Legacy. It drives a high school wrestler to be great over the course of his four-year career. Getting your name on the wall is something that can never be erased. Winning districts, regionals, getting 100 wins, winning and placing in states are the only ways to be immortalized in high school wrestling.
For Collingswood senior Tony Giancola, most of the aforementioned list has been accomplished. He is a three-time District 28 champion, only the sixth Panther in Collingswood’s storied wrestling history to accomplish the feat.
He earned his 100th win this season and holds a career record of 113-35, the third most wins in Panther history. Three more wins this weekend will move him up to second place on Collingswood’s all-time list. And Giancola became the 15th Collingswood wrestler to win a regional title this past Saturday, with a convincing 11-1 major decision.
His accomplishments have already drawn high praise.
“He’s definitely up there,” said Collingswood Athletic Director Ronald Hamrick, who was the head coach for Giancola’s freshman and sophomore seasons. “We’ve only got one four-time district champion and four three-time district champions, so his accomplishments put him near the top.”
And this weekend, at the state tournament in Atlantic City, Giancola looks to cement his legacy with a strong showing on the biggest stage New Jersey high school wrestling has to offer.
Giancola earned the fourth seed in the top bracket of the 113-pound weight class. He will take on the winner of the match between North Hunterdon’s Ryan Pomrinca and Kittatinny’s James Elphick.
“He’s hot right now,” said head coach Dechlin Moody. “I’ve never seen him wrestle the way he wrestled at regions. Right now we’re kind of just letting it roll. He had a great week of practice, and he can do it this weekend. He just has to believe.
“If he gets out of Friday, and I think he’s got a great chance of doing that, I don’t see why he can’t rank in the top six,” Moody added.
Early on in Giancola’s wrestling career, it was apparent that he had what it took to compete at a high level.
“I knew right away that he would be a great wrestler,” Hamrick said. “He’s got a great work ethic, and he took part in offseason workouts with my son Eric (a region champion at 140 pounds last season) from an early age. That helped accelerate his development.”
That development helped him gain a district title at 103 pounds his sophomore year, a rare accomplishment. His ability to stay in the lightweights is what sets him apart from so many others.
“So many guys come in at 103, 113 their freshman year, but by their senior year they’re wrestling at 140-145,” Moody said. “Tony’s ability to keep his weight down really makes him one of the most dominant lightweights this school has had.”
As for Giancola’s final legacy, well, that is still left to decide. But there is no denying his place near the top of the ladder. A strong showing this weekend could put him on the top rung.
“I see myself up at the top with all the other great wrestlers from this school,” he said after his District 28 win. “I want to be above that though. I want to be at the top. I’m not done yet.”