MAHOPAC, N.Y. - With a 52-21 dual meet win over Brewster Jan. 7, Indians Coach Dennis DiSanto became the winningest coach in Section 1 history, with 422 career victories. Until then, the record of 421 victories was held by Arlington coach Fred Perry. Fox Lane’s Joe Amuso was next with 406. Both are retired. This profile originally appeared in the Dec. 27 edition of Mahopac News, prior to the most recent victory.
One of area’s most veteran—and most respected—wrestling coaches is on the verge of taking over as the all-time Section 1 leader for career dual meet victories.
He’s also decided this will be his final season.
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Mahopac High School head coach Dennis DiSanto, a 1974 Somers graduate in his 35th year of coaching, continues to pile up the victories, and as of this writing is just a handful of wins away from taking over first place on the Section 1 all-time list.
The current record of 421 victories is held by Arlington coach Fred Perry. Fox Lane’s Joe Amuso was next with 406. Both are retired.
DiSanto, a guidance counselor at Mahopac High for 36 years, picked up his 400th win recently at the Columbia Dual Meet Tournament, bringing him to 411 career wins (surpassing Amuso), with his team at an 18-4 season mark.
Barring something unforeseen, DiSanto could take over as the section’s all-time wins leader sometime during the first week of the new year. And when the wrestling season comes to an end, he’ll go out with no regrets.
What he will remember are the friendships made, working with all of the kids as a guidance counselor and as a coach.
“It’s all about the relationships with the kids,” DiSanto said. “Being in school you see the kids all day, you develop a closer relationship. I enjoy motivating them, working with the kids on a daily basis.
“And I’m proud of the programs I built at Somers, and at Mahopac,” DiSanto added. “We’ve had a lot of success at both schools. The wrestlers are happy, they enjoy coming to practice. The relationships are positive, and it’s a positive environment.
“I still keep in touch with a lot of wrestlers from 20 years ago,” he continued. “It’s definitely a big thing to see the kids, to see that you made an impact on them.”
DiSanto, who started his career with a 27-year run as head coach at Somers, took over the Mahopac program in 2011.
One of DiSanto‘s early influences was his high school wrestling coach, longtime Tuskers wrestling and football coach Rich Gnida.
“I looked up to coach Gnida,” DiSanto recalled. “He was always a mentor to me. He had a big influence on me, I learned a lot from him, and we kept in close contact. The thing I learned from Richie was that wrestling is not the most important thing in life. The priorities have to be family and schoolwork. That was an important lesson as a coach.”
And DiSanto passes that message on to his current wrestlers.
“I try to emphasize that wrestling is not the most important thing in life,” he said. “I try to keep it in perspective. It’s an important lesson. When you graduate, the kids go on in life and you don’t want them to be stuck in their high school glory days. Richie was also a stickler on conditioning and drills, and I have continued that tradition. I’m very into technique, mental preparation, and conditioning. I also learned a lot from coaching (JV) football at Mahopac, preparing for every situation. I try to do the same thing with wrestling.”
DiSanto listed his 2015 induction into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame (Upstate New York Chapter) and the Section 1 all-time wins record as his proudest accomplishments.
“I’ve had a lifelong commitment to promoting and working in wrestling,” he said. “I think I have integrity and honesty, and I have no regrets about bad decisions. I’ve always done things the right way, haven’t cut any corners. I think being recognized as a coach with high integrity, that’s probably what I’m most proud of.”
What does the Section 1 all-time wins record mean to DiSanto? “It means I’ve been able to win consistently over four decades,” he said. “Every team is different, but you always teach them, work with them toward success.
“Four-hundred wins is not that easy,” he added. “There’s always a challenge you have to face and overcome. To be consistent year in and year out, it’s hard to do. It shows I’ve been able to be pretty consistent over four decades, and I’m pretty proud of that.”
After retiring at the end of this school year, DiSanto (who lives in Somers with his wife, Vicki) will be able to spend plenty of time babysitting. One of his two daughters is expecting in February. He also plans to spend time “fishing, reading and working out.”
“I want to spend time with my grandchild,” DiSanto said. “I know that whenever I leave, it will be hard. But I can look back and know I always gave it 100 percent, always worked as hard as I could, always had the same attitude. I accomplished more than I ever dreamed of,” he added. “And I can look back with satisfaction. Coaching so many kids… It’s just something I never expected.”