An Interview with Howie Greenblatt (Part I: The Man)

I decided to start by interviewing Howie Greenblatt, the Head Coach of MacArthur High School for the past 24 years. During this time at the head of Nassau County’s current wrestling dynasty, Greenblatt has remained so modest and focused on the objective at hand that hardly have we heard a word about the man or his team first concept outside of the occasional rumor and/or idol forum chatter. For this reason, as well as the fact that the Generals are coming off of their 7th County title, I perceived Howie to an ideal subject to profile.

Because of a lack of sufficient coverage of the sport of wrestling by Newsday and/or other local media outlets, I’ve long wanted to be the one who finally brought the sport into the mainstream through the introduction of home grown coverage …I decided to start by interviewing Howie Greenblatt, the Head Coach of MacArthur High School for the past 24 years.  During this time at the head of Nassau County’s current wrestling dynasty, Greenblatt has remained so modest and focused on the objective at hand that hardly have we heard a word about the man or his team first concept outside of the occasional rumor and/or idol forum chatter.  For this reason, as well as the fact that the Generals are coming off of their 7th County title, I perceived Howie to an ideal subject to profile.

This being my first foray into the art of the interview, I must say, had I know in advance what I was getting myself into, I may have never done it.  The work load is tedious and abundant.  When all was said and done, I must have put a solid 20 hours of effort into this piece. 

I first met with Coach Greenblatt at the Levittown based school in May of this year and proceeded to tape record about two hours of conversation. Silly me, I had tricked myself into believing that the transcription process be an easy task.  Nothing could have been further from the truth. Over the next four months, I spent 30 minutes here, 60 minutes there transcribing the dialogue for a print medium.  I finally finished in September and devoted about another five hours to editing the material 

In hindsight, every second I devoted to the completion of this project was worth its weight in gold.  Greenblatt is a remarkable individual. He epitomizes all that is good with wrestling and humanity. 

For starters, this is one of the most selfless men you will meet, both in and out of the sports realm.  Unlike several prominent coaches across the nation, there is no ego trip with Howie Greenblatt.  Anything and everything that he has ever done was in the best interests of the teams that he coaches and the kids that he loves.  When reflecting upon the past two and a half decades, Howie rarely speaks of his own successes.  Rather, every word out of his mouth is centered on the accomplishments of the young men he has had the privilege of molding.  In fact, once you get him started, it becomes nearly impossible to get Coach Greenblatt to stop talking about the pride he feels when he sees one of his wrestlers realizing their dreams…Then again, when talking to a man like him, you never want to stop him….Howie Greenblatt is many things–he’s deeply passionate, he’s fiercely competitive, he’s entirely devoted, and he’s extremely confident.  However, perhaps his greatest characteristic of all is that he has a sense of purpose beyond wrestling.  Wrestling is just a tool; the means by which he is best able to assist these young men in the goal to reach their full potential.   

Howie’s mission is to inspire the next generation of leaders to fulfill the promise of America.   MacArthur wrestling continues its tradition of sending promising young men to the top colleges and universities that this country has to offer.  Today, the dividends of that mission are becoming more and more prominent.  Several former General wrestlers are now embarking on careers in the leadership roles of many top companies, while others are taking a page out of the Greenblatt book and giving freely of themselves as coaches in the hopes of building the next great generation of LI wrestling champions

MacArthur wrestling has many accomplishments to be take pride in: 

  • 7 times Nassau County tournament champions, 2 times runner-up, 3 times 3rd, 6 times finish in top five.
  • 7 times dual meet tournament champions, 2 times runner-up.
  • 17 times county qualifier champions
  • 37 Nassau county individual champions
  • 89 Nassau county individual place winners.
  • 22 state individual place winners
  • 2 state champions

Since 1980 three coaches have been responsible for 23 Nassau County tournament championships.  Coach Howie is in the proud and distinguished company of coaches Paul Gillespie and Gary Mims. Combined this trio of local legends have had a hand in producing an astonishing 79% of Nassau County Tournament team titles awarded over the course of the past 28 years….Mind blowing, to say the least.

Now, let’s hear from the man himself !!!.  (To be continued in four installments over the next four days.)

Note: Video included with this article is a hightlight sequence when MacArthur crowned four champions in the 2005 Nassau County Championships: Mike Daly at 96lbs, Dan Calvacca at 135lbs, Billy Calvacca at 140lbs, and Brian Scher at 189lbs.

2 thoughts on “An Interview with Howie Greenblatt (Part I: The Man)”

  1. First I would like to thank you for doing this interview..it is overdue. I know and worked with Coach Greenblatt many years ago, I cant believe how many have gone by. I was from a wrestling family, attending Island Trees matches from the age of 4. Island Trees was led by a legendary coach Ted Petersen. I was honored to work along with Coach Greenblatt and do anything to help with the Mac Program because Coach Greenblatt had the same values, work ethic, and love for his kids and the sport that I had grown up around. Every Part of this interview is accurate and made me feel the thrill and sense of pride I felt then working with Coach. He was hands on in every phase of the development of his program. Wrestling was on his mind all year round, and he was always thinking. For a while Coach allowed me to help as the team nutritionist. He was ahead of his time with not only being concerned about his team being on weight but how they can do it safely, and he DID something about it. He is innovative, and yes outspoken when he feels strongly. He may not please everyone, but as a parent I sure would want Coach Greenblatt going to bat for my child. Most of all I appreciate the FAMILY environment he created .. just as Coach Petersen did, it was a family , all for one and one for all.. no one goes home until they watch their teammate wrestle. This comraderie is a tribute to great coaching and it is what makes for outstanding teams year after year.
    Just as my brother Frank was taught by the seniors on his team in Island Trees circa 1965, it is the same in the Mac wrestling room..
    It is moving to watch.. the practice can run itself. I know to be an outstanding coach that lives and breathes the sport, and that devotion is what it takes to build one, that great sacrafices are made on the homefront. I applaud the spouses, and family members that manage to support the wrestling coach who is gone all day for monthes during the season and camps in summer. All I can say is Thank you for helping to make it possible. Many young boys have told me as men, that if not for their wrestling coach they may have gone down a different road. This is more than a sport. It is also true that Mac wrestling is a community effort. Coach Greenblatt will often catch my eye or mine his at a match or trny. It is nice to be recognized and appreciated in the stands as well. I never go to a match where Mac is wrestling without letting Coach know I was there.. I want him to know..once part of the Mac family always a part of the Mac family! Thank you Coach you are the best!

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