By Ryan Kaczmarski
Now that the 2013-2014 wrestling season is underway, the Westlake High School squad has done so without longtime head coach Mike Antonyzyn, who decided after a 28-year career, to retire in order to spend more time with his grandchildren and family.
“I loved having the opportunity to meet and work with some of the great young men and families over the years at Westlake,” Antonyzyn said. “It has been satisfying to work with those kids and see development and growth, and have them reach some of their personal goals.”
Antonyzyn began coaching at Westlake in the 1974-1975 season, when we accepted a teaching position and coaching position at Lee Burneson Junior High. He moved into the head coaching position at Westlake High School in 1984.
While Antonyzyn coached more than 32 state qualifiers during his tenure for the Demons, it was his attention to the “other” guys in the wrestling room that was very noticeable.
“There were many young men that stand out in my mind as being very special for me to coach, but I don’t want to name any of them, because I don’t want to forget anyone,” he said. “I have so many guys that come to mind, but not everyone’s names.
“The best thing in teaching and coaching at Westlake is was a very rewarding experience, not monetarily, but you cannot put a price tag on the relationships I’ve come out with by teaching and coaching there.”
He always tried to help those student-athletes who might have been otherwise ignored.
“I’ll take a kid with a .500 or losing record, over a stand-out who might not have the best character,” Antonyzyn explained. “I don’t care as much about what they’ve done on the wrestling mat, as long as they set some goals and achieve them, and they are good people. I’ll never forget what one of my former coaches, Terry Kennedy (a North Olmsted native, and St. Edward High School and Edinboro University standout wrestler), said, ‘We want to coach good people and good citizens,’ and I’ve made that my mantra over the years.”
Antonyzyn helped establish the Westlake Youth Wrestling program, in order to develop the younger wrestlers in Westlake City Schools. The younger kids naturally gravitated to him, and he enjoyed the youth wrestlers, while teaching them some of the basics of the sport.
While he will obviously miss the direct interaction with the athletes on the mat, he will miss the interpersonal relationships with his former coaches even more.
“My teaching and coaching at Westlake was a great chapter in my life; one that I won’t forget,” he said. “Great relationships have been built from it.”
Jake Percival, a former assistant to Antonyzyn, has filled the head coaching spot for the Demons.
“Coach Antonyzyn has been a pillar not only for the Westlake wrestling program, but for the entire wrestling community in Northeastern Ohio,” Percival said. “He has been an incredible mentor and coach throughout my years here at Westlake. I have learned a tremendous amount and he will continue to be a part of the wrestling program for many years to come.”
As his top assistant over the past three years, Antonyzyn holds Percival in the highest regard.
“I told (Westlake Athetic Director) Tony Cipollone that Jake will take the program to the next level,” Antonyzyn said. “In the years that he’s been my assistant, he has brought so many good things to the room, that it is unbelievable. He is a great role model and a super technician.”
“I have some big shoes to fill, but I am looking forward to continuing Coach Antonyzyn’s motto of making each wrestler and the entire Westlake wrestling program ‘Better today than yesterday.’”