West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker, National Wrestling Hall of Famer
and Rick Welker

December 12, 2010

"Emil Nardone: A Man of Courage"

by Dr. Bill Welker

This past summer the OVAC wrestling community lost one of its bravest mat sport icons - Emil Nardone. Allow me to share his story with you.

At the age of eight, Emil Nardone fractured his leg playing baseball. While recovering from his injury, he contracted a staph infection that developed into osteomylitis in his right ankle. The infection was not diagnosed in time. Thus, Nardone became very ill and the doctors had to perform an immediate blood transfusion. But his troubles didn't end there. The blood that he received was tainted with Hepatitis C virus, which ultimately caused the loss of his leg and recent passing.

To his credit, his physical troubles did not stop Emil Nardone from accomplishing great things in the sport he loved - Wrestling.

Emil Nardone graduated from Union High School in 1966. He received his bachelor's degree from the West Virginia Institute of Technology and a master's degree from West Virginia University.

In 1974, Nardone started teaching at Union Junior High School, where he initiated the first wrestling program. Emil Nardone also started the "Benwood Bruisers" Youth Wrestling Program.

Nardone's physical problems returned in 1980. The Hepatitis C virus became active. Coach Nardone had to battle through severe illness, medical treatment, and liver cirrhosis for decades. Still, Nardone was determined to stay active in the sport of wrestling.

Emil Nardone started the first wrestling program at Bishop Donahue High School and coached there from 1983 to 2002. He produced five state champions and one OVAC titlist, along with winning over 150 dual meets. In 2002, Emil Nardone had to retire from teaching and coaching due to his physical problems, but his legacy of "not giving up" lives on in the hearts of those who knew and loved him.

For his "beyond the call of duty" efforts in promoting wrestling in the Valley and state of West Virginia, Emil Nardone was inducted into the Bishop Donahue Sports Hall of Fame in 2003. Moreover, in 2006, he was the first recipient of the "Medal of Courage" award in the Mountain State, and he is enshrined as a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Emil Nardone is survived by his loving wife Kathy, sister Tanya, two sons - Drs. Emil and Matthew Nardone - and two granddaughters: Alaire and Atia Nardone.

On a personal note, I have never known a mat mentor who was more devoted to his athletes than Coach Emil Nardone.

He truly was a coaching legend and: "A Man of Courage."

"Sometimes the scrap metal you throw away turns out to be 24-karat gold."
-- Bill Welker

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