Wrestling coach inducted into Hall of Fame

Thursday, May 4, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Wrestling coach Michael Zito has coached wrestling at Bryan High for the last 23 years. He grew up wrestling and attended school in Northeastern Ohio where he developed his passion for the sport before knee injuries prevented him from continuing as an athlete. He now uses his wrestling experience and passion for teaching to motivate his students when pursuing the sport and hopes to have an impact on each of their lives. This spring, Zito was recognized by his peers and inducted into the Texas Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame.

“Being inducted into the Hall of Fame isn’t what I was striving to do,” Zito said. “I strive for the kids to be successful and that’s why I’m here: to get them as far as I can, make changes in their lives, and help them become a better person.”

The induction surprised Zito because he sees so many other great coaches and programs across Texas and appreciated the recognition and validation from his peers in regards to the program he has spent decades building.

“I have coaches who ask me all the time ‘what are you doing?’ ‘How can they accelerate their program to my level?’, Zito said. “That’s when I step back and realize that I’m doing something pretty good here. Being inducted was definitely an honor.”

Growing up in Ohio, wrestling was the sport of choice for young athletes. In Texas, though, the majority of students don’t step onto the mat until they enter the program in high school.

“Ninety percent of the athletes I get for wrestling come in with no experience,” Zito said. “The first time they step on that mat as a freshman, that’s their first wrestling experience, whereas in Ohio, I started when I was 6 years old. By the time I was in high school, I already had about 10 years of experience.”

Wrestler junior Spencer Pierce has been a part of the program for three and has benefitted from Zito’s approach to the sport.

“Coach Zito has done a fantastic job coaching at Bryan High,” Pierce said. “He shows us a lot of respect and cares for us. Wrestlers can tell he cares about us by the way he treats us and the way he talks to us.”

Zito contributes the success of the wrestling program to how he pushes the students to work hard and put forth all they are into the sport.

“I push my kids,” Zito said. “I ask for a lot of dedication out of these kids, we go year round. We’re working out two to three days a week all summer. By pushing them to that level we’re going to get the rewards and become successful.”

All the success, recognition, and awards would mean nothing to Zito without the students showing personal growth and maturity.

“I’ve got state champions and state runners-up,” Zito said. “I have lots of kids that have gone on to college, and one that has gone on to wrestle in the Marine Corp. I think the biggest moments, from a coach’s standpoint, are the ones where you see a kid change his life. The kid who changes their life and comes back 15 years later makes it all worthwhile. When you are able to see what you’ve done long term and how you’ve affected their lives, not just a medal or award, but how you’ve changed them overall is what really matters.”

Categories: Features, Sports