The MacArthur High School gymnasium was packed with students, faculty, administrators and alumni who were ready to watch teens from Levittown, North Wantagh and Seaford bounce around on Jan. 18.
Laughter could be heard from the hallway while the crowd watched teachers and students from various clubs and athletic teams wrestle each other while dressed in large, rubber suits. The matches marked the second annual sumo-wrestling competition, which was designed to increase interest in the Generals wrestling program, honor the team's seniors and raise money for a local charity.
Michael Marrero, a member of the MacArthur class of 2013 who is now the junior varsity assistant wrestling coach, helped organize the tournament. He explained that the goal was to generate buzz about the wrestling team while “at the same time doing it for a good cause.”
“If we just keep doing this every year, it should get bigger and better,” he added. “I hope this will some shed light on the great causes and foundations that are out there in our own community.”
The event was a fundraiser for the Wantagh-based John Theissen Children’s Foundation, which provides toys and cheer to ailing and underprivileged children across Long Island. Theissen, a Wantagh resident and MacArthur alumnus, helped coordinate the brackets between both the Salk Middle School students and faculty and MacArthur staff.
“John Theissen is an incredible person for what he does year in and year out,” Principal Joseph Sheehan said. “He is still so active in the MacArthur community. As soon as you mention his name, people come out to the event, not just to support our wrestling team, but for John and his foundation.”
Last year, the community raised nearly $1,700 for JTCF at the tournament. To donate to the charity, students placed wagers on their peers and teachers who were competing in matches in exchange for raffle tickets. Various gift cards to Chipotle and local restaurants were given away throughout the night.
“You always want to raise more and more, and hopefully surpass last year’s amount," Sheehan said. “It’s like climbing a ladder,”
MacArthur alumnus Gian Villante — a light heavyweight mixed martial artist in Ultimate Fighting Championship — acted as a referee for the sumo-wrestling matches. In addition to the tournament, community members were invited to watch the Generals take on wrestlers from Manhasset later that evening. Seven seniors were honored before the matches.