Brockport alumn coaching new generation
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 10:02
Golden Eagle wrestling alum Fritz Zagorski has come full circle in his Brockport career as he enters his first year as assistant wrestling coach under Head Coach Don Murray.
Zagorski is a four-time All-American and 1990 NCAA National 126-pound champion, who competed under Coach Murray from 1989-91 and in 1995. Aside from his NCAA Championship, he holds both a SUNYAC and collegiate state title.
As a student at Eastridge High School in Rochester, Zagorski focused on freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling rather than the collegiate “folk” style. Both styles focus heavily on throws. For his efforts, Zagorski won gold at the Empire State Games for Greco-Roman three times, took first at the New York State freestyle championships and second at the freestyle nationals.
Aside from wrestling, Zagorski was also a decorated power lifter. He won the New York State Powerlifting Championships from 1984 to 1987 and for a time held the state and national records for bench, squat, deadlift and total lift.
Most recently, Zagorski has been honored with an induction into the New York State Collegiate Hall of Fame as a member of the 2012 class.
With such outstanding talent and natural ability, one would think Zagorski would have been looking forward to advancing his career at the college level. This, however, was not the case.
“I received letters from Nebraska, Oklahoma and a few others,” Zagorski said. “But to be honest, I wasn’t interested in going to college at all until the coach [Murray] came along.”
Zagorski said the first time he was approached by Murray was while he and his father were at the finals of a Greco-Roman tournament.
“He proceeded to tell us I had no idea how to wrestle,” Zagorski said. “In that hall, that night, he looked at us and said, ‘if he comes with me, I’ll make him a national champion in two years.’
“Two years later I smirked when I was on top of the national podium,” he said.
Zagorski’s career at Brockport was going smoothly until the first round of the 1991 national tournament, where he suffered a broken cheek bone and had to default the remainder of the tournament.
Described as the most painful thing he’s ever had to stay awake for, Zagorski took a three-year hiatus to allow the injury to heal.
He cashed in on his final year of eligibility at the age of 25, a man in the eyes of Murray. Zagorski said the first two months back were the hardest for him.
“After not working out for three and a half years,” Zagorski said. “It was the biggest physical challenge I have ever faced.”
Murray whipped Zagorski back into shape and by the end of the season, Zagorski was back on the All-American list, a feat which completed his four-year sweep of the honor.
“That fourth [All-American title] was very, very important to me,” Zagorski said. “And [Coach Murray] got me through it. He is one of the only men I would let in my corner when it’s on the line.”
After college, Zagorski went to Oklahoma with his father to build tornado safe rooms. By 2010 he was the father of two young children and back in the Rochester area.
The wrestling bug was still in Zagorski after the second multi-year hiatus of his career, and it wasn’t long until he had reconnected with Murray.
“I knew I was going to coach eventually,” Zagorski said. “When I was a freshman, Coach Murray said he would like to see me take over the program one day. He said I would be a great coach. I believed him.”
Zagorski said he started giving private training sessions to a few local wrestlers, which snowballed into a school setting for a year.
“I ran into Coach [Murray] at a tournament last spring and he asked me to come in and teach a technique,” he said. “I could never say no to Coach Murray.”
Zagorski must have picked a few pointers out of Murray’s no-nonsense way of coaching.
“It’s nice having Fritz in practice again,” Murray said. “He makes me look like Mother Theresa sometimes.”
As a coach, Zagorski is tackling the day-to-day ups and downs much like he did when he was competing.
“The team and I are making progress,” he said. “We’re still getting to know each other, which is a process in itself. I demand the work and 98 percent put the effort in.”
The team is responding well to Zagorski’s role as a coach.
“Coach Fritz is a great asset to the team,” senior Eliah Golding said. “He makes you feel proud to be a part of Brockport wrestling.”
Golding said that under Zagorski, you have the choice to train Zagorski’s way or leave the room.
This homecoming and reunion with Murray has left Zagorski eager and excited to begin his second career as a Golden Eagle.
“When I gear up it feels like I’ve never left the room,” Zagorski said. “I love being a part of anything [Coach Murray] does.”
Zagorski said that Murray has changed quite a bit from when he was a student.
“He smiles a lot more and talks to me instead of screaming, which I enjoy,” Zagorski said.
With the season coming to an end, whether or not Zagorski and Murray’s combined efforts will produce a new generation of Brockport All-Americans and National champions has yet to be decided. With the team earning its 50th consecutive winning season, the future is looking bright, not only for Zagorski and Murray, but for all the young men on the team.