University of Southern Maine’s Peter Del Gallo, of Gardiner, is undefeated so far this season at 21-0. Contributed photo

To the surprise of almost no one, Gardiner native Peter Del Gallo has had a successful wrestling career  at the University of Southern Maine.

But not only has Del Gallo, a senior, continued to be one of the best college wrestlers in New England, he’s managed to be among the most elite Division III wrestlers in the nation. And as he wraps up his career, he may have saved his best efforts for last.

Heading into the holiday break, Del Gallo — who wrestles at 125 pounds — is undefeated for the regular season with a 21-0 record. He also recently notched his 100th career victory. This is on the heels of a junior season where Del Gallo was named a Division III All-American, with a third-place finish at the Division III National Championships.

University of Southern Maine’s Peter Del Gallo, of Gardiner, recently scored the 100th win of his career. Contributed photo

”Last year was another breakout year for him,” USM head coach Mike Morin said. “Going 5-1 at the NCAA tournament, becoming an NCAA All-American, placing third in the country (in his weight class). So far this year, we’ve seen another jump. He’s not only winning, but dominating most of the competition that he’s wrestling. That’s one of the things that we’ve talked about, just continue to improve, continue to get better. It just seems like he’s been doing that year in and year out.”

Despite last season’s success, Del Gallo felt there was still improvements to be made in his game.

“I think I need to work more on the mental aspects of wrestling,” Del Gallo said. “Getting better on my feet, getting scores early. I have a tendency to wait around and sometimes it doesn’t end (well).”

Morin said Del Gallo is different from other wrestlers around the country in the fact that he’s a complete wrestler, and can battle out of all three major positions in the sport — on his feet, on top (of an opponent), and on bottom — whereas other wrestlers excel at two of the three positions.

“From his feet, he’s a guy who’s incredibly hard to score on,” Morin said. “When he turns it on, he can score a lot of points if he wants to. From top, I think he’s as good as anybody in the country. He can ride everybody, he can turn. He’s good with legs, he’s good with tilts, he’s good with bars. From bottom, he gets out from everybody, no one can hold him down.”

One area that’s been an issue for Del Gallo, Morin said, is a similar problem he witnessed during his four years at Gardiner Area High School, where he finished with a career record of 205-8, along with four state, regional and Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships.

”A lot of guys Peter is wrestling go out there trying not to lose by big margins,” Morin said. “They’re not even trying to win. When that happens, it’s harder to wrestle those types of guys.”

Needless to say, Del Gallo is not a fan of the strategy.

University of Southern Maine’s Peter Del Gallo finished with a 205-8 record at Gardiner Area High School. Contributed photo

“I hate when people wrestle like that,” Del Gallo said. “I feel like I’m better when there’s a lot of action. (Opponents) are essentially trying not to win, but not score any points, and maybe squeak out a win. It frustrates me. But I think being on my game early in the match and scoring points early will force my opponents to open up, which will make it easier in the third period to get more points.”

Del Gallo adjusted quickly to college wrestling his freshman year, finishing the 2016-2017 season with a record of 34-3. He improved to a record of 39-2 during his sophomore season, earning his first national ranking.

“I’ve definitely become a better wrestler here at USM,” Del Gallo said. “My coaches have taught me a lot. Not even with (mat) wrestling, but with mental strategy, mental toughness and knowing how to win in certain situations. I feel like I’m way better on my feet, and my top game is pretty strong.”

Off the mat, the two-time captain has enjoyed academic accolades in each of his previous three seasons with the Huskies.

Del Gallo’s success comes as no surprise to his former coach at Gardiner, Matt Hanley, who brings some of his wrestlers to USM meets to watch Del Gallo compete.

“I knew it would happen,” Hanley said. “Even in high school, he was wrestling out of state a lot. He went to Virginia Beach (for high school nationals) every year and placed All-American all four years in high school. He placed second down there twice. He lost one of those in the last second of the match. I knew he’d compete, and I knew he’d do very well (at USM).”

Del Gallo still has unfinished business ahead of him. Among those goals is an individual regional championship, which has eluded him over the past three seasons. He’s come as close as second in his weight class at the tournament. And of course, there’s the hope of a chance of an individual national title later in the season.

“I feel like, now I’ve known I can wrestle (at nationals), I just have to believe in myself and do it,” Del Gallo said.

“Physically, he has all the tools,” Morin said. “If he’s mentally believing in himself, he’s a really tough guy to stop.”


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