Remembering Ray Mariucci


Sports Writer

IRON MOUNTAIN – Iron Mountain’s Ray Mariucci influenced wrestling, bocce and a variety of other endeavors in his 90 years.

Mariucci, who passed away Friday, Feb. 1, affected sports as well as education. His obituary, which appeared Tuesday in The Daily News, listed his many accomplishments.

“Great man lost, but leaves a great foot print,” noted Iron Mountain Schools superintendent Tom Jayne, a successful Mountaineer wrestler and former coach.

Iron Mountain’s Tom Izzo, Michigan State’s national championship basketball coach, said “Ray Mariucci was everything that is right about a teacher, parent or coach. He had a tremendous impact on the success I’ve had because of the way he talked to me the first 18 years of my life.”

Izzo and Ray’s son, Steve, developed a close friendship since high school.

“He was encouraging, thoughtful and caring, and helped Steve and I accomplish much more than anyone ever thought was possible,” Izzo said. “I will miss him, but never forget him. He’s left a lasting impact on my life.”

Ray Mariucci entered the U.P. Hall of Fame in 2005 primarily for his wrestling and boxing background. A pioneer in creating U.P. wrestling, he also coached East Lansing High School to a state title.

Ray’s sons, Mike and Bobby, won U.P. titles. Steve Mariucci, before moving to the ranks of professional football, officiated wrestling.

Breitung Township Schools superintendent Craig Allen, best of friends with Bobby Mariucci, also earned U.P. wrestling honors.

“Ray was instrumental in getting us started with wrestling as well as instilling a sense of competitive drive and work ethic,” Allen said. “Ray was a great mentor and coach.”

Throughout elementary school and junior high, Ray traveled with the youngsters on the Wisconsin weekend wrestling circuit.

“His knowledge of the sport amazed me,” Allen said. “He showed us different moves and strategies every time we practiced.

“Mr. Mariucci was definitely an excellent motivator and showed a passion for teaching and coaching.

Ray Mariucci built the Kingsford High School program and played a major role in Iron Mountain’s team. In the early years, Ray served as coach, official and scorekeeper for some matches.

“It was kind of hectic sometimes in those days,” Ray said of the 1964 season.

Kingsford High School athletic director Al Unger wrestled his senior year (1980) for “Coach” Mariucci.

“Ray was the type of coach that worked you hard,” said Unger, another U.P. champion. “He was a no nonsense coach who was there to make you better. He really wanted you to buy into the seriousness of what he was trying to get across.”

Unger is director of Kingsford High School’s Ray Mariucci Invitational, the oldest U.P. wrestling tournament. Mariucci urged Unger to try different types of wrestling and to continue the sport in college.

“Ray was a good man, good figure,” Unger said. “He was so passionate about the sport and that always shown through.”

Russ Pericolosi, a former championship coach with the Mountaineers, has been involved with wrestling for more than 45 years.

‘Ray instituted wrestling and has been a positive influence on many,” Pericolosi said. “Ray started the ball rolling. When he had something in his mind he did it.”

Bocce was another endeavor that Mariucci took on full force. Pericolosi can laugh today when telling of the time Ray wanted to put an indoor bocce court in the Izzo-Mariucci Center wrestling room.

“Ray liked the nice, flat big room,” said Pericolosi, who called on Steve to persuade Ray to find another location. “He said it would only take up 10 feet on one side of the room.”

Ray’s relentless spirit brought about City Park’s Ray Mariucci Bocce Complex. He wanted everybody involved including seniors, media and children.

“He was always encouraging us to become comfortable with different methods of playing, which has served me well here in Washington D.C.,” said Breitung Township’s Angela Gaudette, a product of the Mariucci instructional system. “The courts are not groomed as well as City Park.”

Added her dad, John, “Ray went out of his way to help people enjoy the game of bocce.”

Barry Dalberto submitted an 11-page story last year on the “amazing” Quinnesec school in the 1950s. An eighth-grade science teacher “left several enduring reminiscences.”

“He had our respect and utilized some unorthodox, but entertaining teaching methods,” Dalberto wrote of Ray Mariucci.

Ray taught tumbling, demonstrated feats of strength by hoisting the 135-pound Dalberto over his head and once took over a Quinnesec physical education class for an Indian wrestling session.

Ray took on the class Indian wrestling champ, who happened to be Dalberto. Ray won.

“He had a competitive nature and the strength and experience to back it up,” Dalberto wrote. “He smiled and patted my back before returning to class.”

Ray touched a community and later the nation with a letter to the Iron Mountain News. The anonymous letter, at the time, expressed pride in his son’s character and ability.

“It isn’t that important whether you make all-conference or most valuable,” Ray wrote in concluding the letter. “The point is that up to now you’ve played well and lived well – a step toward desirable and successful manhood.”

Steve Mariucci, a former National Football League coach, mentioned the letter in an NFL Films production. The Daily News often received requests for the letter.

Funeral services will be held today for Ray “Remo” Mariucci.