Legendary coach to be inducted into wrestling HOFBy Mary Ann Price
Tom Bartosek grew up in Toledo, Ohio. The high school he attended had about 200 students, small enough to give him a chance to participate in the band, chorus, school plays, and sports.
“I wrestled in high school, although I was a terrible athlete,” he said. “I was not really coordinated.” The wrestling program had a no-cut policy as long as students worked hard, and Bartosek worked hard.
As the varsity wrestling coach at Canton High School, Bartosek followed the same philosophy as he recruited students to join the wrestling team. One of the young men he recruited was Brian Caffelle, who had something in common with Bartosek.
“I wasn’t a great athlete,” Caffelle said. “But he was always asking me to join.” Caffelle finally asked Bartosek one day why he thought he should join the team. “‘You come from a hardworking family; you’re a good kid. I think you’d be good,’” Caffelle recalled.
Bartosek, who retired in 2010 after teaching science and serving as the varsity wrestling coach at Canton High School, will be inducted into the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in a ceremony at Gillette Stadium on April 29. He will be honored for his lifetime service to wrestling and his years of coaching young people, including Caffelle, who is the present CHS varsity wrestling coach.
Bartosek studied science at Boston College and then got a job as a substitute teacher in Braintree before being hired to teach at Weymouth South High School. At Weymouth, the athletic director told him that the athletic department needed a wrestling coach or the program would fold. “I took it over and I enjoyed it,” Bartosek said. “It was fun.”
He moved on to Silver Lake Regional High School, where he taught and started that school’s wrestling program before taking time off from his career to spend time with his newborn daughter.
When he returned to education, he found a position at Canton High School. Then Assistant Principal Al Nordgren worked with Bartosek to start a wrestling program, but within a few years, the program had not yet been put together and Bartosek found himself being transferred to the Galvin Middle School. He wanted to start a youth wrestling program at the school, but there was a problem: the school did not have a mat — the one piece of equipment needed for the program — nor did the school have the funds to purchase one.
It was then that Galvin executive secretary Connie Whitty came to Bartosek’s rescue. “She said, ‘Let me make a call.’ Within a week she had raised $1,000. She knew the town and the people to call,” Bartosek said.
The funds were used to buy a used wrestling mat from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and with that purchase, the Canton Public Schools had a wrestling program.
Bartosek spent just a few years at the middle school, but has fond memories of his time there.
“Some of the best years I had were at the Galvin,” he said. He enjoyed teaching a team of students with a small group of colleagues and the mentoring he received from teachers. “I learned so much.”
When Bartosek returned to CHS, some of the students who had been part of the youth wrestling program at the Galvin moved on to the high school at the same time. Nordgren helped Bartosek with the paperwork and Bartosek set about building teams.
“We already had a mat. It’s not a very expensive sport. Having cafeteria duty, I used to go around and recruit,” he said. “Sometimes all a kid needs is a little encouragement.”
If he heard that a student had not made a team in another sport, he talked to him about joining wrestling. He also looked for students who were willing to work hard.
Bartosek is not surprised that former wrestler Caffelle is now the coach. “He was a good wrestler, very serious,” he said. “I knew he’d be good, because I was able to watch him transition. He has the temperament. It’s not about winning. It’s about developing.”
Caffelle learned a great deal from the man he still calls Coach. Bartosek taught Caffelle in both eighth grade at the Galvin and ninth grade at CHS. He described Bartosek as a laid back and patient teacher with a good sense of humor. “It was the same thing on the mat,” he said.
When Caffelle graduated from college, Bartosek asked him to return to CHS to help with the wrestling team. “I wouldn’t be where I am without Coach Bartosek,” Caffelle said. “He’s one of the greatest mentors I’ve ever had in my life.”
Bartosek knew that he was being considered for the award and is modest about receiving the honor. “It’s a pleasant feeling knowing that the people who chose you were people you worked with in the past,” he said.
Bartosek was the state editor for USA Wrestling Magazine, a contributor to Amateur Wrestling News and WIN Magazine, and served on the Coaches’ Association’s Executive Board. Bartosek is a past recipient of the Boston Globe Coach of the Year award and was inducted into the Massachusetts Wrestling Coaches’ Association Hall of Fame.
In a letter to Bartosek notifying him of the award, Lee Roy Smith, the director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, wrote that Tom Bartosek has made significant contributions to his high school program as well as to the entire Massachusetts wrestling community. Bartosek’s name will be added to a plaque in the State Chapter Gallery of the NWHOF Museum on the campus of Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
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