ALBANY — Hunter Scutellaro’s story is one of perseverance. Not just on the wrestling mat, but in life.
The Massapequa senior has endured events that could buckle the will of even the strongest person. But through it all, Scutellaro has pressed on, showing the mettle to overcome.
He proved his persistence Saturday by placing third in the Division I 120-pound bracket in the state tournament at the Times Union Center in Albany, pinning Victor’s Alex Samson in 4:49 despite an injury in the previous match.
“I’m very pleased because in the match after I lost in the semifinals, I was losing and I hurt my knee,” he said. “I battled back and won. With my knee bothering me, I battled the next match and took third. I’m very happy with how I did.”
His resolve stretches beyond any wrestling meet. Perhaps it’s the events that shaped his childhood that have sculpted him into an athlete with the moxie to resist backing down.
On August 23, 2003, one week before Scutellaro’s fourth birthday, his father, Brian, died in a boating accident in Massapequa in front of his family.
“It was a beautiful day, a family day,” said Hunter’s mother, Cathy. “But in a New York minute, things can change.”
Hunter’s grandfather, former New York City Fire Department Chief Howie Carlson, became something of a father figure to Hunter and his younger brother Jeremy, but he died of a heart attack in December 2009. He was 64.
Cathy began a long-term relationship with Rob Felber two years after the death of her husband. Last January, Felber died of a heart attack at the age of 51 after serving as another father figure in Hunter and Jeremy’s lives.
“It hardened us at a young age,” said Jeremy, a freshman wrestler. “There’s not much worse that can happen to us.”
“It’s tough, but I’ve had a great mom and great other figures to help motivate me,” Hunter said. “She’s been there for moral support to help me through tough times.”
Those Hunter has lost are always in his thoughts. After he won his first county championship on Feb. 12 with a last-second takedown of Farmingdale’s Kevin DePalma, he pointed to the sky, just like he did after earning third place at the state tournament.
“When I won that title, I thought about them smiling and looking over me,” he said. “I just want them up there to smile at my accomplishments.”
It was blissful moment for Massapequa coach Ron Serrano, a county champion with MacArthur in 1998.
“I would trade my success for his because I want to show him the way,” Serrano said. “I’m blessed to have them in my life. They give me a little justification for what I do.”
Hunter’s natural ability to knock down barriers and inspire those around him embodies the spirit of wrestling.
“Wrestling is a team sport but when it comes down to it, it’s two individuals on the mat and you have no one to look to for help,” Cathy Scutellaro said. “It all comes from within.”
And few have more inner strength than Hunter, a champion of perseverance.