Photo: David McGregor. Tom Bartolotta is in his first season as head coach of the Central Gwinnett wrestling team after a successful stint as a coach at Glynn Academy.
Thomas Bartolotta, 34, is in his 11th season as a head wrestling coach and his first at Central Gwinnett High School. He spent the previous eight seasons at Glynn Academy, where he compiled a 114-26 record, won three area titles and qualified for the state duals five times.
Bartolotta graduated from Flagler Palm Coast High School (Fla.) in 1999 and helped the team there to multiple state titles. He was a successful college wrestler at Cumberlands (Ky.), where he earned his bachelor's degree in history education.
In this latest installment of "Getting to Know ..." staff writer Brandon Brigman talks to Bartolotta about living on the Georgia coast, his wrestling experience and his favorite foods.
BB: What do you miss about Brunswick?
TB: Just the kids that I was coaching and teaching for the last few years. I left a good group of kids behind.
BB: Do they have good Brunswick stew down there?
TB: Very good. It's real rich.
BB: Living on the coast, did you take advantage of the beach and the ocean?
TB: Of course. I lived on the coast most of my life. Whether it was Long Island or Florida.
BB: Anything particular you like to do?
TB: I like to do a lot of running. Just go to the beach, hang out. Shop with my wife. And I like to play golf.
BB: What's your favorite golf course to play?
TB: Lake Lanier. I shot I think a 95. I usually shoot in the low to mid 90s.
BB: What kind of wrestler were you in high school and college?
TB: Just a regular old wrestler. I wrestled for Steve DeAugustino in high school. He was definitely an excellent coach. We won a few state titles while I was there. Just pretty simple, pretty basic through high school and I carried it through college.
BB: Were you state champion?
TB: I was a runner-up. I got second and third.
BB: Does being a runner-up still eat at you?
TB: Not really. I beat the kid in college two years later. I lost because of a medical forfeit. I broke my nose and couldn't stop the bleeding.
BB: Were you a pretty good wrestler in college?
TB: Pretty decent. I won over a hundred matches, placed at 20 tournaments, I was a four-year starter, two-time national qualifier.
BB: I would say that's pretty good. How did you get into coaching?
TB: I wanted to stay involved with the youth in our country. I'm pretty good with history and I love wrestling.
BB: Wrestlers love food. What did you have to eat after you made weight or when the season was over?
TB: I used to love to eat junk food after I weighed in, but my coach got a grip on me and wouldn't let me do that. Basically, pancakes, spaghetti, pasta, I'm Italian, so good food with carbohydrates.
BB: What's your favorite junk food?
TB: Probably cheese balls.
BB: What's your favorite Italian dish?
TB: Chicken Parmesan. My mom makes the best.
BB: Are you originally from Florida or did you grow up in New York?
TB: I grew up in New York on Long Island for a little bit, then moved to Florida just before high school.
BB: Is it a little different coming from the North and living down here?
TB: Going from the North to the way Florida was then because Palm Coast was still growing and that part of Florida was still growing, yeah, it was different. Coming up here it's a little more similar to the North maybe. A lot of things to do here. And the wrestling is really good in this part of the state, like up North. It's very, very competitive.
BB: How often do you say y'all?
TB: I don't say it quite often.
BB: What's on your Christmas list?
TB: I don't know. I guess happiness is the main thing. Appreciation. Especially in a time like this with the way the economy is, things are kind of tough for this country. Just those simple everyday things we take for granted. I think Christmas is the time of year, and Thanksgiving, where we have to be thankful where we're at. Take a stop and give and receive.
BB: What are your expectations for Central this season?
TB: Having a top-20 finish in the state and qualifying for the state duals. That's what we've got to strive for. Otherwise there's no point of lacing up the shoes and going after it. That's pretty much where we've been every single year I was at Glynn Academy. That's where we want to be. We don't want to be home that weekend.
BB: Did you and (former Effingham County and current Parkview coach) Chris Hardin have some good battles?
TB: Yeah. We went at it for two years. We were 2-2 in duals. We won it in '08 they won it in '09. Everything is even across the board. They just had some better kids that could place high at state and qualify for state. Me and Chris are pretty good friends, actually.
BB: How long do you see yourself at Central?
TB: I came up here because of my wife's job. I interviewed with them, I liked the school, I liked the principal. I didn't know the AD then, but I've gotten to know him and like him a lot. Hopefully, forever to be honest with you. I'm happy to be working, happy to be working with kids.