Varsity wrestling legend Guy Leggio grew up in Bay Shore and coached at East Islip. As an asset to both the Bay Shore and East Islip community, Coach Leggio is a member of the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame as well as the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Leggio’s father, another high school wrestling icon, Gombatista “Jumper” Leggio, who coached wrestling at Ronkonkoma, also is a Suffolk Sports Hall of Famer. Guy Leggio was the East Islip varsity wrestling coach for 26 seasons, posting a career record of 270-15-5 and leading the team for over a quarter century during the years 1990 to 2015. Leggio coached a plethora of athletes achieving tremendous personal success, coaching 85 league champions, 273 league place-winners, along with 73 county place-winners. In 2006, Leggio guided East Islip to the Suffolk County Championship ranking No. 1 among Long Island wrestling teams. East Islip paid homage to the iconic coach, naming the wrestling room the Guy Leggio Wrestling Room for all his indelible accolades. Leggio has been a member of the Bay Shore Volunteer Fire Department for nearly four decades.
IB: What are some of your best memories that stand out the most as a wrestler growing up and as a coach?
Leggio: As a wrestler growing up, I was a part of Bay Shore High School. I was the captain of the wrestling team, probably one of the best teams Bay Shore ever had. Also, I had my dad as my coach. My father was a legend in the sport. I wrestled for the Navy on the Navy team, but I really found my niche in coaching. I think coaching was the way to go. I was a good wrestler and really liked it, and being a coach was more important to me, I think, and the way I made a difference more in wrestling was as a coach.
IB: How has high school sports changed since you were a student-athlete? Is anything done differently by coaches and by what is taught?
Leggio: I think today the kids have too much to do, so as kids have too much to do, like everything is offered between phones and all the technology. They have to focus and I think that some of the coaches have to change the old-fashioned way of, you know, what hard knocks a little bit of that stuff. Discipline is key. I think we’ve lost a little bit of the discipline along the way, but I think the technology in sports is better.
IB: I know you have been a volunteer firefighter in Bay Shore for over 35 years. Tell me about your dedication in serving the Bay Shore community and what is most rewarding about being a volunteer firefighter?
Leggio: Being a volunteer firefighter is the most rewarding thing you can ever do for your community. You know, you wake up in the middle of the night and you go to fires and everything like that. My son is now a lieutenant, so I was a captain, all that kind of stuff, and I race for the fire department. I’ve met a world of people through racing. The volunteer fire department community is probably the most amazing piece of volunteerism that anybody can be involved in. Because you learn, you meet, and you never forget.
IB: Outside of Boomer Esiason and Tony Graffanino, name some of the most talented athletes you’ve seen come from East Islip.
Leggio: A wrestler that was just in the Division 1 national finals last year, Dellavecchia. Ted Gregory, who was another football guy; Rob Vacarro, one of my guys who was a four-time county champion; Dave Ingram, a state champion, and many others are far as a coach, Mr. Champion. I always remember Old Man Champion because me and him would butt heads and in the end, we all became friends.
IB: What was the best advice you would say you were given and grasped the most throughout your entire career?
Leggio: The word “can’t” doesn’t exist.
IB: What are you most proud of in your coaching career?
Leggio: You see, what I give to kids is my love for the sport. And you know what, I build bridges and we make things better. One thing I gave the kids is they never had a wrestling room to wrestle with in East Islip because it was always overshadowed. I built it with my own hands. I am a bricklayer and got a lot of people. We put it together. Alot of friends came—a bunch of parents, Mr Vacarro. We poured the foundation, we botched the walls, we built it, we landed the steel, we did everything, and we gave them a facility. That’s why they are so good at this point in our wrestling. You know what, you do something, it’ll come. I was very glad. And they named it after me after I left, so it was very nice.
IB: What are you most proud of outside anything you’ve accomplished in sports?
Leggio: That’s a good question. Well, we’re always proud of our family. My dad, my brothers were tight, and my wife. We’ve been married 31 years. That’s a long time. She deserves more credit than me.
IB: What is the best advice you have to a kid on Long Island reading this article who has a passion for playing sports?
Leggio: When you say the word “sports,” I think you should play every sport and not be entangled in one. We’re not all going be Division 1 wrestlers. We should all learn to become, you know, a good person. Learn what you can. Each different sport can give you a special value. Do your homework, don’t forget, do all your stuff, be a good student, be a good participant, always give 110 percent.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here