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Giani Reaches Wrestling’s Pinnacle in National Hall of Fame

Lou Giani has finally climbed the only mountain he had yet to scale, reaching wrestling’s pinnacle – the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.  It was recently announced the 68 year old coach will be inducted as a Distinguished Member in wrestling’s temple, one of only a small handful of high school coaches ever to reach the hallowed shrine.

Giani, who began his brilliant career as a junior in the fall of 1951 at what was then called R.L. Simpson High School (currently Huntington Town Hall), has covered himself in glory through a six decade career that has seen him rise from the sport’s lowest level to the U.S. freestyle Olympic team to a record breaking coach known throughout the country as a workaholic who will accept nothing short of the best effort from his wrestlers and himself.

“Lou Giani is the premier high school wrestling coach in America today so it is only fitting and proper that he be included among the sport’s legends in the Hall of Fame,” said Andy Marlow, Roslyn High School’s mat coach.  “He’s still making history long after many of his opponents have packed it in and quit trying to beat him.”

As a Distinguished Member he will join an elite group of the sport’s greatest heroes, with most coming from the Midwest, traditionally wrestling’s hotbed.

The Huntington mat coach was first nominated for the Hall of Fame in April 1987 – almost sixteen years ago, a wait that frustrated his supporters.  He recently received a morning phone call from Myron Roderick, executive director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, and heard that the long wait was over.  The selection committee had voted Giani in.

The formal induction will take place on June 7 on the campus of Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, where the mat shrine is located.

Born in Manhattan to strict immigrant parents, Giani attended Catholic school where sports and physical education did not exist.  Even moving to Huntington as a ninth grader did nothing immediately to advance his future career.  His new school had a full phys ed and sports program and he quickly learned that athletics were fun.  But, his parents saw no value in sports because of their life experience.  There were no athletes in the family tree and the threat of injury terrified them

After two years of begging and cajoling, Giani finally convinced his parents that athletics were an intricate part of education.   After they signed the consent forms he played football, wrestled and ran track in his junior year.  He ultimately became a world class athlete.

Giani has previously referred to the possibility of Hall of Fame membership as the “icing on the cake,” adding “it would be a tremendous honor.”  His nomination garnered support from fellow coaches, college coaches, two U.S. senators as well as congressmen, state legislators, former wrestlers and college administrators.

Giani’s competitive career included winning the 1953 Suffolk County championship, the 1959 Pan Am Games gold medal, capturing several matches in the 1960 Rome Summer Olympic Games, and winning the Senior Metropolitan Championships ten times in five different weight classes.

As a coach he has been even more brilliant in a career that includes nearly 400 dual meet victories and one of the highest winning percentages in history.  To date, his teams have won 99 tournaments and he has coached a record shattering 22 state championships.  Four of his squads won public school state titles and four others finished the season ranked first in the state by the New York Sportswriters’ Association.

His list of Huntington state champions includes his son Lou Giani, Jr. (1973), Charlie Gadson (1973), Jeff Thomas (1974-75), Mike Rosenbauer (1976), Paul Widerman (1977-78), Mike Thomas (1978), Billy Gaffney (1980), Kieran Mock (1982), Gene McNeil (1984, 86), Mark Billups (1985), Drew Jackson (1986), Brian Fischenich (1992), Jim Amira (1994), Dawid Rechul (1998), Pat Flynn (2000, 02), Jack Piana (2000), Steven Palacios (2002) and Stephon Sair (2002).

Giani has rode to success on the back of a simple philosophy.  “It wasn’t long before I figured out that if I worked harder than everyone else, I could gain the edge,” he has said.  “That concept has been my driving force throughout my athletic and professional career.”

His teaching career in Huntington followed nineteen years of employment with Grumman, where he rose to group leader and worked on the lunar escape module (LEM) program that allowed man to travel from the Apollo spaceship to the moon and back to the capsule for the journey back to Earth.

Married to Rosemarie Giani and the proud father of three children, he earned his bachelor’s degree from C.W. Post and his master’s from Adelphi.  Even after hip replacement surgery in recent years, he continues to put a premium on fitness.

“Fitness is another interest and essential part of my life,” he has said.  “>From the first day that I entered the athletic arena, to this very day, I have maintained a good level of fitness by working out at least three or four times a week.  My goal is to maintain my quality of life,” Giani added.

America’s shrine to the sport of wrestling, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum, is a focal point for the past, the present and the future.  Giani will be enshrined in the Hall’s Honors Court, which trumpets the legends of great athletes, coaches and contributors.

The museum features an array of sculptures, photographs, banners, plaques, medals, trophies, uniforms and other memorabilia.  As visitors enter the building, their eyes are caught by the classic green marble sculpture, “The Wrestlers,” weighing more than three-quarters of a ton. 

The statue, an exact copy of the classic by Cephisodotus, which presides in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, is the only one if its size ever created in green marble.