The relationship between a wrestler and his coach is always a strong bond, even more so for senior Mike Leonard, who also calls his coach dad.
His father Michael Leonard is the head coach of a Rams wrestling team that is on the rise.
While some kids may find having their father as their head coach awkward or a distraction, Mike Leonard has fully embraced it.
“It’s all I really know, he has always been there,” young Leonard said. “I really wouldn’t have it any other way.”
His father, an all-state wrestler himself for Long Beach High School, is proud of the wrestler his son has become.
“It’s been a great trip; I hope he has enjoyed it, I sure did,” Coach Leonard said.
Having his father guide him in wrestling since the age of three has paid off for Mike Leonard, reaching a milestone in Nassau County wrestling with his 200th victory on Jan. 22. Mike is only the fourth wrestler in Nassau County history to reach 200 wins and has the most ever by a Clarke wrestler. The win came at home on Senior Night in front of his friends and family.
“It was really cool to have it fall on that night," Leonard said. "It was a great experience."
Leonard has a 41-2 record this year , which has him currently ranked second in a very competitive 125-pound weight class in Nassau County. It is the fourth year that Leonard has had 40-plus wins in a season.
Despite being the coach’s son, the senior is also a leader and a captain on a team that won their league for the first time since 1963.
“Our guys are really feeding into the program and doing what the coaches are telling us,” Leonard said.
Michael Leonard grew up around East Meadow wrestling, attending dual meets and tournaments as a child while his father was an assistant coach for the East Meadow team before moving over to Clarke.
“With your dad as your coach you are always around the sport, from practice to the drive home and the dinner table,” he said.
This season was a milestone one for Dad too, as he earned his 100th victory as a head coach in Nassau County.
The two-time all-county wrestler will be continuing his wrestling career next year at SUNY Brockport with a major in physical education.