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Poem by Renee Springhorne

New fund to aid injured wrestler
By MATTHEW J. DOWLING, Star Ledger Staff
The Star Ledger - Watchung Hills student receives messages from around the country.

In the two weeks since Watchung Hills Regional High School wrestler Carl Riccio sustained a severe neck injury during a match, more than a thousand calls and letters of support have poured in from around the country.

Many have offered assistance as the Warren Township teen attempts to recover movement in his arms and legs. As a result, Riccio's family established the "Carl Riccio Special Needs Trust" this week to accept donations for his long-term medical care.

"We've gotten over 1,000 letters from people wanting to help," said Peter Riccio, Carl's older brother. "If Carl is in a wheelchair, it's going to cost a tremendous amount of money."

The fund-raising efforts will begin this weekend at the state championship wrestling tournament in Atlantic City -- a tournament Riccio would likely have participated in prior to his injury. Riccio had a 26-0 record and was ranked seventh in the state in the 189-pound weight class when he was hurt during a match at Newton High School on Feb. 22.

Peter Riccio, a baseball player at Villanova University and former high school wrestler, said several hundred T-shirts are being printed bearing his brother's name and weight class. Proceeds from the sale of the shirts will benefit Carl Riccio's foundation.

In addition, Denise Cappuccio, a spokeswoman for the newly established trust fund, said a benefit dinner is being planned and a post office box has been established for those who wish to make donations directly.

While the Riccio family has been reluctant to speak publicly about Carl's progress, Peter Riccio said his brother has remained in good spirits as he begins his recovery.

"His spirits are amazing," Peter Riccio said. "He knows he has to be patient. If anyone can get out of this, he can."

Riccio was recently transferred from Morristown Memorial Hospital to the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in West Orange.

Riccio's parents, Peter and Patricia, have been maintaining a round-the-clock vigil at his beside, according to Peter Riccio.

"They're both there during the day at all times," Peter Riccio said. "Either my mom or dad stays there every night."

Peter Riccio said the endless parade of well-wishers visiting Carl has helped to boost the family's spirits as well. Friends of Riccio also established a Web site ( in his honor where people from around the country have posted messages of support.

Word of Riccio's injury spread quickly through the tight-knit wrestling community on Internet message boards and wrestling forums. Riccio was in the middle of his second match of a tri-meet tournament at Newton High School, the last match before district tournaments.

As he attempted a headlock throw maneuver on his opponent, Riccio lost a grip and fell awkwardly on his neck and shoulder. The weight of the other wrestler also came crashing down on him.

Riccio had won three consecutive Somerset County wrestling championships for Watchung Hills Regional High School including winning the 189-pound weight class this year as a junior. As a freshman, he was the top 125-pound wrestler in the county and won the county title last year as a sophomore in the 160-pound weight class.

Those who wish to contribute to the Carl Riccio Special Needs Fund may send checks to:

Carl Riccio Special Needs Trust
P.O. Box 4422
Warren, NJ 07059

Matthew J. Dowling can be reached at mdowling@starled or (908) 429-9925.

© 2006 Carl Riccio Special Needs Trust