As one of the greatest lightweights in PIAA and WPIAL wrestling history, Angelo “Butch” Marino built a legacy of excellence for himself and Canon-McMillan High School.
His wrestling prowess and acumen did not stop there.
In addition to being a prolific wrestler, Marino proved to be an outstanding wrestling coach and teacher as well.
He was a long-time assistant at Trinity High School under John Abajace, was the Hillers’ head coach for two years and last year returned as an assistant coach.
He was so good in 2018-2019, the WPIAL named him the recipient of the Assistant Coach of the Year award.
It would be difficult to find anyone more accomplished in wrestling than Marino.
He was a two-time PIAA champion (1974-75) and three-time WPIAL champion (1973-1975). He was 78-2 as a Big Mac and wrestled in the first Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic in 1975.
In his senior year, Amateur Wrestling News named him an honorable mention high school All-American.
At Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., Marino was a three-time qualifier for the NCAA Division I Tournament. He went 97-22-4 for the Hoosiers.
He is a member of the Pennsylvania Wrestling Hall of Fame, University of Indiana Wrestling Hall of Fame, and The Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, Washington-Greene Co. Chapter.
He has coached wrestling at Trinity more than 30 years. He now serves as an assistant to Mark Powell. Butch Marino coached Powell at Trinity.
“The biggest thing with Butch is he has given back everything to the sport that was given to him,” said Mike Marino, Butch’s older brother. “Butch always wanted to and continues to give back. That’s the most impressive and important thing about him.
“With all the success he’s had, he always is humble. Just getting in the room working with kids, gives him great joy. It means everything to him.”
The Marinos coached many seasons together at Trinity as assistants.
Butch Marino admits that when he started wrestling, he was not good. The turning point came in junior high school and he blossomed at Canon-McMillan, winning his first WPIAL title in 1973 as a 91-pounder. The PIAA did not recognize the weight class, so he did not have the chance to capture a state crown that season.
Marino came back to win at 98 pounds and 105 pounds the next two seasons. As a senior, Marino defeated Tom Diamond of Washington in the WPIAL finals and upended Rick Billy of Northhampton, in overtime, in the state finals. Diamond went on to win a PIAA championship.
“It was the whole town of Canonsburg and the community; that made it exciting,” Butch Marino said. “No matter where you went, almost everyone knew a little something about wrestling. When Mike started wrestling, I kind of rode his coattails and I wanted to be like my big brother, going to matches.
“A lot of guys who would be my high school teammates lived in the same neighborhood. We looked up to guys like Lester Peterson and others. A lot of us wanted to be at that level one day.
“I didn’t have a very good start at all in the sport. I took some good (butt) whippings.”
The younger Marino said things changed after he attended a camp at California University that was run by the late Frank Vulcano Sr., the summer before his eighth grade school year.
“That helped me turn it around,” Butch Marino said. “The camp was a big deal. It was very reasonable to attend. After going through it, I started to put the pieces together. I felt that if I put in the time and did the hard work, maybe I would have more success.”
The hard work and precision of his technique carried Butch Marino throughout his schoolboy career.
He said the emphasis put on the mental part of wrestling by his coaches at Canon-McMillan and the overall competition was motivating.
“Our coaches stressed being sharp mentally and being focused,” Marino said. “They would talk about visualizing success, seeing your hand raised. That’s how we trained.
“I knew I had to work hard because I wasn’t the most talented wrestler. So many guys in my era were slick, speedy and had great athletic ability. I knew to be the last man standing, I had to keep pushing and working.”
Marino credited the late Andy Puchany and Big Macs’ varsity coaches Frank O’Korn and Bob Schmidt for making him better through practice and preparation.
His success and reputation earned him a scholarship to the University of Indiana.
Before he could secure that spot on the Hoosiers wrestling team, Marino had to pass a test.
“I was thinking about going to Pitt or Clarion,” Butch Marino said. “I had a trip planned to Bloomington. I flew into Indianapolis and took a puddle jumper to Bloomington.
“I see (Indiana Coach Doug) Blubaugh. I figure we would go in a car to the university. He’s sitting on a motorcycle. He throws me a helmet and tells me to jump on.
“I’m the little guy with a suitcase in one hand and the other arm around his waist. I never wavered. I think he was testing me. From that point on, I liked the guy. I think I really picked Indiana because of the coach. Bloomington is also beautiful.”
Blubaugh was an Olympic wrestling champion for the United States in the 1960 games in Rome. He made his mark on Butch Marino
Marino qualified for nationals in 1977 and then in 1979 and 1980, having to overcome a knee injury and surgery to participate his final two seasons for the Hoosiers. He was a 118-pounder throughout his collegiate career.
“(Butch) was focused,” his brother Mike said. “Everything he does, he is focused on it. As a wrestler, he never questioned anything. He never had an issue. He did everything the right way. There was a process and he understood it. He was regimented and he had a lot of self-discipline.
“Whenever he had to make weight, there was never an issue. If he needed to get down, he just did that. He just went about his business and you never knew he was there.”
Butch Marino resides in Washington and is in his 36th year of teaching at Trinity.
“I’ve taught everything on my certificate, health, social studies, driver’s education,” he laughed.
He and his wife, Susan, have two children. They attend Penn State University, son, Angelo (A.J.), a senior, and freshman, Makenzie.
He returned to the Hillers’ wrestling program at the urging and prodding of Powell.
“I got a knock on my door,” Butch Marino said. “I told him I would get back to him. Mark then came to my house and knocked on the door and asked me to be his assistant. I decided to do it and I really enjoyed it.”
Powell considers Butch Marino’s presence in the program more than helping.
“Anytime you can have someone, who is a significant part of your program, with the character and knowledge that Butch has is just outstanding,” Powell said. “He is second to none. Knowing I have him by my side to help coach these kids, to help make decisions, gives me confidence.
“It never hurts to have a legend of the sport in your program. He is always easy to work with. I want him in our corner.
“He has 30-plus years of coaching experience. I was fortunate to grow up in an era where we did know about the wrestlers who came before us. I knew the stories of the Marinos and, of course, Butch’s story. It’s an absolute honor to coach beside a man who you respect as a man and is a legend of the sport.”
Butch Marino does reflect on his career, at times, and he is grateful for the opportunities and the success.
“One thing I do think about is how important it was for me to never lose my composure,” he said. “I try to instill that in our kids. I always tried to keep focused and poised. I took some beat downs in the practice room. I didn’t get upset. It’s important to keep pushing forward in anything you do.
“I started coaching the middle school team with Mike . We got called to the varsity room. It took a little while to sink in that I was coaching and not wrestling. I was always told that as a coach, every wrestler you sent out on the mat, it was a little part of you going out there. It’s true.”
Mike Marino said his brother has always been unique and sharing the experience with him made for lasting memories.
“When we coached together, sitting aide-by-side, that was special,” Mike Marino said. “Being able to sit beside your brother and coach young kids the sport you love… there’s not anything like that.
“Johnny (Abajace) would let us sit together in the corner during varsity matches as his assistant coaches. A lot of times, we didn’t agree. We’d get into it a little bit. But when it was over, it was over.
“I’m just so proud of Butch. We talk about it all the time, being able to coach with one another. It was a special thing. We had something going.”