Coaches Gigliotti and Wallace inspire teamwork among wrestlers
March 16, 2015
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The Wrestling teams at Cathedral Catholic High School are coached by two strong and slightly sleep-deprived individuals, Coach Gigliotti and and Coach Wallace. These coaches are responsible for the wrestlers’ careers and their fearful, competitive reputation at Cathedral.
“Grit, true grit.” That is how Varsity Wrestling at Cathedral Catholic High School is described. According to Coach Gigliotti, it takes real grit to know that there is the opportunity for you to get out there on the mat and get your “butt kicked” by the other guy. Fortunately for Coach Gigliotti, he has a team of tough, strong, gritty wrestlers who are ready for the competition.
Having spent all four of his high school years on the Varsity wrestling team, acting as team captain for two of those years, Coach Gigliotti knows first-hand the challenges associated with wrestling. He signed on with Cathedral Catholic High School straight out of Menlo College in the Northern California bay area. While attending college, Coach Gigliotti made the state runner-up team. Given his years of personal wrestling experience, Coach Gigliotti knows just what it takes to be a first-rate wrestler.
Since wrestling is an individual competition, the Varsity team wrestlers must be individually motivated. Team wrestling is not a team of players wrestling as a single unit. When the bell rings and it is time to head to the mat, each wrestler knows they have to face the competition on their own terms, with their own set of skills. Coach Gigliotti works very hard to make certain each wrestler has what it takes to compete on that mat.
Senior Brett McElhaney admires Coach Gigliotti’s manner of coaching and of inspiring each wrestler. “Coach Gigliotti knows how to take us all the way to the breaking point and then build us back up. He has helped us all a lot,” he said. In addition to strong coaching skills, McElhaney feels that Coach Gigliotti has fostered a team environment that has “allowed all of them (the wrestlers) to become really close,” he said. That sentiment is strongly echoed by Anthony Caluza who said “Coach Gigliotti motivates us by pushing us to our limits and helping us develop a champion mindset.” And just like Brett McElhaney, he considers the team extremely close. In fact, according to Anthony, they are his “second family,” he said.
While the CCHS Varsity Wrestling team did not win a league title this season, they did come close, by ranking second to Madison. Speaking of doing well, Coach Gigliotti said it “was a thrill to beat Saint Augustine. It always feels good to beat Saints. That is one of those matches where the entire school rallies around us. Having their support and making it an intense atmosphere felt really good. We were really happy to pull it off and impress the crowd.”
While Coach Gigliotti loves to backpack and do virtually anything outdoors, he doesn’t get a lot of spare recreational time. In addition to coaching Varsity wrestling, Coach Gigliotti is a member of Cathedral’s security team. Since his coaching and security duties are both full-time jobs, he said “it’s like having a double full-time job.”
Needless to say, during the three-and-a-half month wrestling season, he doesn’t get a lot of sleep. In addition to his full-time coaching and security positions, Coach Gigliotti manages to operate his own moving business. In fact, many CCHS alums go to work for him in the summer months prior to college. It gives the former CCHS students an opportunity to earn some money before they head off to further their education. Coach Gigliotti said “they are easy to hire because I already know their character. Not only are they my Varsity wrestler tough guys, but I consider them to have the character necessary to represent my business.” Coach Gigliotti feels that his Varsity alum wrestlers that he hires are truly “good people,” he said.
It seems that the feeling is mutual between the Varsity wrestlers and Coach Gigliotti as he is described as an exceptional and respected Coach by his Varsity wrestling team. McElhaney said “Coach Gigliotti brings a lot of experience to the Varsity wrestling team and he is really looked up to by us.” For Caluza, Coach Gigliotti has “been a great influence and great role model” in his life. No matter how you slice it, the Varsity Wrestling team is made up by a strong group of winners all led by their fearless leader, Coach Gigliotti.
But another Wrestling coach also makes a difference to the team. During the winter months you can expect to find Mr. Wallace, a Science and Steam teacher, on campus anywhere from 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week. Yet Mr. Wallace finds a way to juggle his teaching responsibilities, moderating several school clubs and coaching the wrestling team. However, since coaching the team is something that he loves to do, you won’t find Coach Wallace complaining about the hours he puts in during the winter months.
Instead, Coach Wallace can be found trying to inspire his team by figuring out what “makes each wrestler tick” as individuals and by applying that knowledge to motivate his wrestlers. For such an incredibly physical sport, there is a lot of emotion at work on those wrestling mats. Coach Wallace realizes that to appeal to his wrestlers he has to take account of their emotions.
Coach Wallace sums up wrestling as an emotional sport by calling it “a learning process, with thousands of moves, and thousands of counters to those moves… For every emotion there is a life lesson, it is just a matter of seeing it,” he said.
It’s not surprising then that his wrestlers find Coach Wallace to be very motivational. As the only female member on the team, sophomore Michaela Leonardi describes Coach Wallace as “highly inspirational,” she said.
Coach Wallace creates a safe environment for the team, one where they are not fearful they will be admonished if they make a mistake. In addition to feeling safe, the players are incredibly close. In Michaela’s case, she said she feels like she has an entire team of “older brothers” looking out for her. This camaraderie results from an environment created by Coach Wallace, one where she can thrive as a team player.
The same is true for team member Aaron Quini who feels that he shares a special bond with his teammates and this bond is fostered by Coach Wallace’s efforts. However, Aaron is unequivocal when asked to describe wrestling in one word – “intense,” he said.
Coach Wallace is the first to support this description as he acknowledges that it is a sport “with some highs and some lows and disappointments,” he said.
Aaron knows that his team members contribute 110% to their team, and this commitment comes from the motivation provided by Coach Wallace, who knows first-hand what kind of commitment it takes to wrestle in high school. After spending four years as a varsity wrestler at Mt. Miguel High School, he had to end his wrestling career due to an elbow injury which required surgery. Because the surgery was unsuccessful, he had to stop wrestling altogether.
The one thing that Coach Wallace likes best about wrestling is that a wrestler is responsible for his/her own personal outcomes and “there is no one else to blame when things go wrong,” he said. Coach Wallace manages to successfully integrate that self-accountability into a team dynamic for the Wrestling team.
In the end, both Coach Gigliotti and Coach Wallace have formed a “second family,” Caluza said for the wrestlers, and both maintain this familial connection even when the season has ended.