Imagine starting a sports pro gram from scratch, not having equipment, coaches or a budget. Then imagine winning a national championship within four years and following with three more consecutive countrywide titles.
That is the story of the Notre Dame College wrestling team under Head Coach Frank Romano.
“It’s been a great ride,” he said.
The Falcons won the NCAA Division II National Championship last season, and Romano was elected to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Ohio Chapter, this year.
The Falcon wrestlers next compete on Nov. 22 at the Ashland Simonson Open, hosted by Ash land University. They host their blue and white meet on campus at 7 p.m. Dec. 5.
With more than 50 years in the sport, Romano himself has finished first at nearly every level of competition, as a high school and college grappler and a high school and college coach.
Romano said he knows better than anyone that wrestlers, especially at Notre Dame, are students first and their goal should be getting a degree─their “ticket to ride─along with becoming established in their sport.
He came out of retirement to take the head coaching position at Notre Dame when the college called on him in 2006.
“I never thought we’d be where we are today,” he said.
Romano first took to the mat as a wrestler in 1961 and was a two time state champion at Maple Heights, Ohio, High School.
From there, Romano wrestled at Ohio State University, where he was a three-time NCAA national qualifier and a two-time Big Ten place-winner, along with being a U.S. East-West All Star. He captained the Ohio State squad his junior and senior years.
In 1976 Romano tried out for the Olympics. He also was the youngest wrestler to be inducted into the Ohio Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1988.
Romano has coached at several Cleveland-area high schools, including St. Edward, Kenston, Elyria and Maple Heights.
He was an assistant and then head coach at Kent State University for a total of 22 years before arriving at Notre Dame.
“I always knew I wanted to be a coach after wrestling,” he said.