Tony Mantella

General Tony Mantella

HOF Profile: Tony Mantella - My Story

First in a series of profiles on the Temple Athletics Hall of Fame Class

"Wrestling is a little like wrestling a bear, you don't quit when you are tired, you quit when the bear is tired." - Author Unknown

I grew up in a small town in upstate New York called Homer.  If you're not familiar with Homer, it is a small dot on the map between Syracuse and Binghamton.  One of the most noteworthy things about Homer is that there are twice as many cows as there are people.  Growing up in this rural area adjacent to many farms was quite different, there is not much happening on the weekends.  Sometimes, "cow tipping" was the only way to entertain ourselves and help pass the time on long summer nights.  Those cows sure made us stronger though!

My inspiration came when I was a freshman in high school and my older brother, Tino, was attending Temple University. Tino wrestled for Temple and became a graduate assistant coach.  I was overjoyed when my invitation came to visit him in the big city.  Tino gave me a tour of Temple University, McGonigle Hall, and especially the wresting room.  He also showed me the excitement of city life.  This was the first time I'd ever left central New York and I was amazed at the diversity of the city and the University itself. 

On that initial trip to Philly I also got to experience some new and different foods, such as enjoying a Philadelphia Cheesteak and eating Chinese food for the very first time in my life. 

I decided at that point that Temple University was where I wanted to go and I was going to wrestle for them.  My brother suggested that maybe I would be happier in a more rural area at a college with more of the "large campus life", however, becoming a Temple Owl was already engrossed in my mind and I could not get that wrestling room out of my head. 

While on my first trip to Philadelphia I was reading a book about Rocky Marciano and his philosophy was to "work on your weaknesses and turn them into strengths".  I knew one of my greatest weaknesses at the time was being incredibly shy, I had no "worldly" experiences and I knew that getting exposure to a large, diverse city and a multifaceted university would allow me to improve on those weaknesses and build on my socializing and academic skills. 

As high school progressed my wrestling career was soaring, but I encountered a major health setback in the form of a ruptured appendix, resulting in several operations, which back in the mid 70's at a small town hospital meant you were basically cut in half.  There were numerous complications and I ended up with a 12 week hospital stay.  I was lucky to be alive, nevertheless regain my strength and ability to participate in sports. Attending Temple was my goal so I persevered and I was blessed that Temple University gave me an opportunity to attend college and earn a wrestling scholarship. 
"More enduringly than any other sport, wrestling teaches self-control and pride.  Some have wrestled without great skill - none have wrestled without pride" - Dan Gable

In my opinion wrestling is one of the greatest sports in the world.  It's a sport where men and women of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds can participate in and excel.  It's a sport that revolves around self-discipline with little accolades or notoriety.  Most wrestlers acknowledge that you cannot make a professional, money-earning career out of this sport.  However, the lessons learned from the hard work, dedication and self-sacrifice prepare you for the hard situations you encounter throughout life.  As Dan Gable once said, "Once you've wrestled, everything else in life is easy." 

Wrestling at Temple was one of the greatest experiences of my life.  We had a small but very competitive team with some tremendous athletes.  I am still very close with my teammates and coaches as we spent so many years sweating, bonding and battling our opponents and each other.  A brotherhood was forged and we share an unbreakable bond.  We reunite annually to reminisce and share great wrestling stories and experiences from our Temple Owl days.  We learned how to assert ourselves and to be more confident in every situation we face.  Wrestling molded us into the men we are today. 

During my Temple career I was fortunate enough to wrestle all over the world.  I wrestled in a tournament in East Germany, which back in that day involved a pass through the "Iron Curtain".  There was a lot of intimidation against the team as we were interviewed and scrutinized by the Communist soldiers at "check-point Charlie".  This was an exhilarating experience back in the height of the Cold War.  There are not many of our generation that can say they grasped the Berlin wall up close and also got to pass through it.  That is an invaluable experience for me and I look forward to sharing this story someday with my grandson. 

It is the overcoming of fear and obstacles that help shape you, wrestling taught me that it's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up again.  And I did get up, I got up time and time again after each one of life's obstacles knocked me down.  I competed in pro wrestling and I trained for and received a black belt in karate and judo.  I even competed in a grappling tournament and won the Eastern Division title of the Heavyweight Grappling Championship at age 52.  When I was approached after the grappling match by one of my "younger" opponents, he said, "Man you have some strength" to which I replied, "its' old man strength kid, you'll get it someday." 

There is no doubt that my education and athletic experiences at Temple University shaped me into the person I am today.  When I left Homer, New York, I still had hay in my hair and I was painfully shy.  When I graduated Temple University, I was a well-rounded, self-confident and successful athlete ready to take on the world.  Without this exposure I would have never had the confidence to start an international business.  It is with tremendous pride that after graduating Temple I went on to become a loving father of four children, a devoted partner to my finance and a proud businessman employing over 70 people. 
I credit my successful business ownership of over 30 years to the college day experiences that molded me into the man I am today, President and CEO of one of the world's best OEM Magnetic component manufacturers.  My wresting experiences have connected me to some of the most influential and professional associates throughout my career. 

Temple University gave me an opportunity when many other universities turned this country boy away.  I wanted to bring home a National Championship for the school, but unfortunately I fell short by one point!!  One lousy point!  In my case, my best success came after my greatest disappointment and as they say, "When you're second you try harder!"
-Anthony Rocco Mantella

n.b. - Tony Mantella is one of 10 members of the 2018 Temple Athletics Hall of Fame Class.  The class will be officially inducted on Friday, October 19 at a Gala held inside the Temple University STAR Pavilion.  The class will also be recognized at the Homecoming Football game (Temple vs. #25 Cincinnati) on Saturday, October 20 (noon). 
Print Friendly Version