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Main LHS Athletic Hall of Fame induction page: GEORGE BOSSI, Inducted in 2002
THE WORK ETHIC CHAMPION COACH BOSSI MAKES BELIEVERS OF HIS LOWELL WRESTLERS
The Boston Globe (Boston, MA) April 15, 1990 Nancy L. Marrapese, Globe Staff
His numbers as a wrestling coach are phenomenal — a record of 418-67-5, 44 individual state champions, 10 state championship teams and 19 New England champions in 26 seasons at Lowell High School.
But beyond the statistics, the victories and the titles is an inspiring man named George Bossi. He was born in Brockton, grew up in Milton and lives in Chelmsford. But the city that has felt his impact the most is Lowell.
His job there was supposed to be an interim position. Bossi had been at Winnicunnet High in Hampton, N.H., starting a wrestling program there in 1960. After four years and three northern New England championships, he decided to start applying for college positions, thinking he’d like to coach at that level.
“It was supposed to be temporary,” said Bossi. “But I found a home.”
To this day, Bossi says it was the best decision he’s ever made. He has a reputation of being tough but fair, a genuine teacher. To many he’s a hero and to some a savior.
After 26 seasons, he says he’s often a parent. “I’m more of a nurturer now,” said Bossi. “A lot of kids come from single-parent homes. Wrestling attracts the urban-type kid, not street kids but kids from poor socioeconomic families and they face a lot of pressure.”
“I think he’s what you’d call a real hero,” said Frank Elliott, who wrestled for Bossi from 1964 to ’67. “He demanded and expected you to do your very best, there was no room for excuses. He made you feel you could beat all odds if you were willing to put in the work. The thing that was most important was he wouldn’t let you fail and you didn’t.”
What attracted Bossi to wrestling and he thinks what attracts athletes to the sport is the one-on-one competition, the idea that it’s the wrestler and his opponent and no one else.
“I think they crave the individuality of wrestling,” said Bossi. “It’s a real confidence builder.”
Bossi made his mark immediately when he began at Lowell. In his first year, his team finished 4-7 but it produced two state champions, a pair of athletes he convinced to wrestle named Rick Comtois and Ray Campbell. They went on to beat the returning state champions from Brookline.
One of Bossi’s favorite stories is about 1978, the year of the blizzard. Offices, schools and whole cities were shut down by the snow, and Lowell closed its high school for two weeks. But Bossi’s wrestling program didn’t stop. In fact, it didn’t even slow down. Bossi went around in his four-wheel drive vehicle, picked up all his kids and took them to and from practice, not missing a single session. The team went on to become state champions.
His team won its first state crown in 1968. The school won three consecutive titles from 1973-75 and compiled a 46-match win streak during that time. In 1975, the year before Greater Lowell opened, Bossi’s squad won the New England championship before losing more than 1,000 students from its enrollment.
His program produced five state champions in 12 weight classes in 1980, and in 1987, the team won everything. It was unbeaten and untied. That year, in addition to winning the New England title, Bossi’s team had four state champions and four New England finalists, two of whom won New England individual crowns.
The numbers speak loudly about the success of Bossi’s program, but he sees it as so much more than victories.
“I get tremendous satisfaction taking a raw athlete and teaching him the system,” said Bossi. “Wrestling is a contest of situations, watching the kids go on and maybe two seasons later become state champion.”
Bossi doesn’t mind acknowledging that he’s a good coach. “Yes, I think I am,” he said when the question was put to him. “But it’s a lot of hard work. I still enjoy it, though. I think motivational skills are important. Kids have got to be told what to do. It’s a matter of giving them a goal and having them strive for it.”
The work is its own reward, Bossi says, but on April 27, he will get another reward — an evening in his honor. No, he’s not retiring. Bossi is 54 years old and shows no signs of slowing down. But former wrestlers, many of whom have sons who benefited from Bossi’s tutelage, friends and fans as well as current wrestlers will get together to pay tribute to him at the Windsor Mills Restaurant on Route 110 in Dracut. Tickets are $25 and can be obtained by calling Michael Kuenzler or Jay McQuaide.
It’s an occasion that makes Bossi just a tad nervous.
“I’m a little apprehensive,” he said. “The kids are now men and I haven’t seen them for years. I know they’re going to roast me.”
In addition to coaching, Bossi has served as the director of physical education for the Lowell public schools for the past 10 years. “I’ve had a lot of great experiences,” said Bossi. “The kids I coach keep in touch, especially the younger ones a year or two out of high school who come back to ask for advice.”
Elliott is one of many former wrestlers who remembers Bossi well and who still covets the lessons his former coach taught him.
“I remember wrestling a guy in the state tournament and losing,” said Elliott, who’s now Lowell’s director for substance-abuse prevention. “I was totally exhausted and I lost by one point. The guy was tremendously strong. I remember feeling awful because I was thinking I’ve let the coach down. It was such an empty feeling. But he put his arm around me and said, you did the best you could.”
Elliott finished fourth in the state tournament that year, 1967, and when the wrestler who beat him was unable to attend the New England tournament, Elliott went as an alternate. “I remember Bossi told me you can be the New England heavyweight champion,” said Elliott. “The kid I wrestled was undefeated, but he still told me I could win.”
With Bossi’s coaching, Elliott prepared very carefully and specifically for his opponent and ended up pinning him.
“To this day I remember a lesson he taught me,” said Elliott. “He taught me and so many others that there’s only one way to do things, work, work and work. He said that if you want to be better than somebody, if they put in four hours you have to put in six, if they put in eight, you have to put in 10. That has stayed with me all of my life.”