University of Southern Maine sophomore Peter Del Gallo wrestles Bridgewater State’s Shawn Ferrell in a 125-pound match on in Gorham in Novebmer. Del Gallo pinned Ferrell in 48 seconds.
Right from the start, Peter Del Gallo was in trouble.
He was in the Division III Northeast regional final on Feb. 25 in Worcester, Massachusetts, and was down early, having missed on a move and opened the door for Johnson & Wales’ Jay Albis to jump ahead on the scoreboard.
The wrestler who hadn’t suffered a loss all season couldn’t hold off this one. Del Gallo, a University of Southern Maine sophomore, fell to Albis 10-4 after winning his first 39 matches of the season.
When it was over, Del Gallo quietly walked off the mat. Meanwhile, coach Mike Morin went to have a word with an assistant.
“I turned to one of my assistant coaches right after the match and I said, ‘That’s probably the best thing that could have happened to him,’” Morin said. “When you’re always winning, you can kind of get stuck in your own rut of going through the motions. I think a loss can be a really powerful, good thing for athletes.
“He’s focused. He’s zeroed-in on what he needs to do.”
Del Gallo lost his most recent match, but it won’t be his last. The former Gardiner High School star is in Cleveland for his first NCAA Division III national tournament, where he and his 39-1 mark are seeded fourth at 125 pounds and will open the competition Friday against Wartburg College’s Brennen Doebel.
“It’s definitely exciting and I’m proud to have made it this far,” Del Gallo said, “but it’s not over yet.”
He’s one of two USM wrestlers to make it to Cleveland. Austin Shorey, a freshman from Noble High School, qualified at 141 pounds and will face fourth-seeded David Flynn of Augsberg.
Shorey won’t come in with Del Gallo’s level of hype, however. Pressure and expectations have followed him every step since a decorated high school career that included two New England championships and four national tournament qualifications, and they only increased after Del Gallo followed up a promising freshman season , which resulted in a fourth-place regional finish, with his stellar sophomore campaign.
“Especially with my brother (Dan) being successful in high school and then throughout his college career, I definitely felt a little pressure to be successful,” said Del Gallo, who watched his brother win USM’s first national championship at 149 pounds last year. “But it wasn’t bad pressure. … No pressure, no diamond.”
Morin said that Del Gallo grew more intense with his training and improved his style from last year to this one, getting more aggressive and efficient. After waiting more for opponents to make mistakes as a freshman, which chews up time and keeps scores close, he’s started faster as a sophomore, looking to rack up points and bury opponents. Morin saw this new approach on the first day, and said Del Gallo has kept it going in each match since.
“He’s matured a little bit, he’s really figured out what it’s going to take to be successful at this level,” he said. “He’s just been very consistent with his approach and his training and matches and competition.”
And the approach worked — until the regional final. Del Gallo tried a move, Albis saw it coming, and in seconds Del Gallo was on his back and down 6-0.
It was a mistake, the kind a 39-0 wrestler can get you to believe he’s not capable of.
“He got caught in a move,” Morin said. “We talked about it, and said, ‘Hey, you can give up that takedown and be down 2-0, that’s a lot different than giving up the takedown and the back points to be down 6-0.”
There was time left. But Del Gallo knew the climb back was steep.
“I just had to try to rally back and I couldn’t,” he said. “It’s hard to come back from a deficit when you’re wrestling someone that good.”
Morin said that as a freshman, Del Gallo might have let the loss sit and linger. As a sophomore, however, his maturity became apparent.
“He was probably a little upset, but to be honest, he didn’t show a ton of emotion about it,” Morin said. “This year, I think it could be a good thing for him, to be honest. It could be one of those things where it refocuses him, puts it into perspective and he’ll learn from it and (it will) help him get better moving forward.”
It’s already started.
“I had to almost embrace it and not so much brush it off,” Del Gallo said. “What happened happened, you’ve just got to improve. … I turned the page to nationals and used it as a motivator to refocus me for the ultimate goal.”
He’s never seen this stage, but Del Gallo is unfazed. It’s still just wrestling, after all.
“I look at it as it’s just another tournament,” he said. “You can’t make it more important than others because that’s when your nerves come over you and you don’t wrestle as well.”
He saw during Dan’s run that he has as good a chance as any of winning it all. Dan didn’t win a regional title either.
Now Peter just wants to write a similar end to a familiar story.
“It’s motivating to know if he could do it, I can do it,” he said. “I’ve just got to work hard and give it my all.”
University of Southern Maine sophomore Peter Del Gallo wrestles Bridgewater State’s Shawn Ferrell in a 125-pound match on in Gorham in Novebmer. Del Gallo pinned Ferrell in 48 seconds.University of Southern Maine sophomore Peter Del Gallo wrestles Bridgewater State’s Shawn Ferrell in a 125-pound match on in Gorham in Novebmer. Del Gallo pinned Ferrell in 48 seconds.