Exciting things were happening both on and off the mat at this year’s Bruno Iorfido Memorial Wrestling Camp, held from June 17-21 in Port Allegany. While campers spent the week learning about both wrestling and life from a lineup of clinicians that seems to get more impressive by the year, camp co-founders Sean Lathrop, Isaac Greeley and Aaron Rendos announced that the organization is in the process of obtaining official 501©(3) status.
“That’s really going to springboard us and allow us to do other things, help other programs,” Greeley said of the nonprofit move. “I think that’s going to be a big step in the right direction for us. We’re going to be able to help other things around Port Allegany, around the local community. We’re looking to expand our impact on everyone that’s involved here.”
On the mat, 120 campers got the opportunity to work out with teachers from the wrestling, mixed martial arts, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu worlds, with Penn State stars Vincenzo Joseph and Mark Hall and BJJ third-degree black belt Rodrigo “Baga” Ramos joining a roster of clinicians already dotted with NCAA national champions and All-Americans.
The mats themselves were another sign of the camp’s growing influence, with the main PAHS gym carpeted wall-to-wall in brand-new flooring emblazoned with the Pennsylvania National Guard logo.
“Joey Page helps allocate the fundraising and donations for them, so he and I have talked,” Greeley said of his friend and fellow Port grad, who’s currently a high school teacher and National Guard officer in the eastern part of the state. “They got behind it because all of our social media posts were hitting the metrics for the same age groups, the same type of people that they’re trying to recruit. So they asked if there was any way they could help. They gave us five wrestling mats, 200 speed ropes to give to the kids, and a bunch of other stuff that we’re giving to the kids as awards. They really helped out a lot. They came through big-time.
“Our mat space is awesome. That was a big deal. And getting people like the National Guard wanting to help us out, that’s the kind of organizations we want to get around.”
The growing Penn State connection is another natural fit, with Joseph and Hall joining two-time national champion Quentin Wright, who has participated in several previous camps, in Port this year.
“I’ve known Isaac for a long time just from wrestling, and some of the guys on my team or that have been my teammates in past years have come here, and I know a lot of the other college guys that have come here and worked it,” said Joseph, the two-time NCAA champ from Pittsburgh Central Catholic who added a silver medal and another Nittany Lion team title to his resume in March. “I think it’s a great camp. The environment is great. It’s just awesome people. They really care about each other. It’s just a good environment to be in.”
Greeley also connected with Ramos, a former IBJJF Pan Am champion and the owner/chief instructor of American Top Team Davie, who drove here from Miami with his son and nine other campers.
Yeah, THAT Miami, the one in Florida.
“I’m not gonna lie, it wasn’t easy,” Ramos said of the long trip north. “But you have to take away yourself. You know the reason; you know you’re going to affect their lives.”
Ramos, who started training in martial arts as a youngster in his native Brazil before moving to the U.S., was visibly moved by the experience of the week.
“It touched my life,” he said. “Life is too short; people are too caught up in social media, and what they need to add. You need to give, not add. You need to give back, you know? Make the world a better place, that’s what I’m about. When you get people like this, you make a movement.
“I’m really blown away by the amount of knowledge and care these guys are giving, and the beautiful results. You send a kid to college, you give them a better education. I want to help. Next year, I’m coming and I’m gonna bring Miami up here. I’m gonna cook steak Brazilian style. I want to add. I want to give more. You’re going to see me every year.”
Ditto for Ramos’s friend Rob Peterson, a BJJ brown belt who also made the trip up from Florida with his son.
“When Baga first asked me if I wanted to come, I was on the fence about it, but I won’t be on the fence about it again,” he said. “It was just an amazing experience, full of good stuff. And when he told me what it was all about, even more so. At first, I just wanted to improve my son’s double-leg takedown. But then when he told me about all the other people that were going to be here, and Bruno’s legacy, I’m so impressed the way his friends have carried his legacy for so long. When I heard the whole story, I felt like I had to come.
“Such a good vibe. I feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone. Coming from south Florida, everybody’s so nice here, so welcoming, I feel like the whole town has rolled out the red carpet for us. It couldn’t have been a better experience. Best father-son trip ever, and I’m 53 years old, and it might be one of my best personal trips ever. Just a really, really nice thing. I love it.”
