There is no doubt that the proposed elimination of wrestling in the Olympics has made huge news worldwide. And it has impacted the local scene as well.
Numerous groups around the world have started petitions to send to the International Olympic Committee to save the sport’s spot in the 2020 games, including Penn State coach Cael Sanderson, a four-time unbeaten national champion and an Olympic gold medalist.
A former wrestler with local ties is among those who have decided to join in the act.
Olin Morris, a Coughlin grad and district champ in 1996, started an online petition to save Olympic wrestling demanding on the website www.causes.com/saveolympicwrestling that the sport remains a core part of the games.
“This sport builds character and discipline. It was the love for the sport and the universal respect and brotherhood amongst wrestlers that opened my eyes,” Morris said on the website. “This is the only sport in the world where a person from Iran can befriend a person from the U.S. under that same brotherhood. This is a sport that goes back in history for men and now for women.
“I was fortunate in being skilled enough in wrestling to go on to serve in the U.S. Army and come out as a college recruit. I wouldn’t have had a chance to get an education without the discipline I gained through wrestling. We as wrestlers don’t do it for the chance to make millions. Every young wrestler today does it for that one chance, if you work hard enough to be on the top podium at the Olympic Games.”
APPLICATIONS BEING ACCEPTED
Applications are being accepted for the James M. Desiderio Scholarship, which is awarded to a graduating wrestling senior from a Wyoming Valley Conference school.
This scholarship supports the attendance to any two- or four-year college and may be used for undergraduate tuition, room, board and related expenses in any year full- or part-time attendance, up to the maximum amount rewarded.
Two $1,000 awards are being distributed this year and the deadline to sub,it an application is April
Last year’s winners — the first time it was awarded — were Lake-Lehman’s Bryan Carter, Meyers’ Vito Pasone and Pittston Area’s Jamie Scarantino.
Desiderio wrestled and coached at Meyers prior to becoming an official. He passed away in 2010 losing his battle with cancer.
For more information, visit http://desimemorial.org
During the Class 2A Northeast Regional Tournament this weekend, you may notice some wrestlers who have ties to Luzerne County but don’t wrestle for a WVC team. One of the grapplers wrestles for Benton. Matt Welliver, a senior for the Tigers, attends Northwest and wrestles for Benton as part of a co-op because Northwest doesn’t have a wrestling program.
A total of four grapplers from the Shickshinny school were on Benton’s roster this season. Welliver is the No. 1 seed at the 120-pound bracket with a 32-8 record and recently picked up his 100th career win.
Sophomore Dominic Vitale, who transferred from Hanover Area after placing fourth at the District 2 Class 2A Tournament last year for the Hawkeyes, took second at the East-Central sectionals for Benton this season but missed out on advancing to regionals.
John Callahan, the mayor of Bethlehem, the location for this weekend’s Class 3A Northeast Regional Tournament, was ejected from last week’s District 11 Class 3A Tournament. Callahan’s son, also named John, took fourth place at the event wrestling for Freedom High School.
Later in the day, however, the elder Callahan was reportedly voicing his displeasure with the referee during the 220-pound championship match involving another wrestler from Freedom when the referee made the ejection.
The mayor and the referee, Dennis Buchman, have released separate statements apologizing for the incident.
Another local tie in this situation is that Buchman, who was selected as an Outstanding PIAA Referee in 2009, is from Drums.