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sciacca

Coach John Sciacca - Father of Harvard Wrestling
 
Even before Harvard’s first year of interscholastic wrestling in 1958-1959, John Sciacca brought wrestling to our community.  Coach Sciacca picked up his interest in wrestling while in the Navy. After basic training he was assigned as a physical fitness instructor. Through that experience he picked up his interest not only in wrestling but in becoming a coach.

Following the service he enrolled in Northern Illinois State Teacher’s College, (NIU). While at Northern he competed in wrestling for three years and in his senior year won the 154# Conference Championship in 1949. Following graduation he took a teaching position at Lee Center, IL and then on to Wauconda, IL where he coached basketball. In those days wrestling was only found at the very large schools.

Never-the-less, he introduced wrestling at Lee Center and Wauconda through his P.E. classes. As a culmination of the wrestling unit he put on several wrestling “shows” to demonstrate what his classes had learned. Through interest in these programs, Wauconda started their interscholastic wrestling program in 1954.

In 1954 John came to Harvard High School as a physical education instructor and the head basketball coach. During his tenure in basketball he accumulated a 104-61 record but wrestling was never out of his thoughts.  He again introduced wrestling through his P.E. classes and put on wrestling demonstrations just as he had done at other schools. In 1957 following his wrestling unit he took the ‘boys’ over to Hononegah High School to compete against their Varsity team. Coach Sciacca says, “As luck would have it, Harvard won and when asked for a rematch, we went back and won again!” The next year Harvard hired Don Hardle to teach Social Studies and coach the newly formed interscholastic wrestling program. Coach Hardle left after one season and Charles Riker was hired as Harvard’s second head coach but even while acting as the head basketball coach Sciacca’s wrestling units continued in P.E. to help build the program.

John continued to coach basketball for three years until 1961 when he became Harvard’s third head coach. Sciacca says, “This is the smartest move I’ve ever made as there is no comparison between the personal satisfaction of coaching the two sports.” 
 
Coach Sciacca once wrote, “My proudest moment was back in 1965 when my son, Jim won the District and Sectional titles as a Junior and made the magic trip to the State where he was finally defeated in the second round.” He continued to tell, “My most disappointing moment was when Jim dislocated his shoulder as a senior and never made the comeback trail by District time.”

Harvard’s success can be explained in Coach Sciacca’s philosophy that started it all and continues today:

“My philosophy is very simple - Hard Work !!!!! The proverbial saying ‘getting blood out of a turnip’ is appropriate in Harvard as it is in most smaller schools. It is a ‘must’ for a Harvard wrestler to give 100% of himself to our program if we are to maintain the tradition of being a respectable wrestling school. Through the years, we have been able to achieve this type of dedication from our wrestlers.  There is no such thing as ‘skipping’ practice or not ‘showing up’ for a meet from a wrestler who is on one of our squads without a bonifide reason. Consequently, our wrestlers are a proud ‘lot’ and consider wrestling as the best sport in school.”