid. You’re gonna want him. He’s the greatest kid you’re ever going to meet,’” Mattana said. “Marty called me the next day and said, ‘You’re not kidding. I want that kid.’”

At Mattana’s urging, Doliscar visited campus the summer after his last wrestling season at NCC, and while Doliscar liked what he saw, he still wasn’t sure he wanted to attend IC. He had been accepted at New York University and knew that his father was excited about the possibility of him attending college close to home. But after talking more with the coach and wrestlers on the IC team, Doliscar decided to become a Bomber.

“NYU was very congested, and New York City had a lot of distractions,” he said. “Here, I could buckle down and focus. Plus, the wrestling team seemed a lot closer at IC — like there was a family bond.”

After Doliscar enrolled at IC, his father made the bus trip to Ithaca to see things for himself. He came away satisfied that his son had made the right choice.

“Everybody was so nice, and I could see how much they cared for my son,” said Doliscar’s father. “I told him, ‘I love you so much, and I am glad that you are happy here.’”

Doliscar’s challenges didn’t end once he transferred to IC. Although he was ranked at the top of his weight class in Division III, he started to feel weak partway through the season.

“I just didn’t feel like myself,” he said. “I would be wrestling and thinking, ‘This match should be over by now.’ I didn’t have the same oomph.”

Doliscar had come down with a virus, and when he had blood work done, he found out he was anemic. Wrestlers often fast in the days leading up to matches, and it was possible that he wasn’t getting enough iron in his diet. He started eating more greens and red meat, which helped his iron deficiency. Then, he suffered a knee injury during the conference championships, and by the time he had recuperated, he had just one week of practice before the NCAA championship tournament.

Though Doliscar’s goal was to come away with a national championship, he was upset in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA tournament and eventually finished seventh. He received all-American accolades for his performance, but he had been hoping for more. Despite the anemia and injury, he refuses to use those difficulties as an excuse. He is determined to make the most of his final year of competitive wrestling and become a national champion. After finishing his collegiate wrestling career next year, he plans to attend graduate school at IC to complete a master’s degree in occupational therapy.

Because of his experiences and overall passion for life, I really feel he’s going to be able to relate to different people on different levels,” said Jessica Taves ’94, assistant professor of occupational therapy. “I think that his maturity and his ability to see people in different lights is going to be very positive.”

Coach Marty Nichols says that Doliscar is not only one of the most competitive and hardest working athletes he’s coached but also “a natural leader.” In fact, he was named captain of next year’s wrestling team.

“He’s worked very hard, practiced, done all the extra things, training, learning, and he’s just a really coachable guy,” said Nichols. “He’s got a lot to offer to these young guys who come in. He can say, ‘Look, I didn’t get here just by being good. I had to work hard.’”