Mike Pucillo, a 3-time All-American and 2008 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Champion Wrestler, has come out as gay.
In an article by Jason Bryant at The Open Mat, the 26-year-old said he struggled with his sexuality for years and spent his high school years hoping he wasn’t gay.
‘You’ve been told that (homosexuality) is a bad thing your entire life,’ he said. ‘You hear it from your teachers, you hear it from your friends, you hear it from your coaches, you hear it from your parents.’
A little more than a year ago, he came out to his parents and a close circle of friends.
Now, he hopes his coming out can help someone else in his shoes.
‘I want people to know that you aren’t alone. If I can just help one person get through, then I will be happy.
‘If I can do that for one person, it’s worth it for everybody out there to know my story… I know there’s going to be people that don’t like it. To those people, I would say, "I’ve spent 26 years being uncomfortable. It’s not my problem anymore.
‘The only reason why I feel it’s important to tell my story is I know there are a lot of other people out there that are like me who are in high school or about to go into college, whether it’s wrestling or football or baseball or basketball or not in any sport, who are struggling with it,’ he said.
‘The more stories they hear about it, the easier it is for them.’
Pucillo, who spent one year as an assistant coach with the Buckeyes before quitting in 2011, said he was afraid to recruit a kid to the sport, worrying about the possible fallout that could happen if he came out while still coaching.
‘Are their parents going to want their son to be at a school where one of the coaches is gay?’ He’s also heard coaches say, ‘If I ever had a gay kid on the team… it’s not like we could kick him off the team, but we would do whatever we could to basically [run them off].’
In the interview, he also said that wrestling being a ‘physical contact sport’ created additional pressure.
‘Wrestling is one of the toughest mentally, physically and manly sports there is,’ he said.
It’s two dudes rolling around on a mat. People who don’t know wrestling call them leotards. It’s a joke, but it creates a built-in mechanism to say: ‘I’m not gay. I’m too manly to be gay. I’m too tough to be gay.’
‘That adds into it. Add in the aspect of doing well, to me, (that) was another aspect that scared me. Not only am I a wrestler, but I’m pretty (freaking) good.’