You know you’ve made it when others refer to you by a singular name. At Wadsworth, arguably the most storied coach goes by a single letter, “G.”
No one needs to go racing for the archives when someone speaks the letter. Everyone knows it’s John Gramuglia, who has taken the Grizzlies wrestling program from a pedestrian level and made it a state power on an annual basis.
That Wadsworth finished fourth at the Division I state tournament this season wasn’t a surprise. That the Grizzlies won the Suburban League title wasn’t a shocker either.
That Gramuglia, the 2017 Gazette Winter Coach of the Year, has done it for as long as he has shows just how incredible the Medina County Sports Hall of Famer is.
His teams have won 25 straight SL titles. Since the turn of the century, Wadsworth has logged 15 top-10 finishes at state and finished in the top five two of the last three seasons. The Grizzlies won a state title in 2010.
“He instills patterns of repetition,” two-time state placer Cody Surratt said. “It’s not practice makes perfect, it’s practice makes permanent. He’s big on tradition.
“Even in the practice room, it’s about the tradition of doing things the right way. That’s the biggest thing with Coach G. When he was a teacher at Wadsworth he did everything the right way. At LEAP (where he works now), he does everything the right way. With his family, he does everything the right way.”
That right way has produced a laundry list of accomplishments almost too hard to believe.
In 33 seasons, “G” has produced 133 state qualifiers, 85 placers, 36 finalists, 15 champions and qualified an individual to state 32 consecutive seasons. He has also coached a placer 24 of the last 25 seasons and has a total of 314 district qualifiers.
“When talent leaves, there’s always talent coming through because of our youth program,” two-time state runner-up Joey Baughman said. “He puts a lot of time and effort into it, and it’s one of the main reasons that streak is that long.”
This season, Joey Baughman (2nd, 170 pounds), Michael North (3rd, 126), Luke Baughman (4th, 132), Jordan Earnest (4th, 285) and Surratt (5th, 160) placing at state was the big headline.
State qualifiers Jimmy Carmany (113), Zain Tittle (138) and Alex Jones (182) were the subhead.
Behind it all was consistency, as Wadsworth’s 11-2 dual mark brought Gramuglia’s record to 356-74-1.
The Grizzlies won their 76th consecutive SL dual, but more than that showed incredible reliability.
After the Walsh Ironman Tournament — known as the toughest national high school invitational — Wadsworth won every team tournament it entered until state.
To put that in perspective, that’s the North Canton Hoover Holiday Tournament, Medina Invitational Tournament, Grizzly Invitational Tournament, Wadsworth Sectional and Hoover District.
“We have a blueprint we’ve been using for a while,” Gramuglia said. “We don’t try to teach it one way. We see what a kid is good at and then we fine-tune him.”
That success doesn’t start when a wrestler gets to ninth grade. In fact, many past wrestlers credit meeting Gramuglia when they were young to the success they found later in life.
Gramuglia doesn’t just show up at the varsity matches. He’s a fixture on the mats at the junior high level and at youth tournaments.
“He has a big grip on our youth program,” Surratt said. “I remember when I was 7 years old and he was coaching me then. He’s involved at every level. He instills the mindset we when we’re young.
“We want to win for him. He would take a bullet for us, so we’ll take a bullet for him. We’ll do anything for him. He would do anything for us. It’s more than wrestling with him.”
That winning mentality is something few ever forget as they run through the program.
“For me, it went a long way to see him at youth,” Joey Baughman said. “When I was there, the 2010 teams were the type of teams in high school.
“It was crazy to see them win state and see the head coach of the winning state team at our practices and tournaments. It went a long way for me and I’m sure it does for wrestlers now. There’s not a lot of coaches out there like him. It’s a great feeling knowing he’s in my corner. It gives me a boost of confidence every time.”
Gramuglia’s influence can be seen everywhere.
Former wrestler Clay Wenger runs BattleZone Fitness in Wadsworth. Add past wrestlers like Chad Gilmore running Medina’s program, Louden Gordon heading Copley and Alfredo Grey guiding Norwayne and it just scratches the surface.
Head coaches and assistants who learned under Gramuglia dot the landscape as the next generation learns from former Grizzlies.
“He puts a big emphasis on giving back,” said former state runner-up Tim Knipl, now an assistant with Gramuglia. “Whether that’s to Wadsworth or wrestling in general, he always talks about when you’re done wrestling, you need to give back. It’s why places like Wadsworth, St. Edward and St. Paris Graham come back to help. They’re coming back and giving back to the sport that did so much for them. It all starts with ‘G’ planting that seed.”
Gramuglia sees the sport as a form of therapy. He doesn’t just love wrestling. He lives it and expects his athletes to take aspects of it and apply it to every-day life.
And it doesn’t end on graduation day.
“It’s like the proud grandpa,” Gramuglia said. “You’re in it to love the sport. When you see them still doing it, you know you accomplished it. The biggest knock would be that they don’t like the sport because of a coach. That would hurt the most.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.