Kriner inducted into D-9 Wrestling HOF

Kriner PA

Former Port Allegany wrestling coach John Kriner (third from left) with the current Gator squad at last weekend’s District IX Championships, where he was inducted into the local chapter of the PWCA Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2016.

Lori Chase
Mar. 3, 2016

Very few local high schools offered the sport of wrestling when a young teacher named John Kriner arrived in Port Allegany in 1970.
Kriner helped to change that, serving as the Gators’ first head coach from 1973-79, then taking the mantle again from 1986-94. When he retired from the school in 2004 following a three-year stint with the junior high squad, he’d compiled a 145-85-1 career varsity record and coached nine district champions, two Northwest Regional champions, eight state qualifiers and one PIAA state champion.
His efforts to teach and promote the sport were officially recognized last weekend, when Kriner was part of the District IX Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2016 inducted during the championship meet at Clearfield.
For Kriner, the honor was “very humbling.  It’s not like winning a district title or taking a kid and watching him become a state champion. It’s a humbling thing, because there are so many others that have been a part of that family or fraternity or whatever you might want to call it that have come before you, and there are so many others that are going to come after you. The unique thing is they’ve all worked to benefit the sport, and in the process, to benefit kids. I’m humbled to be a part of that.”
So how did someone who never wrestled in high school or college get involved with the sport, anyway?
“I went to Lock Haven University after graduating from Emporium in 1966 — boy, that seems like a long time ago,” he joked. “When I was at Lock Haven, they were a powerhouse wrestling school, and I just became enthralled with the sport as a spectator. It was one of those combinations of watching those young men participating, and perhaps the fantasy in my own mind: ‘Boy, I wish I’d have had a chance. I wish that this would’ve been available for me.’
“When I was hired at Port Allegany in 1970, I worked with Frank Robinson for a year or maybe two in Junior Olympics. He had a background in wrestling, and he wanted to be able to create something for not only his kids, but other kids in the sport. Frank was more or less the motivating force in getting the Junior Olympic program started, and certainly was very instrumental in helping to push for the beginning of a varsity program in Port Allegany.”
The school decided to try the sport on a trial basis in 1972. Kriner applied for and got the coaching job, working with “a half-dozen or eight kids” the first year before going ahead with a full schedule in 1973.
“To tell you the truth, I was so naive at the time, one of my very first goals with wrestling was to develop a state champion within the first five years of the program.” he said. “Well, that didn’t happen, but we did have a young man who placed at districts. Mike Freeman was actually our very first placewinner at the district tournament (in 1975), so he has his place in history for Port Allegany wrestling.”
After stepping away following the 1978-79 season, Kriner returned to the helm of the program in 1985-86, just in time to see a promising sophomore win a district title.
Two years later, Dale Budd stood atop the podium at Hersheypark Arena, a PIAA gold medal draped around his neck. To this point, he remains the only Gator wrestler to win a state championship.
“That was a remarkable experience,” Kriner said. “It was following the loss of my son, and Dale and my son Rick were good friends. Most of the kids on that team were all good friends with Ricky.
“One of the things I’ll always hold very dear to my heart is Dale’s first words when he came off the mat after winning a state title and grabbing a big bear-hug back and forth. With all the emotion of the victory and everything else, his first words were, ‘Coach, that one was for Bonecrusher.’ That’s what the kids called Ricky. That was really, really important to me.”
Budd, himself a District IX Hall of Famer after a career which went on to include earning NCAA Division I All-American status at Lock Haven, made the trip from near Philadelphia to be there for the ceremony on Saturday afternoon. A similar show of respect was evident on a Facebook post Kriner wrote to thank everyone involved with the program, which garnered more than 400 ‘likes’ and dozens of congratulatory comments, including many from his former wrestlers.
Another former Gator standout echoed their sentiments when contacted earlier in the week.
“Coach Kriner was a huge influence on my life. He really started to plant the seed of not only developing a passion for the sport of wrestling, but also for helping others and being selfless. He was a great role model for me at a young age and without his guidance I would not be where I am today,” said Isaac Greeley, a four-time state qualifier who went on to become a two-time NCAA Division II All-American at Pitt-Johnstown. “I’m very proud that he is being inducted into the D-9 Hall of Fame and happy that someone who put so much into others is being recognized for all that he has done for the sport and his wrestlers.”
Greeley is one of several former Port wrestlers who decided to follow Kriner’s lead into coaching, from Steve Crowe, Denny Bloss, Mike Borro and Greg Budd (to name a few) from those early teams to current Gator varsity coaches B.J. Greenman and Chad Saltsman.
“That circle of life continues to go on,” Kriner said. “I appreciate watching B.J. and Chad and the work they do, the other local guys like John Bishel and Aaron Rendos, all of these different men and their contribution toward helping kids. Because to me, the extracurricular activities in a school are the window that the community can see what’s going on within the school system. Not just wrestling or football or basketball, but all of the activities, be it in athletics or the performing arts. The coaches, mentors, advisors … all those people who involve themselves in the lives of kids. That’s important. That helps to mold those young people in moving forward.
“That’s a legacy. That, to me, that’s a part of what you do. The most important thing in what I did was to create the program. The concept is to create a program that’s more important than any one individual, whether it’s the coach or any one star on the team. The ideal situation is to be able to take those principles that you teach, and to have them mean enough to someone else to want to take the same concept and carry it on by doing it with others. There’s no greater thanks you could ever receive.”


