With encouraging cheers echoing throughout the auditorium, a student from the P10X School playfully grabbed a Horace Greeley High School wrestler by the head and rolled him onto his back on the mat, leaning his body weight against him. Coach Anthony Tortora confirmed the pin. The room erupted in applause and howls as the winning student excitedly danced while everyone roared in celebration of his success.
Before the holidays, Coach Tortora brought his varsity Greeley wrestling team to P10X in the South Bronx, where he teaches, for students to spend time together and gain valuable insight about their advantages in life. The students talked, practiced wrestling, and shared pizza and desserts. Each P10X student was given a holiday gift. This field trip in mid-December has become “one of Greeley Wrestling’s best traditions,” said senior Ben Gottlieb.
Over the past nine years – including two where the event was virtual due to the pandemic – the partnership has strengthened. P10X, a New York City public school located in Throgs Neck, is a well-celebrated District 75 school where every student has an Individualized Education Plan. Its students either have autism, Down syndrome or are emotionally disturbed.
“I want Greeley athletes to learn gratitude, perspective and an open mind,” said Coach Tortora. “I would hope all athletes can look at someone different than them, and accept and engage with them as they would anyone else.”
The trip was successful and has altered the perspective of Greeley wrestlers. Senior Tommy Antes explained that he learned to be grateful for what he has and to view everything in life as an opportunity. He especially inherited the mindset that focuses on opportunity over obstacles.
“I don’t have to go to wrestling practice, I get to go to wrestling practice; I don’t have to do my homework, I get to do my homework; I don’t have to walk to class, I get to walk to class,” Tommy said. “Getting to spend the holidays with the P10X students is special to them and to us. It’s really nice to do something special for someone else. Getting to see how happy the students are with us makes me happy and proud to be part of something amazing.”
Ben’s family was tasked with organizing the toy drive and secured a gift for each of the 78 students. The gifts were donated by Greeley wrestlers, their parents and other coaches.
“Celebrating the holiday with them was very important,” said Ben. “For many, this could be their only gift. For others, it could be their only chance to win anything close to what we do in our matches. Coming off of a devastating loss the night before (at the Section I Dual Meet Championship), it was important to get a perspective on what loss means. We were lucky to have the opportunity to even wrestle a match, let alone compete for a section dual meet title.”
Ben continued to say that their positive and thankful perspective is ushering the varsity wrestlers into the second half of the season. In early February, the grapplers will compete at the Sectional Qualifier/Divisionals, hoping to secure a chance to wrestle at the Sectionals/State Qualifier in mid-February and, eventually, the New York State Championship in late February.
“One of the things in my head before a big match is how grateful I am to have the opportunity to compete for my team, my school and myself,” said Ben. “After this trip to P10X, everyone – from a freshman who has never gotten a varsity start to seniors who are competing for a title – is full of gratitude.”
Coach Tortora stressed the importance of the two schools assembling for the event, noting that his P10X students are delighted to see the Greeley athletes every year. The wrestlers understand that Chappaqua is a great community to be a part of and has advantages, he said. While the Throgs Neck community has much to take pride in, including its rich diversity, it is a lower-income area with a higher crime rate. So he appreciates that his athletes enjoy sharing their time and resources.
“This trip has taught me that there is always someone who would love to switch places with you, so make the most of what you have,” Tommy said. “Celebrating the holidays with Coach’s students is important to me because it puts things into perspective and makes me grateful for what I have.”