Last week, the Town Crier started a 15-part series on legendary coaches at WHS, while several from Shawsheen Tech will be included. The series started with Hall of Famer Evelyn Wells Carter, who coached the field hockey and girls' basketball teams in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Below is a look at former wrestling coach Mike Pimental, who coached from 1994 to 2013.
WILMINGTON — In last week's first story on legendary coaches, we said that there's 18 coaches inducted into the Wilmington High School Athletic Hall of Fame. One hundred percent, all 18 of them are indeed Hall of Famers, but there's also several who in this writer's opinion, should be also inducted, starting with former wrestling coach Mike Pimental.
Pimental came to WHS in 1994 and was the third coach in the program's history, following Mike Nee of 14 years and Tommy Aylward of one year. Five years before he took the job here, Pimental was a state wrestling champion at Mt. Anthony High School in Vermont. He then went on to compete at Springfield College.
He arrived at WHS at the young age of 25 and took over a program that was in complete disarray. The numbers were low, the overall attitude and reputation of the program was not strong. Over 19 years, Pimental completely turned that around as Wilmington was regarded as one of the top programs in Division 3 year-after-year.
Before Pimental came on to the scene, the program only had a few winning seasons, while no team in program history had ever won a sectional title, or even a tournament title of any kind. No individual had won more than a sectional title. Quickly all of that changed with Pimental calling the shots.
He implemented simple standards — simple, yet extremely important team rules: everyone had to be a gentleman on and off the mat, which included showing the most utmost respect for every opposing team, opposing wrestler, own teammates and coaches, and certainly your family, friends and associates.
If you wrestled for Pimental, you had to have a work ethic — a superior one, because he not only knew the sport of wrestling in and out, but he knew how to teach it and how to get the very best out of each and every student-athlete, whether it be at a New England Championship match, a Cape Ann League match, a JV match, or just a typical practice. He was a disciplinarian for sure, but not a drill instructor type. His style was more like a math equation: work ethic and discipline equals improvement and development, which turns into self confidence, self motivation and then over time victories.
On top of that he had fun when he coached. Mike's fun-loving personality certainly was contagious to those around him — including his great pal Peter Mitchell, the longtime assistant coach, who also is a top notch person and coach.
Through his 19 years as coach, Pimental had an overall record of 192-158-5, which included records from both the Merrimack Valley and the Cape Ann League. He is the winningest coach in program history, surpassing Nee who had just over 100 wins, while current coach Joel McKenna has 69.
Before Pimental coached, only three individual WHS wrestlers (one twice) had won sectional titles. During his 19 years, Pimental coached seven individuals to an individual state championship title including Billy Tate, Pat Heffernan, Marc Sollazzo, the late Hall of Famer Derek Hanley (twice), Roman Walsh, Steve Sughrue and Kenny Joyce. Hanley became the only all-state champion in the history of the program.
In addition, Pimental coached ten different individuals to a sectional championship title, and also the 2003 team to its first and only D3 North Sectional team title in program history. Pimental coached 19 individuals to Cape Ann League individual championship titles, and also had four wrestlers place at the New Englands, including a fifth place by Tate in 1997, a fifth and a second by Hanley in 2002 and '03 and then a third by Walsh, also on '03.
In his first two seasons as coach, the Wildcats had four wins in each season and then nine of the next ten years, the team had winning records including win totals of 12, 12, 13, a program record 17, 12 and 16 wins over six consecutive years.
“Anything I have done in coaching has been taken from him. He has made me a better person, better coach and a better husband for that matter. I really can't go into enough detail of just how much he has helped me throughout the years,” said McKenna back in 2013 when he was named Pimental's replacement.
In 2001, Pimental was named the Town Crier's Coach of the Year. That season was just the beginning of the tremendous success over the next decade. The Wildcats finished 12-7-1 overall, including 7-1 in the Cape Ann League, good for second place to North Andover, who defeated the 'Cats by 16 points in a tough dual meet.
On top of that, Wilmington made program history at the time by winning the Georgetown Invitational tournament, with Sollazzo becoming the first champion at the prestigious Mount Anthony Tournament, by crowning three CAL Champions, by finishing second at the D3 North Sectionals and then finishing sixth at the D3 state meet. Pimental was named the D3 North Sectional Coach of the Year.
That season ended in March and later that calendar year in December, he deservingly so was named the Town Crier's Coach of the Year and he had one great line from that story which sums up everything you need to know about this future Wilmington High School Hall of Fame Coach.
“Someone told me the other day that when I was going to practice, I looked like a little kid at Christmas. To me coaching is better than Christmas. I have forty kids showing up to practice every single day to work hard, and who have the same interests and goals in the sport of wrestling that I have. And I have these kids for three months. That's better than Christmas which is just one day.”