Wrestling: Budd repeats as D-9 champ

Port sends five, Coudy four, Smethport two to regionals

Lori Chase
Mar. 3, 2016

The dream of PIAA gold is still alive for five Port Allegany High School wrestlers following last weekend’s District 9 Championships.

Led by Ethan Budd, who swept through the 220-pound bracket to become just the seventh Gator grappler in school history to win multiple district titles, fellow seniors Mac Tanner (second at 160) and Josiah Ramadhan (third at 170) and sophomores Trey Stiles (fourth at 120) and Jacob Kallenborn (fourth at 145) each earned a berth in this week’s Northwest Regional with a top-four finish at the two-day meet held at Clearfield High School on Feb. 26-27.

“We were talking about that before we went down there,” Port coach B.J. Greenman said after Budd joined former Gator stars Isaac Greeley, Adam Rohrer, Nick Nichols, Alex Gular (all three-time champs), Dylan Major and 1988 PIAA champion Dale Budd with his second D-9 win. “Ethan said, ‘If I win, I’ll be like the seventh or eighth one to ever do it!’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, you would be. But you’ll be even more elite if you make it to states, because I think we’ve only had three or four multiple state qualifiers.’

“He’s in an elite group already. He and Mac are already in the top 10 in winning percentage for the school’s history, and Ethan’s climbing up the board for most wins. Both of those kids are in elite territory on how they wrestle.”

The defending champ and top seed at 220, Budd (27-2, 98-26 career) opened his title defense by pinning Mark Latuska (Brockway) in 1:10, then scored a 10-2 major decision against Steven McClure (Curwensville) before downing second-seeded Brookville sophomore Tyler Cook, 10-3, in the final to ensure Port would have at least one district champion for the 10th time in 11 years.

“He’s so quick on his feet and so strong when he gets to a leg, I think kids don’t know what to do. You could see it in the finals; he just completely frustrated the kid. (Cook) couldn’t do anything, and Ethan was taking him down, taking him down. Just a dominant performance,” Greenman said. “When our kids wrestle well, that’s what they do. They just keep putting pressure on the kid and keep scoring. That’s how you win big matches.”

Cook’s loss was a rare setback for the Raiders, who obliterated their own two-year old team scoring record with 257.5 points to runner-up Brockway’s 129.5, sent 12 of 14 wrestlers on to regionals, and tied another D-9 record by crowning six champions. Ridgway took third with 113.5 points, while Port compiled 92.5 to match last year’s fourth-place finish.

“I think we wrestled well, although we didn’t meet our goals. We wanted to take seven kids (to regionals), but we took five and had seven in the semis, second-most out of any of the teams down there. Five is still a big number,” Greenman said, “and it’s the most in the AML. We like to at least beat the teams around here, if we’re not going to be able to compete with some of the bigger schools down by I-80. I think we had a good showing, especially for a small school like we are.”

Budd and unbeaten Smethport 152-pounder Jimmy Duffy (30-0) were the only Allegheny Mountain League wrestlers to earn gold, with Tanner (28-2, 84-18 career), the Hubbers’ Adam Shunk (26-4), and Coudersport’s Julian Smith (23-6) each falling in the finals to claim silver.

