A community lifts a wrestler in need
By BRAD WILSON
DOYLESTOWN - All season long, Pete Ferrara has been there for his Central Bucks West wrestling teammates.
Ferrara, West's 135-pound senior tri-captain, has been a whirlwind of energy, excitement and enthusiasm on the Bucks' bench.
On a team brimming over with inexperienced wrestlers, Ferrara's leadership could not have been more passionate or involved. He could be seen offering advice, teaching moves, yelling encouragement; he gave high-fives when Bucks wrestlers won and, when things didn't go well, offered a sympathetic shoulder.
As West coach Corey McCaslin said, "This is (Pete's) team."
Wednesday night, though, it was the team, and the fans, and the community, that was there for Ferrara when he was in dire need.
Ferrara took the mat in Wednesday's a non-league meet with St. Pius X less than three days after learning of the death of his 19-year-old brother, Dominic, a 2003 CB West graduate who attended Johns Hopkins University.
It would have been more than understandable had he not competed. It could hardly have been expected for him to walk onto the mat.
But there he was, yelling and cheering and getting all excited when West's 125-pounder, Mike Nicolo, won his first varsity match on a rideout in double overtime, and complimenting his teammate afterwards: "I don't think we've had a two-overtime match all season, "Ferrara said. "Mike really stepped up."
Just like the usual Pete Ferrara.
Except it wasn't, really. It couldn't be.
"It was more difficult than I ever thought it would be to wrestle tonight, "Ferrara said. "I hadn't had butterflies in my stomach like that in years. They were the most butterflies I ever had. But I knew a day or two after Dom's death that I needed to (wrestle) tonight."
The applause started even before Ferrara walked out onto the mat to meet Pius' Greg Care. By the time he'd reached the scorer's table it had swelled into the warmest standing ovation possible, a display of emotion and sympathy and respect and love that brought tears to many eyes.
It went on, and so did Ferrara, though at one point, just as he checked in at the table, the wave of emotion seemed to get to him. Ferrara let it show, just a little, but there was a lot more in reserve.
"It hit me pretty hard, "Ferrara said.
On their feet was Ferrara's entire family. On their feet were his lacrosse teammates (he is a standout attacker). On their feet were old friends from CB Raiders wrestling, such as CB East senior Kyle Rogers. On their feet were West classmates who had never attended a wrestling match before. On their feet were all of Ferrara's neighbors, including Rob Vranken, who had flown back from college in South Carolina to be with his friend. And on their feet were his Bucks' teammates and coaches, perhaps the loudest of all.
Ferrara won the bout, 5-1, for his 99th career win, and it would be a stretch to say he looked his best, because he didn't. But it mattered not one whit. Again, the applause poured down on him. For many minutes afterwards, Ferrara got handshakes, hugs, bearhugs, even kisses, from fans, friends, teammates.
Those teammates all wore bands on each wrist, one saying "Dom", one saying "Bro."
"They were Chris Bone's idea, "Ferrara said. "That was really nice of him. I can't ask for more support than I have gotten from my teammates and friends and family all this week. And it goes to show, my teammates are more than just my friends, they are my family."
Even McCaslin's voice cracked a little thinking of that.
"That's what this is about, "he said. "If my kids wind up being that way with each other, you can have all the wins and all the losses and everything. That's what it's all about.
"I know how difficult it's been for Pete. I think it means a lot for him to be here, in his last home match."
The idea Wednesday had been to celebrate Ferrara's 100th career win, but his 8-3 upset loss to Downingtown West's Chadd McBride on Saturday derailed that celebration.
The terrible tragedy of his brother's passing would have muted that relatively meaningless celebration, of course, and as Ferrara said, "I'll get (100) at sectionals."
But in the end, even amidst the painful circumstances, Wednesday became a deeper and more meaningful tribute, both to the beloved memory of Dominic Ferrara and the courage and strength of his beloved brother, each other's best friends.
"I couldn't let my last home match go, "Ferrara said. "It was special to me."
And on Wednesday, Ferrara's family, teammates, neighbors and friends showed just how special Pete Ferrara is - and will continue to be - to them.
Brad Wilson is Associate Sports Editor of The Intelligencer. He can be reached at (215) 345-3184 or [email protected]