Page 15 - CHSCA Issue 3 2019-2020
P. 15

A Big Year for Windham’s Risley
 By Paul Rosano
When Pat Risley was growing up in Windham, his family was big into athletics.
That was mainly because his fa- ther was a high school and college baseball and basketball coach, which included positions at the University of Bridgeport and Eastern Connecti- cut State under Bill Holowaty for more than 20 years.
“A lot of my family was basketball, basketball, basketball growing up because my father was a basketball coach and player,” Risley said. “Me, I was small. I was the tiny little runt of the family. Basketball wasn’t so natural for me. Even though I loved it, I just wasn’t excelling at it. Once my brother Thad got into wrestling in high school, I was going to his match- es and I fell in love with the sport.”
He started wrestling at an early age, seventh grade in middle school in Willimantic. He continued in high school at Windham under Brian Crud- den and qualified for states three years, finishing as a runner-up as a senior.
“I was a little smaller guy and found my niche,” he said.
Risley went on to wrestle in Divi- sion I in college, first at the University of Hartford under Shirzad Ahnadi, then Ken DeStefanis at Central Con- necticut State.
He also was a volunteer coach right out of high school under Crud- den.
“I fell in love with it, knew that that was something I wanted to do,” Risley said. “That’s when I got into physical education so I could be a teacher and a coach.”
He got his first head coaching op- portunity while still in college when he landed the Plainville High School job, where he stayed for five years. After getting a teaching job at his old middle school, he moved back to Windham and became Crudden’s as- sistant for five years.
“It was an unbelievable experi- ence because he’s an unbelievable mentor,” Risley said. “He was a fantas- tic coach because I wrestled for him, but I got a greater appreciation for him being his assistant. Seeing more things behind the scenes.
“After being a head coach for five years, I learned so much more. When you’re young you thought you knew everything, but I learned so much more in those five years as an assis- tant.”
He took over as head coach at Windham in 1998-99, and continued Windham’s excellent tradition.
His teams have won seven state championships, five in Class S and two in Class M. He has also placed second in M five times and once in S. Risley also has three Eastern Con- necticut Conference titles.
“I’ve been blessed with a lot of great kids, good wrestlers, great as- sistant coaches,” he said. “I didn’t deviate too much from how we pre- sented things, the way Crudden ran his program. Obviously, I’m a differ- ent personality. I had to adjust to my traits and what I thought is good for me. Something’s changed but the tra- dition was already established.”
Crudden also had seven state championships.
“We call ourselves La Familia and
that’s what it is, a family.” Risley said. Risley said this past year has been one of the best. He became the first Connecticut wrestling coach to be recognized as national Coach of the Year by the National High School Coaches Association last summer. He also passed 500 career dual-meet victories during the season becoming only the fourth coach in state history
to achieve it.
“It’s been a good year. It’s a very
special award. I take a lot of pride in it,” Risley said. “I always say ‘It’s not my award, it’s Windham High School’s award’ because you don’t get some- thing like that as an individual with- out your assistant coaches that you had wrestle for you. It was a great school thing.”
Risley has been Windham’s ath- letic director since 2006, a position many schools will not let a coach hold while still coaching. In the past year, he was named interim assistant principal, also a position that schools don’t allow an individual to hold while still coaching but Risley believes he will be allowed to continue coaching.
During the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Risley said he has mostly been encouraging his athletes to complete their school work virtually. He said at Windham, the school had to hand out 300 Chrome Books to stu- dents because many didn’t have ac- cess to a computer at home.
“We have to make sure they have the internet, the computers, all the stuff they need to succeed,” Risley said. “I’ve been bugging them to make sure they’re getting onto the Google classroom, getting their work, or ask- ing them if they need any help and leading them in the right direction to talk to teachers.”
He did send his athletes a quick, little video to tell them “how much he misses them and loves them and that I was thinking of them,” Risley said. “I wanted them to know I was here for them and if they needed any help to reach out.”
  CONNECTICUT COACH • ISSUE 3 • 2019-2020 • PAGE 15

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