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Olympian and Hall of Fame high school coach Lou Giani, 86, passed away

By National Wrestling Hall of Fame | Jan. 20, 2021, 4:56 p.m. (ET)

Photos courtesy of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

STILLWATER, Okla. – The National Wrestling Hall of Fame was saddened to learn that Louis "Lou" Giani, a Distinguished Member inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2003, passed away on Tuesday, at the age of 86.

A funeral service will be held on Monday, January 25, at 9:30 a.m. at St Hughs of Lincoln in Huntington Station, New York.

“On behalf of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Board of Governors and staff, I want to express our sincere sympathies to the family, friends and countless wrestlers coached by Lou Giani,” said Lee Roy Smith, Executive Director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. “A great competitor as a wrestler, he became one of the most extraordinary coaches our sport has ever had, particularly at the youth and high school levels. His impact became known across the wrestling world in 2003 when he became one of only five high school coaches in history to be enshrined in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member.”

A virtually self-taught wrestler, Giani’s competitive career did not begin until his junior year of high school. Defying the odds, he won an impressive 10 New York Athletic Club titles and more than 20 tournament titles in the United States. He won a gold medal at the Pan American Games in 1959 and was a member of the United States Olympic team in 1960. Although his Olympic participation was cut short by a serious infection, his passion for the sport propelled him into the coaching arena.

Under Coach Giani's leadership, Huntington High School team captured nine New York state team titles, six tournament and three first-place state poll rankings. The fact that there is only one state tournament, with 600 programs participating, accentuates the magnitude of these accomplishments. He had a career coaching record of 436-36-1, including 28 undefeated seasons, in 40 seasons. Giani coached a Suffolk record 188 All-County wrestlers and a state record 23 state champions and 53 all-state wrestlers.

Touted as the greatest high school wrestling coach in the state of New York, Giani was recognized by his peers three times as the New York Wrestling Coach of the Year and three times was chosen as the National High School Wrestling Coach of the Year, including 2002 by the National Wrestling Coaches Association.

He holds the distinction of being the first Suffolk County champion from Huntington High School while his son, Lou, Jr., was Huntington's first state champion. His youngest son, Joseph, was the school's first NCAA mat champion, capturing a Division III title while earning All-American honors three times for SUNY College at Brockport.

Motivated by his commitment to wrestling, Giani pursued additional avenues to contribute to the sport. He launched two youth wrestling programs in Long Island, designed to generate interest, enthusiasm and participation, while working to provide numerous opportunities for underprivileged youth through wrestling.

With wrestling as the backdrop, he worked the “Giani Magic” to instill values, work ethic and hope into the lives of young men, both on and off the mat.

National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum
America’s shrine to the sport of wrestling, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum was founded as a nonprofit organization in 1976 to honor the sport of wrestling, preserve its history, recognize extraordinary individual achievements, and inspire future generations. The National Wrestling Hall of Fame has museums in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and Waterloo, Iowa. The Stillwater, Oklahoma, location reopened in June 2016 following a $3.8 million renovation and now features interactive exhibits and electronic kiosks, as well as the opportunity to watch NCAA Championship matches from the 1930s to present day. It also has the John T. Vaughan Hall of Honors where the greatest names in wrestling are recognized, including iconic granite plaques presented to Distinguished Members since the Hall of Fame opened in 1976. The museum has the largest collection of wrestling artifacts and memorabilia in the world, including the most collegiate and Olympic wrestling uniforms. Wrestling truly is for everyone and the diversity and accessibility of the sport continues to be highlighted through exhibits featuring females, African-Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Latino Americans. There is also a library featuring historical documents, including NCAA guides and results, as well as books on the sport. For more information about the Hall of Fame, please visit