The organization handed out three more scholarships this year, bringing the total to more than $36,000 in the 16 years since the camp was renamed in memory of Iorfido, the Ridgway star and Pitt-Johnstown All-American who died in an automobile accident the summer after his junior year at UPJ. Each recipient had to write an essay about how the camp has impacted his life, in addition to completing at least one year of collegiate wrestling while maintaining a 3.0 GPA.
Burrel grad Corey Christie, now a sophomore pre-med major at Coker College, has been coming to the camp since he was in fifth grade.
“As a little guy just starting to wrestle, I learned so much since they had so many big-name guys coming in, and then we always have a ton of fun afterwards hanging out with everyone. It’s always been on the calendar,” he said. “I’ve been asked to wrestle at the Disney Duals, but I’ve always had to turn it down because it’s this week. I just don’t plan on missing this. It’s really peaceful out here, up in the mountains. And just to come out here, be with the whole team, it’s like a family here. We do more than just wrestle every day.”
Of the scholarship, he said, “It was really humbling. It makes me wish I could have met Bruno, from all the stories that everybody tells about him.”
Joey Blumer, a rising redshirt junior at Penn State next year, has been on Greeley’s radar since he was a kid working out at the Mat Factory, the training gym the former PAHS star owns in Burrell.
“This is my favorite camp all year,” the Leechburg native said. “This is a vacation for me. I love it; it’s so much fun. I get to see a lot of the guys that I don’t see all year long; we come up here for a week and it’s like we never left. It’s awesome. I like it a lot. Love it.
“For this organization to choose me for this (scholarship), I’m so appreciative I can’t even put into words how thankful I am.”
The final recipient, Port’s own Jake Kallenborn, said he’s been participating in the camp since grade school.
“I don’t remember exactly when, but probably when I was six or seven. I remember being in the elementary gym, and pretty much every year since,” he said.
Now a redshirt freshman majoring in environmental engineering at Gannon following one of the most decorated careers in the history of the Gator program, he’s back this year as one of the clinicians.
“It’s a little bit different doing that, but I’m enjoying it. I like helping out, especially with the little kids,” he said. “It’s really awesome because this camp is better than most people think it is. There’s some really, really good clinicians that come in, good people all around. It’s a well-run camp. I think it’s really good for our town to get people coming in, and good for the kids around here to see these big names that they wouldn’t see otherwise if this camp wasn’t here.”
When announcing Kallenborn’s award, Greeley said, “I wasn’t surprised to see him be so successful at the end of his high school career. He actually shocked people at the state tournament two years ago, beat one of the best wrestlers in the tournament, and he’s doing great things at Gannon University. I’ve known his family for a long time, they’re great, amazing people, and he also reminds me a lot of Bruno.
“I’m very, very, very proud to give this to another Port Allegany wrestler, and to see that kind of kid come out of here is the best ever for me, Sean, and Aaron.”
Said Kallenborn of the honor, “It’s definitely humbling. You hear a lot about Bruno, how good of a person he was and what he stood for. This scholarship is for people who kind of emulate that. For me to be chosen as one of the people for that scholarship definitely makes me feel good about my character and things like that, to think about Bruno and the stories I hear about him, just keep striving to be the kind of guy he was.”
That message remains one of the fixtures of the camp, one Greeley emphasized to everyone in attendance at the traditional Thursday-night cookout.
“It’s just a really special thing,” he said. “It’s been 17 years since we lost Bruno, and we still honor him. And the men, the people that this has created, the community that this is for, is something that I’m very proud of. I think a lot of people are, because it’s a positive thing in people’s lives, including myself and Aaron and Sean. We live this. We try to live our lives like Bruno. It’s hard, because he put such a high standard for everybody. But if we can help one or two kids live like that, it makes it worth it for us.”
With Iorfido’s parents Val and Bruno Iorfido, Sr., and brother Beau in attendance, Greeley said, “They come up here every year. It’s not an easy thing for them to do, when you lose a loved one, to be reminded. I feel that pain every year, but it gives me drive and it gives me purpose to live my live. You only get one life, guys. You have to have that drive and purpose. We’re lucky. Bruno lost his life. We have a life. You have to live that life with everything you have.
“You never, never, never, never sit back and go, ‘I wish I would have done this, I could have done that, I should have done this.’ Live your life now. I guarantee you, that’s the way to live. That’s one of the lessons we try to say. Bruno pushes us to do that, makes us do things that are maybe out of our comfort zones, things we don’t want to do. But we do that for Bruno.
“It’s just like a snowball. We’re never going to let this end. We’re going to hold onto the rope, because that’s what Bruno would do for us.”