Hundreds pay tribute to former coach

Coach Ken Hunte Night

By Jerry McHale '73

"Ken Hunte's passion for Mepham wrestling lasted his lifetime. The depth of his commitment was clearly reflected in the pride and determination exhibited by all Mepham wrestlers. To prepare his boys for the tremendous mental and physical demands of his sport, he concentrated his lessons on the development of character: Honesty in effort, Dignity in defeat, Humility in victory, Courage in life. Forever he is honored and respected by his peers; loved and remembered by his wrestlers. "

One hundred and fifty Mepham wrestlers from every decade and from as far away as California returned to Mepham High School on January 30, 1998, to pay tribute to Coach Ken Hunte, who passed away in 1986. Fittingly, the dinner honoring the 1947 alumnus and beloved coach was held in the West Cafeteria immediately following the wrestling match with Calhoun High School. The Pirates emerged victorious (57-6), setting the stage for the emotional tribute to Ken Hunte.

Mrs. Jane Hunte and her three children - Steven, Linda and Bob - were present to receive the genuine affection and gratitude of the alumni who remembered Coach Hunte so fondly. The school was the recipient of over $10,000 in donations from the wrestling alumni.

Wrestlers' lineup Among the gifts presented, in honor of Coach Hunte, was a new set of tailor-made garnet and gray varsity robes, made in the tradition of those worn by our wrestlers with great pride since 1938. The impressive garments were worn for the first time as our 1998 team filed into the gym behind Coach Mike Muscara '71, to thunderous applause. The dinner was donated by Ron Duckstein, Class of '73, and president of Outback Restaurants. A portrait of Ken Hunte was unveiled with a poignant tribute (see above).

Returning alumni were treated to an extensive display of Mepham's glorious wrestling history. The wrestling program at Mepham has now piled up 675 wins against 99 losses-a record unequaled in New York State.

A library of photos dating back to "Sprig" Gardner is being preserved through the efforts of Jerry Worthing and the Alumni Association. Computer scanning and restoration of these images is a long-term project supported by donations from the alumni. A new section of the Mepham Alumni Web site ( is dedicated to the history of the wrestling program. Check in periodically to see new additions.

The matmen also took the opportunity to honor Coaches "Sprig" Gardner and John Walter. These three scholastic wrestling legends have inspired over sixty years of tradition. The emotional atmosphere of this first Mepham wrestling homecoming was highly charged. A great majority of the wrestling alumni had not been in the school since graduation. It was an astounding tribute that alumni would travel thousands of miles to honor and acknowledge the influence of Coach Hunte in their lives.