Bonacci Inducted to National HOF
BY DEREK AMRICH
Oct. 14, 2010
Wrestling was the pride of high school athletics in Cleveland in the 1950s. For former CSU head coach Dick Bonacci, it was a way of life. On September 12, 2010, Bonacci’s way of life was recognized by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame with his induction into the inaugural Ohio Chapter.
The legend began near the West side of Cleveland at Lincoln West High School. Bonacci was a member of the 1951 national high school champion Cowboys that featured six state champions, an unprecedented feat that lasted for 59 years.
The incomparable West High team was led by coach Harold Kester, who outside of his own family and the neighborhood he grew up in, Bonacci credits for providing direction towards a wrestling career. “He was the greatest high school wrestling coach ever,” says Bonacci. “Everything I got from him I coached my own kids.”
Bonacci’s career blasted off as a Toledo Rocket where he served as captain in his final two seasons and captured three MAC titles in 1953-55. After his eligibility in wrestling was complete, Bonacci served as interim coach as Toledo head coach Joe Scalzo coached the U.S. Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling team.
Several years following his stellar collegiate career at UT, Bonacci answered an ad in the paper to coach at Fenn College. Fenn athletic director, Homer Woodling, the namesake of the gymnasium at CSU, hired Bonacci to begin a varsity program in 1962.
Bonacci led the wrestling program through transition into CSU in 1964, coaching the program for total of 36 seasons. He coached eight All-Americans and sent a wrestler to 34 straight NCAA Championships. In all, Bonacci had 31 winning seasons, 19 consecutive from 1964-65 to 1980-81, and finished with a record of 296-177-9.
For all of Bonacci’s individual accomplishments, success was bred from a union of family and hard work. “All the friends I made along the way,” reflected Bonacci. Godfather to his wrestlers children and regular poker buddies with others, there are at least three to four wrestlers a week Bonnaci has contact with. “My career is a credit to the kids who wrestled for me,” said Bonacci.