Former Ohio State 2008 NCAA Division I Wrestling champion Mike Pucillo opened up about his sexuality in a new interview with Open Mat’s Jason Bryant.
Pucillo, who was also a three-time All-American at Ohio State, recalled coming out as gay to his best friend and college teammate, Reece Humphrey, in the interview. Pucillo is now the first openly gay Division I national champion wrestler.
“I’ve always known, I guess,” the 28-year-old said. He spoke about his hesitations to come out as an Ohio State competitor: “I wish I was able to be myself seven years ago while still competing in college, but it isn’t until now that I am comfortable with myself to tell my story. I want people to know that you aren’t alone. If I can just help one person get through, then I will be happy.”
“I wish I was able to be myself seven years ago while still competing in college, but it isn’t until now that I am comfortable with myself to tell my story,” he added. “I want people to know that you aren’t alone. If I can just help one person get through, then I will be happy.”
Finally, on a December morning, Pucillo reached for his phone and tapped out a lengthy text message to his best friend and college teammate, Reece Humphrey.
The gist of the message was this: I’m gay.
“I think telling him was an unbelievable weight off my shoulders (and) I didn’t think I would feel that good just telling him,” said Pucillo, the first openly gay Division-I national champion wrestler. “Reece has always been someone with a very open mind and I thought maybe he would understand.”
“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.”
Pucillo felt wrestling – 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.”