June 26, 2016

Intermittent clouds

G-Man credits depth

Steve King
The Gazette

There really is strength in numbers.

Just ask Wadsworth wrestling coach John Gramuglia, who is quick to point out depth was a big key to his team’s success this season.

“This was a dream season. It really was,” he said. “But it wasn’t an easy season. Because of a lot of things, we never had our starting group. We never practiced with our starting lineup.

“We had injuries. We had one boy (Brad Squire) who battled a staph infection. We had one wrestler who had a family member fighting a significant illness. That’s why you need more than your 14 starters, because when one kid was out for us, another stepped up.”

It’s why the Grizzlies, while failing to achieve their ultimate goal of loosening the death grip Lakewood St. Edward has on the Division I state championship, still had a fine season, finishing fifth in Columbus.

Gramuglia insists this depth — this strength of numbers in all aspects of the Wadsworth program — is also why he’s been selected The Gazette’s Winter Coach of the Year.

“What did I do better than the other coaches in Medina County this winter to win this award?” the 25th-year coach asked rhetorically. “I don’t look at it at that way at all. I don’t look at it as what I might have done better than anyone else.

“Instead, I look at it how I was luckier than anyone this year, and how I’ve been luckier than anyone for the 25 years I’ve been coach at Wadsworth.

“It’s certainly not a one-man show here. Hardly. It’s humbling to think back to all of the great kids I’ve had over the years, and to all of the great help and support I’ve had over the years.”

Of course, the Grizzlies were talented this season, as they have been for nearly two decades.

But adults who worked quietly behind the scenes also made a huge impact. It’s been that way for a long time.

“They deserve a lot of the credit for where we were this year, and where this program is overall in the big picture,” Gramuglia said.

First, there are the three paid assistant coaches: Mike Kallai, an 18-year veteran of the staff who is more or less the assistant head coach, another vet in Matt Hulme, and newcomer Brandon Cobb, who wrestled for Gramuglia at Wadsworth.

“Those three are invaluable to me,” Gramuglia said. “Mike has been with me so long I have no problem with him speaking for me.

“As for Matt, a lot of people may not know that even though he wrestled at Highland High School, he went through our youth program here in Wadsworth. His dad, Bruce, was a coach and principal at Highland and then served as superintendent at Cloverleaf.”

There’s the school’s strength coach, Bobby Jones, one of the best wrestlers in Wadsworth history.

“Bobby worked hard with our kids to keep pushing them, but at the right pace,” Gramuglia said. “He’s been there. He knows how to get kids ready to wrestle.”

There are three volunteer coaches in Jerry Nadeau, Gary Skoch and Larry Kaufman.

“I kind of laugh when I hear the word ‘volunteers’ when those guys’ names are mentioned,” Gramuglia said. “They’re volunteers only by their official title. They do as much as the other coaches. Actually, they do more than the other coaches in some cases. They just don’t get paid for it.

“These are quality coaches. Jerry has been a head coach at three different places. Gary was a two-time All-American at Ashland University. Larry teaches at Wadsworth. He wrestled here at the school and went on to become a three-time All-American at Ashland.”

Gramuglia said the coaching staff tried something new this season whereby each man was assigned one or two wrestlers “to interact with and monitor.”

“We wanted the coaches to personally get to know the kids they were assigned, on and off the mat, to help them with their wrestling, schoolwork, personal things, whatever,” he said.

“With the kind of season we had, where there were some things, some distractions, going on for some of these kids outside of wrestling, I think it really helped them and the team overall. It made a big difference.”

Gramuglia also mentioned another assistant — maybe the chief assistant in more ways than one — in his wife of 27 years, Cindy, who serves as his secretary and in a lot of other roles, both on the wrestling team and at home.

Gramuglia said he knows that without her helping to organize and coordinate everything, he could not do all the things he needs to do to run the program.

The parents are part of it, too.

“If you’ve got great, supportive moms and dads, which we always seem to have, it makes your season just that much better and that much more enjoyable for everybody involved because they are pulling with you,” Gramuglia said.

But that’s not all the Wadsworth wrestling support staff.

Four others who have to be included are Matt Shiarla, Kip Shipley, Todd Baughman and Mike Wenger. Shiarla is the head coach at Wadsworth Middle School, with Shipley as his assistant. Baughman is in charge of the community’s youth program, while Wenger runs the club wrestling program.

“We have great, great feeder programs supplying talented wrestlers to us who have been coached well,” Gramuglia said. “It’s also because of people like these that we’ve been able to have success at the high school level.”

Success like a nearly perfect Suburban League season in cruising to the title this year.

Success like defeating St. Edward not once, but twice during the regular season.

Success like seven individual state placers this season, and nine state tournament participants overall.

Success like the school’s fourth fifth-place finish, meaning the Grizzlies have now finished in the top 10 in the state in 15 of the last 16 years.

“We didn’t get what we wanted at state, but that in no way diminishes what we were able to accomplish this year,” Gramuglia said. “It was too good of a season to let that happen.”

Contact Steve King at sports@ohio.net