Ted Petersen was the Island Trees wrestling program's most important figure. This weekend, the current program will honor him.
On Friday, the high school will host its annual alumni match where representatives from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame will honor Petersen and induct two Island Trees alumni wrestlers at 7 p.m. On Saturday, some of Long Island's top wrestling teams will square off in a tournament dedicated to the memory of the legendary coach and educator from the Island Trees School District.
Petersen was a beloved coach and educator at Island Trees High School for more than 30 years and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1998. Petersen passed away in 1989 at the age of 55 after a battle with ALS.
The tournament in his honor was first held at Freeport High School by Petersen's son-in-law, but the family approached Island Trees to host the event in 2004.
"All I knew about Island Trees when I got my job here was from what I knew about Ted Petersen," said Damian Garcia, varsity wrestling coach. "It's an honor that his family allows us to do this. I was really proud and really excited when they wanted it held here."
"I remember seeing Petersen when I wrestled as a kid," added Garcia, who wrestled for Long Beach High School. "He was warm and gentle and really courteous to all his competitors. He was fiery and he always wanted to win, but he was very professional and a role model for all of us."
Petersen served as the head coach at Island Trees for 27 years, where he carried a record of 325 wins, 70 losses and four draws. Under Petersen's watch, the Bulldogs won 20 conference championships, three Section 8 championships, 22 individual Section 8 championshops and six New York State championships.
Garcia expressed the district's gratitude for all the Petersen family does for Island Trees as well. The Ted Petersen Foundation holds a scholarship fund for Island Trees students each year where one wrestler and one female student receive money for college.
"We're honored that we can continue to do this for Mr. Petersen," said Garcia. "We've rededicated our wrestling room in his honor. This room and our annual tournament is just a tribute to him."