LHW: The team spirit of the MacArthur wrestling club is impressive. Where does that come from?
HOWIE: I think that it comes from what we were just talking about. It’s not about how good you are or bad you are. It’s about all of us as a unit as a people. I had a talk with my phys ed. class today about sports. I saw a moment due to no athletic activity to talk about what is the best sport
And the bottom line was, guys he’s slow, or he’s strong as an ox, he loves track, he loves shot-put, he’s awesome, you can’t do that, you can throw a hell of a curve ball. He’s a baseball guy. You love baseball.
My father was an all American basketball player, but you know I couldn’t hit the backboard. I was the only guy on my team in fourth grade who couldn’t hit the backboard. Then he threw me into this Pee Wee wrestling thing, and I was like Bam Bam. I found my thing.
I said you know what? There is no bad sport. There’s just what sport finds you. We are MacArthur. It’s a community mentality. We are there for one another. Our administration is very supportive of wrestling. You’ll usually see our principal or one of our assistant principals at all our matches: often both.
The wrestlers are at the football games, and the football players in turn come out to support us for duals. Not because they are all friends with the wrestlers, but because we are all MacArthur. And then the basketball guys are going to wrestling matches. And I’m looking up to basketball guys. Yes. I tell them I saw you in the bleachers. That’s awesome. Next thing you know matches are getting packed. Kids are starting to wear shirts and I’m Oh God; I’m loving that. If you go to matches you’ll see me look up all the time to acknowledge the fan support.
This is what we became from that. That started years ago. There was no unity. I brought that. And then other people jumped on board, and carried the torch. It’s about supporting each other—Whether it be in the bleachers or on the bench—If you’re on the bench and you care less about your loss, I’m gonna rip into you if you’re that selfish. Your teammates were up cheering for you. You get up and do the same.
In 2002, Paul Mazzioti, who was 4th in the county the year before, was the second seed, but ended getting cradled and pinned…He gets up, tears flowing; totally devastated. I couldn’t believe it. I looked at him and I’m like everyone watched you get pinned, and they are panicked. They need you; we need you to pull the team through. You know what you need to do. And he says I know coach; it’s about us not me. He got up and started cheering his teammates on from the corner. We won our first county title like that.
We talk about Paul Mazzioti’s match and what he did. Our kids learn from the example he set…Take Brandon Mulholland for instance. He had an unbelievable county tournament last season. In his first match, he had a good opponent in Preziosi from Garden City. But Brandon beats him. Then in his second match he gets pitted against Sterling who was 3rd or 4th in the county the previous year, and he beats him too. Next he wrestles Gaynor and loses 7-6. Finally, he goes up against the kid from North Shore who ended up taking third at that weight. The bout goes into sudden death overtime and he loses and is eliminated. The young man is devastated. I mean, what a freekin day he had. I look at him and without me saying a word, he says, “I know coach, I know. I’m proud too. I’ll be right up.” Before I know it, he’s up and in everyone else’s corner.
That is what’s instilled. Tradition. That’s who we are.