Tanner had the misfortune of being in the same weight class with undefeated Cranberry standout Paul Zacherl (34-0), who Greenman thought merited serious consideration for the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler award.

“Sometimes you wrestle a kid you just can’t do anything to,” he said. “He was wrestling at that level; he was just completely untouchable for the entire tournament.”

The M.O.W. award went to Brookville’s 132-pound star, nationally ranked Taylor Ortz (37-0), who pinned his way to his fourth-straight D-9 championship. Ortz’s future Clarion University teammate Shae Bloom also became a four-time champ, winning the first two at Class AAA DuBois before transferring to Curwensville.

Most of the brackets ran true to the seeding, with 12 of 14 finals featuring a 1-vs-2 showdown and all but two of the top seeds earning titles. Kallenborn and Stiles were two of the exceptions who outperformed their seeding, each upsetting a higher-ranked wrestler to open up their path to regionals. Dylan Baumgarner (21-9, 66-35 career) and Reese Vollmer (17-13) each came within a takedown of joining them before ending their seasons by dropping close decisions in the consi semifinals.

Now it’s on to Sharon for regionals, a return trip for all three seniors, with Budd placing third a year ago to punch his ticket to states.

“Looking at the brackets, I think we’re set up pretty well,” Greenman said. “Our three seniors have a really good shot at making it out, and even our two sophomores, going in as four-seeds, have a decent shot.”

As the No. 1 seed at 220, Budd earned a first-round bye and will open his tournament in Friday’s quarterfinal round against either D10-6 Joe Newara (Harbor Creek, jr., 18-19) or D10-4 Tyler Zebrovious (Lakeview, so., 24-13).

Other first-round opponents:

120: D9-4 Stiles (18-8) vs. D10-5 Sam Sallot (Harbor Creek, so., 34-6), who qualified for states as a freshman last year with a third-place finish at 106;

145: D9-4 Kallenborn (22-10) vs. D10-5 Dan Simmerman (Saegertown, sr., 22-13), a returning regional silver medalist;

160: D9-2 Tanner vs. D10-3 Tyler Burlew (Corry, so., 32-6);

170: D9-3 Ramadhan (25-7, 67-34 career) vs. D10-2 Joel Leise (Reynolds, jr., 34-7), one of 11 qualifiers from the District 10 team champs.

District IX Class AA Championships
Clearfield High School, Feb. 26-27:
Brookville 257.5, Brockway 129.5, Ridgway 113.5, Port Allegany 92.5, Clarion 86, Keystone 80, Coudersport 78, Redbank Valley 76.5, Cranberry 73.5, Curwensville 71.5, Smethport 54.5, Kane 36.5, Sheffield 34, Oswayo Valley 29, Johnsonburg 22, Cameron County 4.

Championship finals:
106: Keelan Kunselman (Brv) TF 17-0 Blake Passarelli (Cur)
113: Gavin Park (Brv) 4-2 Mitchell Overbeck (Bkw)
120: Ryan Carlson (Bkw) 6-0 Lukas McClain (Rdg)
126: Tanner Altobelli (RV) 5-3 Mason Lindenmuth (Bkw)
132: Taylor Ortz (Brv) 1:49 Logan McClain (Rdg)
138: Cole Aaron (Brv) 5:26 Adam Shunk (Sm)
145: James Duffy (Sm) 7-0 Julian Smith (Coudy)
152: Shae Bloom (Cur) 7-1 Caleb Hetrick (Brv)
160: Paul Zacherl (Cran) 15-5 Mac Tanner (PA)
170: Xavier Molnar (Brv) 3-0 Michael Martino (Bkw)
182: Noah Cieleski (Brv) 13-1 Evan Redding (Key)
195: Zach Sintobin (Clar) 5:50 Dane Clever (Brv)
220: Ethan Budd (PA) 10-3 Tyler Cook (Brv)
285: Tyler Beal (Key) 6-3 Brylee Shumaker (RV)

Budd, Lightner at NCAA D-II Wrestling Championships



Nick Budd (Gannon University)


Karl Lightner (Shippensburg University)


A trio of college wrestlers with local connections will be in St. Louis, Missouri this week for the NCAA Division II National Championships on Mar. 13-14: Port Allegany sophomore heavyweight Nick Budd (Gannon), Smethport 133-pound sophomore Karl Lightner (Shippensburg), and Budd’s Golden Knights teammate Zack Zelcs from Ridgway, a 174-pound senior making his fourth straight trip to nationals.

