A passion for wrestling drove Coach Panuska

Mr. Panuska is the keeper of the Lake Riviera wrestling trophy case displayed outside the middle school gymnasium. STEVE WEXLER THE OCEAN STAR

Wrestling and Brick Township are synonymous, thanks to Coach Paul Panuska.

The Lake Riviera Middle School physical education teacher and wrestling coach is set to retire at the end of this year after almost 40 years of teaching and coaching. Mr. Panuska will retire as the third winningest middle school wrestling coach in New Jersey with over 300 wins, 17 division titles, five county titles, four Shore Conference titles and one state title.

“My legacy is athletics,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned it’s the route to becoming established and a good pathway in life. It just teaches you so much.”

Next to his compelling influence on the world of middle school wrestling, Mr. Panuska applied his knowledge outside the scholastic level by starting Brick Township’s recreational wrestling program, the Brick Wrestling Club Mat Rats.

“I started it in my senior year of high school, in 1974, by myself. I worked through the recreation department and we wrestled the only other team that was around, Toms River,” he explained. Mr. Panuska continued to help with the club during his time at Southern Connecticut University, where he wrestled at the Division II level.


“Coach Panuska is so passionate about the sport. He makes it competitive and fun for the kids,” said Vinnie Santaniello who, along with sons Vincent and Anthony, went through the Lake Riviera program. “I don’t know if another coach can duplicate that or can really stay even with what he’s done and keep the program where it is,” said Mr. Santaniello.

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