Chris Messina has been Hauppauge's wrestling coach since November 1981, and on Sunday he finally joined his idol in the Long Island history books.
Hauppauge's 55-19 League IV win over East Islip at LIU Post marked Messina's 436th dual-meet win, tying him with Lou Giani for the Suffolk record.
"Any time you're mentioned in the same sentence as Giani, it's pretty incredible," Messina said of the coach who led Huntington from 1971 to 2008. "I've looked up to him. To put it in perspective, there are certain guys that are way above the rest. He's a legend. He's probably the greatest coach Long Island's ever had. It's a true honor to be alongside him."
Messina can move into sole possession of the record on Wednesday when Hauppauge hosts Deer Park.
And Messina, 60, who has earned 25 league titles and a county title in 1999, isn't slowing down. He said the addition of his son Mike to his coaching staff last season has given him a boost to keep going. "As long as I'm healthy and my son stays at my side," he said, "500 looks like a pretty good goal, but that's a number of years away."
Mike, who won a state title while wrestling for his father in 1999, works the night shift as a Suffolk County police sergeant, allowing him to serve as an assistant coach during the day.
"The milestone for my dad is incredible," Mike said. "He puts everything he has into the team and our kids. He's up in the middle of the night counting scores to figure out what we can do to win the next match. It's just a nonstop, relentless attitude that he puts toward coaching. I believe that's why we've done so well for so long."
Ben Tepperman got things started for Hauppauge at 120 with a pin in 2:13 to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead. They fell behind 16-9, but reigning state champ Chris Mauriello sparked a 15-0 run with a 20-4 win by technical fall at 160.
"I'd like to think that we're the hardest-working team in New York State, and it's because of Coach,'' Mauriello said. "He fires us up."