WADSWORTH — The name on the masthead might change but the tradition and winning won’t. That’s the hope of Wadsworth athletic director Brad Musgrave.
Musgrave announced Sunday evening he has recommended Clay Wenger to take over the wrestling program for legendary coach John Gramuglia, pending approval tonight at the board of education meeting.
Gramuglia will stay on as director of operations, while Wenger grabs the reins from a coach that brought Wadsworth to prominence in the 33 years he led the team.
“I am very happy to announce that Clay Wenger will be the new leader of our great wrestling program,” Musgrave said. “He has done a wonderful job as our varsity assistant coach the past couple of years.
“Clay is a tremendous person and will demand the same excellence we have become accustomed to over the years. He has the respect of the Wadsworth wrestling family and will have a significant impact on kids’ lives from the high school level all the way down to the youth level.”
Wenger is no stranger to Wadsworth after wrestling for Gramuglia on the 2010 state championship team and graduating in 2011. Wenger, 25, wrestled for Kent State, where he was a two-year letterwinner and part of the 2012 Mid-American Conference championship.
The 2015 Kent State graduate has a degree in business.
A two-time state qualifier, Wenger has been an assistant at Wadsworth the last three years and was the head coach for the freestyle and Greco-Roman programs the last five years.
He has owned and operated BattleZone Fitness the last five years, which is a multi-purpose athletic facility and wrestling club for the youth, middle school and high school, and is a behavioral specialist in the Leap Program at Rittman.
“I have always wanted the job, to be honest,” Wenger said. “In college, I got really interested in coaching. I was working with ‘G’ doing the freestyle club even when I was in Kent wrestling. Just learning from him, I’ve wanted to take the program over when he was ready. I just love Wadsworth. It’s been a big part of my life. The tradition, the culture, it’s just something I wanted to continue.”
The Wadsworth resident isn’t afraid to be the man after the legend.
Gramuglia guided Wadsworth to 25 straight Suburban League titles and 26 overall. His teams finished in the top 10 at state 22 times.
He coached a state placer 25 of the last 26 seasons and has had 328 district qualifiers, 142 state qualifiers, 38 state finalists, 16 state champions, 94 state placers and qualified an individual to state 33 straight seasons.
His teams had a dual meet record of 369-78-1, won 17 sectional titles, four district titles and were district runners-up 10 times.
“It’s a huge task,” Wenger said. “It doesn’t scare me. To me, it’s a great opportunity. It’s an honor to come in after a guy like that. I got to wrestle for him and learn from him. I take it as an opportunity and a challenge. He’s got me ready to do it.”
Wenger, who has said he won’t change the coaching staff, hopes to pick up right where Gramuglia left off.
When there’s a question, he’ll lean on the longtime coach but wants to make his own mark.
“Clay Wenger embodies everything Wadsworth wrestling exemplifies: Class, integrity and work ethic,” Gramuglia said. “There is no finer person I would like to carry on the Wadsworth wrestling rich tradition.”