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Giani Gymnasium Dedicated in Moving Ceremony as 650 Fans Cheer

When just about anyone was asked “Do you think he deserved it?” instead of an answer the questioner instead received a look of amazement and the retort: “Are you kidding?”  Blue Devil wrestling coach Lou Giani received several ovations and plenty of congratulations last Saturday as school officials formally renamed the Huntington High School gym after the hometown mat legend in a moving ceremony attended by 650 fans.

“I think it’s fantastic,” longtime Huntington wrestling financial supporter Bud Nugent said.  “I support it 100 percent and naturally think Lou deserves it.”  Those comments were echoed throughout the large crowd which was at the school for the 37th Huntington Holiday Wrestling Tournament that attracted a field of eight teams from the region along with about 160 wrestlers.

Permanent Letters Mounted

Large permanent metal letters spelling out Louis D. Giani Gymnasium were mounted in the outdoor brick high above the facility’s main entrance.  Additional signs were erected in the gym lobby area and above each scoreboard on the north and south walls.  They were all unveiled during the ceremony.

The wrestling tournament was stopped at about 12 noon prior to the start of the semifinal round.  “We are here today to do something that we only do on the rarest of occasions,” Huntington School Board President Robert T. Lee said.  “We do this only to acknowledge individuals who are so outstanding, so dedicated, and so accomplished in their field that we want the world to know and every generation that follows hereafter to know the highest regard in which we hold this person.”

Mr. Lee was introduced by Huntington Superintendent of Schools John J. Finello who told the crowd that Mr. Giani “has brought our school district national recognition.”  The coach has done just that, with a record 23 New York State champions and 418 lifetime dual meet victories entering this, his 39th season. 

Remains a Shy Man

For all of his success as both a wrestler and coach, Mr. Giani remains a shy man and he spoke for less than a minute.  He represented the United States in the 1960 Olympics and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member in 2003, only the fourth high school coach so recognized.  “His accomplishments are what legends are made of,” Mr. Lee said.

“This is an unbelievable honor,” Mr. Giani said.  “It has always been a privilege and honor to teach and coach in the school district that I grew up in.  It has been rewarding in many ways.  I must share this honor with our many teams and staff that have always worked so hard for our high school program.  I thank the Board of Education, central administration and the community for their support in extending the resources and freedom for a successful program.”

 Standing underneath the gym’s two scoreboards, Mr. Giani’s grandsons and granddaughters pulled on ropes to unveil the newly mounted dedication signs.  Simultaneously, school workers removed coverings from the outdoor metal letters and wooden lobby sign.  “It’s a well deserved honor,” said 1973 state champion Charlie Gadson.  “It’s about time.” 

Many of Mr. Giani’s former wrestlers and supporters were in the crowd that was mainly composed of parents and family members from the competing teams.  Still, they stood and cheered, recognizing one of the sport’s greats.  “Giani’s done it for so long,” referee Richard Avignone said.  “If anyone deserves a gym named after them it’s him.”

The School Board earlier passed a resolution citing Mr. Giani for “selflessly” giving “his time and energy for four decades to the youth of this community, nurturing, teaching and mentoring them and serving as a role model.”

 “In every single area of coaching by which greatness is judged, coach Giani has been outstanding,” Mr. Lee said.  The crowd agreed, giving Mr. Giani the biggest ovation of the afternoon.