Longtime wrestling coach Costa calls it a career

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, St. John’s Prep wrestling coach Manny Costa, a Danvers resident and Peabody police officer for more than three decades, will conclude his career ranked No. 4 in U.S. high school history for dual meet wins by a coach. Photo by (SJP_MannyCosta)

DANVERS — St. John’s Prep wrestling head coach Manny Costa has made official what he leaked to his team weeks ago: This will be his final season. Everything that can be achieved in high school wrestling, he’s done. Everything a head coach can prove, he’s proven.

“It would be impossible to quantify the positive impact Manny has had on the state’s wrestling community throughout his decorated career,” says Phil Napolitano, the MIAA’s assistant executive director and Wrestling Committee liaison. “Whether serving in the role of a coach, a representative on the state wrestling committee, or as a colleague and friend, I am forever grateful for his commitment to the sport and the thousands of student-athletes and coaches he has impacted along his journey.”

Not surprisingly to those who know him best, the toughest thing about saying goodbye to a position he’s held since the age of 23 might be the tributes and accolades that come with the decision. Costa is decidedly not a farewell tour kind of guy.

“I will miss the bus rides and time in the stands and on the bench, bonding with wrestlers and parents, and building those lifelong connections,” he said. “My favorite part of coaching has been teaching life lessons and staying in contact with alumni.”

Since he was hired as head coach in 1990, Costa has insisted his wrestlers call him only by his first name. He believes the practice elevates his wrestlers to the level-footing they deserve.

“I’ve always been ‘Manny,’ not ‘coach,’” he said. “It’s our team, not my team. We are equal parts, so we all go by given birth names or nicknames. I believe in a family atmosphere.”

Without question, it’s been a winning formula. And markers of success tend to accumulate when a career spans 34 seasons encompassing more than 700 wrestlers.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, Costa, a Danvers resident and Peabody police officer for more than three decades, will conclude his career ranked No. 4 in U.S. high school history for dual meet wins by a coach.

He’s enjoyed three Wrestling Hall of Fame inductions: Massachusetts (2010), New England (2011) and National (2015). He was inducted into the Prep’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014. He’s coached 27 All-Americans and 105 Academic All-Americans. Add to that 19 All-State champions, 12 New England champions and three national champions.

Costa, 58, also owns the state record for dual meet wins (867 through Jan. 18). He’s masterminded a 114-match winning streak and he coached his 1,000th dual meet in a victory over Londonderry, NH, last month. Then there’s the Coach of the Year recognition: five times by the Boston Globe, 11 times by the Salem News, and 22 times by the Daily (Lynn) Item.

Costa, meanwhile, is determined to treat this season’s end not as a farewell moment, but more of a ‘see you around.’ Fittingly, he let his team know weeks ago before publicly and officially confirming that this season’s finish line will mark the end of a role he took on before the existence of text messages, Amazon and Playstation.

“Retiring as coach was a very difficult decision to make,” he said. “I love coaching, and I love my wrestlers like sons – like family. I decided it was time to retire from the police department and coaching to begin the next chapter in life. Believe me, I will continue to be a part of St John’s wrestling into the future.”

COSTA AT A GLANCE

Hired: 1990
First individual state champion: 1992
Total Division 1 individual state champions: 39
Team titles (New England, All-State, Division 1, and Division 1 Dual Meet): 12
Catholic Conference titles: 28 (25 consecutive)
Individual 100-match winners: 47
St. John’s Prep Hall of Famers: 11
Massachusetts Wrestling Hall of Famers: 8
Career record (through Jan. 18): 867-149-6 (.851 winning percentage)