Lawrenceville mathematics teacher and Assistant Head of Hamill House George Negroponte shares his thoughts on being a Big Red wrestling coach.
Ooby Udomritthiruj ‘21: What do you do here at Lawrenceville, and what is your favorite thing here, apart from coaching wrestling?
George Negroponte: I teach in the math department, I’m the Assistant Head of House in Hamill, and I also coach soccer and lacrosse. You’re asking me what my favorite thing is, but I think you kind of have to enjoy every part of your job to do the kind of the work we do. I don’t think I can pick out a favorite thing, but certainly working with students and other faculty makes it really enjoyable.
OU: Can you tell us a bit about yourself: Where are you from and where have you wrestled and/or coached wrestling?
GN: I grew up in Washington D.C. mainly, then I went to high school in New Hampshire at a boarding school just like ours. While I was there, I wrestled for three of my four years.
A guy on the [wrestling] team who was in my dorm told me “Hey, you should try [wrestling] out for sure.” I’ll be honest, I hated it when I was doing it. I came back my sophomore year thinking it might be a little bit better but I still didn’t like it because it wasn’t like the other sports I played. It was a lot harder. By my senior year, I actually played club (intramural) hockey.
Now that I coach wrestling, I have a newfound appreciation for it. I think is because of the atmosphere that [Head] Coach [Johnny] Clore and the guys on the team have created, it’s a lot healthier and I think I enjoy it in that respect.
OU: What makes coaching here at Lawrenceville special to you?
GN: I used to teach at a much smaller school up in New Hampshire, and they didn’t actually have wrestling so I just coached soccer and lacrosse. In the winter I just ran the clock because I liked watching hockey. I think there, and when I first started here, I always saw myself as a coach first because sports has been a huge part of my life and my identity growing up, but you reach a certain age where it’s fun, it’s great, but you realize it’s not everything. So, whether it’s when I [work with other Lawrenceville coaches], I really start to see that the field, wrestling mat, or wherever I am just becomes another classroom, so it all becomes about teaching, learning, and growth overall for athletes and coaches.
OU: It’s been a crazy year of adjusting to the pandemic. How are you and the team adjusting to the virtual term and working to keep your athletes motivated and fit?
GN: Every Tuesday and Friday this winter, we’re on Zoom. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Tae Bo or P90X, but it’s kind of like that where Coach [Johnny] Clore demonstrates an exercise and everyone starts doing it. The first time I just spectated, and it was pretty fun to watch everyone jump around, but the second time I knew what to expect so I had my mat laid out in my classroom, my five pound water jug as a weight, and I did the whole workout with them.
OU: How do you think your experience wrestling in high school compares to that of the students you coach now?
GN: Nothing against my old school’s program, but I think [the] combination of it being hard, and me not loving it as much as I did compared to other sports [made me not] enjoy [wrestling] there. Here, we had guys that weren’t as talented when they started, but as they grew they became better. They changed the environment from one more similar to when I wrestled to one where everyone enjoyed wrestling and really embraced the challenge together. [It’s not] a super intense grind. This trend has definitely continued over the past few years, where guys will come in and just bring in a different energy that really helps the team.
OU: Finally, where would you rank yourself within our roster of wrestlers?
GN: Well, the beauty of wrestling is that you usually wrestle someone that’s exactly your size, so it’s an even playing field, so to speak. Since I’m short, I’ll wrestle some of the lighter guys where I can throw my weight around a little bit. But since I’m also heavy. I’ll wrestle some of the heavier guys where I’m a little quicker. I’ve wrestled many different guys with different body sizes, and I think I hold my weight against them, but most of the time they’d definitely beat me in the ring.
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