Budd (25-11), the Gannon team leader in wins and pins, placed second at at the Super Region One championships at West Liberty University on Feb. 27-28, dropping a 7-2 decision to the top-ranked D-2 heavyweight in the country, Kutztown’s Ziad Haddad, in the championship match.

Lightner (16-8), the son of 1984 PAHS grad and Smethport teacher/coach Christine Lightner, and Zelcs (10-2) each took third to move on.

NCAA DII Wrestling Championships
Brackets (.pdf download)

Dusting off the blog for PIAA wrestling news from Hershey…

The guys manning the credential desk at the Giant Center think we brought this morning’s snowstorm with us from upstate, and asked me to take it home with me….

Early results from our part of District 9:
Bad matchup for Port Allegany’s Casey Vollmer in his 113-pound prelim. SE-6 seed Caleb Holley (Boiling Springs, 26-18) jumped out to a 5-0 lead with a near-fall in the first period, extended it to 8-0 in the second, then got the pin at 4:32. Vollmer (27-6) will now face the loser of the match between NE-1 Cameron Newman (D-4 Line Mountain, 38-2) and SE-4 Willy Girard (D-11 Williams Valley, 31-6), who won his prelim 9-0 to advance into the first round.
Vollmer is 11th in Class AA in the latest Off The Mat statewide rankings. Newman is the top-ranked 113-pounder; Girard is 12th.

Smethport’s Adam Shunk (26-7) also lost his prelim — 3-1 on a takedown in OT — to drop into the wrestlebacks at 138. There, he’ll see either NE-1 Collin Edsell (D-4 Wyalusing, 41-5) or SW-4 Dalton Clark (D-6 Ligonier Valley, 36-7), who tech-falled Ali Capobianco 18-3 in the prelims. Edsell’s ranked fifth in the state, just behind Curwensville D-9 champ Shae Bloom.

Ridgway’s Ryan Geyer (25-7) didn’t waste much time moving on, pinning Burrell’s Robert Scherer in 0:24 seconds. He’ll face SE-1 Alek Hummel (D-11 N. Schuylkill, 42-1), the No. 8 195-pounder in Class AA, in the first round.

Next up, in the first round:
At 145, NW-1 James Duffy (Smethport, 33-1) will get SE-5 Colby Stroup (D-3 Newport, 32-8). Duffy is ranked seventh.
At 220, NW-3 Ethan Budd (Port Allegany, 31-1) will face Tri-Valley freshman Dan Scheib (D-11, 32-11), the SE-2 seed. Budd is ranked sixth, Scheib 12th.
At 285, NW-1 Jack Karsten (Cameron County, 33-1) gets SE-4 Nathan Gadinski (D-11 North Schuylkill, 41-4), who won his prelim 3-0. Karsten is fifth, Gadinski 14th.


Linkage: PIAA Class AA results Individual Wrestling Championships home page
Off The Mat Class AA rankings (.pdf)

Budd signs NLI to wrestle at Gannon

Lori Chase
May 16, 2013

Last winter, Nick Budd was among several Port Allegany wrestlers who made a trip to Erie to watch former Gator teammate Adam Greenman compete for Gannon University.

Next year, Budd will be joining him.

After a glittering high school career that included All-State honors in both football and wrestling, leaving him with several collegiate options in both sports, the PIAA 285-pound silver medalist has signed a National Letter of Intent with the Golden Knights to continue his career on the mat.

“Up until I placed (at states), I was very up in the air about it. I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to do,” he said. “And then after placing second, it kind of made up my mind for me as far as going to school and wanting to wrestle while I was there.”

Budd hit it off immediately with veteran Gannon head coach Don Henry on his visit.

“He’s an extremely nice guy, great personality, very friendly. Definitely one of the factors in wanting to go there,” he said. “I heard from several schools, had several different offers. But it came down to Gannon – it was close to home, and like I said, the coaching staff was really nice.”

