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Meet Iggy – Master of an Extreme Sport

By February 4, 2020July 14th, 2021Inside Iroquois - Personality Podcasts

Hairpin turns, jumps, high-speed crashes – athletes traveling downhill on skates at 50 mph – 12 races, 8 countries, 3 continents: that’s an average season of Red Bull Ice Cross and Extreme Iroquois! Back in 2015, Michael Iulianello, better known as Iggy, was an intern at Iroquois Group, and a student and hockey player at St. Bonaventure University. That’s when he first heard about Red Bull Ice Cross.  After racing on his first ever downhill ice course, Iggy was hooked. Now the Iroquois logo races down each course with Iggy as he proves what hard work and determination can accomplish. In conclusion, insurance an extreme sports can and do go hand in hand. 

Extreme Iroquois as shown by sponsoring a Red Bull Athlete.

American Michael Iulianello (left), Michael Urban of the Czech Republic, and Scott Croxall of Canada. All on the winners podium after a Red Bull ice cross race in Igora, Russia, on Jan. 26, 2019.

Edwin K. Morris (3s):
Welcome to the trusted advisor podcast brought to you by Iroquois group. Iroquois is your trusted advisor in all things insurance. I am Edwin K. Morris. Today in the studio we have Michael Iulianello. Michael is a local kid from Webster, New York and a graduate from St. Bonaventure university in Olean, New York. What’s exciting about what’s going on with Michael is that he is in this new sport that’s called ice cross. It’s a red bull ice cross. So let’s welcome him to the studio. What is it you do?

Michael Iulianello (35s):
So the sports ice cross, it’s downhill ice skating,

Edwin K. Morris (39s):
Wait a minute, ice rinks are flat. So how does that even work?

Michael Iulianello (44s):
So, you know, I like to tell folks, compare it to, think of downhill skiing, snowboarding, except I’m on ice skates down an ice course, going over jumps turns pumps.

Edwin K. Morris (57s):
They don’t do a half-pipe in those, do they?

Michael Iulianello (59s):
No, the closest we get to that is a, you know, they’ll do a wall ride 180 turn

Edwin K. Morris (1m 6s):
On skates.

Michael Iulianello (1m 6s):
On skates. It’s fun. It took some training though.

Edwin K. Morris (1m 8s):
Where do you go for training for that?

Michael Iulianello (1m 10s):
A lot of creative training. So I cross train a lot on inlines, rollerblades, skate parks, bike parks, pump tracks. I lived in New Jersey last year, so there was camp Woodward, which is a big action sports, you know, kids camp. They have a couple locations around the U S so I would train there between the bike parks. You know, they call them, there’s some mini mega ramps where you have 20, 30 foot drop-ins, gain some speed.

Edwin K. Morris (1m 38s):
Is this going to end up being like in the Olympics?

Michael Iulianello (1m 40s):
That’s the goal, a couple of games out, most likely. So, you know, we’re coming up on the 2022 Olympics. The only shot of that would be a demo in those games. The goal of the sport is to get the Olympics someday. So 2026 is a possibility. At that point, you know, me looking at being maybe a coach, but somehow still involved.

Edwin K. Morris (1m 59s):
A young person’s game, right?

Michael Iulianello (2m 2s):
Definitely. And it’s funny though, because the average age of the sport, because of the entry barriers, it’s older than you would think I’m still probably towards the, at 27, I’m probably average age, if not towards the younger end. Cause it’s just tough to gain experience on the ice courses without the creative training.

Edwin K. Morris (2m 21s):
Well there can’t be that many of them, are there? Exactly. There’s only, the last two years, Russia’s now put in a permanent cross-train course, we’ll call it. So in the summer you can skate on it and on inlines. And the winter, so this year we’re going to the, to have a, a main event there in Moscow. So they’ll coat it with ice in the wintertime. And then Finland typically has, you know, one or two they’re like mid-level events. So they’re not the main red bull events, but they’ll, they’ll put a course together down, whether it’s a ski Hill slope or some land out there.

Michael Iulianello (2m 55s):
And they’ll keep it up for a couple of months before and after the race. So it’s kind of like a, the closest you’ll get to a permanent track.

Edwin K. Morris (3m 1s):
I would assume that getting some workman’s comp would be a little difficult. Is that that’s something that you have to, how does that work? I’m just curious.

Michael Iulianello (3m 10s):
I try not to worry about that.

Edwin K. Morris (3m 14s):
But it sounds like it’s a little dangerous, isn’t it? A little dangerous,

Michael Iulianello (3m 18s):
A little bit, but that’s where the, the training off season preparation comes into place. So you’re not getting on the course with wobbly deer legs, deer in headlights.

Edwin K. Morris (3m 30s):
Well, this isn’t an individual thing, right? I mean, it’s like a bunch of folks get together and go, I mean, it’s like roller Derby, a little

Michael Iulianello (3m 37s):
It’s one-on-one or it’s individual racing. We race four at a time down the course. So the way an event works is we get there Wednesday, Thursday, you have a practice Thursday night, time trials Friday morning. So we’ll have two time runs and then they seed you from one to 64. And it’s a knockout round, just like March madness, NCAA they’ll rank you four, one through 64, four at a time, go down the track, top two advance until you get to the finals.

Edwin K. Morris (4m 3s):
So how did you find yourself in this sport?

