Ever since his first trip to West Point for a football game while he was attending middle school, current Southampton High School senior Peter Strassfield has known it was the school for him.
Peter, who aspires to a career in the U.S. Army, will start at the United States Military Academy just three days after he graduates from this June. And he has been recruited for the wrestling team as well.
“All of the pomp and circumstance of everything,” Peter said of what drew him to the school. “All of the kids seemed like they were really committed to being there. It was like no other college or university that I have seen.”
Peter, 18, has lived in Water Mill his entire life. He started wrestling in the second grade through a Southampton Youth Association program. He said he had already realized he was not good at baseball and was not a fan of soccer, so he was excited to find a sport that he liked and showed some talent for.
As part of the program, which was run through his school, Peter was often mentored by the older, Southampton High School wrestlers, who would stay after practice to help the younger kids. By the time he entered Southampton Intermediate School, Peter was good enough to make the team, going on to make a huge impact on the high school team.
Over the past four years, he has been an integral part of the high school program, having placed in the Suffolk County championships all four years, and winning the title twice. Peter has also been the New York State champion twice, and has been a member of the New York National Team for three years. He has been named to the all-county team all four seasons and competes in off-season freestyle and Greco competitions.
“At the time, I thought I would make a good impact on the team,” Peter said. “I was a little nervous when I went to the bigger high school stage, but it was fun.”
His journey to West Point has been a long one. He fell in love with the school as a kid when family friend and West Point alum General David Hale of Hampton Bays started telling him stories of his days at the academy. The idea of going there himself grew stronger a few years later, when he attended his first West Point football game with his family. He was instantly attracted to both the school and a career in the Army, he said.
“We went to a football game up at West Point and that is when I said, ‘OK, I need to go here,’” Peter said. “Everybody that was at the college was there because they wanted to be there, they were there for no other reason. No one is there because their parents said they had to go there. They all want to be there.”
Last year, Peter took his commitment to the school to the next level and reached out to the wrestling department about joining the team. Over the next several months, he met with West Point wrestling head coach Kevin Ward several times. The coach talked Peter through the application process and met with him after several wins, and losses.
“He was really cool because a bunch of the coaches I met with from other colleges would come by and congratulate me when I won a match and they would be supportive, but he was the only coach that would come around even when I lost,” Peter said. “He would talk to me about what I did wrong, and that showed to me that the coaching staff there is excellent.”
Then, last month, Peter got the letter he had been waiting for—accepting him to the school and recruiting him for the wrestling team. West Point, he pointed out, is a unique college in that students do not pay tuition, so there are no athletic scholarships, but he has been designated a recruited athlete for the college program. Upon graduation, he will spend at least the next five years serving in the Army. Peter will report to the college on June 29 for the start of cadet basic training.
He said he has received tremendous support from his parents, Paul and Christina Strassfield, his twin brother, Joseph—who will attend the State University of New York at Geneseo in the fall—and his sister, Zoe, 22, who is wrapping up her undergraduate career at Boston University before attending New York University for graduate studies in the fall.
“I have always looked up to people in the Army ever since I was a little kid,” Peter said. “It has always been a higher calling to me that everyone owes it to their country to serve. I think that for me, West Point is going to be the best place to do that because not only will I be serving myself, but I will be able to help others serve. It is the best place for me to go.”