UPDATED Toni Copeland 18 top women s wrestler drowns in accident in Michigan on Sunday memorial

By Gary Abbott | Oct. 05, 2005, 12 a.m. (ET)
Toni Copeland, 18, of McDonough, N.Y., died in a drowning accident while swimming on Lake Superior in Marquette, Mich. on Sunday, October 2.

Copeland, a high school senior, was a member of the U.S. Olympic Education Center (USOEC) women's wrestling program at Northern Michigan Univ. She was a high school senior, and was attending Marquette High School while training with the USOEC wrestling team full-time.

Copeland was drowned along with Northern Michigan student Cassiano Hucakbee, 18, from Chicago. They were caught in a crosscurrent and pulled under near a popular location on the lake called Picnic Rocks.

Copeland was nationally ranked on the Senior level in women's freestyle wrestling. She placed fifth at the 2005 U.S. Nationals at 72 kg/158.5 lbs.

Copeland a Junior National runner-up the last two years. She was third at the 2005 FILA Junior Nationals, and was a medalist at the FILA Cadet Nationals for three straight years (2002-2004).

She is survived by her grandparents Don Copeland and Debbie Copeland.

"I was devastated," said USOEC Women's Wrestling Head Coach Shannyn Gillespie. "When you lose an athlete, it is like losing a child. She brought energy and a big smile to the program. She got other people up. It was a pleasure to have her on the team for the short time she was here. She will be missed."

Gillespie indicated that practice had been cancelled for two days to allow the team members to deal with the tragic loss of a teammate. There was also a meeting and memorial held involving all of the USOEC sports programs.

A candlelight vigil was held in her memory on Tuesday, October 4 in her hometown.

The funeral for Toni Copeland will be held on Friday, October 7 at the Beautiful Plains Baptist Church at 93 Riverside Dr. in Binghamton, N.Y. at 11:00 a.m. The phone number is (607) 723-0277.

There will also be viewings for Toni on Thursday, October 6 at the Roots Funeral Home, on Chenango Street in Green, N.Y. from 12:00 noon - 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

There will also be a memorial service on the Northern Michigan campus in Marquette, Mich., arranged by USOEC athletes, on Thursday night, October 6 at the Michigan room of the University Center at 9:00 p.m.

A memorial fund called the Toni Fund has been established by her local wrestling club, the Shamrock Wrestling Club. The fund will support efforts to foster female wrestling in the Section IX region of New York, and assist talented young women wrestlers in the development of their careers.

To donate to this memorial fund, send contributions to:
Toni Fund
c/o Shamrock Wrestling Club
7 Kirkwood Ave.
Binghamton, NY 13901