For the second straight year the Sachem wrestling community rallied to support one of its own and this year the man they were all here for was able to witness the Sachem Takes Down Cancer event with his own eyes.
Paul DiIorio, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2012, was unable to attend the event last year. This year, as the crowd gathered to also see matches between Sachem East and Patchogue-Medford as well as Sachem North against Brentwood, DiIorio was able to experience the outpouring of support first- hand.
DiIorio was a captain and all-county wrestler during his time at Sachem East. He still holds the record for most pins in a season with 29.
"The turnout is great and I love the support," DiIorio said. "When you see all the people here in the stands for me, and sure a lot of them are here to cheer for their children, but it's bigger than just wrestling tonight."
Sachem East head coach Sean O'Hara said last year's event raised a few thousand dollars and judging by the early turnout Wednesday they hoped to match or exceed that.
"We are really happy with the turnout tonight," O'Hara said. "We're thankful for Pat-Med, Sachem North and Brentwood for being a part of this. Those in the wrestling community know Paul pretty well after a number of years and he was the heart and soul of our program. One of our mottos is 'we want to wrestle whistle to whistle' and nobody did that better in their time at Sachem East than Paul DiIorio."
"Everything he accomplished he accomplished through his work ethic and his competitive nature," O'Hara said. "That's why so many people come out to support him -- they know what kind of person he is. We're just happy to support him."
On the mat Sachem East, the defending Suffolk County champions, did not miss a beat, defeating Patchogue-Medford, 43-10.
The Flaming Arrows, who graduated four wrestlers who placed in the county last year, were led by returners Jakob Restrepo and Mark Tracy. Both should contend for county titles this season. Doug Iadanza also picked up a hard-fought 5-3 decision over Pat-Med's Bobby Pease at 120 pounds and Anthony Messina won his 100th career match with an 11-5 decision win at 132.
"Paul was a really great wrestler and it's nice to support him," Messina said. "It was great to get my 100th win today."
On the other mat, Sachem North pulled out a dramatic 34-33 win over Brentwood with a 10-9 decision for Austin Gatti in the final match at 195.
"Austin came up with a big win," Sachem North coach Ray Pickersgill said.
It was even better coming on a night supporting someone in the wrestling community.
Said Pickersgill: "Anytime anyone in the wrestling community needs help we're all here for them."
(Editor's note: An earlier version of this story indicated Brentwood has defated Sachem North, 34-33.)