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Pearl River, Nanuet Wrestling Face Off In Fundrasier

Organizers of Thursday's Battle for the Belt at Pearl River High School hoe that it will be the first in a series of annual fundraising matches between the Pearl River and Nanuet wrestling programs.

The Battle for the Belt wrestling event between Pearl River and Nanuet 6 p.m. Thursday at Pearl River began with a much smaller idea.

Pearl River wrestling parents wanted a night match on the schedule so more people would be able to attend than a late afternoon start time. 

"The whole thing came about a bunch of ways," said Bob Gullo, whose son Rob is a senior on the Pearl River wrestling team. "Initially we had asked if the wrestling team could get at least one evening match on the schedule. Most were 4:30 in the afternoon. Sometimes parents don't have that flexibility. The kids don't always get a full crowd because of the time. 

"This year, it was great. (Pearl River Athletic Director) Todd Santabarbara was able to secure a night match and it turned out the opponent was Nanuet. I thought maybe we can do something more special."

The event developed into not only Pearl River's senior recognition, but also a fundraiser for two Pearl River charities with a specially-made championship belt going to the winning team.

"I'm glad somebody came up with it," Nanuet Wrestling Head Coach Carmine Serra said. "We love doing charity events here. Something like this, there is a rivalry between the towns, but it works in a positive way. It is good for the sport and good for the two towns, working for a common cause."

The idea is the winning team would hold on to the belt for a year, until the teams compete for it again. The site would alternate, with the home team choosing the charity. 

"We're certainly agreeable about that," Serra said. "Mr. Gullo suggested one year the charity be in Pearl River and the other in Nanuet and go back and forth. Both teams would support it and be behind it."

Gullo gave credit for the charitable angle to Carol Muldoon, the mother of Pearl River senior John Muldoon. She suggested raising money in the name of Tommy Scognamiglio, who was 16 when passed away from cancer in 2012. He would have been a senior at Pearl River High School this year. Proceeds from this year's Battle for the Belt will go to the Tommy Lollipop Project and the Tommy Scogs Foundation, both of which are dedicated to helping others in Scognamiglio's name. 

"I thought that would be great," Bob Gullo said. "Rob and John Muldoon were friends with Tommy. It really all came together."

Doors will open for the event at 5:30 p.m. with the Pearl River senior recognition ceremony at 6 p.m. Senior recognition is normally the final home match of the season, but the idea was to take advantage of the evening start time. 

There will be food, raffles, t-shirts and more. Admission will be $3 for adults and $2 for students in grades seven through 12. Students in grades six and younger get in free. 

Bob Gullo said they turned to Cassidy McNeill, a close friend of Scognamiglio's who started the Tommy Lollipop Project, to help organize student volunteers to put up posters and fliers promoting the event and to aid in running things Thursday night. He said the food, raffle items, and t-shirts are all coming from donations, so all proceeds will go to the two charitable organizations. 

"We have tables set up at the gate, the raffles, food, t-shirts," Gullo said. "That's a lot of manpower. She's coordinating it."

Gullo said he found a company that specializes in making championship belts (see the picture attached to this report) to create one for the event. He said the idea is based on the Little Brown Jug the Pearl River and Nanuet football teams compete for each year.

"I"m not from Pearl River, so I've gotten the Pearl River history the last few years," Gullo said. "I love the Brown Jug thing they do with Nanuet. They get a lot of people at those events. It really brings the communities together. I mentioned to Carol,why don't we look at doing this like the Brown Jug? I came up with calling it the Battle for the Belt."

The match itself features one of the strongest Pearl River wrestling teams in a long time and a Nanuet program that has been among the best in the section for years.

"It's a great match," Serra said. "A great rivalry. We need that this time of year, with the tournaments coming up. Pearl River is very strong this year. We're not as strong as we've been. I think we'll give them a match."

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