After that initial meeting, Henry – a three-time NCAA Division II Super Regional One Coach of the Year with a strong history of mentoring All-Americans both on the mat and in the classroom – kept a close eye on the 6-foot-3, 250-pound senior, and was “really excited” when he decided to become a Golden Knight.

“I didn’t really know how good he was going to be this year, but I knew he was a big guy and we were going to be looking for a heavyweight. So he got on the radar there, and obviously when he did so well during the season and at states, that really sparked our interest,” he said.

“He’s going to come in with a chip on his shoulder because the last match that he wrestled in high school was a loss. That makes him a dangerous person; he’s got more to prove. A lot of the guys that we have are wrestlers of that same attitude: They come into college, they have something to prove. They didn’t accomplish everything they wanted to at the high school level. That’s what makes them better. They have more drive than the guys that had the higher accolades to start.”

Port Allegany head coach B.J. Greenman, Adam’s older brother, had already seen that intensity in Budd.

“He was actually the first kid I worked with when I got back from college in 2009, which was his freshman year. He was off with an injury from football and couldn’t wrestle at the beginning of the season, so we basically just lifted every day. I got to really know Nick and to see his work ethic,” Greenman said. “He wasn’t going to let his injury hold him back, and it didn’t. And it carried on throughout his career – he was in the weight room every single night the whole summer, going to wrestle every day. I think that’s what you need to be able to wrestle at the next level; he saw that at an early age, and it definitely paid off for him.

“He was back in the weight room the Monday after states. Coach Henry’s definitely lucky to be getting him.”

Nick, the son of Greg and Melynda Budd, began wrestling in the Junior Olympic program when he was nine, with his father helping to coach him ever since. A three-time Big 30 All-Star whose 100th victory came in his PIAA-qualifying third-place win at the Northwest Regional, he finished his career with a 103-22 record. Also a two-time All-State selection and Big 30 All-Star in football and the 2012 recipient of the Olean Times Herald ‘Unsung Lineman Award’ for the back-to-back District 9 champs, Budd plans to major in mechanical engineering, which may have worked in Gannon’s favor when he made his decision.

“He’s a bright kid. He wanted to go to school for engineering, and there really aren’t a lot of schools that have wrestling and engineering that you can concentrate on both unless he was going to go Ivy League or Division I,” Henry said. “I was more worried about him playing football than other schools taking him for wrestling.”

Henry – the only coach Gannon has known since he was hired to restart the Golden Knights’ wrestling program in 1984 – expects Budd to contribute right away.

“He should be the man. I recruited him to be the starter,” he said, noting that due to injuries at that weight class last season, “We had to go out and get a quality heavyweight that can make an immediate impact.”

One of Gannon’s most successful alumni, three-time All-American heavyweight Todd Proper, will be part of that process.

“Todd was there to meet Nick when he came for the visit, and said, ‘Hey, I want to make you our next outstanding heavyweight,’” Henry said. “And it was the truth – we want to get him to the point where he’s going to be an All-American, where he’s going to be challenging for a national championship eventually. He needs to have good workout partners; he needs to have big guys to work out with.

“We say that steel sharpens steel. We want him to be challenged. Todd Proper is about 320 right now, so if Nick can push him around, he’s not going to have too much trouble pushing someone around that’s 285.”

Coach Greenman, not that far removed from his own collegiate career, believes the future is bright for Budd.

“I think there’ll be that learning curve – it’s a huge change in style and intensity. So I think he might take some lumps his freshman year,” he said. “But his body frame is ideal for a heavyweight in college. He’s athletic. He’s stronger than anybody I’ve ever wrestled with in my life, even including our heavyweight in college. So I think once he gets used to the style of wrestling and the intensity, he’s limitless. I think he has the ability to be an All-American, and I really hope to be able to go to D-II nationals and watch him, and maybe even watch my brother wrestle at the same time.”

Gannon recently joined the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, where they compete against fellow Division II schools Mercyhurst, Kutztown, Shippensburg, East Stroudsburg, and Millersville and also get to see the D-I programs at Bloomsburg, Edinboro, Clarion, and Lock Haven.

The PSAC has a long and proud history in the sport, typically placing schools in the Top 20 rankings in both divisions and sending multiple wrestlers to nationals. Ridgway’s Zach Zelcs was one of those qualifiers this season, placing eighth at the D-II finals to become Gannon’s 22nd All-American under Henry.

