BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Gov. Livingston coaching icon Rick Iacono passed away on Monday, July 15 at age 72 after a hard fought battle with lung cancer. 

"Coach I" accomplished a number of feats over the course of a 42-year coaching and teaching career. Iacono "impacted thousands of lives in a positive manner.  The ripple effect of his influence is still being felt. As a coach, he was a ground breaker whose early adoption of unique technical, easy-to-execute moves and courage to challenge the status quo allowed the athletes who embraced his unique style of coaching to excel to their highest potential," the obituary stated.  

“Coach I had- make that has- an extraordinary bond with those who played for him," said John Haddad, a GL wrestling parent and friend. "Of great significance is that he was able to build meaningful and lasting relationships with his kids, despite the fact that he demanded so much from them."

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"Rick was fully invested in his kids. He shared their struggles and failures, and every bit of their pain. What made him so special was that despite the clarity of the love and empathy he had for his athletes, he never let them off the hook, he never wavered. In his book, doing so would have been cheating them. He held each of them accountable for their work and their actions, and ultimately they loved him for it," said Haddad.

Coach I spent much of his career at Jonathan Dayton in Springfield and the last 16 years at Governor Livingston in Berkeley Heights. He taught Physical Education and Health. He has amassed many accolades over his long career including Region 3 Coach of the Year- three times, Union County Coach of the Year- three times, District 10 and 12 Coach of the Year and has over 320 career victories in wrestling and 200 victories in softball.

Upon his retirement in 2013, Iacono was the winningest wrestling coach in the history of Union County, District XII and Region 3. With 324 wins, he was the 17th winningest wrestling coach in NJ history.

Between 2009-10 and 2011-12, his GL wrestling teams went 57-8 versus a very rugged schedule, said Haddad. This included six wins over NJ.COM top 20 teams including perennial powers St. Peter’s, Voorhees(2x) and Raritan(2x). His 2011 team finished 11th in NJ in the Full Circle Wrestling rankings, 14th in the NJ Coach’s poll and 19th in the NJ.COM rankings.

Iacono had a 208-56 record as head wrestling coach at Gov. Livingston, 11 Union County Champs,12 Sectional Champs, 10 Group Champs. He also had an amazing career as a softball coach where he won a state championship at Governor Livingston in 2007.

This past winter he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Region IV Tournament. He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, New Jersey Chapter on September 20, 2015.

Iacono is survived by his wife of 49 years, Kitty O’Shaughnessy Iacono; his son Joe (Deana); his daughters Marisa Kaufman(Brooks) and Katie Thompson (Tyler); along with three grandchildren, Kevin, Timmy, and Jane.  He is also survived by his sister Margo Yarashas (Joe) and their children Cara Maser(Greg), Chris Yarashas (Jenn) and Heather Behan (Mark) along with other amazing supportive and loving family. 

A viewing will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. on Monday, July 22, 2019 at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Mountain Ave & E. High Street, Bound Brook. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, July 23, 2019 at St. Joseph Church. Entombment will follow at Resurrection Burial Park, 899 Lincoln Avenue, Piscataway.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be sent in Coach I’s name to:The NJ Sharing Network https://www.njsharingnetwork.org/contribute or The West Point Wrestling Club https://www.westpointwrestlingclub.org/west-point-wrestling-club-donation/.

Click here for photo gallery supplied by John Haddad.