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|Al Bevilacqua named USA Wrestling Man of the Year|
By Gary Abbott
Al Bevilacqua of Amityville, N.Y., a longtime leader within wrestling at many levels, has been named Man of the Year by USA Wrestling, the national governing body for wrestling in the United States. This award recognizes an outstanding man for his contributions to the sport of wrestling.
He is currently the Chairman of the innovative and successful Metropolitan Wrestling Association (MWA) Beat the Streets program, which is bringing wrestling to inner-city schools in the New York City area.
Through Bevilacqua's leadership, the MWA Beat the Streets program is creating and funding wrestling teams in middle schools in New York City, where there has never been wrestling before. The program is funded through corporate and private donations, as well as sponsorship. Schools must be located that are willing to start a wrestling team, something that takes time and effort and commitment.
In the program, a middle school receives a wrestling mat. In addition, a coach is solicited and provided a stipend, and receives coaches education through the USA Wrestling National Coaches Education Program.
"All of the participants in the program are given t-shirts, shorts, Asics wrestling shoes, and wrestling equipment donated by Brute and Cliff Keen. Resilite and Dollamur are providing deeply discounted mats for all 20 schools. We would like to see 100 high schools and 100 middle schools by 2010 adding 8000 more kids to wrestling," he said.
Starting with one model program, Baruch Middle School in Manhattan, N.Y., within a year the program has expanded to 20 middle schools within New York City. The success of the program has accelerated interest, and the MWA seeks to increase the number of schools that participate in the Beat the Streets program considerably in the future.
"If a product is good, people want to be a part of it," said Bevilacqua. "We are selling it as a great activity for kids. Just give us an opportunity to put a mat in your school. Kids will come. They will be better students and better people. Our model school proved that it works."
"There is nothing I have done in wrestling that equals this program," he said. "The potential of this will have a major impact long after I am buried. If this creates a model for major urban centers, wrestling will grow tremendously. It is the last frontier for our sport. We need more people. We need to make it broad based."
Some of the other things that Bevilacqua has been involved in is the creation of Wrestling Day in New York City, a celebration of the sport that brings people together. He has participated in the development of the Mayor's Cup, a growing wrestling tournament in the city.
Bevilacqua manages two wrestling websites in the New York area, NYWrestling.com as well as the MWA's website (mwausa.org). He also was one of the three individuals who were on the leadership team for the 2005 ASICS East Coast National Beach Wrestling Championships, the first major beach wrestling event in the nation. The East Coast Beach Nationals was a big success, with Bevilacqua handling marketing and promotions of the competition.
He also has been a volunteer wrestling coach at Massapequa High School in recent years, a school where he was previously the head wrestling coach and one of only three coaches in school history.
Bevilacqua has been involved with USA Wrestling since its early years of existence, going back to the formation of the organization as the U.S. Wrestling Federation. He has served in many capacities within USA Wrestling, including working on the national staff, serving as a state chairperson, serving as a member of the national coaching staff and working with state and regional teams and programs.
He was a high school wrestling coach with the successful Massapequa team from 1962-1977, helping build one of the most successful programs in Nassau County and within the state. He served two years at the head wrestling coach at Hofstra University, a Div. I program located in Hempstead, N.Y.
Bevilacqua was a member of the USA Wrestling National Coaching staff from 1983-1991, coaching top wrestlers on all levels. He served as a coach for the U.S. teams at the Junior World Championships, the Espoir World Championships and the World Cup. He also was the coach for the U.S. team that competed in the Tbilisi Championships in the former Soviet Union.
He was the USA Wrestling State Chairperson for New York from 1971-1979, and was the USA Wrestling Eastern Developmental Director from 1972-1979. Bevilacqua was a member of USA Wrestling's Board of Directors from 1972 - 1986.
He also served for two years as an executive on the national staff for the U.S. Wrestling Federation, working as Assistant Director at the Stillwater, Okla. national headquarters from 1978-1980. The USWF received national governing body status for wrestling in 1983 and became USA Wrestling.
Bevilacqua received his bachelor's degree from New York University, where he was a member of the wrestling team from 1957-1961. He competed with the New York Athletic Club team from 1960-1963. He received his masters degree from Queens College, and was in the doctoral program at New York University.
Bevilacqua served as an educator with the Massapequa Public Schools from 1961 - 1994. He was an Assistant Director of the National High School Coaches Association from 1996-1999. He has also been involved in other business activities that have impacted the wrestling community.
He was USA Wrestling's Coach of the Year in 1983. He has received a Lifetime Service Award from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and has received a Special Service Award from U.S. Wrestling Federation. Among the Halls of Fame which he has been inducted are the New York State Wrestling Hall of Fame , the New York University Athletic Hall of Fame and the Massapequa High School Hall of Fame.
He has been named MWA Man of the Year, and previously served as the chairman of the board for the MWA. Wrestling USA Magazine has named him Man of the Year.
"Of all my achievements, this one is up there," said Bevilacqua. "I have received a USWF Special Service Award. This one finishes it off. I am an organizational guy, and this is very nice to have. I am proud that two of the last three winners of the USA Wrestling Man of the Year have been from the Metropolitan Wrestling Association. This is a group of people dedicated to wrestling and to USA Wrestling."
PAST USA WRESTLING MAN OF THE YEAR WINNERS
2005 - Al Bevilacqua
2004 - Jeff Levitetz
2003 - Set Agonian
2002 - Al Kastl
2001 - James Ravannack
2000 - Rulon Gardner
1999 - Duane Morgan
1998 - Scott Beck
1997 - Rick Tucci
1996 - Dave Schultz
1995 - Leroy Evans
1994 - James E. Scherr
1993 - Arthur J. Martori
1992 - Bruce Baumgartner
1990 - Eugene Barone
1989 - John Vaughan
1987 - Dave Rudrud
1986 - Jeff Blatnick
1985 - Dr. Dan Gould
1984 - Gary Thompson
1983 - Don Sondgeroth
1982 - Frank Rader
1981 - John Roberts
1980 - Rick Bay
1979 - Ben Bennett
1978 - Werner Holzer
1977 - Vince Zuaro
1976 - Ken Kraft
1974-75 - Russ Hellickson
1973 - Jack Stanbro
1972 - Melvin Jones
1971 - Bud Linholm
1970 - Rex Peery