Bob Utter has been involved with Waite High School for 27 years as a teacher
and athletic director, so he knows first hand how Carmen Amenta built the Indians' wrestling program from doormat to league champions.
"I can remember there being eight wrestlers in the program,' Utter said. "He was here 19 years, and beginning in 2000 we were the dominant team in the City League. His goal after a while became more than just City championships. His goal was to get as many kids to the state tournament as possible.
"He kept aggressive. He came in and set goals to make the team better at first. That's all you could do. Pretty soon, with the help of the biddy program and the volunteers he had, we went from being just as good as it could ever be, to being contenders."
Amenta, 56, became Waite's varsity coach in 1991. He came to the Indians from Cardinal Stritch, which was then also a member of the CL.
"I took over a (Waite) program that Fred Clement had left," Amenta said of the former coach. "We had a solid club and we did pretty good. After that, the numbers dropped down and the junior high ran into some problems. From about 1993-97, the numbers were real low."
Amenta credited junior high coaches Doug Bell and Clement, who had coached for 17 years at Waite, for getting the Indians' varsity program back on the map in the late 1990s.
"The junior high coaches started sending us kids, and the numbers picked up," Amenta said. "We went from 6-7 kids on the team to 30-35 kids on the team. I started recruiting kids in the halls when I got into the Waite building and Fred got into the junior high."
Amenta said he never had a set strategy that would make Indians the team to beat in the CL.
"The kids we had, they were tough kids," he said. "Once I got into the building - I was at Leverette teaching science and then I taught phys ed at Waite - I got into the halls and said, 'You, you and you need to go out for wrestling.' It's tough to not be in the building and coach, because you don't see kids every day."
Waite won the CL championship in 2000, but Amenta still wasn't content. He wanted to see his kids compete at the state tournament level - period.
"After winning the City, we got ready for the state tournament three weeks later," Amenta said. "Winning the City League is a pretty big thing, but the goal in wrestling is the state tournament, whether you have six kids on the team or 30 kids. If you worked hard to get to the state tournament, a lot of good things are going to happen along the way. It's the state tournament that counts."
Amenta, the Ohio Division I Coach of the Year in 2005, has coached wrestling for 35 years including coaching stints at Ottawa Hills and DeVilbiss. He resigned on Sept. 1, and said one of his reasons for moving on was the fact that long-time assistant Terry "Bear" Reeves left the program to become the athletic director at Bowsher.
"It was several things happening at one time," Amenta said. "It seemed like a good time to do it. Bear going to Bowsher as athletic director, we've been together 15 years coaching at Waite. There are a couple young kids who wrestled for me who went to college, and they want to come back to Waite and coach. I have three years left to teach, and when I retire I don't want to spend many winters in Northwest Ohio.
"I can help the new coach coming in and slowly ween myself off and become a snowbird. I have some friends and relatives in Florida. I plan on getting a little camper-type mobile home and travel around. My wife (Kim) and I want to head out to some of the Big Ten campuses and get to some games we never get to go to."
Amenta guided the Indians to four CL titles (2000, '03, '04, 05) and he produced 30 individual state qualifiers and eight state placers. He also coached 42 individual league champions. Amenta said he will continue to help coach with the Lake Erie Wrestling Club as well as coach Waite's boys cross country team.
"We're obviously going to miss him," Utter said. "His goal was always reaching higher. He and I talk a lot, and we're both the same age. I thought we would go out together, but it just didn't work out that way."
Utter said Amenta's coaching position was posted Sept. 8, and applicants have two weeks to apply for the job.