Lou Giani

Lou Giani started coaching high school wrestling in Huntington, New York, after wrestling on the 1960 American Olympic team. He coached a record number of New York State champions, is a three-time winner of the New York Wrestling Coach of the Year, and a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

I was introduced to Lou by his former student Paul Widerman, whom I also interviewed, and Paul acted as a laison between us for the four years it took to produce this interview.

Paul says this project intrigued Lou because he speaks with unusual candor, yet Lou's interview was made difficult by his ambilalence in speaking publicly. We conducted three interviews, editing out many details and deleting whole passages in order to avoid any criticism of school administration.

Lou castes his work entirely in the context of wrestling and competition, yet his ability to build character is magical. He has personally shepherded hundreds of young men who credit him with saving them from lives of poverty and trouble; the Phantom Street Artist was one of his students. Lou is devoted to this task.

Interview Excerpts
Read the full interview :

"I’m talking with kids all the time, all the time... And they’re listening because they know that I am really for them, and it’s not only about winning and losing — but I do want them to win, and I want our team to win also — the prime objective here is to make them better kids, stronger kids, and kids who are confident in themselves...

"We’re going to tell him the truth. What he can do. All we’ve got to do is keep talking about how good he can be, and then work on that. Work with him one on one, and talk to him one on one. You keep on building on that until he goes to the top: where ever he can go. He may not ever be a state champion, but he might be able to win 50 percent of his matches, and he knows he did his best. And we’ve been telling him it, too. So he’s been successful and he feels great about himself. No one’s ever going to take that away from him...

"It is a psychological game, it really is. You need to be right on top of your game with them. You gotta know what to say, and when not to say it. In the room, when you’re working with them… on the mat right here… you've got a kid that comes off the mat and he's destroyed. If you go over there and pat him on the back that frigin’ sucks, man. You make him feel worse. Let him go and cry it out for a couple of minutes, do what he wants to do, as long as he don’t break anything. Let him get rid of it and then go talk to him after he’s cooled down a bit, when the anxiety is gone. That’s what makes good coaches ... Where does it come from? I don’t know. Half the time I don’t even know what I’m doing... "

Wrestling Hall of Fame
Long Island Wrestling Association interview
Copyright © 2010, Lincoln Stoller. All rights reserved.