Port Allegany Reporter Argus
June 30, 2011
Outside Port Allegany High School last week, it was a typical early-summer day, with kids splashing in the pool or lounging in the sun. Inside, it was a different story, with dozens of wrestlers and coaches sweating in the Gator gyms on the second day of the Bruno Iorfido Wrestling Camp.
But while the young wrestlers were there to work, there was plenty of laughter, too. The week-long camp is a learning experience, but it’s also a bonding and team-building exercise.
And perhaps most importantly, it’s to honor the memory of a fallen friend by carrying on his legacy.
When Sean Lathrop, Isaac Greeley, and some of their friends started a wrestling camp in Port Allegany in the late 1990’s, Iorfido, a four-time District 9 champ and two-time state placewinner from Ridgway who would go on to become a three-time NCAA Division II Academic All-American at Pitt-Johnstown and finish eighth at the 2003 national championships, was one of the local wrestlers who volunteered his time to teach.
So when Iorfido was killed in a car accident in July 2003, those friends decided to rename the camp and award scholarships in his memory. The flyer advertising this year’s camp reads in part – above a long list of former state and NCAA medalists, with more than a few champions included, scheduled to attend – “Bruno was an All-American both on the mat and in the classroom and epitomized what a young wrestler should strive to become. We are honored to have this non-profit camp in Bruno’s name and will continue to award $1000 scholarships to dedicated college wrestlers that emulate the same kind of character and drive.”
“The biggest thing we want to do is make sure at the end of the week, these kids know who Bruno was,” Greeley said. “He did everything right on the mat, worked hard in the classroom, prayed every night, did anything you ever asked him, and he looked you in the eye when he talked to you. Even if one or two kids can pick up that message, maybe incorporate that into their life, that’s kind of our goal, our premise of being here, I believe.”
Aaron Rendos added, “Going off what Isaac said, I wrestled with Bruno – he was actually my college roommate for two years – and he hit on every single point: good kid, stayed on track. Focused. That describes him in one word. I moved up here after I graduated and was the coach at Port Allegany for four years, and you won’t see another kid like Bruno. Kids aren’t built that way these days. He was one of a kind. Hopefully we can get these kids to pick something up, especially working through his eyes, working the way he would have. Special people don’t come along too often, but he was definitely one of those special people.”
The camp, which started at the elementary school with 20 participants, enrolled close to 100 this year, a milestone Lathrop expects to surpass next summer. Clarion High School coach Rob Sintobin – an NCAA All-American at Clarion University – has bought into what’s happening in Port Allegany, even calling the coach at his old high school in northwestern Ohio to talk him into making the 12-hour round trip with close to a dozen of his wrestlers.
“It’s been great. Everyone treats us really well,” Sintobin said. “I’ve never been treated this well anywhere, by the community and the people running the camps. It’s great for building the sport. For a hundred bucks, the kids are getting an unbelievable amount of wrestling and team-building. Just a week together of good, solid time together for everybody. I wish we could get more up here. It’s been fantastic. We love it.”
He continued, “Sometimes when you live in a small rural town where it’s a little bit sleepy sometimes – like a Clarion, or really any of the towns up in this part of Pennsylvania – to see that somebody can go to a big-name school and be part of a big-name program, be part of a UPJ or a Clarion or an Edinboro or even Penn State like Dirk Cowburn. Not only go there, but be successful there – be All-Americans and be national champions and be from places like this – it’s huge. We want our kids to see that, and know that that exists, it’s out there, it can be done by kids from little towns. It always seems like it’s somebody from somewhere else, but those kids come from these places too. So we want to give our kids that opportunity, and I think this camp opens the door for an opportunity like that. It shows our kids those things are possible.”
“I think Rob hit the nail on the head,” Greeley said. “It’s about offering kids that might not be given opportunities any other way an opportunity to be in front of great coaches, train alongside college wrestlers. We brought our team up, brought 16 kids up from Burrell in the Pittsburgh area. I think for the surrounding area, it’s just such an opportunity for young kids for the price – they’re normally going to pay three or four hundred dollars for a camp, easy – they can come to a camp for a hundred dollars. That’s just part of it, but it makes it affordable.”
With most of the clinicians working for free or minimal travel costs – “They’re doing it because they know who Bruno was,” Greeley said – and donations of food and lodging from the local community, the lion’s share of the registration fees goes directly toward the scholarships.
Jon Marc Burdick, a 2009 Smethport grad now wrestling at Division I Edinboro, was one of the recipients.
“It meant a lot, because I’ve known Bruno’s family,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot about Bruno. I never really got to know him, but I know a lot of his friends, his coaches, his family. Just to see how he was – with wrestling, and just living – it meant a lot that I could receive that on behalf of him.
“I was probably 13 when I started coming here, and I’m 20 now, so I’ve been coming for a good period of time. I know it’s helped me out a lot. It’s not an expensive camp, it’s just to help out people go to college, help out kids around here, just to make our area better, and no one’s making a profit off it. It’s just a way to help our area, help our local towns, whoever wants to get better. And the amount of talent that’s in both the rooms here is comparable to any college training camp you’d go to. It’s amazing what we can have here. Compare it to the Iowa or Penn State campus, and we have it in Port Allegany.”
“This is basically a summary of the whole thing,” Greeley concluded. “We’re a family – we’re basically all here for Bruno – and the family seems to be growing pretty steady. It seems like we attract the same type of people: Good people, honest people who work hard and love the sport of wrestling. That’s the kind of people we want to have here, and I think we can keep this going for a long time.”