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04/02/2024 11:40 AM

Vedrani Changes the Lives of Young Athletes in Long Tenure with Guilford Wrestling

Craig Vedrani has been a part of the Guilford wrestling family for 25 years and has made an impact on countless athletes in the process. Photo courtesy of Craig Vedrani

The Guilford Grizzlies coed wrestling team has found a lot of success over the years, both in the growth of individual athletes, as well as the team accomplishments. Head Coach Craig Vedrani has been the primary reason for that, as he has made a difference in the lives of countless high school athletes in his time leading the program.

Craig has been coaching Grizzlies wrestling for 25 years. He started off as the assistant coach in 2000, supporting Art Fonicello.

“Art Fonicello, long time physical education (PE) teacher and coach in Guilford, was my mentor as a teacher and coach,” says Craig. “I did my student teaching with him at Guilford Lakes Elementary school and coached with him for three years before taking over the program. I’ve learned a lot from him and am grateful for the opportunity to have worked alongside him.”

In addition to Craig coaching the wrestling team at the high school, he is also a PE teacher at Adams Middle School.

Since Craig was in sixth grade, wrestling has always been a part of his life.

“I moved here in fifth grade from Pennsylvania, and I picked up wrestling in sixth grade. My gym teacher was Bill Wallach, and he was the wrestling coach at Baldwin,” says Craig. “He talked my brother and I into wrestling. I picked up wrestling from there, and it came naturally to me.”

After middle school, Craig went on to wrestle at Guilford High School, where he was a captain of the team in 1995, a Class L Team state champion, and a Class L Individual state champion in 1994.

After graduating from high school, Craig attended Springfield College, where he continued his wrestling career and got his degree in Physical Education. Craig was a captain of the wrestling team his senior year (1999), a two-time National Qualifier, and a DIII All-American in 1999. He was inducted into the New England Wrestling Association Hall of Fame in 2015.

Guilford High School Athletic Director, Jake Jarvis, has seen Craig impact his community in a variety of ways, and he has even expanded the interest in the sport of wrestling to younger generations.

“Coach Vedrani is giving back to the community that he was raised in. He went through the Guilford Public school system and has decided to coach and work (he is a physical education teacher at Adams MS) in this town,” says Jarvis. “Coach Vedrani is a positive influence on so many students through his teaching and coaching. He has helped to establish a park and rec wrestling program, as well as a middle school wrestling program to introduce the sport to younger children.”

During his 22 years so far at the helm of the Grizzlies program, Craig has won several awards, and he has coached athletes that have succeeded to their highest potential.

In 2011, Craig was the Sideliners Coach of the Year, and in 2017 and 2024 he was named Southern Connecticut Conference (SCC) Coach of the Year. He has coached 13 state champions, two State Open champions, one New England champion, and two All-Americans.

Craig was also the Guilford High School girl’s lacrosse coach from 2011-2013, the assistant Hillhouse baseball coach from 2001-2006, and has been a youth soccer coach in Madison for the past 10 years.

“My favorite part of coaching is creating lifelong friendships with so many people. Preparing and competing in the sport of wrestling is very humbling and challenging. There is nowhere to hide, and the sport exposes all your strengths and weaknesses,” says Craig. “All the struggles and successes experienced bring people closer together more than any other sport I’ve been involved with. I still connect with many wrestlers and their families that I’ve worked with over the years. I enjoy seeing the athletes continue beyond high school using the tools that wrestling gave them.”

Jarvis speaks about Craig in only the highest regard, and explains that it’s his dedication and commitment to the student-athletes that make him such a special coach.

“Craig appreciates all the previous wrestling coaches that have given their time and energy to the wrestling program, and he is very proud to continue the legacy. His dedication has increased the number of participants in the high school wrestling program, and the school has been chosen on many occasions to host the wrestling state championships,” says Jarvis. “I appreciate Coach Vedrani’s time, effort, and commitment to the student-athletes in the Guilford community and look forward to many more successful wrestling seasons.”

Over the last few years, Guilford wrestling has experienced a lot of community involvement when it comes to raising money for the program and keeping the interest level alive. Craig appreciates everyone who has stepped up to contribute.

“I am really lucky I have a ton of support at the high school. Our wrestling family is second to none, the parents really pitch in and help run the program,” Craig says. “We run big tournaments multiple times a year, and all of the families pitch in to make it happen. All of the other teams, coaches, and athletes, they are all happy to come to Guilford, because we do such a great job during the tournaments. We could not raise money and do all of that without people volunteering, donating food and drinks, and running concessions.”

This past season, the Grizzlies had seven wrestlers place in the top three for the SCC Championship in Eli McDermott (junior, 37-6, placed second at 144 pounds), Alex Uzzo (sophomore, 42-12, second at 132 pounds) Andrew Plancon (sophomore, 31-16, third at 113 pounds), Dante Bilskis (junior, 31-18, third at 120 pounds), JP Meguerditchian (senior, 24-21, third at 175 pounds), Jonah Labbadia-Colon (junior, captain, 26-9, third at 195 pounds), and Timothy Hastings (senior, captain, 39-11, third at 215 pounds). McDermott was also the Class M state champion in his weight class.

The Grizzlies will return a large number of athletes next season, and Craig is looking forward to being one of the top teams in the SCC and Class M with a good mix of talented freshmen coming into the fold.

“We are going to be close to 50 kids next year, we have a good group coming up from the middle school,” says Craig. “I have about 13 eighth graders that I am anticipating on coming out, so that is a good sign. Being in the middle school is a blessing for me, because I am able to build relationships with seventh and eighth graders now, getting them involved with the sport.”