Autobiographical Musings of a Mepham WrestlerBy Hal (Bud) Mahoney '49
Reprinted from Scuttlebutt, Summer 2004.
In my Junior year, Sprig Gardner informed me that I'd be able to go to college if I switched to a college entrance course, took an extra year of high school, made up all missed regents exams, and brought up my C+ average. That was all! Well, Sprig provided the incentive I needed just as he did for my brothers and hundreds of other wrestlers. So many of us would never have been able to achieve a college education if it hadn...t been for Sprig Gardner and Wrestling.
No accounting of wrestling experiences could be complete without mention of the paddle. After finishing my Geometry Regents with Gus Versocki I went straight down to the wrestling room. Sprig bet me a paddling that he knew my mark. Impossible, I had just finished the exam! Well, Gus had called down to Sprig to tell him my regents mark. I had to assume the position, and thought I would just get a "love tap" for my 100! But no, I got the full treatment!! I can just imagine what would have happened if I had flunked!
After graduation in 1949, I went off to San Diego State. This was for someone who had never been further west than the 1939 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows. I was lucky to have long time friend and Marine Jerry Lange '48 (Mepham, football and cross country) stationed an hour away at Camp Pendleton.
That year in California was my most successful as a wrestler. Most of my opponents didn...t have the knowledge or expertise that Sprig had impacted to his wrestlers. After one of my matches my opponent came to the locker room to tell me that it was a pleasure to be pinned by someone so knowledgeable. I didn...t hesitate to inform him that it was a pleasure for me as well.
The following year I was drafted into the Army. Again my wrestling was helpful; a fellow GI challenged me to wrestle one night. We stepped out between the barracks with half the company surrounding us. At the start signal my opponent made a lunging dive at me. That was just perfect for my favorite takedown, the arm drag. He hit the ground rather hard and was out cold. By the next day rumor has him flying through the air in all directions. The first sergeant heard of the event, handed me the army manual "The Unarmed Defense of the American Soldier," and informed me I would be teaching it to the troops for the next few weeks.
I spent a year and a half in the JAG offices in Japan and Korea. Imagine my surprise when working out in Japan I met someone from Oceanside High School. He wanted to know if I knew the Mahoney brothers and whatever happened to the tall skinny one? By then I had more than doubled my high school wrestling weight. One evening when walking through the village of Eta Jima, Japan, I came across a police station where the police were practicing Judo. I began practicing with them and as they taught me Judo, I taught them wrestling. It was an interesting exchange.
Now I was ready to get serious about my education. I attended SUNY at Cortland where I met my now wife, Marion. I have since bestowed the title of Honorary Mepham Graduate upon her.
Upon graduation I began a teaching career, and at the same time began refereeing wrestling matches in Nassau and Suffolk. It was exciting for me to be a referee in the hallowed halls of Mepham...s gymnasium. Yes, Bill Perrine (one of my favorite teachers) was still taking tickets at the door.
It wasn't much fun to referee a match between Bellport (with Bob Mahoney as their Coach) and Sachem (with my lifelong friend, Sam Cario as their coach). The entire match depended on the outcome of one bout. At the end of regulation time the bout was a tie, even after overtime the bout was still a tie. Now the ref had to pick a winner. UGHH! Sam still insists that blood is thicker than water!!
A few years later, I began coaching varsity wrestling for North Babylon. Just before our match with West Babylon I was informed that some of the wrestlers had taken some souvenir wrestling gear from the last school we wrestled. I thought, "What would Sprig do?" The guilty wrestlers were sent home. We forfeited three matches that day and for the first time lost to West Babylon.
Recently I stopped by a deli in Bay Shore (photo right). There on the walls were all sorts of memorabilia about the Bayshore Leggio Tribe. When a clerk saw I was interested he asked me a lot of questions. Did I wrestle? Did I know the Leggios etc., etc. I told him how Carmen Leggio and I met in the 1947 final of the Long Island Championships in the 103 lb class. Now Carmen was not present on this day but I was not allowed to leave until I talked to Carmen on the phone. We discussed the bout as if it took place just yesterday.
Today when I think of all my wrestling experiences I see the many faces of wrestlers I used to work out with, faces like those of Teddy, Skipper, Bobby, Bob, Ed, Sam, Hank, and on and on and on and also the faces of our managers Roone and Bob.
It has been fun to weave this thread of wrestling memories and to recall how important participation in this sport has been in my life. I guess wrestling has reached a full cycle for me when my grandson called and said, "Grampa, I'm on the wrestling team!"