Michael Iulianello (4m 6s):
So it’s funny. It all connects back to, I went to school at St. Bonaventure. So my college coach hockey coach showed me a flyer for a qualifier back in 2013 at Niagara falls, they were doing a main event and it was too late to qualify for that event. So I kept an eye out for it and I was a junior at the time. So my senior year came around. I was like, you know what? Hockey is ending. You know, I’m going to, I’m going to try out for this thing. So I drove to London, Ontario, it was about four hours. And at the time they were still doing flat ice qualifiers. So it was at an ice rink. They’d set up some cones, some obstacles just to jump over, slide under. And fastest top guys got to go to the next main event.

Michael Iulianello (4m 49s):
I was a top finisher qualified for my first race in Quebec city in March of 2014. And you want to see deer in a headlight? Look, that was me going down that course. Cause I had never been barely skied. I just picked up skiing in college. Didn’t inline down ramps. I played roller hockey growing up and street hockey, but not anything like that.

Edwin K. Morris (5m 9s):
Yes. Little different speed momentum. I’m going to guess.

Michael Iulianello (5m 12s):
Oh yeah. And I was a pretty quick skater, but I mean, it was completely foreign to me. So I knew what I was getting into though. I did okay. Didn’t make it through time trials. Like I didn’t seed myself into racing. It was an awesome experience, a great weekend. It kinda got me hooked. So over that summer in 2014, I interned down in Myrtle beach with, with Mondelez international, the company I still work for today, you know, trained on inlines, went to skate parks, kind of got creative with some training. Started from there.

Edwin K. Morris (5m 43s):
It sounds like you’re all in. You are all into this. How’s the connection with Iroquois? I’m curious.

Michael Iulianello (5m 49s):
So the connection with Iroquois goes back to St. Bonaventure as well. For my grad school year, 2015, I was a assistant grad assistant for Laurie. And so we had a great relationship there and it was a great opportunity to teach with her. So Laurie Branch of the Iroquois group. Yeah. So it was a great experience to obviously learn from her being so successful in the business world and as well as, you know, some of the teaching abilities that she brings to the table. So awesome experience there. You know, so after grad school, I moved on to, to my job here with Mondelez and we stayed connected and when the opportunity came around, I reached out for them to be a sponsor.

Michael Iulianello (6m 32s):
And I’ve been very blessed for the last couple of years to have them as a sponsor.

Edwin K. Morris (6m 36s):
Of all the competitors that you deal with, how many of those have insurance companies as sponsors for something that doesn’t sound very safe?

Michael Iulianello (6m 45s):
Yeah, none off the top of my head.

Edwin K. Morris (6m 48s):
I would imagine. Yes. So that’s a quite a unique partnership

Michael Iulianello (6m 52s):
For sure. Yeah, definitely. And you know, I was thinking about this, this point too, and kind of the value that Iroquois provides to their clients and partners and being able to connect them with a group to provide additional value, to grow their business. Right. That’s kind of how I see them as a, you know, a sponsor of mine to be able to allow me the opportunity to compete on a global scale in a sport and a tour that’s growing, traveling around the world, having all these awesome experiences because we don’t do it for the, for the money. Right. But being able to travel and compete and the life experiences it’s, it’s unforgettable experiences that we’re having. And you know, definitely fortunate to have Iroquois.

Edwin K. Morris (7m 32s):
How do you work that with Iroquois, do you to go to their events and show off your, your wares or how does that work?

Michael Iulianello (7m 41s):
I do have a, I have a polo that I usually wear around the races, but mostly it’s social media. And, and when I’m posting, obviously call-outs and tags to Iroquois group, whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram. Going to look at starting to do a little bit more on LinkedIn since LinkedIn is starting to become, you know, including some of the profession, obviously professional, but some of the personal experiences, you know, folks are able to see you well-rounded

Edwin K. Morris (8m 7s):
Where would the audience find you? How would they be able to connect with you on social?

Michael Iulianello (8m 12s):
So we can include links in the, in the show notes, but Facebook Michael Iulianello, it’s a long last name and we can include it in the, in the show notes there, but I have a Facebook page.

Edwin K. Morris (8m 23s):
Is there another way they can find you other than by your name? The organization that you’re skating with, have a, a presence, or are you connectable through Iroquois?

Michael Iulianello (8m 32s):
I’d say contact information. I can provide an email.

Edwin K. Morris (8m 35s):
What’s your favorite hashtag? What are you using for a hashtag?

Michael Iulianello (8m 39s):
Hashtag right now is ice cross. Instagram Mike underscore Iggy. That’s my nickname. Iggy.

Edwin K. Morris (8m 50s):
Well, Iggy’s easier to pronounce than that long, last name I’ve seen you have

Michael Iulianello (8m 54s):
Exactly. Which is why that’s on the back of my jersey.

Edwin K. Morris (8m 58s):
Iggy has got to look more Ziggy.

Michael Iulianello (9m 0s):

Edwin K. Morris (9m 0s):
All right.

Michael Iulianello (9m 1s):
I guess that could be a hashtag too. It just hasn’t taken off.

Edwin K. Morris (9m 6s):
See, I’m Iggy.

Michael Iulianello (9m 6s):

Edwin K. Morris (9m 6s):
Well, thank you very much for connecting with us today and sharing this exciting experience.

Michael Iulianello (9m 11s):
Awesome. I appreciate it.

Edwin K. Morris (9m 13s):
Thanks for listening to this edition of the trusted advisor, a podcast brought to you by Iroquois group. Iroquois, your trusted advisor for all things insurance, and remember get out of the office and sell. This program was recorded live with the Cohen multimedia studio on the grounds of Chautauqua institution. I am Edwin K. Morris, and I invite you to join me for the next edition of the trusted advisor podcast.