Budd is looking forward to becoming part of that tradition.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to go wrestle at the next level. When I was little, wrestling J.O.’s, I always thought it would be a great experience. I’d see all the different names in college wrestling, and I always wanted to be one of those guys. So I’m really excited to go try it.”

AMWL: Gator matmen back on top

The Allegheny Mountain Wrestling League championship banner in the Port Allegany gym is about to get a little more crowded.

The Gators (17-5, 7-0 AML) dropped an undermanned Bradford squad, 72-4, on Feb. 5 to clinch their 13th league title via tiebreaker over Smethport, with a chance to win it outright and run the table in the AML by beating Oswayo Valley on Tuesday (in a match which ended too late for this edition).

“It’s a great feeling (to win the league),” second-year Port head coach B.J. Greenman said. “I think it’s a goal of Port every season, no matter what the beginning of the season looks like. Last year, we came up short; we lost a close match to Kane and lost to Smethport, and ended up taking third. But I think it’s almost what’s expected – if you coach in Port and for the kids who go to Port, they expect to win the AML. No matter what the circumstances, that’s just kind of what’s expected and what the kids strive for.

“It’s good to get back on top and back to winning decisively like we have this year. I think that’s a great feeling for the kids to have, especially going into districts. It’s a good feeling knowing you’re on top of your league going into the postseason.”

The Owls sent just five wrestlers onto the mat, handing Port nine forfeits, and managed just one win in the five contested bouts.

“It’s really tough to see Bradford only having five kids,” Greenman said. “It’s kind of hard for me to even believe that a Triple-A school only has five kids on their team.”

For Port, Nick Budd ran his perfect record to 25-0 with a first-period fall in the 285-pound match. Six other Gator seniors also won in their final appearance on the PAHS mat, with Alex Gular (23-3) picking up another pin, Sam Kysor (22-5) and Trent Neal (14-13) earning decisions, and Dalton Caden (25-4), Lucas Manning (18-9), and Logan Warnick (14-8) winning via forfeit.

Following the trip to Shinglehouse, the Gators will have a short break before heading to Clarion University on February 22-23 for the District 9 individual championships.

After falling just two points shy of a trip to states in the team competition, Greenman sees good things ahead for his wrestlers.

“We lost two real, real close matches (at districts)”, he said. “If we wrestle Redbank 10 times, I think we win five of those matches. I think it’s a 50-50 shot on who wins that match every time. Brookville, our kids wrestled really well and we were right there in a close match with them as well. So we’re right there with the teams that go to states. They both had some bad luck when they got down to states, but they were still both in the top eight teams in the state even if they may not have placed this year. They’re up there talent-wise, so it’s good for our kids to see that we’re right there with some good teams.

“That’s what we told the kids that lost the close matches – hey, you get another shot at them down at districts, and that actually means more then. It’s always good to help out the team and have the team go to states, but the main reason why a lot of kids wrestle is to get to that state level in the individual.

So it was good to see some good matches. The ones where we didn’t come out on top, we’re planning on coming out on top when we wrestle them down at districts, and the ones we did win, we’re planning to win again when we get down there. There’s some good competition, and it’s good seeing guys that you don’t see normally throughout the season.”

At Port Allegany, Feb. 5:
Port Allegany 72, Bradford 4
106: Casey Vollmer (PA) forfeit; 113: Dylan Baumgarner (PA) forfeit; 120: Dalton Caden (PA) forfeit; 126: Hunter Freer (PA) forfeit; 132: Lucas Manning (PA) forfeit; 138: Eli Knapp (PA) forfeit; 145: Mac Tanner (PA) forfeit; 152: Sam Kysor (PA) 4-0 Josh Corignani (B); 160: Logan Warnick (PA) forfeit; 170: Alexander Gular (PA) 3:32 Matt Moonan (B); 182: Bryce Stahlman (PA) forfeit; 195: Kyle Langdon (B) 13-2 Ethan Budd (PA); 220: Trent Neal (PA) 10-6 Zach Zawatski (B); 285: Nick Budd (PA) 1:56 Steve Zawatski (B).

Iorfido Wrestling Camp not just takedowns and reversals

Lori Chase
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.”