June 30, 2016
It’s becoming an annual tradition, and one which keeps growing every year.
For a week in mid-June, dozens of young wrestlers, coaches, and clinicians from all over the country — and this year, even an Olympian from the island nation of Palau — made the pilgrimage to Port Allegany for the 13th annual Bruno Iorfido Wrestling Camp.
Renamed in 2004 to honor the memory of the Ridgway High School standout and Pitt-Johnstown All-American who died in an auto accident shortly after working at the camp the previous summer, this year’s sessions boasted nearly 150 campers and more than three dozen coaches and teachers from the sports of wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and mixed martial arts.
“We’re pretty much at capacity for the number of kids we can handle, so that worked out perfect,” said Isaac Greeley, who co-founded the camp with Sean Lathrop, Aaron Rendos, and Jared Kulek. “Everyone’s got the ‘Bruno Spirit,’ where everyone gets into what Bruno was trying to accomplish, trying to carry on his legacy.”
Over at the registration table, Lathrop was already working on how to borrow more mats and find housing for more campers next year.
“That’s a tough problem to have,” he said, smiling. “Every year, things just seem to fall into place. We may have a hiccup here or there, but everybody steps in to help.”
One of the highlights of this year’s camp, in addition to a visit by two-time NCAA Division 1 champion Quentin Wright (Penn State), was Florian Temengil’s first visit to the mountains of northern Pennsylvania.
The 29-year-old Temengil, who lives and works in Dallas after becoming an All-American wrestler at Newman University in Wichita, Kansas, will head to Brazil in August to represent Palau in the 125-kg freestyle division at the Summer Olympics. It will be the second Olympiad for Temengil, the reigning heavyweight champion in Oceania, who also wrestled at the 2008 Games in Beijing.
A conversation with an MMA fighter he was working out with in Dallas brought up Greeley’s name as someone who’s had success coaching in several different forms of combat sports, including current UFC fighter Chris Dempsey and Dom Mazzotta, who’s set to challenge for the Cage Fury Fighting Championships bantamweight title in Atlantic City in August.
“I texted Isaac, he invited me out, and it’s been a great idea. I needed to get away from working and focus for a little while for the Games. You have to prepare. So this has been amazing,” Temengil said. “The whole town’s been great. I’m really glad I came. It’s like 150 degrees in Dallas, and here, kids are swimming while their parents are wearing sweaters. It’s a little different up here, but it’s nice. I like it. Everyone’s been really friendly. A real good experience.”
Greeley explained, “I told ‘Flo’ I had some good heavyweights to wrestle with and some great coaches, so he made the trip up, and he stayed with Ray Howard. He’s been training with D.J. Sims (UPJ), Nick Budd (Gannon), and Al Beattie (UPJ), and Tom Storey (1989 Coudersport state champ and former college coach) has been working out with him too.”
At Thursday’s cookout at the Port Allegany Veterans Memorial pavilion, it didn’t matter whether you were from Port Allegany, Pittsburgh, or Palau, with the festivities taking on the appearance of a giant family reunion.
“I’ve just got to give credit to Isaac and Brandon (Newill, Iorfido’s UPJ teammate) and Sean, all the people that put this thing together,” said longtime UPJ coach Pat Pecora, who continues to make the trip upstate every year. “It’s just amazing. And, of course, the purpose is outstanding. What better way for a person to live on than have a memorial for them with a celebration? Not only the guys he wrestled with, but his family, his brothers, the wrestling community…To me, it’s a blessed event. I leave here every year feeling like I came from a revival meeting or something. It’s such a great feeling. I know Bruno would be so humbled and honored to see it: ‘All these people are getting together for me?’”
Iorfido’s family also comes up from Ridgway for the event. This year, camp organizers presented them with a plaque bearing the names of BIWC scholarship winners, with the current total of awards standing at $27,000.
“When I saw the team picture this morning, I knew this was the biggest camp yet. I was very proud. Proud of this staff,” said Iorfido’s father, ‘Big Bruno.’
“When I see the guys that Bruno wrestled with, Brandon, Isaac, Aaron, Craig (Hight), I’m so proud to see you guys here every year. For all you new campers, you younger guys, this is going to be your family. Wrestling is gonna be your family. This is going to carry you through the rest of your life. These people that you’re with, your wrestling family, it’s going to be a very important part of your life.”
Greeley echoed the sentiment.
“It’s a pretty special thing. You just can’t create this in one night; it’s been 20 years in the making,” he said. “This is the 20th year having camp, the 13th year of it being the Bruno Iorfido scholarship camp. It’s just something special that we’ve created. It’s pretty amazing.”
“Most important, my wife Laurie and daughters Becca, Allison, and Hannah.”
Mick and Sue Greeley, Ray and Janet Howard, John and Becky Caden, Brad, Jenny, B.J. and Jena Greenman, Barry and Donna Sauers, Mark, Phil, and Perry Carlson, Rod and Pam Rees, and Perry and Jon-Marc Burdick all helped house campers and clinicians for the week.
Also, Steve Crowe, the Port Allegany Veterans Memorial, Dave Frontino and the Port Shop ‘n Save, and Pam Fischer and Lori Chase of the Reporter Argus.