By: Director of Athletic Communications and Public Relations Kevin Ruple
BEREA, Ohio -- The day Anthony "Tony" Cipollone '92 stepped onto the Baldwin Wallace University campus, he knew BW and Berea was where he wanted to continue his academic and athletics career.
"This is a pretty god story," said a laughing Cipollone. "My final three choices were Case Western Reserve, Allegheny and Johns Hopkins. Coach Packard kept calling me, but I was pretty much locked into going to CWRU.
"I had no idea where BW was other than near Cleveland," continued Cipollone. "My Dad and I were visiting CWRU to look at my dorm room and possibly start to register for classes. My Dad said that while we were in the area that we should go look at BW so that I tell them that I was going to go to CWRU.
"Well, I walked onto campus and immediately knew that BW was the right fit for me," said Cipollone. "The athletic facilities, stadium and just the setting of the campus what right for what I needed. I think my Dad knew too as I remember him saying 'this is pretty nice'".
"We sat down with Coach Packard and we spoke with him," said Cipollone. "The history and the winning were both super attractive to me. Then when Coach Fleming called me on the day of my high school prom to tell me he was selected as the new wrestling coach, it sealed the deal. As the old saying goes, the rest is history!"
The consummate leader as a student, student-athlete, student coach, assistant coach, head coach, assistant director of athletics and now as the Director of Athletics for the Westlake City Schools system credits two BW hall of fame coaches, the late and legendary football mentor Bob Packard '65 and legendary wrestling coach Rich Fleming for helping him establish a foundation for success.
"I knew I always wanted to work in athletics, whether as a coach and ultimately as an administrator," said Cipollone, who coached at BW as a graduate student with Packard in football and Fleming in wrestling. "They welcomed me aboard and they were influential in my getting hired at Muskingum University after I received my master's degree.
Cipollone on the Field and Mat
At BW, Cipollone described his football career as "being a lunch pail-type career."
"As a fullback, I got to carry the ball a little, catch the ball a little but mostly block for Hall of Fame running back Chuck Geiss and keep the defenders away from Hall of Fame quarterback John Koz," said Cipollone. I enjoyed it and we won. As a senior, we were 10-0, won the OAC title and advanced to play the University of Dayton in the Division III Playoffs."
On the wrestling mat, Cipollone was individually more successful as he fashioned a 110-25-1 career record and still stands fourth on the all-time victory chart. He competed at 167/ 177 pounds as a freshman and sophomore and 190 as a junior, but an injury that season resulted in extensive surgery following his final season of football.
In addition to being a two-sport athletic standout, Cipollone also carried a high grade point average and was an Academic All-OAC football player and wrestler."
Starting His Coaching Career While Still at BW
"I approached coach Packard and Coach Fleming about being a student coach while I finished my undergraduate degree and began my master's studies," said Cipollone. "I am grateful for the opportunities they provided me.
"Overall, I had a good career and advanced to the NCAA Div. III National Wrestling Tournament twice," said Cipollone. "There is probably not a week that goes by that I don't meet someone from BW, someone associated with BW or speak with a teammate or friend. The BW Family is a strong bond."
From BW to Muskingum to Mercyhurst to Allegheny
"Coach Packard was the one who told me about the opening for a fulltime wrestling and assistant football coach at Muskingum," said Cipollone. "I went down and interviewed on a Friday, took my master's comprehensive test on Saturday and accepted the job at Muskingum on Sunday. By the middle of the week, I was already moving to New Concord!"
"When I started a Muskingum, we had seven wrestlers," said Cipollone, who stayed in New Concord for six years. "And, by the time I left, we were the OAC Tournament champions and I was named as the OAC Coach of the Year.
"What I really learned from coaches Packard and Fleming was being a mentor and a people-person," said Cipollone. "While at Muskingum, I had the opportunity to mentor a graduate who was this year's "Football Scoop" Division I Linebackers Coach of the Year at Iowa State, and another is the head coach at the University of Charleston (W.Va.)."
"At Mercyhurst, I built the wrestling program from the ground up," said Cipollone. "It is one of things that I am most proud of during my career," said Cipollone. "I was able to coach 15 Division II All-Americans, and it was there that I got my first opportunity to work in administration."
