PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Rutgers head wrestling coach John Sacchi has announced his retirement after coaching for 40 years, including the last 17 at the helm of the Scarlet Knights program.
His devotion to the sport he holds dear to his heart has guided him to an astonishing 447-162-9 career record, making him the second winningest active coach in college wrestling at any level with regard to dual victories.
"There have been so many great things that have happened with individual wrestlers over the years and it gives me great pleasure to know that some of the kids I coached are now coaching themselves," Sacchi said. "It's giving back to the sport. I feel very, very fortunate that I was able to find a career where I could make a living and enjoy every day of it. I just feel blessed that I was able to do that."
Rutgers Director of Athletics Bob Mulcahy said, "John has been an integral member of the Rutgers athletics family for the past 17 years, and I am thankful for the leadership that he has provided our wrestling program. John has been an ambassador for the sport of wrestling, and for Rutgers University, through the years. He has had a positive impact on so many. He will be missed."
While Sacchi will retire from Rutgers as head wrestling coach, he's uncertain whether he'll return to coaching. He intends to return to teaching part-time at Middlesex Community College.
"I'll get to stay involved in young people's lives and hopefully have a positive impact on them. It will just be in a different venue," he said. "As far as wrestling goes, I've been approached about some possibilities, but right now, I'm not even going to think about that. I'm just going to finish what I'm doing here and look forward to going back into the classroom and have some time to enjoy some of the things I want to do."
The Ithaca, N.Y. native became the winningest coach in Rutgers history with his 159th career win, a 36-13 victory over Franklin & Marshall on Jan. 6. Before the victory, Sacchi was tied with the late former coach Deane Oliver. Oliver led Rutgers to a 158-147-9 record in 21 years of coaching (1969-1990) and had a winning percentage of .511. Sacchi closed out his career with a 167-102-5 record (a winning percentage of .619).
"The demands of being successful at the Division I level are overwhelming at this point in my life," Sacchi said. "I'm reaching the point where I've left a lot of things undone, that I want to do. I just need the time now to do it. I can't continue to coach at the Division I level and do the things that I want to do and that's what it boils down to."
Sacchi has coached wrestling for 40 seasons, and his success has not been confined to Rutgers. Sacchi took his first and only Division I head coaching job at Rutgers in May of 1990 after 24 highly-successful years at Middlesex County College.
Sacchi's passion and eye for talent led to Rutgers' representation at the NCAA Championships annually.Two seasons ago, Andy Roy competed in his fourth-straight NCAA Championships – a feat that had never been accomplished before in the program's history. Roy, who wrestled at 174, ended his career with an outstanding 102 victories to rank ninth on the school's all-time wins list. Twenty-two of the top-30 wrestlers in the program's storied history achieved their success under Sacchi.
When Sacchi won his 400th career match during the 2001-2002 season, he joined a select group of only 16 collegiate head coaches who have reached that pinnacle. It was just one of the crowning achievements of the season, which also included his first Division I All-American, senior Tom Tanis.
During his first season, the Scarlet Knights went 6-12 in 1990-91. With his first recruiting class, he brought state champion Kevin McCann, junior college All-Americans Jason Hawk, Jim Ferguson and Alex Lombardo, and top New Jersey place-winner Mike Kwapniewski and guided the Scarlet Knights to a school-record 17 dual match wins that season (the old record was 13), for an overall 17-4-1 record.
Sacchi's ambition, desire and energy helped build the Middlesex County College's wrestling program, where he was head coach for 24 years. He became the second all-time winningest junior college coach in the nation with a record of 280-59-4. His teams were undefeated three times - in 1970 (18-0), in 1986 (13-0) and in 1990 (13-0). He was inducted into the National Junior College Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame in 1979.
A master coach and motivator, Sacchi's tournament records speak volumes. His Middlesex teams won 38 tournament championships, placed second 24 times, and harnessed 160 individual championships. His squads captured an unprecedented five NJCAA Mid-Atlantic Wrestling titles during the 1980's, in addition to his four championships in the 70's. His teams won 12 conference championships and finished second eight times. He kept Middlesex in the top 20 polls 17 times and placed fourth in 1973, 1983 and 1986. He also placed fifth once and sixth twice. Individually, Sacchi produced thirty-nine Junior College All-Americans, and five national champions.
In September, Sacchi will be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, in