Earlier today, former NCAA champion and three-time All American wrestler Mike Pucillo bravely came out as a member of the LGBT community in an exclusive interview with Jason Bryant for theopenmat.com. The former Ohio State star becomes the first Division I national champion wrestler to openly identify as LGBT. The Buckeyes won their first-ever team wrestling national championship this past weekend. Pucillo also joins over 100 Pro and Olympic athletes as Athlete Ally’s newest Ambassador, promoting inclusion and respect throughout the sports community.
“Choosing to come out as LGBT was not the easiest thing I have ever done, even harder than many of my own wrestling matches,” Pucillo said. “However, after hearing the story of a young wrestler who was encouraged by coaches not to come out and be true to himself, I knew that I could no longer sit by and stay quiet about my sexuality. Everyone deserves to be proud of who they are — athletes and nonathletes alike.”
Athlete Ally is proud to welcome Pucillo as an Ambassador and to support him as he opens up to the wrestling community and the rest of the world about his sexuality.
Akil Patterson, Athlete Ally’s Youth Programs Director and former collegiate athlete in wrestling and football, came out in 2010 to the wrestling community, and believes that Pucillo’s decision to come out will send a strong message of acceptance to the wrestling world.
“I know how difficult it can be to come out during or after your athletic career,” Patterson said. “I’m proud of Mike’s bravery in living as his true self. He is a well-respected member of the wrestling community; and, I hope that his coming out will give others in the community the courage to be open about who they are, and to respect those who do.”
Athlete Ally’s Founder and Executive Director Hudson Taylor, a fellow member of the elite wrestling community, has known Mike for some time, and is thrilled for him as well as fully supportive.
“I couldn’t be happier for Mike,” Taylor said. “We still have a long way to go to make athletics inclusive for all people, but Mike and other leaders are beginning to pave the way.”