Longtime college assistant coach ready 'to mold' Red Lion High School wrestling program

Patrick Strohecker
York Dispatch
  • Mike Catullo spent the last seven seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Maryland.
  • Catullo wrestled for Division I West Virginia.
  • Red Lion is coming off a 2-14 season in 2016-17, including going just 1-5 in Division I matches.

Mike Catullo likes to joke that the only real difference between being an assistant wrestling coach and head wrestling coach is that a head coach has more "paperwork and responsibility."

New Red Lion wrestling coach Mike Catullo (center) talks to members of the Red Lion wrestling team during practice on Tuesday, Nov. 28. Catullo comes to Red Lion after spending the past seven seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Maryland.

Until recently, Catullo never had to deal with all the extra requirements that come with being a head coach. His sole focus as a longtime assistant was to coach his wrestlers. That was it.

Catullo, however, will have to deal with more than just coaching now after becoming the new Red Lion varsity wrestling head coach. It'll be his first head coaching position.

"It's a chance to mold a program with my hands," Catullo said. "I'm very fortunate here that I have a lot of other hands that can help me, and that was another attractive reason to come to a place like this."

College roots: Catullo definitely arrives at Red Lion with a coaching past worthy of heading a high school varsity team.

The Oakmont, Allegheny County, native wrestled in college for NCAA Division I West Virginia from 1997-2002. After graduating, Catullo got into coaching, serving as an assistant at several colleges and universities, including a pair of stops at Lancaster County programs.

He coached at Franklin & Marshall College and Millersville University, before moving on to coach at the University of Maryland. He was an assistant with the Terrapins for seven seasons, helping to coach 18 All-Atlantic Coast Conference selections, 11 conference champions and six NCAA Division I All-Americans.

During all of his stops, he said he always had ambitions to be a head coach. He even had a couple of offers, but it just never worked out. The job at Red Lion was finally one that was too good to pass up, and it came at a time when he felt ready to lead a program. He will also teach physical education in the Red Lion School District.

"Once I was able to come and look at everything Red Lion had to offer, I felt like it was something me and my family just couldn't pass up," Catullo said. "It was an opportunity that I had previously, not here at Red Lion, but at other places, and timing just wasn't right, and this time everything just fit."

Mike Catullo is Red Lion High School's new varsity wrestling head coach.

Bringing back fun wrestling: Making the move from coaching college athletes to now dealing with high school wrestlers shouldn't offer many significant differences, according to Catullo.

He said the kids at the high school level will have the same techniques and skills that college wrestlers possess, but wrestlers in college are more refined in using them.

Catullo definitely walks into a rebuilding process with the Lions that will require plenty of instruction and coaching. Red Lion was near the bottom of the York-Adams League Division I standings, going just 2-14 overall in 2016-17 and 1-5 in division matches.

On top of that, the Lions' best wrestler from a year ago, state-qualifier Dylan Gurreri, graduated, leaving a significant hole at 160 pounds.

Much of Red Lion's struggles to pick up wins last season was the result of limited numbers, leading to the team having to forfeit bouts at various weights. So, increasing wrestler turnout was high on Catullo's list, and he's already seeing signs of improvement.

He said the varsity team is up to around 20 athletes, with most, but still not all, weight classes being filled. Add in an increase of wrestlers at the junior high level, and suddenly the future of Red Lion wrestling is looking brighter.

What Catullo truly hopes to bring back to the program, however, is an entertaining style of wrestling that makes it tough on opponents and exciting for fans. No more will the wrestlers try to scratch out low-scoring victories or stalling for wins. He wants his guys to be aggressive, score a lot of points and put the opposition on the defensive.

"We're preaching to these guys in here to score a lot of points, have fun out there and we're not looking to have close matches or ugly wrestling," Catullo said. "We want to put butts in the seats and we're going to do whatever we can to do that, and one of the easiest ways to do that is fun wrestling, exciting wrestling, scoring points and being aggressive."

Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com.