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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

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“Rest in peace, Waite wrestling, 1958-2010.”

That is what former Waite wrestling coach Carmen Amenta writes now when he signs high school yearbooks.

Amenta says he used to sign yearbooks with, “Good luck, this year’s seniors and that kind of thing.” When Toledo Public Schools cut wrestling at the six public high schools, it kind of burst his bubble.

There are no more practices in what was once the Waite wrestling room. Many years earlier, the room was a swimming pool, long since emptied to make room for wrestling practice.

“It’s very discouraging. It just leaves an empty feeling with you,” Amenta said.

Still a teacher at Waite, he leaves for Clay High School after school to be an assistant under Coach Gerry Anthony. Both of Amenta’s son wrestle for Clay.

WaiteWrestlingHistory

So do former wrestlers from TPS high schools, including Waite and Start. That may have helped Clay defeat Oak Harbor in a dual meet two weeks ago for the first time ever, Amenta says.

“It helps Clay a little bit. It does and it doesn’t, because, again, there is less competition in the City League,” Amenta said. “The big shame is Bowsher was just starting to get the numbers and was starting to get very competitive, and the same thing with Start.”

Amenta says four students at Waite could not transfer and remain at the east side high school, where they played football last fall. Other former Waite wrestlers transferred to Northwood and Lake, Amenta said. Northwood coach Steve Simok said two transferred to Northwood, but they are not wrestling.

Waite’s 52-year wrestling history is storied. There have been 26 state qualifiers, 15 state-placers, one state championship, 56 CL individual championships, four CL team championships, nine career 100-plus winners, and two wrestlers who went on to win a combined three NCAA championships. All four City League titles, 2000, ’03, ’04, and ’05, came under Amenta’s helm.

Before Waite took four CL titles in a six-year span, the sport was dominated mostly by St. Francis de Sales and St. John’s Jesuit. In 2004 and ‘05, Amenta’s team became the first in 50 years to win back-to-back titles.

Going on to win NCAA championships were Mark Kerr and Antonio Guerra. Kerr won an NCAA D-I title wrestling for Syracuse University, where he also won four EIWA league championships. Guerra was a four-time NCAA D-II All-American, three-time NCAA finalists, and two-time NCAA champion wrestling for the University of Findlay.

“These kids on the east side will never have the opportunity to do that again,” Amenta said. “What’s even worse now is we have these five colleges in Ohio that just reinstituted wrestling in Division II. There are more opportunities for kids to go to college for wrestling, and they are not going to get it.”

Kerr won Ohio’s Division I state championship in 1986 wrestling for Waite at 175 pounds. At Syracuse, Kerr also won Big East championships in 1990, ‘91, and ’92.

He continued to compete in international and domestic competition, including first place finishes in the 1994 World Cup, 1994 National Freestyle, and 1994 World Team Trials. He was also World Team Trials Champion in 1993, Silver Medalist in the 1994 World Cup Games, and Silver Medalist in the 1995 Pan-American Games. He was ranked No. 1 in the country at 220 pounds and was pursuing a lifelong dream of competing for a spot in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

The annual Mary Kerr Invitational, which moved from Waite to Clay this year, is named after his mother. Mary Kerr was very instrumental in the organization and development of Waite wrestling and the tournament, Waite athletic director Bob Utter told The Press.

Guerra was the only Waite wrestler to win four City League titles, twice at 119 pounds and once each at 135 and 140. At UF, he won his first NCAA’s 149 pound championship by defeating Shane Unger (University of Nebraska-Omaha), 5-4.

Guerra, who led the Oilers in takedowns for two seasons, told The Press winning the NCAA title was “most definitely a dream-come true.” Guerra continued on at UF as an assistant coach, and now he is an assistant at Central Catholic under Mitch Naufel.

“Antonio is our bitter rival right now,” Amenta said. “I’ve been giving him a hard time — he’s had his hands on his head and he’s shaking his head. I said, ‘Isn’t it fun coaching, Tony?’ He’s enjoying it and it’s so much fun to see him sit in that chair coaching these kids. I’m glad, he’s a good coach. He wanted to coach here, but unfortunately that’s not going to happen right now.”

Amenta is proud of one other statistic — about 40 former Waite wrestlers have gone into the military, including three who stay in touch with the coach.

“Right now, there are two kids that are drill instructors at Paris Island (S.C.),” Amenta said. “They are master sergeants, and Mike Garrett and Danny Hughes (state qualifier, CL champion, 1979) are both Marine drill instructors, and Jeff Redfox, who is a Ranger now in the 101st Airborne Ranger, is a drill instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

“All three of them have had two tours in Afghanistan and Iraq in active duty. These guys are knocking off close to 18 years — they are obviously career military, but it’s pretty impressive. They’ve come back and they’ve talked to me and they’ve instilled some of that wrestling mentality on these kids when they come back,” Amenta continued.

In the Waite Athletic Hall of Fame are listed numerous wrestlers — among them Pat Donley (1969-71), George J. Maurer (1935), Nathaniel “Nacko” L. Jackson (1984-88), Daniel J. Marazon (1963), William J. Begg (1966), Mike Lenix (1993), Dan Marazon (1937-39), Larry Skeldon (1958-60), Vern Smith 91939-42), Ed Platzer (1965-67), McKantz S. Archer (1975), Mark E. Beach (1979), Charles E. Dotson (1986).

Before wrestling became a varsity sport in 1958, it was an intramural sport, but many of those multi-sport athletes went to wrestle collegiately.

Vern Smith, who played college football at Bowling Green and coached on the gridiron under Frank Lauterbur at the University of Toledo, went on to become a pioneer wrestling coach at Whitmer.

Donley, although never even winning a CL championship at Waite, went on to wrestle at the University of Kentucky. At UK, he never lost a home match, was named team MVP, and was ranked 16th in the nation. Also a football player at UK, he was drafted by the New Orleans Saints, later signed with the Cleveland Browns and also played for the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League.

“Nacko” Jackson, who won 112 career matches, finished fourth at the high school state tournament in 1986, and won two CL championships (1986, ’87), went on to become an Armed Forces Outstanding Greco-Roman wrestler in 1996 and 1997 and represented the Navy in the Armed Forces Greco-Roman wrestling tournaments, including the national championships and World Military Olympic games. He was an eight-time All-American competing in the armed forces and helped his team win 10 national championships.

Carmen Amenta—
--he’s an assistant, after finishing at UF stayed on a couple years with that program.

First varsity team—1958
Before that—intramural


Start had an NCAA champion—Aaron Richardson, wrestled at Michigan.

 

 

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