PROVIDENCE, March 2 – Middletown High graduate Richard Perry was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame earlier this month at the New England wrestling championships in Providence.
Perry was honored with four other men from New England – Danny Gordon and David Fournier from Vermont, Alan Yanku from Rhode Island and Craig Stone from Massachusetts.
Perry, a member of the U.S. national team at 86 kilograms (189 pounds), is still recovering from a training accident in late August in San Diego with the national team.
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 spent several weeks in a Philadelphia-area hospital undergoing physical therapy before getting released from the hospital in early November.
“I am becoming more myself each day,” he said at the gym in Providence just before the New England finals. “I am just trying to get back to where I was. It’s a challenge but we’re working toward it and I am closing the gap.
“It is definitely challenging but with each goal I reach, it is inspiring,” he said. “It inspires me to push harder and push forward.”
Perry hasn’t been cleared to wrestle again but he uses some of the exercises he learned in wrestling as part of his rehabilitation work.
“I just miss being able to go out there and battle,” Perry said. “To battle for a win, to battle for position That is what I miss at the moment.”
Perry accomplished some big things on the mat in 2018. He finished second at the U.S. Open for the second time and finished second in the U.S. Freestyle world team trials challenge tournament. In June, he earned a spot on the U.S. national freestyle team for the first time with a 7-4 win over former Iowa State wrestler Pat Downey.
After the accident, the wrestling community rallied around the family. A Go-Fund-Me campaign has raised more than $141,000 from more than 2,000 donors. Donations are still coming in.
“The wrestling community has played a huge role. They stepped right in,” said Gina Perry, Rich’s wife. “They kept us going and kept us moving in the right direction. Knowing we had their support behind us and knowing we were not in this alone (was extremely helpful).”
Perry wrestled for just two years at Middletown High under coach Mark Fong. As a senior in 2008, Perry won the Class L and State Open title at 215 pounds and was second at the New England tournament. In 2009, he spent a year at Hyde-Woodstock and finished second in New England (215).
He went to Bloomsburg University went 110-30 and wrestled in the NCAA Division I tournament three times. As a senior, he won an Eastern Wrestling League (EWL) title at 197 pounds in 2014. It turned out to be the final EWL title in school history since the school’s wrestling program is moving to the MAC next winter.
Perry was also inducted into the EWL’s Hall of Fame at the final EWL championship tournament at George Mason exactly a week after the ceremony in Providence.
“It is exciting to be honored and inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Perry said. “Super excited.”
Massachusetts’ Craig Stone has been coaching wrestling in the Bay State since 1975 when he began the wrestling program at Lynnfield High School. In 2005, the team was merged with nearby North Reading High into a co-op program.
In his career, Stone has more than 500 career dual meet victories, five league championships and three sectional titles. He has coached eight state champion wrestlers. He is a member of several Halls of Fame including the Massachusetts chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Rhode Island’s Alan Yankin was a two-time state champion from Cranston East High School and won a New England championship in 1971 and a New England prep school title in 1972. As head coach, he helped lead Bishop Hendricken to two state titles in 1979 and 1980. He founded the Ponagansett program in 1980 and was the director of middle school wrestling in Rhode Island from 2000-17.
Two long-time officials from Vermont were recognized – Danny Gordon and David Fournier.
Gordon was a referee for 26 years and was selected to officiate at the New England championships three times. Fournier was an official for 25 years and earned six New England championship assignments. Gordon also coached at Spaulding High for 10 years and was the Vermont co-coach of the year in 2009.