The MacArthur High School gymnasium was packed with students, faculty, administrators and alumni who were ready to watch teens from Levittown, North Wantagh and Seaford bounce around on Jan. 11.
Laughter could be heard from the hallway while the crowd watched teachers and students from various clubs and athletic teams wrestle each other while dressed in large, rubber suits. The matches marked the third annual sumo-wrestling competition, which was designed to increase interest in the Generals wrestling program, honor the team’s seniors and raise money for a local community member.
Wrestlers from MacArthur and Jonas E. Salk Middle School hosted the sumo-sized event to raise money for Tara Dougherty, the mother of three current MacArthur wrestlers and two recent graduates, who is battling cancer. The first round of sumo consisted of teacher matches and the second round featured student matches.
Varsity wrestling coach Rob Paletta commended the other coaches for spearheading the fundraising efforts. “It was really a great time,” he said. “When one of the coaches brought up the idea a few years ago, we decided to go with it and donate to local causes close to us. The Dougherty’s are a homegrown family who has fallen on hard times and helping out is the least we can do. It was a great match — no pun intended!”
Last year, the MacArthur wrestling team raised money for the Wantagh-based John Theissen Children’s Foundation, which provides toys and cheer to ailing and underprivileged children across Long Island. Theissen is a Wantagh resident and MacArthur alumnus. The tournament raised nearly $4,000 for Dougherty’s medical expenses, officials noted.
MacArthur alumnus Gian Villante — a light heavyweight mixed martial artist in Ultimate Fighting Championship — acted as a referee for the sumo-wrestling matches, along with Michael Marrero, the junior varsity assistant wrestling coach. In addition to the tournament, community members were invited to watch the Generals take on wrestlers from Mepham later that evening. Seniors were honored before the matches.