| THE EMPIRE STATE HAS THE COACHES
By Jim & Tony Nordland
What do Carl Adams, Jack Spates, Brad Penrith, Tommy Ryan, Tom Shifflet and Kerry McCoy all have in common? They were all either New York State champions, place-winners, NCAA champions or All-Americans, and currently are coaches amongst the top Division I wrestling programs in the nation.
Carl Adams was a state champion for Brentwood HS and was the first freshman ever to place at the NCAA Championships with a fifth place finish in 1969. He amassed a 94-8 collegiate record and went on to claim two NCAA titles for Iowa State (1971-72) in the 158-pound class. He also was a three-time Midlands champion and compiled an impressive 17-0 mark in the Midlands. Adams, now 58, said, "Winning the NCAAs was my biggest thrill, but my true love of wrestling is coaching." Adams has been at Boston University for 28 years and his squads are 245-142-4 in dual competition, he has produced 55 NCAA qualifiers, and has won numerous accolades. He was Amateur Wrestling News' Rookie Coach of the Year in 1981, four-time Conference Coach of the Year and was inducted into the Massachusetts Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2002. Adams added he thoroughly enjoys working with kids and emphasizes the technical aspect of the sport. In fact, Adams is author of three books and the inventor of Adam, a wrestling takedown machine used by thousands of wrestlers across the nation today. Adams' high school coach was the legendary Joe Campo, who was a father figure and stressed a strong work ethic. Adams instills that philosophy to his athletes today and molds them into men. Two of this season's top prospects are Mike Roberts (149) and the national high school pins leader, Hunter Meys at 174, both are capable of All-American honors. Adams stated, "I still have a lot to offer the college wrestler and feel I haven't even scratched the surface."
Jack Spates has an interesting background, his first involvement in competition was on the speech & debate team as a 9th-grader living in New York City. After his family moved to Long Island, he began wrestling as a sophomore in high school. Spates recently reiterated, "What else was a 5 foot, 90-pound kid going to do, so I began training on the basement rug in our home on Long Island. Spates recalled," My wrestling highlight was winning the Suffolk County Championships as a junior, in only my second year of wrestling." As a senior, Spates won the state title for Smithtown HS (1970) under the tutelage of coach Don Jackson. He then enrolled at Cal Poly and later transferred to Slippery Rock (PA) where he won the small college nationals. Spates (118-8 career) was a NCAA runner-up, losing a close 3-2 decision to Oklahoma's Gary Breece in the 118-pound championship. Spates then began his coaching career at Army, Cornell (1988-93) and currently at Oklahoma University. Spates, now in his 16th season has seen his Sooner teams claim the third place team trophy at the NCAAs in 2002, 2003, 2005 and 2006, he was voted the National Coach of the Year in 2006. Spates has compiled a 198-88-1 dual mark, including 54 All-Americans and six national champions. Spates commented, "We are very excited about our recruiting class, which includes New York three-time state champion Alex Ekstrom, and feel with our strong coaching staff, (including his son, Jeremy), that the Oklahoma Sooners will be a strong contender in the next few years."
Brad Penrith won the state championship for Windsor HS (1981) in the 98-pound class and finished as a four-time NYS placewinner. He was voted the OSW Award at the Junior Greco Nationals in 1983, capping off a stellar high school career. Penrith went to the University of Iowa where he was a three-time Big Ten champion and won the NCAA title at 126 pounds and led the Hawkeyes to the national team championship in 1986. Penrith recalled, "The transition from upstate New York to Iowa was smoooth, mainly because where I grew up and Iowa are very similar." He was a national finalist in '87 and placed third in '88, and became a three-time All-American, he later would capture the silver medal at the 1991 World Championships. On winning both the state title and NCAA crown during his sophomore campaigns, Penrith said,"I feel fortunate to have won both tournaments, especially being the underdog in high school against a returning state placer and being third-seeded at the NCAAs." Penrith would capture the silver medal at the 1991 World Championships and later served as the head coach of the US Junior World team in 1999. Penrith began his coaching career as an assistant at Nebraska where he mentored 12 All-Americans and two national champions. Penrith, now in his ninth season at the helm at the University of Northern Iowa, has tallied a 70-57-4 dual record and has propelled UNI to 23 consecutive Western Wrestling Conference titles along with 62 NCAA qualifiers. He was named the WWC Coach of the Year in 2007. At the 2008 NCAA Tournament, the Panthers had a 20th place finish and had All-American, Moza Fay (25-8), who is currently ranked third at 165 pounds and is a solid contender for an NCAA title. Penrith's greatest attributes as a collegiate coach are his hand-on approach to his wrestlers, as he is considered a master technician, as well as an excellent recruiter. Penrith's outlook for the upcoming season is a positive one, and said,"I love it here and feel we have a good base with more talent in our lineup, overall the coaching staff is looking for a higher finish at the NCAAs."
