By Matt Jenkins
---- — Milestone victories are, by nature, memorable. St. John’s Prep wrestling coach Manny Costa recorded career win No. 500 in a fashion that was simply perfect.
Costa and the Eagles swept a quad match on Christmas Eve day with the Prep’s 84-0 victory over Peabody serving as the notable win. Making the moment particularly special for Costa was that his two sons -- Hunter and Jared -- were in the starting lineup.
St. John’s moved to 15-1 on the season and, with Monday’s three wins, Costa is now 502-129-5 in his 23rd season as head coach.
“They have been born and raised in the program,” Costa said about his sons. “Both ran the scoreboard when they were young and did the scorebook. I thank the Prep for the opportunity for my two sons to be part of the school and the team.”
Hunter Costa recorded a pin at 106 pounds in only 4:29. Jared Costa, meanwhile, needed only 52 seconds to pin his opponent at 138 pounds.
St. John’s also shut out Saugus (66-0) and Watertown (69-0).
More than 60 former St. John’s Prep wrestlers were on hand to witness Costa’s milestone victory.
“The memories of the first 22 seasons were being played in my head all weekend. So many special memories and friendships have been made,” Costa said. “I appreciate and love every wrestler that has stepped on the SJP wrestling mats and put on a singlet to compete for the program. Every one of them has been special and brought fond memories to myself, my family, and all the spectators that have watched our team over the years.”
For all the wins and individual state champions (21) Costa has had, it’s still other things that he holds close to his heart.
Costa is most proud of the 33 Academic All-Americans he has coached, and the overall focus on academics that the program has maintained over the years.
“I take more pride in the colleges that my wrestlers have attended than the wins and losses. Wins and losses are not important, it is preparing young adults for life,” Costa said. “It is the job of a coach to mentor them and prepare them for the future challenges. We are to lead by example and show them the way and be there for them when needed. The Prep provides a great opportunity and my wrestlers have more than taken advantage of that over the years.”
In addition to the 21 state champions and 33 Academic All-Americans, Costa has coached 27 Division 1 North sectional champions and eight All-State champions. St. John’s has won 17 Catholic Conference titles, including 14 in a row currently, and the Prep program has produced 28 100-match winners during Costa’s reign.
Costa was inducted into the Massachusetts state Hall of Fame in 2010 and the New England Hall of Fame in 2011.
Costa is especially thankful for the dedication of the assistant coaches he has had over the years -- J.C. Honer, Kevin Cote, Dave Blais, and Steve Campbell.
He also wanted to thank Brother Drinnan and Fred Glatz for hiring him 23 years ago with no head coaching experience, as well as current St. John’s Prep Athletic Director Jim O’Leary, and Ann Edgerton and Jameson Pelkey.
Costa also feels the program has benefited greatly from the contributions of trainers B.C. Corbett and Matt Lovett.
“Thank you to every wrestler that has been part of St. John’s Prep wrestling. It is them who won each of the meets over the years,” Costa said. “As I have constantly told them, I am 0-0 at the Prep. I never wrestled for the school. All I have done is driven the vans to meets or hopped on the bus assuring that they were at the meets ready to wrestle. I have been fortunate enough to have the best seat in the house.”