Tutolo fights through injuries to compete at nationals

Then a sophomore, Anthony Tutolo (left) warms up before the Thanksgiving Throwdown on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016, at the M.A.C. Center. 

Samantha Ross

Kent State wrestler Anthony Tutolo defeated Old Dominion University’s Josh Markham at the Lock Haven tournament Dec. 29. During the second period, Tutolo was on top of Markham of the match trying to hold him down.

Markham tried to stand up.

Tutolo felt his knee pop.

This almost ended the season for on of Kent State’s best wrestlers.

Head coach Jim Andrassy said that Tutolo’s wrestling knowledge and his success prior to college make him one of the better wrestlers on the team. 

Tutolo battled back.

With lots of extra work and rehab Tutolo managed to wrestle at the MAC tournament and qualify for the national tournament.

Tutolo medical forfeited the rest of the Lock Haven tournament and spent the rest of his time worrying about how bad it was.

“It hurt initially and then it went away,” Tutolo said. “Then I wasn’t able to put pressure on it. After the match it hurt really bad.” 

His knee started to swell up minutes later, which cause him to initially get upset because I didn’t know if it would be my whole season.

“I was emotionally distressed at that time because I didn’t know,” Tutolo said. I was trying to keep a positive attitude. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know the severity of it. I was telling myself that it wasn’t going to be as bad as I think it could be.”

Tutolo went to the doctor and found out that he had torn his LCL.

“They didn’t give me an exact time because it depended on how my body was going to heal,” Tutolo said. “I had to play it by ear. Do rehab and see what you can do. We’ll start making a plan as it gets better. We can test it to see how strong it is.”

Tutolo was out for most of the season until Feb. 5 when he wrestled in the Eastern Michigan match. His knee swelled up again. The doctors told him that  this time he had partially tore his ACL.

“It was more of a factor of lets not push it and let’s wait for the end of year for the thing that counts the most,” Tutolo said. “Instead of continuing to compete with something that could possibly go wrong and then not compete for the thing that mattered the most.”

According to strength and conditioning coach Bob Lemieux, when an athlete is injured he receives an injury report from the athletic trainer. The report will give him any modifications that need to be changed in the weight room.

“My role in this process with him is trying to be as inclusive as possible as opposed to excluding him and just saying ‘hey go sit in the corner’,” Lemieux said. “The idea is whether Anthony is hurt or anyone is hurt we’ll modify what we do to make sure the athletes can do something and not sit in the corner and be left out.”

Tutolo said that his trainer had been doing a lot of rehab with him.

“I was doing everything possible just to get myself to feel the best I could for this part of the season,” Tutolo said.

Practices were shorter leading up to the MAC tournament, and have stayed short while he trains for the national tournament. 

“They’re more tapered toward me and Casey Sparkman who made it as well,” Tutolo said. “We go in there and do our work and get out. Not trying to beat up your body. Don’t need to go through long grueling practices. Just trying to keep my weight down for now too just to make things easier on my life and my body. Coming in and going to rehab, ice bathing, and doing things to help me feel good.”

Tutolo said he felt pretty good going into the MAC tournament.

“Wrestling wise physically I probably wasn’t at my best,” Tutolo said. “I was a little rusty, but I felt good for the most part.”

Tutolo credits his teammates, friends and family for being supportive of him during his recovery. 

“I was his rock,” Audra Gormley, Tutolos girlfriend, said. “Everyone was talking to him at once like the doctors, his dad was calling his 6 times a day, of course his mom was calling him, his coaches were calling him so I was kind of the person that was there to just talk about video games or what was on TV that night. I was like his getaway.”

Tutolos roommate is also his teammate.

 “I always looked out for his best interest,” Jacob Spino, Tutolos roommate, said. “Of course we all wanted him in the lineup, but at one point you have to look back and see what’s best for him.”

His injury affected the way he worked out and trained for wrestling. 

“It definitely changed some things,” Tutolo said. “I had to sit for a little bit and not do as much. I couldn’t get on the mat right away. Weight wise it was hard to keep it down for a little bit until I was able to workout and I got that under control which makes my life easier in the long run. I felt a little rusty at the MAC tournament just because I haven’t been able to go out and compete as much. It was a good thing because I was able to figure out what I need to work on for nationals. Staying off the mat for a little bit and not being able to workout as much is definitely harder. Especially because I had to figure out what I have to do differently with my injury.”

The injury not only affected him on the mat, but also outside of wrestling.

“I know that he’s very dedicated and very driven so when something gets in his way its kind of hard for him to maneuver around that, Gormley said. “He got stuck dead in his tracks. It was definitely an obstacle for him to try and overcome but I think it was also a learning experience. He went through a lot with the injury and with his team so I think its was a learning opportunity for him to know how to overcome a problem at the worst time possible.”

According to Gormley, he was stressed because of everything he had to deal with.

“He was constantly being bombarded with questions and phone calls on top of trying to process this new obstacle in his life. He took it like a champ, but I could tell he was stressed and had a lot on his mind. Through it all he remained focused and strong in what he needed to do.”

“It sucks being hurt,” Spino said. “I knew he wanted to get back on the mat. It was bothering him mentally.” 

Head coach Jim Andrassy and Spino both said that Tutolo was one of the top guys on the team. 

“Well any time you don’t have one of your best guys in the lineup it becomes frustrating for everybody I think,” Andrassy said. “It becomes frustrating for the guys on the team. It probably became frustrating for Anthony I think.” 

“Without him it hurt us from a statistical standpoint because we were losing six points every match,” Spino said. “It’s hard to come back from that.”

Tutolo said that going to nationals was one of his season-goals.

“The ultimate goal is to be the national champion,” Tutolo said. “That’s just a little stepping stone for me. I never stay satisfied until I reach my highest goal. It was a feeling of satisfaction for a second and then I said okay it’s on to the next step and to continue my journey.”

Tutolo believes that he has a good mindset going into nationals.

“I feel physically better than I did at the MAC and that’s all I could ask for,” Tutolo said.

“I knew it was going to be tough to wrestle at the MAC tournament with my injury”, Tutolo said. “It was more of a factor of I have a hurt knee and I won’t be my best per say, but let’s see what I can do. Instead of saying ‘oh I’m hurt and I don’t know if I’ll be able to do this’. I had a positive mindset.” 

Tutolo will wrestle Cornell University’s Mark Grey (20-10 overall) in a pigtail match. The wrestlers that compete in the pigtail match are drawn at random. The winner of that match enters into the round where everyone else is wrestling and the loser drops to the losers bracket.

The national championships will be held at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri on March 16-18. 

Samantha Ross is the wrestling reporter, contact her at [email protected].