Kiski School wrestling recognized for 'Responsible Sports Moment'
To Joe Ross, the events surrounding the bizarre end and completion of the 126-pound third-place match at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Championships wrestling tournament last Jan. 14 weren't anything noteworthy.
Let alone award-worthy.
“I didn't think it was that big of a deal,” said Ross, the coach at the Kiski School. “I really didn't. It's just something we do as a school, and I do as a coach.”
Apparently, there were others who witnessed it were more moved.
Ross's handling of a match between Kiski School's Austin Marsico and Hempfield's Joey Alessandro earned a $1,000 grant for the Kiski School, part of being named one of 2012's “Top 10 Responsible Sports Moments.”
A national search honored 10 individuals/organizations across the country that displayed “valuable lessons that can be learned by participating in sports, while demonstrating qualities such as sportsmanship, leadership, selflessness and responsibility.”
The award was presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports, a partnership between Liberty Mutual Insurance and Positive Coaching Alliance.
“I just hope that integrity means more than winning,” Ross said. “We want to win — but we want to win the right way. And I did what I'd expect any other coach from our school would do, and I'd hope any coach from any other school would also do the right thing.”
Marsico, who now is a freshman wrestler at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was ahead of Alessandro when time expired on the match clock that day almost a year ago at Franklin Regional High School.
However, there was an error in the timekeeping, one that Hempfield coach Vince DeAugustine was well aware.
“I would be, too — he's fighting for his wrestler, which is what any coach should do,” Ross said.
Ross sent Marsico back out onto the mat to complete the match.
“That was what was in the interest of my school and interest of the sport,” Ross said, then chuckled.
“My guy still won the match — good thing for me.
“But in doing so, I guess some people thought it was such a moment in honesty and integrity that we were nominated for the award, and Liberty Mutual felt the same way.”
As the news release detailing the award announcements put it: “The winning coach displayed standup character when he sent his competitor back to the mat to wrestle the last several seconds. In the end, the original decision stood, but a demonstration of sportsmanship made it more meaningful.”
“It's really not a big deal for us — that's just how we always conduct ourselves,” Ross said. “We run a very strong program here, not just in wrestling but in the school itself.
“As a coach, you want every advantage possible for your kids. But at that moment, I put integrity in front of victory. That's, I guess, what made it a memorable moment. All we want out of this is we just are hoping that maybe, somehow, that can inspire someone else to act in a similar manner.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.