Tommy Ryan was a three-time NYS placewinner (1985-86-87) for Wantagh HS. At Syracuse, Ryan captured the EIWA title in 1989 before transferring to Iowa Univesity. He was a two-time Big Ten champion, as well as a two-time All-American, and was runner-up to four-time champion Pat Smith (Oklahoma State). Ryan was a member of Iowa's national championship teams, under coach Dan Gable, in 1991 and 1992. Ryan was an assistant coach at Indiana for two seasons and had a brief stint at Iowa, before coming to Hofstra in 1995. At Hofstra, Ryan won Conference Coach of the Year seven times and was two-time NYS Coach of the Year. A true testament to Ryan's reputation involved Mike Pucillo, a high school national champion from Walsh Jesuit HS (Cuyhoga Falls, OH), who was recruited by coach Ryan and was set to attend Hofstra University. Afterwards when it was publicized that Ryan would be leaving Hofstra and going to Ohio State, Pucillo followed him there; it has worked out nicely, as Pucillo, now a junior, won the NCAA crown last year. On the transition, Ryan had this to say, "Hofstra was a great place to grow and learn and being at Ohio State has been everything I expected and more, this place expects excellence and provides us with all the necessary resources." He added, "All our wrestlers know it's their program and are totally committed to our team concept." When Ryan arrived at Ohio State for the 2006-07 season, his Buckeye squad finished tenth at the NCAA Tournament. During his coaching tenure, he has registered a 136-94-1 overall dual mark, produced 45 Conference champions, 71 NCAA qualifiers,15 All-Americans, and two national champions. Last season he propelled the Scarlet and Gray to a National runner-up finish, their highest ever at the NCAA Championships, and earned coach of the year honors. On the upcoming season, and the Buckeyes returning with 59 NCAA points, Ryan commented,"I know that Iowa will be tough to beat, but I feel we have a team that can win the national championship."
Tom Shifflet hails from Sweet Home HS, where he was a two-time state finalist (1989-90) and won a state title in his senior year. Shifflet attended Edinboro (PA) where he was a three- time All-American, including the bronze medal as a senior at 142 pounds. He registered 118 victories for the Fighting Scots and was inducted in both the Edinboro and the EWL Halls of Fame in 2006. Shifflet began his coaching career at Georgia State, was an assistant at Cornell University for five years and was later named the head coach at UNC Greensboro. At Greensboro, he had nine NCAA qualifiers and finished in 31st place at the 2006 NCAA Championships. Shifflet organized and created the 35-team Southern Schuffle wrestling tournament, which is one of the largest and more competive Division I regular season tournaments in the country, and is a staple on Hofstra's wrestling schedule every season. Shifflet's first season as Hofsta's coach in 2006-07 was an impressive one, the Pride compiled an 18-4-2 dual record, including an 18-17 upset win over number-one ranked Minnesota, won the CAA Tournament and produced four All-Americans, en route to a seventh-place finish at the 2007 NCAA Championships. He was selected the Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year for those lofty accomplishments. Last year, the Pride added two more All-Americans, along with junior Lou Ruggirello who won the Manny Gorrarian Award for Most Falls, and the team finished 15th at the NCAA Tournament. Hofstra is off to a nice start and the entire coaching staff is very pleased at this point of the season, especially with five freshmen in the lineup, and their recent upset of Penn State, 18-15. Shifflet recently commented, "It's a great place to coach and I'm excited about continuing the tradition that Hofstra University has in wrestling, and to move the program along, like Tom Ryan did, without missing a beat." About the competitive NCAA Championships, he added, "Everyone is working to improve and we look forward to developing a great group of student-athletes, and want to move Hofstra into the top five in the nation."
Kerry McCoy was a state champion for Longwood HS in 1992. McCoy recalled, "As the years have gone by, I realize that my first stepping stone to reaching my goals was winning the Suffolk County Championships (Long Island) as a junior, and finally making it to the state tournament." McCoy attended Penn State and in his first year had a 19-17 record and afterwards moved up to the 285-pound class. He would garner three Big Ten titles and become a two-time NCAA champion, including an 88-match win streak, and suffer only one loss in his last 132 matches, finishing with a 150-18 overall record. But McCoy's biggest moment in the sport came in 2000, and said," Making the Olympic team was the pinnacle of my career, because only a handful of athletes ever make the team and to finish in fifth place was very special." He would also make the 2004 Olympic squad and add a seventh place finish to his ledger. McCoy was an assistant coach at Penn State for three seasons and produced ten All-Americans, two national champions and consecutive fourth place team finishes at the NCAA Championships. He then would spent five seasons at Lehigh, as an assistant coach and would make an impact on the Mountain Hawks program. McCoy added 14 All-Americans and another two NCAA titlists before leaving for Stanford University. During his three years at Stanford, he had three All-Americans and led the Cardinal to a 19th place finish at the NCAAs in 2008. McCoy stated, "My experience at Stanford was incredible, I grew as a coach, learned a lot and, for me, it was a great opportunity, but now I am looking forward moving back east to be closer with my family and friends." Life has been good for the McCoy's as his wife, Abbie, gave birth to their first child, son Gabriel, born this past May. McCoy is still active on the mat and is either demonstrating technique or rolling around, especially with second- ranked Hudson Taylor, a junior at 197 pounds. On being at the University of Maryland, McCoy said, "Right now we are ranked 17th in the nation, but I hope to move the program into the top ten and look to challenge for a NCAA championship in the future."
The aforementioned coaches have great knowledge of the sport, strong work ethics, are personable, and have a passion for wrestling; those components will elevate their programs into the top echelon in the country.There are also many other New Yorkers that have contributed as mentors, the ambassador for the sport, Al Bevilacqua, and Nick Gallo (both at Hofstra), Jerry Seckler & Ron Russo (Columbia), Sonny Greenhalgh (NYAC) Mark Faller (Franklin & Marshall), Dan Mayo (Rider), Pat Popolizio & Dennis Papadatos (Binghamton), Jim Beichner (Buffalo), Ethan Bosch (Clarion), Mark Cody & Josh Glenn (American), Steve Garland (Virginia), Glen Lanham (Purdue), Lou Roselli (Ohio State), Al Sosa (Oneonta State), Ed & Lou Banach (Iowa), Jesse Jantzen (Harvard), Ken Melchoir (Delaware State) and the late George Doherty (Millersville). And, there are many others that can be added to the list, which could go on and on.