When Bob Bernarducci took the head coach position for Pleasantville High School’s wrestling program 24 years ago, he never imagined winning 300 matches.
However, after a victory over Croton-Harmon on Tuesday, Jan. 7, he accomplished just that.
“When I first came here and took the job, they had a program, but it had died out,” Bernarducci said. “It was discouraging at first, but it was all about getting it going again.”
He did a little more than that.
Included within his 300 victories are eight section championships and two conference championships. But what is most important to Bernarducci cannot be quantified in numbers or championship banners.
“Just seeing kids grow throughout the years – that’s what keeps me coming back for more,” he said.
“The 2010 conference championship team is probably my favorite example. That team was mostly seniors, and eight of them had losing records as freshmen. To see that type of progression is really rewarding.”
Most members of that 2010 section championship team attended Bernarducci’s 300th win to support and celebrate with their coach. This year’s seniors said Bernarducci’s lustrous career is no mistake.
“I can’t put into words what it was like getting that (300th win) for coach,” senior Liam Marmo said. “I knew as a freshman that I had one of the best coaches in the state. He pushes us to the limit. I wouldn’t be the wrestler I am without his coaching, his leadership."
Fellow senior Stephen Paternostro echoed Marmo’s praise.
“He’s a great one-on-one coach, in addition to being a great team coach,” Paternostro said. “And he’s also a father figure at the same time. You don’t find that type of combination often.”
Bernarducci said the 2013-14 squad could have a similar fate as his 2010 team, with Marmo and Paternostro being the only seniors. At 6-6, they’re “right in the middle of things for another chance to be league champions.”
“This year’s team is young, but they’ve been a pleasant surprise,” Bernarducci said. “Our six freshman are really progressing. They remind me of my 2010 team. If they keep improving, they’ll be right up there.”
Those six freshmen can expect to have Bernarducci as their head coach until they're seniors themselves. Despite his success, the coach said he has no plans to explore coaching at higher levels.
“I’m very happy at the high school level,” he said. “I never get tired of seeing these boys grow up – both as wrestlers and as men.”