Retiring Westlake High School wrestling coach Mike Antonyzyn was honored in a big way two weeks ago as the school and team recognized the veteran coach with a heartfelt tribute during the final dual meet of the season against Bay Village.
The 28-year veteran coach was surprised by a special trophy recognition presented by Supt. of Schools Dan Keenan.
The night was made especially sentimental as dozens of Antonyzyn’s former athletes greeted him at matside and presented him with an autographed coach’s chair.
“Seeing so many of the alumni, parents, and friends was special. Was I surprised!” laughed Ant. “I thought I was going out under the radar, but this was a positive and memorable experience.
“In my book of life, this chapter was a great addition.”
Antonyzyn’s ties to Westlake run deep. He is a Westlake High grad (1968) who came back to devote his entire career to his hometown school.
“My life has been a great ‘Welcome back, Kotter’, experience,” laughs Ant.
“I was mentored by some tremendous associates. My own wrestling coach, Bob Wadd, had a tremendous influence on me. And so did Fred Jennings, who did so much for the Special Education students in our district.”
As the Westlake School District’s Work-Study Coordinator, Antonyzyn worked closely with Jennings for many years.
Mike’s lifetime of dedication to the betterment of student-athletes and their character development both on and off the mat earned many long-time friends.
“It was great to see people like Dale Hlavin, Mike DeAnna and Jerry Miller there,” said Mike. “I am very fortunate to have such good friends.”
Mike Antonyzyn began coaching at Westlake in the 1974-75 season, when he accepted a teaching position and coaching position at Lee Burneson Junior High. Prior to that, he spent one year at North Royalton coaching and teaching.
Mike moved to the head wrestling coach position at Westlake High School in 1984. Throughout his career, he was an endearing coach and an unforgettable character. He is well-known in the wrestling community for his raspy voice that can be heard shouting encouragement to his wrestlers even in the noisiest gym.
Mike coached over 32 state qualifiers during his time with the Demons. It was his attention to the “other” guys in the wrestling room that was most characteristic. Coach Ant always tried to help those student-athletes who might otherwise be ignored. He really did live by his motto, “Better Today than Yesterday.”
“Sometimes I am asked who was my best wrestler,” said Ant. “But I can’t answer that. It is like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. I thought of them all as my kids.”
As a tribute to Coach Ant and his contributions to wrestling, Westlake will host a yearly tournament, “The Coach Ant Classic”. Plans are to grow the tournament to a premier event.