An Interview with Ralph Napolitano – Part II: The Roots

I started wrestling in 7th grade at Brentwood North Junior High School. I wrestled three years in junior high, and then went on to wrestle for Joe Campo. Coach Campo was a major influence on my coaching career. However it was not until I started coaching did I realize how important Coach Campo was to me. He taught us many things but most of all, he showed us how to be men.

2008-09 Brentwood Wrestling Varsity Team Line-up
2008-09 Brentwood Wrestling Varsity Team Line-up

LHW: What’s your wrestling background?  Who was your biggest influence in wrestling?

Coach Nappy: I started wrestling in 7th grade at Brentwood North Junior High School. I wrestled three years in junior high, and then went on to wrestle for Joe Campo. Coach Campo was a major influence on my coaching career. However it was not until I started coaching did I realize how important Coach Campo was to me. He taught us many things but most of all, he showed us how to be men.

My biggest influence in wrestling is Bob Panariello. I had the pleasure of working for Bob as one of his assistants for 10 years. It is through Bob that I started to believe I could coach. He had an amazing desire to make Brentwood wrestling the best it could be. He worked extremely hard to put Brentwood back on the map where it was for many years under Coach Campo. Through his friendship and leadership, I learned how to coach at the high school level. Being from Brentwood myself I shared Bob’s passion and dreams of making Brentwood the best.

LHW: How did you come to coach the Brentwood program?  Did its rich history influence your decision to coach there?  Were you thinking of coaching anywhere else?

Coach Nappy: I was an assistant coach under Bob Panariello for 10 years. I also coached North Middle school as well. When Bob took the Islip A.D job I decided I would try to fill his shoes and take over the program. I never had any aspiration to be a head coach. I was very happy being one of Bob’s assistants. I knew the pressure would be great and all eyes would be on me so I used that as motivation to be the best I can be. I never had a desire to coach anywhere else nor will I ever. I am from Brentwood, I teach in Brentwood and I will always be an Indian.

Coach Campo Night - Brentwood Wrestling Alumni
Coach Campo Night - Brentwood Wrestling Alumni

LHW: What is your proudest accomplishment as coach?

Coach Nappy: There have been many proud moments through the years. Winning the Section XI team championship last year was definitely the best day I have ever had professionally. It was such a magical moment to see all our kids so happy. I will always remember that day as the proudest.

Last year I was fortunate enough to bring back Coach Campo. The high school gym was dedicated to him and hundreds of alumni came to pay homage to the “Gov”. It was such a great moment for me and Brentwood Wrestling to have so many great alumni and Brentwood supporters back home one more time.

Having our kids go to college is also something I am very proud of. Right now, Brentwood Wrestling has 11 kids wrestling in college. I don’t believe there are many programs on Long Island that can make the same statement.

LHW:  You lost a number of top wrestlers to graduation last year.  What’s your outlook for the team this season?  Is another county championship in the plans this season?

2008 Section XI Champion Michael Hernandez
2008 Section XI Champion Michael Hernandez

Coach Nappy:

We had 14 seniors last year, so we knew going into this season that things would be different and challenging. We have been working real hard in the off-season trying to get our younger kids up to a varsity level of wrestling. One of my assistant coaches, K.C Beach, trains them 3-4 days a week in the summer and brings them to many off-season tournaments. I believe our kids are right near the top. We might not have all the horses to win a county title but we are certainly going to try our best to win it again. We definitely are going to shock some people in dual meets. We are a lot better then people give us credit for.

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