Deer Lakes' Sammartino wrestles with family legacy
Having a famous last name can instantly impose expectations.
But, for Deer Lakes junior lineman Anthony Sammartino, it means more than just living up to the legacy established by his grandfather, former world wrestling champion Bruno Sammartino.
“A lot of times just because of the last name, I'll feel I'll have to push myself a lot more,” said the 5-foot-8, 240-pound Sammartino. “Even how I act in school to just because of who he is because everyone knows him. Teachers in school are always asking me if he's my grandfather.”
Bruno Sammartino was a popular World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler in the 1960s and '70s who was known for his strength and brawling style. He once held the heavyweight championship in both the World Wide Wrestling Federation and the WWE.
In 1959, Bruno Sammartino broke the world record in the bench press with a lift of 565 pounds. The experience in the weight room is something the younger Sammartino has taken advantage of. He has been taking tips from his grandfather for the past three years.
Anthony still keeps in contact with his grandfather, seeing him on the holidays and talking to him about once a month.
As a sophomore, Sammartino played at the end of games. But this year, he will be starting on both sides of the ball. He will play left guard on offense and nose tackle on defense.
The experience he gained last year, despite not being a starter, is something that he is looking to learn from and build on.
“I think it helped me a lot,” Sammartino said. “I had some experience, so I know what it's like to play in games. It's not like I'm going out there and I've never done it before. I think I've gotten stronger and smarter. I understand things better.”
As a result of starting a lot of underclassmen last year, the Lancers' offensive line is still young. Four out of the five offensive linemen are juniors. Because of this, Sammartino has stepped up and taken on a leadership role.
Whether it's getting the team more focused during practice or getting them fired up before a game, Sammartino has taken it upon himself to do that.
“Our whole line is pretty much juniors, and I've had to step up a lot,” Sammartino said. “Whenever the team lacks enthusiasm during practice, I'll tell them if you practice like crap you're gonna play like crap.”
The Lancers went away for training camp to Camp Bucoco near Slippery Rock. Deer Lakes hadn't gone away for camp in about a decade. At camp, Sammartino showed his maturity as a player.
“We saw a lot out of him as an offensive and defensive lineman,” coach Todd Hazlett said. “He pushed himself and demonstrated a lot of toughness. There is no quit in him, and as a coach you really appreciate that. We are comfortable with him starting at the nose tackle and I'm coaching the offensive line, and we have had to move him around a bit and he found his niche at left guard. I call him our little Casey Hampton.”
The Lancers are coming off a 2-8 season and will open the revamped Allegheny Conference schedule at Valley on Aug. 31.
D.J. Vasil is a freelance writer.