Phil Donnelly has always been an athlete, competing in four
different sports while at Pearl River High School. In the fall
Phil always ran cross country and contributed to two Section
1 championship harrier squads for the Pirates and a New York
State third-place team his senior year. For two years, he competed
in spring track, winning the Section 1 Class B pole vault
title as a sophomore. In his junior and senior years, he played
on the Pearl River golf team. In wrestling, cross country, track
& field and golf, Phil amassed a grand total of 14 varsity letters.
As we all should be aware, though, his best sport was wrestling.
As a 9-year-old Phil earned a second-place finish in the Kids
Northeastern Regional U.S.A. Wrestling Tournament, which
included 13 states. It was that tournament that brought him to
prominence and started his oustanding wrestling career. While
competing for five years on the mat at Pearl River, Phil set a
then-Rockland County record of 155 wins. He was a four-time
Section 1 champion and a four-time New York State place
winner (top-six finish). He improved his state placement every
year, as a freshman finishing sixth, as a sophomore fifth, as a
junior fourth, and in his senior year he made it to the finals of
the state tournament, finishing second. In his four trips to the
state tournament Phil compiled an amazing 13 career wins.
In his senior year, he won 35 matches competing in the
138-pound weight class, a Pearl River High School record for
a single season.
Phil won the Rockland County Tournament championship
twice, both times being named as the Sol Gordon Most
Outstanding Wrestler, voted on by the county coaches. During
his high school career, Phil competed in many other tournaments,
winning the Shoreline Tournament in New Rochelle
and the O’Connell Memorial Tournament in Pearl River four
times each, and the John Jay Tournament in Hopewell Junction
three times. But his most impressive victory came early on in
his career, as a freshman in the 1990 Section 1 finals, when he
beat a senior from Beacon to qualify for the state tournament.
That freshman season was quite an eye-opener for the rest of
the county and section. No one expected Phil to be the section
champion after finishing sixth in the Rockland County Tournament
earlier that year. Phil noted that the most enjoyable
and hardest practices he ever experienced were during the postseason
when all the champions would get together and work
out. Just competing with future state and national champions
like David Hirsch, Juan Carlos Garcia and Chris Matteotti was
one of the thrills of his life.
It was in the eighth grade that Phil made the jump to the Pearl
River varsity wrestling team and Hall of Fame Coach Julius
D’Agostino took him under his wing. That was the start of one
of the closest relationships between a coach and an athlete that
Rockland County has ever experienced. Together they helped
and encouraged each other through countless wrestling
matches and medical visits. During Phil’s junior year Coach
D’Agostino was diagnosed with terminal cancer, but he
persevered and was at Phil’s side for every one of his matches
the rest of that season, and all through Phil’s senior year. The
wrestling community marveled at the compassion and trust
exhibited between the two men. “Coach Dag” even flew up to
the State tournament in Syrcause on a stretcher, and coached
Phil during his final matches in 1993. They received a standing
ovation after that last match as Phil, the wrestler, helped push
his coach out of the Onondaga County Convention Center for
the last time.
After graduating from Pearl River, Phil was determined to
continue his wrestling career. He enrolled at Old Dominion
University in Norfolk, Virginia, an NCAA Division I wrestling
school, on a partial wrestling scholarship and went out for the
team. Phil wrestled so well that after his freshman year he was
awarded a full scholarship. He wrestled very successfully at Old
Dominion during his first two years, finishing second at the
very tough Lockhaven Invitational and winning the Old
Dominion University Tournament three times. He decided to
redshirt his junior year to possibly come back stronger and
make it to the Nationals in his senior year, but early in his
senior season, Phil sustained a very serious neck injury that
ended his competitive wrestling.
For his accomplishments in wrestling, Phil has been inducted
into the Pearl River Sports Hall of Fame and the Section One
Wrestling Hall of Fame.
After college, Phil worked at Chelsea Piers in the sports
management business for eight years and then decided to
relocate his work closer to home. Currently Phil is the general
manager of the Kinetics Sports Club in Pelham Manor, N.Y.
Under his direction, the Kinetic Sports Club will soon be opening
the first indoor water park in the metropolitan area. He
is married to the former Laura Woolgar, and they have two
sons – Thomas, 5, and Kevin, 3. They currently reside in Tappan.