Sports Person of the Week
Cicarella Pins Down His Spot in the East Haven Hall of Fame
Paul Cicarella won 117 matches as a member of the East Haven High School wrestling team. Paul, who lives in North Haven, will be inducted into the East Haven Alumni Association Hall of Fame this November for his success on the wrestling mat. (Photo courtesy of Steve Narracci)
Paul Cicarella graduated from East Haven High School in 2002 as a two-time SCC champion wrestler. Following a stellar career that saw him post a record of 117-22, Paul was head coach of the Yellowjackets’ wrestling program for several years. Come November, Paul, a North Haven resident, will take his rightful spot in the East Haven Alumni Association Hall of Fame.
“I was excited to get nominated and be a part of the history,” Paul says. “It’s nice to be recognized for the Hall of Fame. There are a lot of great athletes in there and some great people in the community. There are people in there that I looked up to in the past, so it’s nice to be next to them and be recognized.”
When he found out he was being inducted, Paul says the first thing that came to his mind had nothing to do with wrestling. Instead, Paul, a small business owner in the area, started thinking about the ways that he could lend a helping hand in his community.
“Believe it or not, the first thing I thought of was what I do now. I want to be as helpful as I can in the community. I think this has a lot to do with what I do now, just as much as it does with what I did in high school and shortly thereafter,” Paul says. “I worked hard during my career. I worked hard to break records and leave my mark. To be a part of a legacy of the wrestling program was something I thought about in high school, but when I was told about this, I thought more about what I did in life after.”
Life after high school for Paul not only included a stint as East Haven’s wrestling coach, but he also worked with Joseph Tarquino to start a Youth Wrestling program in town. Now, current Yellowjackets’ wrestling Head Coach Lou Rivellini is reaping the benefits of that effort.
“I had the pleasure of coaching with [Paul] when I started working in the district seven years ago. He held his wrestlers to the same standard as he did himself, which resulted in many extremely tough kids coming through our program,” Rivellini says. “He was probably the hardest working and most determined wrestler that I’ve ever seen. When coaching, I often use him as an example of what you can achieve when you commit yourself 100 percent to something.”
Paul left East Haven as the wrestling program’s leader for takedowns in a season and a career, as well victories in a season after going 42-2 in the 145-pound weight class as a senior. Paul was also a state champion, an All-State honoree, and an All-State selection during his high school career.
“I had the discipline and the drive to work hard, which helped me with everything. To have goals and to make weight, you have to work hard to do that. If you want to break a school record, you have to work hard. I took it serious, and I made sure I worked hard to get those goals,” says Paul, who also wrestled at Division III Springfield Community College and was a captain his freshman year. “I didn’t start wrestling until freshman year of high school, because I didn’t make the basketball team. I was behind the 8-ball. Because of my lack of knowledge of the sport, I made up for it with hard work.”
Paul remembers having to battle it out in practice early on to even get on the mat with the Yellowjackets, because the team featured a large roster when he competed.
“We had full rosters. There were always two or three people ahead of you, so you needed to work to make varsity,” he says. “I remember as a freshman I had to beat a junior and a senior to get my spot. That was a big part of it. Having somebody to compete with every day was the single biggest thing that made me work harder.”
After helping launch East Haven’s Youth Wrestling program, Paul would like to do the same in North Haven. Paul says that he’d love for his son to get the opportunity to wrestle in high school.
“My son, who just turned three, is going to start youth wrestling, and I’m excited to see my son start,” says Paul. “I gave it up, because I was running a few businesses and had two young kids, but I will definitely start to get back involved in some capacity through youth in North Haven. It would be great to start a club team. I know there’s definitely some interest to get a wrestling team here at the high school.”