Cipollone gave up his seven-year coaching career at Mercyhurst for an administrator position as an Associate. Ar the same time, his wife, Tiffany, worked in the Development Office at Allegheny, and when a position for an Associate AD opened, Cipollone was on the move again.
"The Allegheny position was much more comprehensive in terms of the duties, and it really helped me when I moved on to Westlake," said Cipollone. "The facility management, club sports, intramurals and recreation duties helped me to build a solid community-based foundation."
Cipollone's BW Connections Pay Dividends
While at Allegheny, Cipollone received a phone call from the then Westlake City Schools Human Resources Director and BW grad Mike Laub '95, who is now the Superintendent of the Avon Lake City Schools, inquiring whether his former football teammate would be interested in the Westlake AD position.
"It was an excellent position," said Cipollone. "After going through a two-part interview process, I made it to the final round. I was offered the job by Dr. Dan Keenan, who it just so happened had a brother (BW Hall of Famer wrestler Kelly Keenan '94) who was a teammate of mine. Again, the rest is history."
Cipollone Has Changed With the Times
"When I first started in the business, you received your resources from the school and fundraising either was non-existent or a very small part of the equation," sad Cipollone, who played four years of football and wrestled for four-plus years for the Yellow Jackets. "Today, it is far different. The Athletic Director is responsible for a lot more, including finding the resources to augment each athletic team's budget.
"Each coach, team, parent has a different 'I want' list," continued Cipollone. "Every day is a different day as an AD. One day you are running a bunch of events, another day you are scheduling for the next season, one day you are raising money for the teams and facilities and much, much more.
"At the end of the day, I still love what I do," said Cipollone. "I get the opportunity to watch young men and women grow and mature and become responsible, caring, compassionate citizens. Not all of them go on to play collegiate athletics, so just the opportunity to hopefully make a bit of a difference feels great."
The Changing Landscape of High School Athletics and Fundraising
""Fundraising has become such a big part of the job as AD," said Cipollone. "But the same skills I learned at BW as a student and improved upon at Muskingum and Mercyhurst have made us successful at Westlake. "My BW education did a great job of teaching me how to adapt and solve everyday problems."
Learning to Adapt By the Situation
"When I first got to Westlake, it was a little of a cultural shock having worked all of my career in the collegiate ranks," said Cipollone. "At the collegiate level, you have an athletic communications person, and maybe a marketing person, a few game management people and possibly a few assistant athletic directors. At the high school level, the AD is the everyman.
"When I went to Muskingum, which didn't have the same resources as BW to some extent, I had to learn to adapt and do it differently," continued Cipollone, who was the 2000 OAC Coach of the Year in wrestling. "That was the same thing I learned when I went to Mercyhurst, then Allegheny and now at Westlake.
"Don't get me wrong, I never complain because I love watching the kids compete and talking to students, parents and coaches," said Cipollone. "But the hours are crazy!"
Success at Westlake
"When I first arrived at Westlake, my Westlake Demon Athletic Booster Club had seven active members," said Cipollone. "It now has more than 200, not counting our corporate partners.
"We have raised well over $300,000 dollars and set up the Westlake Athletic Development Foundation. We also had University Hospitals join us as a key corporate partner when we added turf to our stadium. We are extremely grateful to every member who has contributed and to those who will in the future."
What's Next for Tony?; The Next Generation
How much longer will Cipollone continue to lead the Westlake Athletics Department?
"I am motivated to keep advancing our athletics forward not only because I was it was instilled in me by my parents and coaches to be competitive," said Cipollone with a big smile. "I also have two sons, Casey, a 10th-grader who plays football and runs track, and Cael, a seventh-grader who plays football, basketball and baseball, who are in our athletic program.
"I am excited to see them do their best both academically and athletically," said Cipollone, who still ranks fourth all-time at BW with 110 victories and a 110-25-1 career mark from 1988 through 1993. "There is nothing better than being a part of the lives of your children. It is very rewarding."
Grateful for Choosing BW
"First of all, I am grateful to BW for the opportunities it presented me both as a student and as an athlete," said Cipollone. "As soon as I got there, I knew it was where I wanted to be and with the people I wanted to be with. My BW Family took great care of me, whether it was the professors, administrators, coaches and friends. That experience and the one's that came after it prepared me to be successful today."