Pinning down a piece of history

Port Richmond native becomes first-ever state qualifier for Roman Catholic High School wrestling program.

Matt Galasso wrestles at states in Hershey. PHOTO: KEVIN LEYLAND

By Melissa Komar

Matt Galasso finished fifth overall last year at the North-east AAA Regional tournament for wrestling, the best postseason finish in Roman Catholic High School history.

The Port Richmond native one-upped himself this season.

Galasso, 18, became the first-ever state qualifier, alongside Cheltenham resident Mike Leyland, in the school’s history.

The Roman wrestling program has existed since 2001 and became eligible to have wrestlers qualify for the state tournament in the 2008–2009 season when it joined the PIAA.

With a regular season record of 30–10, Galasso won his first match and pinned his opponent in his second match on the first day of the regional tournament.

He lost his first match on the second day and won a wrestleback challenge, placing fourth and earning him a spot for states.

“It was crazy,” Galasso said. “Junior year, I was a match away from states, so it was pretty cool. I was just really excited.”

Exciting was an understatement for assistant head coach Adam Gault.

“It was in overtime at regionals and [Matt and Mike] were wrestling at the same time,” Gault said, “so it was pretty suspenseful. But it was amazing.”

Although Galasso fell short at the state tournament in Hershey, going 0–2, it was an experience he won’t soon forget.

“It was a lot different than regionals,” Galasso said. “There was a lot more pressure, it was a lot louder and you’re wrestling in front of thousands of people. It was definitely harder going against the best in the state. But it was great.”

Gault and the Roman community are still on cloud nine of the overachievement.

“The history he made is very important,” Gault said. “ We’ll use his story to motivate our guys. You always need a first to build that momentum. And now the rest of the guys know they can do this.”

Outside of his success, Galasso was a coach’s dream, according to Gault.

“He’s a competitor,” he said. “You know he’s going to give it his all and leave it all on the mat in those six minutes.”

Galasso was one of the team’s captains this year and and while he was a quiet leader, he let his actions do the talking, according to Gault.

“He showed up, worked hard and did what was asked of him,” Gault said. “He didn’t complain and he never made excuses. He has one of the best attitudes. Roman is very proud of him.”

His weight could have been one of those excuses. Galasso wrestled in the heavyweight class (285) and weighing in at a maximum of 235, he often faced competition up to 50 pounds heavier.

Galasso never let it faze him.

“I’m really underweight for my weight class, so I pretty much eat what I want and drink a lot of water,” he said, “but I never let that stop me.”

While becoming the first-ever state qualifier cements his place in Roman wrestling history, the culture he helped develop is just as important.

“The past few years have been transformative for the team and Matt has been a big part of that,” Gault said. “He’s been wrestling his whole life, so he knows the culture. He helped establish a culture at Roman. This year, we didn’t have kids that were wrestling, we had a team of wrestlers.”

It’s that culture that Galasso wants wrestlers for years to come to remember.

“I just want to be remembered for working hard,giving my all in every match and having no regrets,” he said, “that I went out there every time and left it all on the mat.”