COLUMBIA — The 2009-2010 wrestling season marks the end of a seven-year era in Hickman wrestling.
For the first time since 2001, none of the Pescaglia brothers will be wrestling for the Kewpies. Tony, K.C. and Vince Pescaglia, all had successful wrestling careers for Hickman, collecting four individual state championships between them. The Pescaglias are not done at Hickman, though. They continue on there in a different fashion. As Kewpies assistant coaches, they say they are are relishing the opportunity to pass on their knowledge while remaining connected to wrestling.
All three brothers are attending MU this year. Tony Pescaglia, the oldest, is a senior. Blonde and muscular, he’s the most vocal of the group and has served as an assistant coach for the past two seasons. After wrestling for two years for Missouri, Tony Pescaglia was forced to leave the team after tearing his ACL, which spurred him to return to Hickman.
“I was pretty much done wrestling, so I thought that I would give back,” he said.
K.C. Pescaglia, a dark-haired junior, is the most reserved of the three. He followed in his older brother’s footsteps and joined the Missouri team. He also quit, after his freshman season, the same year that Tony Pescaglia left the team. And, like Tony Pescaglia, he began to spend time with at Hickman last season, though in a less official role than his older brother.
The big difference at Hickman this year is the addition as coach of Vince Pescaglia, the youngest of the brothers. Slighter and more boisterous than his brothers, Vince Pescaglia capped off his senior season at Hickman with a second-place finish in the state meet in the 112-pound weight class. He decided that he did not want to follow in his brothers’ footsteps and skipped Missouri wrestling in favor of staying on to help at Hickman.
“I didn’t want to go through what they went through,” he said.
It’s no surprise that the youngest Pescaglia joined his brothers. The brothers not only finish each other’s sentences and spend time together in the wrestling room, they also share a house and spend much of their days together.
“We’re very family-oriented people,” Tony Pescaglia said.
The three brothers became interested in wrestling as children after Tony Pescaglia saw a flier for a wrestling club and their father recommended that they consider the sport.
“My dad told us that we probably weren’t going to be tall enough for basketball, so we tried wrestling,” Tony Pescaglia said. “I jumped into it, they all followed.”
In their role as coaches, the brothers face a decidedly different challenge. They’re no longer focusing on the individual aspect of the sport and are instead concerned with improving the team as a whole.
“I was kind of selfish when I wrestled,” Tony Pescaglia said. “I mean, I cared about my teammates, but I was just out for me. This is a different world, where you have to help everybody out. It’s a different monster, especially with the kids that we have. They’re really good kids and they pick up really fast, but they’re lacking experience.”
Hickman head coach J.D. Coffman said the team is young this year, and having the brothers around as coaches provides a wealth of knowledge to the wrestlers.
“I mean it is a big challenge, especially for me and K.C., considering where we were at, in college wrestling where everyone is good and the only thing coaches have to do is show them little tweaks of things,” Tony Pescaglia said. “The first time I showed up I was asking myself how the guys didn’t know all this stuff. And then I realized that everybody has to start there.”
It was at first difficult to realize that coaching involves a much different mindset than being a member of the team, K.C. Pescaglia said. He and Tony Pescaglia did not wrestle with any of the current team members, so it is easy for them to look at the members of the Kewpies squad as something other than teammates. Vince Pescaglia, though, often sees his role as somewhat blurred.
“It really doesn’t feel that different,” Vince Pescaglia said. “I’ll walk around … I’ll start wrestling with some of the people if they need a partner, and I’ll be tweaking them there. And I did that some last year, not as much as I’m doing now, but it’s similar. It’s kind of weird not being about to be on the team, being off to the side. It’s also kind of nice.”
The three try to be as involved as they can each day in practice. As is the case with many wrestling coaches, they are on the mats each day that they are in the room. Vince Pescaglia said he and his brothers can talk about techniques as much as they want, but actually wrestling is the best way to teach.
“I personally like the live wrestling. It’s why I love this sport,” he said. “It’s two people, one on one, and you have to give your best. It’s my favorite part of wrestling. It’s exhausting, but I love it and it’s why I’m here.”
Tony Pescaglia said the brothers’ roles are flexible, but that Coffman takes their role as coaches seriously.
“What I like is how when we were wrestling, you know, he’s the coach and the guy in charge,” he said. “But when I’m a coach, he doesn’t think of me as one of his wrestlers. He actually gives me jobs to do and some authority.”
With that authority, though, comes responsibility. Both Tony and K.C. Pescaglia have experienced collegiate wrestling first-hand, and they’ve taken some pointers from their time on the Missouri team into consideration when dealing with the Hickman team.
“Mizzou, pretty much they own you,” Tony Pescaglia said. “They can yell at you, and you can’t really do much. Here it’s more that we want you to be good, but we also want you to have fun. So we’re not going to yell and holler at you unless we think that you really need to be yelled at.”
He added that, unlike at the collegiate level, high school coaches are not going to devote more attention to the more promising wrestlers.
“Honestly, we just work with everybody,” he said. “If anybody has a question, we’ll answer it. We’ll wrestle with all the kids. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best player on the team or the worst, we’ll wrestle with you. Because we want a good team, not just good individuals.”
K.C. Pescaglia said being a coach is less about the power and more about passing on his knowledge. It’s also the best way for the brothers to stay involved in the sport that has shaped the past decade of their lives.
“You miss it, but you do this to replace it,” Tony Pescaglia said.