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Emotional introduction of Perry before the start of Keystone Classic finals

PHILADELPHIA, November 18 – What an emotional scene for the Connecticut wrestling family Sunday before the championship finals of the Keystone Classic at the Palestra in Philadelphia.

Richard Perry, the Middletown High graduate who made the U.S. national team earlier this year before getting severely injured in training camp in August, walked onto the center mat, received a standing ovation from the crowd at the Palestra and spoke to the crowd.

It’s been a tough few months for Perry and his family and friends.

In August, he was training with the U.S. national team in San Diego when he was hurt in a freak accident. According to Andy Hamilton of TrackWrestling.com, Perry was involved in a drill with foam-padded clubs. He took a shot to the face and the foam protection dislodged. The baton slipped through a hole in his facemask and struck him the eye, causing trauma to the brain.

After he was hurt, Perry was unable to walk, talk or eat on his own. Doctors initially thought he would need three to six months to recover in California before he could return to his home in Philadelphia.

Perry spent four weeks in a San Diego hospital before being flown across the country to Philadelphia. He has spent several weeks in a Philadelphia-area hospital undergoing physical therapy.

He was released from the hospital on Friday. On Sunday, Perry was accompanied on the mat at the Keystone Classic by Brandon Slay, the executive director and head coach of the Pennsylvania Regional Training Center (RTC) where Perry has been training the last few years.

Perry and his wife, Gina, have three young children and live in the Philadelphia area.

Connecticut officials Rey Santiago, left, and Nick Grasso, right, stand with Connecticut’s Richard Perry before the finals of Sunday’s Keystone Classic in Philadelphia. (Photo courtesy USA Wrestling Connecticut)

Gina Perry has been keeping friends updated over the past few months with frequent Facebook updates. “We ask that you continue to pray for Rich and his recovery, “ she writes. “We know coming home is the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next, but we have a long road ahead of us.

“Rich is fighting every day to make major strides both mentally and physically,” Gina writes. “He talks often about how grateful he is for all of you, your prayers and your words of encouragement. This trial has brought so many new friendships and for that, we are so grateful! You have no idea how each story of your faith, each prayer, each word, made it that much easier to get through the hard days!”

Rudis, a wrestling apparel company, launched a fundraising campaign for the Perry family. Rudis is selling “Richard Perry Overcomer” T-shirts for $35 with all proceeds going to the family.

In June, Perry earned a spot on the U.S. national team for the first time with a 7-4 victory over former Iowa State wrestler Pat Downey.

Perry graduated from Middletown High in 2008, where he wrestled for two seasons. As a senior, he won the Class L and State Open title at 215 pounds and was second in New England. In 2009, he spent a year at Hyde-Woodstock and finished second in New England (215).

He wrestled for four years at Bloomsburg State (2011-14), qualifying for the NCAA Tournament three times and posting a career record of 110-30.

Perry did attend the 2016 Olympics in Rio as the training partner for American Kyle Snyder, who won a gold medal.

Go Fund Me Account: Help the Perry family

No. 1 Penn State won the Keystone Classic tournament with eight individual champions. Penn State finished with 192 points followed by Drexel (109½) and host Pennsylvania (108).

Sacred Heart participated with Brandon Levesque (165) going 3-2 with three wins in the consolation bracket. Gerard Daly (141) and Will Schmidt (165) each went 2-2 while Newtown’s Anthony Falbo (174) went 1-2. The Pioneers were 10th out of 10 teams with 13½ points.

Newtown’s Joe Accousti (165) was 2-2 for Appalachian State, who finished fourth.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of Connecticut Wrestling Online. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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