Published in the April 19, 2017 edition
By MAUREEN DOHERTY
LYNNFIELD — “A living legend” is an apt description of Pioneer coach Craig Stone, who has coached Lynnfield students in over 1,500 wrestling meets or tennis matches during a storied career spanning more than 40 years and still counting.
“It is very rare that you have a living legend in your town,” said Selectman Phil Crawford as he introduced Stone to the audience gathered at the April 10 selectmen’s meeting in recognition of his most recent honor — his pending induction into the National Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement later this month.
True to form, Stone was a little late to the festivities, but with good reason — he had just coached the girls’ tennis team to their second win of spring season to get them off to a 2-0 start.
During his tenure, Stone’s athletes have won more than 500 matches in both sports — 528 in wrestling and 563 in tennis through the 2016 seasons to be exact.
Crawford recalled being just a freshman in high school in neighboring North Reading when friends told him about their “incredible” new coach, Coach Stone.
In one of his last acts as board chairman, Crawford presented Stone with a proclamation signed by the board and also introduce state Sen. Tom McGee who delivered accolades from himself and on behalf of state Rep. Brad Jones as well as a proclamation from the state Legislature on his many accomplishments.
Stone’s career wrestling record from 1976 to 2016 was 528-323-6 and his teams have garnered four CAL championships, three North Sectional championships, two North Sectional finalists, one state finalist, a total of 82 wrestlers who placed at the state meet, eight individual state champions, seven All-State finishers, three New England finishers.
Stone has been named CAL Coach of the Year seven times, Boston Globe Coach of the year twice and the National Wrestling Coaches Association Massachusetts Coach of the Year in 2013 in addition to his induction into both the Massachusetts Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1998 and the upcoming National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Massachusetts Chapter in 2017.
School Superintendent Jane Tremblay, who has been a colleague of Stone’s for 30 years, said it came as no surprise to her or any of her colleagues that he would be chosen for this honor because of the relationships he made with all of his students for over 40 years and the lifelong lessons Lynnfield’s students have learned on the mat from Stone.
“The only reason they have learned them is because you have been the leader that has instilled them. You have taught them about grit and perseverance and the importance of winning but the importance of losing; the importance of getting up one more time when you’ve been knocked down,” Tremblay said.
She added, “Those lessons were so important in high school but as you well know for the students who have come back to you, they are so much more important in life beyond high school. Thank you for not only being a coach but being a role model and for being a mentor.”
“It is not about the destination, it is about the journey,” Stone said he often tells his athletes and students, adding, “I have been very fortunate to be at the right place at the right time.” He recalled being on the West Coast without a job back in the mid-1970s when his mother called and asked him if he had gotten a job yet. She let him know of a job opening as a physical education teacher in the Lynnfield school system. One job interview and the rest, as they say is history for Stone, who at the time was amazed to be meeting the likes of Boston Bruin Ken Hodge, who lived in town then.
Now an active grandfather, he still looks forward to his afternoons coaching students at the high school as well as the opportunity to substitute teach, which he had done earlier in the day prior to his team’s tennis match. He has substituted 15 times so far this year since retiring. “I love the expression on their faces” whenever he shows up and surprises them as their substitute teacher and he still loves to see their “red cheeks” at the end of an exhilarating class, he said.
He has considered it an honor to reconnect with his former students when the reach high school as their coach. He cherishes the relationships he has made with so many families through the years and for being able to play a “small part” in their milestones in life as a guest at countless graduations and weddings or being able to meet the children of his former students or work with former students who return to town to coach or teach.
“It has been a dream come true and I thank you for the honor and the opportunity,” Stone said.