goes to the mat for his athletes
Extra effort pays off as Spencerport coach nears 300th win
by Scott Pitoniak, Democrat and Chronicle
(February 1, 2006) — He is, by his own admission, a nervous animal — a guy who, during wrestling matches, divides his time between squatting like a baseball catcher and pacing like an expectant father. No wonder, the day after a match, Bill Jacoutot's haunches and vocal cords usually are spent. By season's end, it's not uncommon for the legendary Spencerport High School wrestling coach to have dropped eight to 10 pounds. Sleep is something he doesn't do well until the off-season. "I'm pretty exhausted when things are all said and done," he says in a Jersey rasp that makes him sound like Joe Pesci.
"During the season, I'm worrying constantly about my
wrestlers. I'll call each of them a couple of times a week just to check up on
them and make sure everything is going right with wrestling and academics and
their lives. I guess in some ways, I'm just an old worrywart."
Or maybe he just really, really cares.
Which is why, tonight at Webster Schroeder, his wrestlers would love nothing more than to reward him with the 300th victory of his Spencerport career. Since replacing another legendary coach, Walt Teike, before the 1981-82 season, Jacoutot's teams have won 17 Section V titles, strung together 114 consecutive dual meet victories against Rochester region schools and produced nine individual state champions. Remarkably, the past quarter century of Rangers wrestling has yielded only 28 losses and one tie. Ninety percent of the time they win. There had been a rich tradition at Spencerport before Jacoutot arrived. But this whirling dervish who was born in Manhattan and raised in New Jersey clearly has taken the Rangers program to another level. Jacoutot's extra efforts don't go unnoticed, particularly during matches.
"He's into those as much as the wrestler is," says Justin Linville, who competes at 171 pounds for Spencerport. "He is so committed to us it's unbelievable. I feel like he's a second father to me in a lot of ways." You could say that Jacoutot (pronounced JACK-uh-toe) has had scores of sons during his 25 years here.
"He's definitely created a family atmosphere," Linville says. "And once you've wrestled for Spencerport, you are always a member of the family. He believes in tradition, and in making everyone, past and present, feel a part of it." Outside the auxiliary gymnasium that serves as the wrestling team's home, you'll find a wall festooned with photographs, newspaper clippings and plaques. You'll also see several posters, depicting the wrestlers as everything from bankers to construction workers. "They're really popular among the wrestlers and the student body," Jacoutot says. "The guys' parents and girlfriends love to get copies of them and have them signed. Each year we come up with a different idea." It's all part of the atmosphere Jacoutot has worked hard to cultivate. Wrestling is the glamour sport at Spencerport. Boys grow up dreaming of being on these mats and posters. "Tradition doesn't win matches for you — hard work does," Jacoutot says. "But tradition can help because it can make you work even harder. The current guys know they are caretakers of something that's been successful here for a long time." Success breeds success. It also breeds jealousy.
Spencerport is always the hunted. It is not uncommon for spectators from other schools to heckle Jacoutot and his wrestlers. Chat rooms occasionally are cluttered with personal attacks. "I told our guys that pressure is a privilege," he says. "You speak with your actions, and if you are fortunate enough to succeed you don't celebrate and show up your opponent. I'm very big on that. "You act like you've been there before."
Other teams, though, can't contain themselves on the rare occasions they get the best of the Rangers.
"Bill clearly has set the standard for wrestling here, and has made every program try harder to be better," says Hilton coach Chuck Partridge, one of Jacoutot's close friends. "The thing about Bill is that his door is always open to other coaches and other wrestlers through his off-season programs and camps. He has no secrets. He willingly shares his time and his knowledge. The same parents who scream nasty things at him during matches are the same parents who make sure their boys attend Bill's camps." When he was captain of the University of Buffalo wrestling team during his senior year in 1974, Jacoutot dreamed of becoming a college coach. He had two offers to do so while at Spencerport, but decided to stay put and has no regrets. At age 53, he believes he has two more seasons left in him before retirement. He hopes to go out on a high note.
"My biggest fear is being a bum at the end," Jacoutot says. "My biggest fear would be not being able to devote the energy and time these kids deserve." He need not worry about that. His level of energy and devotion remains quite high, and his legacy is secure regardless of the ending. Bill Jacoutot will remain the standard-bearer for high school wrestling in Rochester and far beyond for many years to come.