June 29, 2018
The Bruno Iorfido Wrestling Camp, now in its 15th year after being renamed in memory of the Ridgway/Pitt-Johnstown standout and its 22nd year overall, once again took over both gyms and the wrestling room at Port Allegany High School for the week of June 18-22.
Johnni DiJulius, a four-time NCAA qualifier at Ohio State, and former Bellator MMA fighter Jason Sampson were among the new additions to a staff of clinicians that once again featured several college coaches and a roster stacked with collegiate national champions and All-Americans, MMA experts, and jiu-jitsu black belts.
Matt McCutcheon, who recently joined the coaching staff at Life University in Georgia, was back for his second year in Port. The three-time Nittany Lion NCAA qualifier called the local camp “unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” a sentiment echoed by other recent arrivals.
Here’s something else new: SIX of those college wrestlers met the stringent qualifications for the Bruno Iorfido Memorial Scholarship. To apply for the $1,000 award, a student has to be going into at least his sophomore year of college, keep his grades above a certain level, have attended multiple previous camps, and write an essay about what the camp has meant to him.
So instead of trying to choose one or two from among that group, the BIWC board decided to give all six the scholarship.
“There’s a lot of hard criteria. That’s what makes it crazy, that we still have that many people qualifying and applying,” camp co-founder Isaac Greeley said. “They all qualified, they all did everything right. So we’re just going to hustle our butts off and raise the extra money to award them all.
“We’re more proud of not the money that we’re raising, but what we’re putting into these kids. It’s not like we’re giving them a lot of money, it’s really more a badge of honor that they can carry for the rest of their lives: ‘Hey, I got a Bruno scholarship.’ That’s what we want to have. We’re 15 years into this, and every kid that’s gotten a scholarship has went on to do great things. So that’s the kind of people we want to put into, people that were like Bruno.”
And as co-founder Sean Lathrop pointed out, “Maybe we’re doing something right here in Port to have these kids keep coming back. All of them now are clinicians, and they’ve come since sixth, seventh, eighth grade. It says something about the loyalty we have. All the clinicians we have, they’re coming here. We’re not going to them, they’re coming here, which means I think we’ve got something pretty good going on.”
The six 2018 recipients were St. Marys grad Cameron Resch (Gannon), and Corey Falleroni, Steve Edwards, Matt Siszka, Tyler Reinhardt, and Alex Delp, all from Pitt-Johnstown.
“This is a special one,” Greeley said before handing out the final envelope. Now a junior on the Mountain Cats squad, Alex Delp was back on the mat less than six months after surviving an eight-story fall from his dorm room window in January 2017, with Greeley recalling that the young wrestler’s first words to him after coming out of a coma were, “I’m going to be at camp this year.”
Said Delp, “The support system (from ‘Team Bruno’ after the accident) has been incredible. I could not have done it by myself. I truly believe Bruno was with me when I had my accident, and he’s part of the reason why I’m still here today.
“I love this camp. I look forward to coming up here every year. There’s nothing on earth like it, I think. The connection here is so strong. People from rival schools, at rival weights, come up here and become the best of friends. This camp is truly incredible, and it’s all for a great cause.”
The board also recognized three of the 122 campers for their “work ethic, heart, and drive,” with Port Allegany’s Holden Nance (youth) and Issac Smoker (high school) selected along with Armstrong’s Connor Jacobs (junior high).
“You reminded us of Bruno. I think it’s pretty cool to see that. You guys are getting it,” Greeley said as he handed out the awards. Of Smoker, he added, “This kid really kicked butt this week, and I grew up with his parents, which makes it even more special.”
It was an unexpected honor for Smoker, who will be entering his senior year at Port.
“It was only my second time coming to camp since I was in elementary school. When my name got called out, I was shocked, really. It came out of nowhere, but it means a lot to me,” he said. “Everyone’s been telling me that I’ve got the potential, I just need to work harder, work harder. I never saw it in myself, but now it’s coming to me and I can finally wrap my head around it. I’m thinking about trying to go to college for it and everything.”
The 2018 PIAA Northwest Regional qualifier added, “It’s been tough for me because I haven’t done anything since wrestling season, so I was out of shape, but it’s already helped a lot. The first couple days I was sore, but it feels awesome to be there again. I’m kind of upset that I never went the last few years. It’s a lot of hard work from everybody. The coaches, the college kids – they’re national champs coming and helping out people. They’re showing moves right, and when they see an error they come and help you fix it. I’ve been kind of looking around as I wrestled, and I can see the littler kids having fun with it and still learning quite a bit. The coaches know how to make it fun, and also make you work hard.”
One of those college coaches, Gannon’s Don Henry, took the day off from his own week-long camp to make the two-hour drive east for Tuesday’s session.
“I think that the excitement of the kids that are here, the electricity, that draws you. It’s not like you go to a camp and the kids aren’t paying attention. They want to learn,” he said. “Every time I come here, it’s like, man, this is just a great experience. I taught for two hours this morning, and it was like, really, I’m out of time already? It all depends on the excitement level of the kids. Every kid here was anxious to learn something. Their attention span was really there.”
While the senior high wrestlers worked out in the main gym and the younger group was in the auxiliary gym, Henry and one of his former Golden Knights, Port grad Adam Greenman, were demonstrating moves to the junior high grapplers in the Gator wrestling room.
“He didn’t have to take off work to come to this camp, but he also likes to be the kid that’s been here for 21 years,” Henry said of Greenman. “It’s part of that Port Allegany tradition where they want this camp to be successful. Because of Isaac, because of all the people that come back and care about Bruno, it is.”
Greenman, who attended the inaugural camp in 1996 as a four-year-old and hasn’t missed one since, said, “It’s a big part of my life. I have to make sure I’m here every year. I just started a new job in February, and I had to make sure I at least had Tuesday off, when Coach Henry was here. Hopefully next year I can be here all week.”
Now an assistant on older brother B.J.’s PAHS coaching staff, he added, “It’s just awesome to see how big it’s grown. Just in maybe the past five years, it’s gotten huge. There’s almost too many kids, we almost don’t have enough room, it’s so big now.”
Speaking at the traditional Thursday night cookout and ‘Lathie Olympics,’ Greeley and Lathrop thanked both their families and the town of Port Allegany for continuing to support the camp.
“The first thing I want to say before anything is how special Bruno was, not just to me, but to a lot of the people in this room. I’m going to speak for all 13 board members: For us to come back here and keep this going, to keep his legacy alive, is something very special … but it needs to be bigger,” Greeley said. “We try to make it bigger and better every year, we do our very best, because we never want that light to go out. Because he was that kind of person. Let’s never forget him. Let’s understand what this camp is truly about. It’s about being that kind of person. I try to live like Bruno to this day.
“A lot of people are selfless. They understand what we’re doing and they believe in it. The whole thing’s kind of grown; more and more people are Team Bruno. It takes an army to get this week to happen. It can be very stressful at times to put all of this together, but we love it. We wouldn’t change anything.
“Our goal is to help form fine young men that are going to be good, upstanding people in this world. They know the difference from right and wrong. People call us role models. We’re really not role models; we’re just here to show what people can be. Kids like Bruno, the way he was. Everyone should aspire to be like that.
“It’s easy to forget when someone passes how special they were, but we knew how special he was and we never want that to die. It’s like a light we don’t want to go out. It would’ve been easy, we could’ve just said every year we’ll do a toast for Bruno, but that wasn’t enough. We had to do it up for him. And in all honesty, as big as this is, I wish it was bigger in his memory.”