Prep wrestling | Manatee wrestling to honor past by retiring Brian Skelton's singlet

jlembo@bradenton.comJanuary 10, 2014 

Manatee head coach Andy Gugliemini honors former teammate. Video by Timothy R. Wolfrum.

BRADENTON HERALD

Andy Gugliemini saw it in baseball and football stadiums and hockey arenas.

Whether it was retired jerseys or bronzed plaques, Gugliemini, Manatee's loquacious wrestling coach, noticed one team after another pay homage to its past.

Then he got an idea.

"Let's retire a singlet," Gugliemini said. "Wouldn't that be cool?"

Hence Manatee's wrestling Ring of Honor. First up: Brian Skelton, a state champion from 1982-84. The ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday during the first day of the Coach Kelly Memorial Hurricane Team Challenge.

Skelton was just the second wrestler in state history to string together three straight titles, joining Tampa Catholic's Glenn Goodman, who engineered a four-peat from 1977-80.

Talk about a no-brainer.

Gugliemini, who graduated from Manatee in 1985, remembers the AC/DC lyrics written on one of Skelton's T-shirts: "If you want blood, you got it."

"He'd go out there and destroy people. He just went hard," he said. "That's what we talk about now; you need to get aggressive and get after people. And he defined that."

The singlet will be framed and hung in Manatee's wrestling room, which sits above the school's gymnasium. It's a symbolic location.

"That's where tournaments and matches are won -- up in that wrestling room," Gugliemini said. "That's where everything is done - up there, man. You can wrestle as hard as you want on the mat, but if you don't put the time and work in in the wrestling room ... ."

You won't be joining Skelton anytime soon. Gugliemini plans on inducting two wrestlers a year and shouldn't have a hard time finding guys to honor: The Hurricanes have crowned 16 individual champions.

"I'm big into tradition," he said, "and reliving our glory days."

But Gugliemini's goal isn't to solely fete the Hurricanes' past - he wants to use it fire up present and future wrestlers, including this year's team, which takes a 21-6 record and the No. 8 ranking in Class 3A into this year's Hurricane Challenge.

At heart, athletes are nothing more than ordinary people with extraordinary competitive juices coursing through their veins. Show them what all that hard work can produce -- such as their singlet getting framed and hung inside a wrestling room for generations of kids to see -- and the best ones will push through the nicks and pings and setbacks that accompany any athlete's career.

Friday night, it's Brian Skelton, the first Hurricane inducted into the Ring of Honor.

"If somebody doesn't think he should be the first person up there," Gugliemini said, "then they didn't see him wrestle."

And maybe tonight, one of the current Hurricanes will begin forging a path to join him.

John Lembo, Herald sports writer, can be reachedat 941-745-7057. Follow him on Twitter at@JohnLembo1878.

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