WADSWORTH — There will be a void in high school wrestling next season after an icon at the local, state and national level resigned Wednesday.
Wadsworth coach John Gramuglia gathered his team for the last time in the wrestling facility that bears his name.
“My wife and I have been praying for five or six years really about knowing when the right time would be,” Gramuglia said. “We just feel really good. The program is at a great point right now.
“I’ve been out of school teaching officially at Wadsworth for two years. It’s a lot different not being in the school. That had a lot to do with the decision.”
His resignation comes after 33 of the best seasons a school in Medina County has had in any sport.
With state titles at the team level (2010) and dual level (2009, 2010), Gramuglia took Wadsworth from humble beginnings to national adulation, as this season’s squad finished third at state and was ranked 18th by Intermatwrestle.com.
Grizzlies athletic director Brad Musgrave indicated he won’t rush to hire a new coach. He’ll open the position internally before deciding to go outside the school system.
“You cannot replace a legend like Coach G because he is Wadsworth wrestling,” he said. “I have been very blessed to work with Coach G for the past five years as athletic director here at Wadsworth High School. He’s the absolute best wrestling coach I have ever been associated with.
“Coach G is organized, passionate for his sport, genuinely loves his wrestlers like his own sons and has a tireless work ethic that you cannot believe until you see it up close. There are very few coaches anywhere who puts in as much time as ‘G’ does. So, again, you can’t replace him. You just have to find the best candidate available who you feel will continue the great tradition of Wadsworth wrestling while doing so in their own way.”
Gramuglia’s way produced results.
The Grizzlies won 25 straight Suburban League titles and 26 overall under his tutelage and his team finished in the top 10 at state 22 times.
He coached a state placer 25 of the last 26 seasons and has had 328 district qualifiers, 142 state qualifiers, 38 state finalists, 16 state champions, 94 state placers and qualified an individual to state 33 straight seasons.
His teams had a dual meet record of 369-78-1, won 17 sectional titles, four district titles and were district runners-up 10 times.
“The relationship wasn’t just a coach-athlete,” three-time state champion and county career wins leader Nick Tavanello said. “He cared about us in every aspect of our lives. He wanted to mentor us and not just coach us. That plays into why so many wrestlers that come through Wadsworth are successful. They want to wrestle and compete for him because he cares about them more than what they do on the mat.”
Gramuglia’s presence is felt at the coaching level, as former wrestlers Louden Gordon is at Copley, Alfredo Gray is at Norwayne and Clay Wenger is running BattleZone out of Wadsworth. There are numerous assistant coaches as well.
“People on the outside looking in don’t understand it the entire way,” Gordon said. “He’s a very intense person, but the thing he brings to wrestling as a coach is he demands excellence. There’s a passion. There’s no slacking from the time you walk in that door.”
The excellence brought out the best in opposing coaches as well. Former Highland coach Mark Savoia was one of only a handful of coaches to beat Gramuglia in league action, and the former high school and college standout did it just once.
He did it by taking the four-month sport and turning it into a year-round study on how to make not only his team better, but his coaching better.
“When I wrestled, it was a lot easier than when I coached,” Savoia said. “I thought coaching would come a lot easier than it did in the sense that I thought I was going to walk into the Suburban League and be the next big thing. ‘G’ never relaxes. He never takes time off.
“I came in and was just going to teach the moves and it was going to just happen. I had some really good teams, but every year he had better teams. I’m glad I beat him once in my 10 years there. He was there to give his kids the best opportunity to be a winner.
“It gave me a different attitude that every kid deserves 100 percent of your time and effort. It doesn’t matter who you are, you give all you have whether it’s a freshman, JV or varsity kid. He was hyped for every one of his kids. That was the coolest thing to watch. It was worth the battle.”
Gramuglia leaves the program a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and is in the Medina County Sports, Wadsworth, Trinity and Ohio High School Coaches halls of fame. A five-time Gazette Winter Coach of the Year, he was also a five-time Greater Cleveland Wrestling Coaches and Officials Coach of the Year.
“Wrestling is losing a legend,” OHSAA state rules interpreter Ray Anthony said. “They’re losing one great, passionate coach.”
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.