There are certain athletic programs in Rockland County that have developed reputaÂtions as consistently successful, state-caliber systems, year in and year out. The common denominator among those programs is stabiliÂty derived from an established coaching staff. Oftentimes the greater the continuity of the coaching staff, the higher the likelihood of success in the program.
Such is the case with Suffern High School wrestling. In the past half-century, you can count on one hand the number of head coaches who have guided the Mounties’ fortunes. Current Suffern coach Mickey DeSimone has inherited a legacy of prosperity begun by George Fuge and continued by Guy Guccione. A pivotal link in that chain is Guccione’s sucÂcessor and DeSimone’s predecessor, Bill White.
Bill White and wrestling are the perfect fit: a stoic man for an austere sport. It’s been said that effort is making someone do what they don’t want to do. Bill White made high school wrestlers do what they didn’t want to do, and that act of persuasion – with a little hands-on help from “Whitey” -led to a Mountie victory monopoly on the wrestling mats.
During his 18-year reign as Suffern head coach, 1970-1988, White won eight Rockland County Public School Athletic League championships; five sectional titles, three in Section 9 (Rockland, Orange, Ulster, Sullivan counties) through 1983 and two in Section 1 (Rockland, Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess counties) from 1984-88; and coached 29 individual sectional titleholders and seven state place-winners.
White compiled a career dual-meet record of 179 wins, 54 losses and 3 ties for a .727 winning percentage. His total of 179 wins stood as the Rockland County record for scholastic wrestling coaching victories until Rich Conklin of Nanuet – who’s also a Rockland Hall of Famer – Âsurpassed it in 2000.
Like Fuge, Guccione and DeSimone, White always sought out the best competition he could find to forge a hardened, battle-tested Mountie unit ready to withstand the rigors of postseason competition. His 1979, 1980 and 1981 clubs put together a 39-match winning streak, second longest in county history to Suffern’s 84-meet win skein under Fuge in the 1950s. WhiteÕs teams also attained several top-10 state rankings, with a high of No.4 in his final year of coaching, 1987-88.
And how’s this for single-match supremacy: in the 1980 Rockland County Tournament White rates the 1979-80 Mountie team as one of his two best, along with the 1972-73 edition Suffern placed 12 wrestlers in the 13 championship finals; 11 of them won. White was no slouch as an athlete himself. In wrestling, the 1958 Suffern High School graduate won four Rockland County championships and four Section 9 titles as well. He also was the starting varsity quarterback for the Suffern football team in his junior and senior years.
After graduating from Penn State University (where he was a wrestling teammate of Guccione), White spent three years as a teacher and coach at Newburgh Free Academy. At Newburgh, he produced several Orange County champions, four Section 9 titlists and one New York State champ. White then returned to Suffern and spent three years as assistant varsity wrestling coach to Guccione, also a Rockland Hall of Famer.
White was inducted into the New York State Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1993, and he currently serves as president of that organization. Since 1990, White has enjoyed a second successful coaching career, in skiing. His Suffern skiing teams have won numerous league and county titles in both boys and girls competition, and both programs are closing in on 100 wins under his tutelage.
White, who is 60 and lives in Sloatsburg, was a longtime physical education instructor at Suffern High School. In 1999 he completed a 10-year tenure as the school’s director of physical education. His philosophy as a physical educator carried over to his work in wrestling.
“I considered [wrestling] an extension of the educational situation,” says White, who has been married for 41 years to wife Carol and has four grown children. “I wanted it to be a positive experience for every kid. I may have sacrificed some individual (success) for the good of the team, but I’m a team person and that’s how it’s been done at Suffern.”