Talking Sports and Fitness | Meet Joe Ferrari
Reading High wrestling coach Joe Ferrari shares with Zeke the story of a milestone season for the Red Knights and himself. When Ferrari became the wrestling head coach at Reading High, he wanted to build a program around a solid work ethic and a family atmosphere. “Our philosophy is to try to make guys better humans ... character builders and teach respect,” Ferrari tells Zeke. “Good people equals good work ethic equals successful people. Wrestling is hard work. Other teams say, ‘Do your guys always work that hard?’ Wrestling is hard work. We keep your heart rate as high as it can go.” More than a quarter-century after taking the job, Ferrari's philosophy helped the Red Knights enjoy one of their most successful seasons and reach a pair of milestones for the oldest wrestling program in Berks County. The Red Knights reached 20 wins in a season for the first time, finishing the dual meet schedule with a 22-8 record. The 22nd victory also was the 300th in Ferrari's 26 years at Reading.
The Red Knights also qualified for the Berks playoffs for the first time in nine years, winning their first county playoff match since 2008 before losing in the semifinals to eventual champion Exeter. Ferrari's family atmosphere pays off. While many schools, including some large schools, are struggling to attract enough wrestlers to fill the 14 weight classes, Ferrari hasn't had that problem. He finished the regular season with 28 wrestlers on the roster. With junior Malik Jackson (23-9), sophomores Eli Ortega (25-11) and Eli Arroyo (22-8) and freshman Zamir Rice (23-12) returning next year, the future looks equally bright for Reading High wrestling. “We had a large group of freshmen two years ago that want to work hard and wrestle year-round,” Ferrari explains to Zeke. “Our program has been successful over the years because we have great people (coaches) in place at the elementary and middle school level. We’re in a stacked division, but my goal next year is to win a Berks County championship.”
Wrestling is a hard sport but the PIAA has taken measures to ensure that wrestlers can’t severely cut weight. “Team members must take a fat test and a urine test to be sure they are not dehydrated before weigh-in and to be sure body fat is not below seven percent,” Ferrari tells Zeke. When Zeke asks what Ferrari finds most satisfying about coaching, he replies: “Developing students to have good character and be good people. The most satisfying moments are when I run into students five to ten years after graduation and they thank me for helping mold them into who they are now.”
Watch or Listen to more of our story on Talking Sports and Fitness with Zeke and learn about how we are impacting other small business owners through mentoring and training.