Written by Daniel Offner Wednesday, 15 January 2014 00:00
Widely regarded as one of the toughest wrestling tournaments on Long Island, the annual Ted Petersen Wrestling Tournament pits some of the roughest and toughest wrestlers from Nassau and Suffolk counties against each other for a chance at taking home the gold. Although placing within the top 5 of the tournament is considered an outstanding accomplishment, finishing in first is considered one of the highest honors in the Long Island wrestling world.
Named for the former Island Trees Physical Education instructor Ted Petersen, the yearly competition was a fitting means for the district to commemorate his 31 years of coaching the school district’s varsity wrestling, J.V. football and J.V. baseball teams. Dubbed
“Coach Pete,” by his students, Petersen had a reputation as someone who cared for young athletes in the district and was committed to promoting respect, fairness, and good sportsmanship. In Jan. 1998, Coach Petersen was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for his coaching skills both on-and-off the mat.
“From the team’s superstar to a freshman wrestling for the first time, ‘Coach Pete’ treated everyone with equality and warmth,” said Island Trees Varsity Wrestling Coach Lou Tuorto. “In his honor, we have created an event that Coach Petersen would have been proud of. This wrestling tournament strives to enhance the athlete’s development not only as a wrestler, but as a good citizen as well.”
Tuorto, along with Coaches Vinberg, Cangro, and Scheurleine, added that they wish to thank the Petersen family, namely Mrs. Petersen, for her continued support and dedication to the Island Trees Wrestling Program.
Despite a bout of cold and snowy weather, on Jan. 4, wrestlers in the hosting Island Trees School District put on their singlets and grappling shorts to compete against top wrestling talents from Amityville, Bethpage, Farmingdale (ranked No. 5 in Nassau County),
Freeport, Huntington, Hempstead, Lincoln Rhode Island, Massapequa (ranked No. 3 in Nassau), Mepham, Plainedge (ranked No. 2 in Nassau), and Uniondale.
This year, the Island Trees Bulldogs pulled off an impressive performance, sending two wrestlers to the finals. Varsity wrestler Chris Donnelly defeated the No. 4 ranked wrestler in Nassau County, Hector Guerrero of Plainedge, in the semi-finals with a convincing 9-2 decision. Although, Donnelly dropped a 4-1 decision against defending Suffolk County Champion, John Arceri of Huntington, in the finals, he wrestled extremely well, earning him the rank of No. 3 in Nassau County and No. 6 on Long Island.
Varsity Wrestler Vinny Manna was the sole champion for the Island Trees Bulldogs in this year’s tournament, defeating the No. 2 ranked wrestler, Tim Gungor of Massapequa. Taking the title with a 4-1 win over Gungor, Manna is now ranked No. 2 in Nassau County and No. 3 on Long Island.
The Island Trees Bulldogs Varsity squad finished in fourth place overall, scoring 169 points, their highest finish since 2007. Other wrestlers reaching the podium were: Tyler Butrico, 6th place; Matt Gund, 3rd place; John Nicolino, 3rd place; Brandon Fourquet, 6th place; Anthony Reyes, 3rd place; Ed Sanchez, 5th place; Rich Claiborne, 6th place; and Paul Parada, 3rd place.
Coach Tuorto said everyone who participated in this years event did very well, especially praising the seniors for their wrestling and leadership qualities.
“Wrestling at such a high level, our seniors exceeded expectations,” Tuorto said. “For us to finish fourth... really is a good start for us.”
With approximately eight weeks left in the season, the Bulldogs are set to begin league competition, with their eyes set on a league championship. Overall, the team has high expectations and will continue its successful road thus far. Island Trees is currently 10-4 and ranked No. 8 in Nassau County.