The Forest Scout Coach of The Year 2019: Mr. Matt Fiordirosa

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The Forest Scout Coach of The Year 2019: Mr. Matt Fiordirosa

John Torosian, Managing Editor

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Matt “Sunshine” Fiordirosa shifted in his chair, carefully thinking about my question. As simple as it seemed, he just wasn’t quite sure how to best explain what he had accomplished in the his eight years as the Head Wrestling Coach. Finally, however, he had come up with something to tell me.

“A couple years ago, wrestling was weird. It was the weird sport. But now, it’s like, kind of cool to be on the Wrestling Team… I guess we’re changing the culture here,” Fiordirosa said.

A culture change is an understatement. Fiordirosa did the impossible this past year in finally smashing the 16 win record, set and matched each year dating back to 2016, with an unbelievable 28-2 record.

“We thought we were gonna break 16; we weren’t really thinking 28,” he said.

For Fiordirosa and the wrestling squad, though, the accomplishments didn’t end there. Aside from dual meets, the team took first place at every tourney but Regionals, including the Carmel Dual Team Tournament, the Richmond Burton and the Lysle Tournament.

According to Fiordirosa, this is due to “a bunch of kids who are committed, trusting the process and buying in.” This not only includes athletes who have worked at the sport their entire lives, but also those who may just be starting out in the sport as freshmen. With everyone practicing together in the wrestling room, Fiordirosa has the unique opportunity to both develop players and draw expertise from the veterans. These veterans saw their hard work pay off as the postseason progressed this past year: Junior Chase Waggoner and sophomore Truman Thuente advanced to the State final.

For Waggoner in particular, the road to State was definitely a bit unconventional; a fourth place finish at Regionals deemed him an alternate for Sectionals, as he was a non-top three finisher. However, by a little luck from the “wrestling gods,” as Fiordirosa called it, the competitor who took second at Regionals sustained an untimely injury and couldn’t compete, so as the next available alternate, Waggoner slid in. Ultimately, he was able to snag second place at Sectionals and win matches at State, advancing all the way to the Blood Round (the top eight wrestlers in Illinois).

“Hey, we broke the curse,” said Fiordirosa regarding Waggoner’s success at State. “We can win down here.”

Surprisingly, when Fiordirosa first started coaching wrestling, the athletic department was considering cutting the program. With a grand total of seven kids in the program, though, it really didn’t seem too controversial. Now, Fiordirosa and Assistant Coaches Jerina and Kramer are consistently seeing 30-50 wrestlers coming out for the team each year.

“We don’t have a strong wrestling community,” said Fiordirosa, but paused after a moment. “At least it hadn’t been that way for some time. But now it’s starting to turn… one of my favorite things is that after every dual meet we won this year, you’d hear some kid saying, ‘Man, Lake Forest is for real this year.’”

Although the Lake Forest community has responded with overwhelming positivity and support regarding Fiordirosa and the Wrestling Team’s record-breaking success this year, the argument can be made that the press the team received was nowhere near enough, especially compared to fan-favorite winter sports like basketball and hockey.

“I just want to point out how under the radar @LFHSwrestling has been… credit Sunshine and rest of the staff for getting the program where it needs to be. Also, credit all the athletes who have bought in,” said former LFHS student athlete and current collegiate football player Charlie Reinkemeyer.

Sunshine himself couldn’t have been happier to hear Reinkemeyer’s kind words.

“I really appreciated that, a little bit of recognition,” said Fiordirosa. “I think if you start naming off successful programs at LFHS, up until this year… even though we’ve been successful, I don’t think wrestling was in that conversation.”

Fiordirosa’s athletic influence within the high school doesn’t end with wrestling, though. In fact, he enjoys active roles in the JV Girls Badminton Team, the Girls Swim Team, Flag Football and even coached Girls Varsity Golf to a tournament championship.

Fiordirosa also runs a kid’s club out in Crystal Lake, and, along with some high school wrestlers, helps show techniques and work with children from ages four to 14. The program is ranked in the top 50 for wrestling kid’s clubs in the country, and Fiordirosa happened to share a building with the facility when he owned his own wrestling gym. Over the years, he built up a network with the program’s leaders, and eventually they hired him to come out and run clinics in the offseason.

“I figured it would be a great opportunity for [high school wrestlers] to watch me teach the kids things, but also for them to learn how to teach people wrestling,” said Fiordirosa. “It’s a lot of fun,” he added with a laugh.

Outside of school and wrestling, Fiordirosa’s son Luca took his first steps a couple days ago, and as Fiordirosa put it, “it’s only a matter of time before he’s on the wrestling mat.”

Moving forward, Fiordirosa’s wife Brittany is expecting her second child in early October of 2019.

“Pretty exciting stuff,” Fiordirosa told me, with a classic ear-to-ear grin.

Additionally, he’s finishing up his masters degree in the next month through Concordia University in California. By focusing on coaching and athletic administration, which includes strength and conditioning classes, wrestling courses, and sports psychology (or as he called it, “how champions become champions”), Fiordirosa has truly found something that excites him.  

“It’s honestly the first time I’ve ever been excited to go to school,” said Fiordirosa. “As a teacher, I probably shouldn’t be saying that.”