Wrestling has played a big part in the success of two former Waynesburg University graduates. Both are twin brothers, and their names are Gennaro and Anthony Bonaventura. Both are former wrestlers, and they now coach the sport they’ve always loved.
Whether as a player or a coach, being a part of football, wrestling and lacrosse have been the life of Gennaro Bonaventura.
In their time at Waynesburg University, Anthony Bonaventura was the more celebrated wrestler, qualifying for nationals in both his junior and senior season.
His senior year, in particular, was nothing short of magical. The second-year team captain racked up 39 wins and just five losses, but took third at Regionals, making him unseeded to begin national play. Despite a seemingly unlikely chance to succeed, Anthony gave everything he had.
“I always kept the faith and belief that I trusted my training, I trusted my coaching staff,” Anthony He said. “I knew that I was ready to have success at the national level. I took it one match at a time and had a really good weekend. Having my family and my brother there with me and my teammates ultimately led to a great college career and I capped it off pretty well.”
Anthony went on to finish in second place at the Cedar Rapids Iowa D-III National Championships, which at the time was highest finish by a Waynesburg wrestler.
Cedar Rapids will host the National Championship again this year from Feb. 29 through, to March 1, 1, 2020 marking the six-year anniversary of Anthony’s near win.
Although Anthony had more success on the mat, it’s Gennaro who’s remained involved with the Jacket wrestling program after putting down the headgear. Gennaro played all three sports in high school, and stuck with two of them in college. When he got to Waynesburg University in the fall of 2010, he was more of a football guy. Because of the bond he developed with the Waynesburg wrestling program, however, his focus shifted from the gridiron to the mat.
“Growing up football was definitely more of my passion, but I would say the experience here with the wrestling program and through people I know through wrestling is one of a kind,” he said.
Wrestling made it easy for Gennaro to choose to get into coaching.
“I would say I had better success as a wrestler,” Gennaro said. “I have met great friends in both, great people in both, but life takes you in different roads, and this is the career path I chose, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
Growing up with two other brothers, Anthony said that he and Gennaro were both prepared for coaching careers from an early age. Anthony was the first one to start a coaching career, spending the 2014-15 season on Ron Headlee’s staff at Waynesburg, with Gennaro still on the roster.
“We were essentially coaches to each other our entire careers whatever sport it was,” Anthony said. “We always helped each other out, and to have the title as a coach, and for him to be one of my athletes, and to be there to help guide him and try to help him achieve his goals was a really awesome experience.”
Months after graduation, Gennaro began his coaching tenure, and is currently finishing up year five on Headlee’s staff. As a coach, Gennaro’s goal is to teach his men more than just technique that would be beneficial to them in a match.
“Coaching wrestling, in my opinion, teaches you so much more as a sport,” he said. “I feel like I can do a good job as a wrestling coach. Not just as helping people be better wrestlers but be better men.”
Heavyweights have always been easy to work with for Gennaro because it’s his background both as a wrestler and coach.
“Sometimes it is forgotten because it is the last weight class, but I really enjoy working with them,” he said. “Even when I was in college, I worked with them because I was a 197 pound heavyweight, so I gravitated that way. My knowledge of the sport is with that weight class, so I can give feedback that way and it has been great working with them. I work with everyone on the team as best as I can, but it has stuck.”
Gennaro said the coaching strategy is slightly different when working with a heavyweight versus other classifications.
“One on one time, [I] work with them, watch film with them, and practice and drill with them,” he said. “The bond that I have with them is special and we have had a good run the last ten years. Waynesburg has had pretty good heavyweights.”
Waynesburg has certainly had good heavyweights recently, such as the two-time PAC Champion Jake Evans, and current freshman Rocky McGeary who is ranked in the top 10 nationally for D-III
Anthony is currently a full-time assistant coach at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. The school is a top 10 D-III program, and in the same national qualifying event as Waynesburg.
Anthony talked about how he helped his former teammates as a first-year coach.
“Looking out for them and making sure that I did everything I could to help achieve their goals and show them the right lifestyle to life in order to be successful,” Anthony said. “It was a great first year of coaching, and it got me to where I am today.”
“I help out with athletic communications here and the athletic department,” Anthony said. “My main job is pushing the 30 guys we have on our roster and making sure that all the lessons that I have learned as a student athlete and as a coach so far are instilled in my athletes.”
Anthony is proud of his job, and loves being able to occasionally see his brother.
“I am in a very blessed situation here to be working on this coaching staff and being able to still connect with my brother,” he said.