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Nothing Left to Prove

Nothing Left to Prove

Longtime St. John’s Prep wrestling coach Manny Costa P’14 ’16 makes it official: This is his last season.

So many of our fondest sports icons are unable to call it quits on their own terms. St. John’s Prep wrestling coach Manny Costa P’14 ’16 won’t be caught in that bind once this season ends. Everything that can be achieved in high school wrestling, he’s done. Everything a head coach can prove, he’s proven.

“It would be impossible to quantify the positive impact Manny has had on the state’s wrestling community throughout his decorated career,” says Phil Napolitano, the MIAA’s assistant executive director and Wrestling Committee liaison. “Whether serving in the role of a coach, a representative on the state wrestling committee, or as a colleague and friend, I am forever grateful for his commitment to the sport and the thousands of student-athletes and coaches he has impacted along his journey.”

Talk to anyone almost anywhere in the Northeast who knows anything about the sport, and you’ll hear similar things about Costa. Ironically, the toughest thing about saying goodbye to a position he’s held since the age of 23 might be the tributes and accolades that come with the decision. 

Costa is decidedly not a farewell tour kind of guy.

“I will miss the bus rides and time in the stands and on the bench, bonding with wrestlers and parents, and building those lifelong connections,” he says. “My favorite part of coaching has been teaching life lessons and staying in contact with alumni.”

Since he was hired as head coach in 1990, Costa has insisted his wrestlers call him only by his first name. He believes the practice elevates his wrestlers to the level-footing they deserve. 

“I’ve always been ‘Manny,’ not coach,” he says. “It’s our team, not my team. We are equal parts, so we all go by given birth names or nicknames. I believe in a family atmosphere.”

Without question, it’s been a winning formula. 


Rifling through a “By the Numbers” summary of Costa’s coaching career can’t be done in the course of a news story. That kind of bookkeeping requires a binder. Even the greatest hits list is unwieldy. Markers of success tend to accumulate when a career spans 34 seasons encompassing more than 700 wrestlers. 

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, Costa, a Peabody police officer for more than three decades, will conclude his career ranked No. 4 in U.S. high school history for dual meet wins by a coach. Ponder that for a moment.

He’s enjoyed three Wrestling Hall of Fame inductions: Massachusetts (2010), New England (2011) and National (2015). He was inducted into the Prep’s own Athletics Hall of Fame 10 years ago. He’s coached 27 All-Americans and 105 Academic All-Americans. Add to that 19 All-State champions, 12 New England champions and three national champions.

He owns the state record for dual meet wins (867 through January 18). He’s masterminded a 114-match winning streak and he coached his 1,000th dual meet in a victory over Londonderry, NH, last month. Then there’s the Coach of the Year recognition: five times by Boston Globe, 11 times by the Salem News and 22 times by the Lynn Item. 

“Manny has done an amazing job for St. John’s over his long career,” says Burlington High head coach Paul Shvartsman. “Every wrestler that’s ever wrestled for him has the utmost respect for Manny and would run through a wall for him. That is the ultimate measure of a coach, far exceeding wins and loses.”

Costa, meanwhile, is determined to treat this season’s end not as a farewell moment, but more of a ‘see you around.’ Fittingly, he let his team know weeks ago before publicly and officially confirming that this season’s finish line will mark the end of a role he took on before the existence of text messages, Amazon and Playstation.

“Retiring as coach was a very difficult decision to make,” he says. “I love coaching, and I love my wrestlers like sons. Like family. I decided it was time to retire from the police department and coaching to begin the next chapter in life. Believe me, I will continue to be a part of St John’s wrestling into the future.”


Hired: 1990
First individual state champion: 1992
Total Division 1 individual state champions: 39
Team titles (New England, All-State, Division 1 and Division 1 Dual Meet): 12
Catholic Conference titles: 28 (25 consecutive)
Individual 100-match winners: 47
Prep Hall of Famers: 11
Massachusetts Wrestling Hall of Famers: 8
Current career record: 867-149-6 (.851 winning percentage)