WOODBURY >> Nonnewaug senior John D’Agostino piled up the kind of achievements that makes him a natural for the Register Citizen All-Area wrestling team — 147 career wins; Berkshire League champion (4-time finalist); Class S Champion (3-time finalist); State Open finalist.
Still, it’s the intangible — D’Agostino’s leadership qualities — that stands out from a very talented crowd.
Listen to him defining leadership:
“Leaders have to pick what works for them, whether it’s comforting people or being hard on them. You can’t fake leadership. People see right through it.
“I pick the best parts from every coach I know. I’ve had a lot of great coaches.
“(Nonnewaug coach Dave) Green is, by far, one of the smartest people I know. He works on people’s emotions and makes them feel good about what they’re doing.
“(Rocky Hill club coach John) Knapp is hard on everybody. So, when he gives you a ‘good job,’ it means more than anything to people.
“It’s all about believing in yourself and in your team and making sure they know that, because they’re always watching you.”
D’Agostino’s belief in himself as a wrestler began 10 years ago when the Pomperaug/Oxford youth program started.
“My step-dad (Jeff Sgro), who was a phenomenal heavyweight, told me I should try wrestling. It went on from there.”
With a long head start in wrestling experience as a 145-pound high school freshman, D’Agostino was good enough for a trip to the Virginia Beach Nationals. That’s where he taught himself a lesson about focus.
“I used to play football and lacrosse,” he said. “At the Nationals, I got destroyed. From then on, I decided I didn’t want to be just good at three sports. I wanted to be really good at one—wrestling.
“Everything you do, you remember forever,” he says as preface to his selection of a favorite moment.
The answer points to another freshman experience that began hurtling him toward this selection as MVP.
“It wasn’t good, but it’s one of my favorites,” he says. “When I was a freshman, I was the 10th seed in the state tournament. I knocked off the seventh seed, then wrestled the No. 2 seed, from Griswold. I still remember his name — Boots. I went up 2-0, then he ended up catching me.
“I hadn’t been pinned in a long time, so I did what a little kid would do. I threw my headgear.
“Green was furious. I’d never seen him mad before.
“He pinned me in a corner and said, ‘You…will…never…do…that…again.’
“I haven’t and I won’t.”
Aside from wrestling and honors as a student, family is D’Agostino’s only other preoccupation.
“My Dad (Mike D’Agostino) is an old Italian,” D’Agostino grins. “Family first.”
D’Agostino will wrestle next year at Division I Old Dominion University (Norfolk, Virginia).
Planning a major in finance, his career focus is as sharp as his wrestling focus.
“My mother (Jan Wise) is a financial planner. I’m looking to take over the business.”
If leadership is a prerequisite, the business will be in good hands.