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Wrestling With The Truth? Take Notice



The sheet of paper slid out of the fax machine, quietly settling into the pile between the press releases and angry letters. It wasn't until later, when assistant sports editor Al Tays happened to be flipping through the stack, that it became clear that we basically had stumbled upon the sports version of Bigfoot -- something you hear about but never really believe you'll see. A parent was writing to say that we had his child's record wrong. This, by itself, isn't unusual. Parents often call or write to say their son or daughter should have a better record. That's understandable. But that isn't what was happening here. Beneath the company letterhead -- Academy Title Company -- Joseph Mannino, a lawyer, had written a note to say that his son, The Post's top-ranked 119-pound wrestler, wasn't 14-1 . . . that he should have a worse record. My son, Ross Mannino, wrestles at 119 for Spanish River. He wanted you to know that he has 2 losses not 1. He lost in the finals of the PB Gardens and to Deniz Duygulu of Coral Springs, 9-5. He also asked me to tell you that unless you counted Sea Horse Open or preseason Jamboree, he does not have 14 wins. Either 9 or 10. Thank you. This may not seem like a big deal to you. But, trust me, this just doesn't happen. It's like a utility company reducing its rates. Or a pro athlete asking for a pay cut after a lousy season. A parent and athlete saying we were giving them too much credit? It had to be a cruel hoax perpetrated by a disgruntled former employee. Only it wasn't. It was genuine. So take heart if you've lost faith in kids, in high school athletes, in parents, in lawyers. In a world where it seems like every time you turn around someone is fibbing about something or fudging some statistic, we can find a glimmer of hope in the story that we figure someday they'll be telling about President Mannino. "Do you have only one loss?" his father asked. "No, Dad. I've got two," he said. "Do you want me to call the paper?" "Please." His coach, Bill Boggess, doesn't seem surprised about this at all. Ross was in his history class. He is an A student. No, check that. Don't want to get another fax. Make that A-minus to B-plus. "He's a hard worker; he's self-motivated . . . gosh, he's got a lot of good qualities," Boggess said. "I'd take a bunch of kids like him." Ross, the oldest of three children, seems surprised when he gets a call about this. He says he didn't think anything about it. He explains how he got into wrestling. He didn't make the basketball team and decided to give wresting a try as a sophomore. Now, he says, "It's my life." Yet, when he saw the 14-1 record, he was uncomfortable. "It just wasn't right," he said. "I take pride. But I'd take more pride in what I really did. I'd rather see the real record." Starting today, Mannino will be competing in the Palm Beach County championships. He could meet Wellington's Sean McAleney, the area's third-ranked 119-pounder, in the two-day tournament. McAleney is 11-3. Mannino is 12-2. Or is it 11-2? Joseph Mannino said in the fax that his son had either nine or 10 wins. Our wrestling writer gave Ross the benefit of the doubt, going with 10. He has since won two more matches. Such is life in a sports department. There will always be questions. And now we have a new one. Is it possible to have a fax bronzed? mark_woods@pbpost.com
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