Sports

Milford’s Bourassa has seen it all during career

Thursday, December 6, 2012

By GARY FITZ

Staff Writer

There have been a number of icons who have helped put New Hampshire wrestling on the map over the years, coaches like Nashua’s Paul Bellavance and Keene’s Dave Minickiello, who helped get things started 40 years ago.

The staff at Timberlane Regional in Plaistow has taken the sport to another level, while racking up state and New England championships year after year.

But few people have seen it all, from the sports infancy in the state in the late 1960s and its incredible progress over the years, like Milford High School wrestling coach Dana Bourassa.

Bourassa turns 57 this month, which when you add up all his experiences on and around a wrestling mat, makes him seem young for all he’s witnessed in 36 years of coaching.

Wrestling was in its infancy when Bourassa wrestled at Keene High School, first as an eighth-grader in the 1960s before graduating in 1972.

By 1977, while still a student at Plymouth State, Bourassa landed his first head coaching job, beginning the program at Plymouth High School under a young athletic director and football coach, Chuck Lenahan.

Lenahan, who guided Plymouth football to its 19th state title this fall, is one of those early mentors that Bourassa still speaks with frequently.

But it all began with Minickiello, who still comes to Milford each winter to help with a clinic.

“I think what made Dana a good coach then and continues to make him a good coach is his enthusiasm,” said Minickiello, who was a head coach for 33 years before retiring in the 1990s.

“I still love going to practice every day,” said Bourassa, who began Milford’s program in 1983 and is entering his 30th year as head coach. “Every winter, I can’t wait for the season to start.”

Bourassa has had his share of success over the years.

There were back-to-back championships in 1999 and 2000, and a near miss last winter, finishing second to Hollis Brookline by just three points.

Results are important, and Bourassa takes great pride in the accomplishments of the individuals he’s coached over the years. But he takes more pride in former wrestlers who have given back to the sport.

Former Milford wrestler Charles Danhof is the varsity coach at Blair Academy in New Jersey, the top prep school wrestling program in the country.

Andy Meier, another product of the Milford system, is one of the top officials in Massachusetts.

A number of Bourassa’s best wrestlers over the years have returned to coach with him. Some, like former Spartan Tom Sawyer, went on to coach against him during a stint as Souhegan’s head coach.

Bourassa, who returned to Keene in the early 1980s to assist Minickiello in an attempt to start a program at Keene State, was back in Plymouth for a year in 1982, then landed a teaching job in Milford.

Right away, he made plans to get wrestling going in Milford, with warrant articles and a letter writing campaign from parents like Rosemary Hammerstrom, whose sons Paul and Justin would become outstanding wrestlers.

Garrett Trombi would be the first Milford wrestler to win a state title. Many others would follow.

“I’ve seen an evolution of wrestling in the state over 40 years,” Bourassa said. “New Hampshire kids annually take their places among the best wrestlers in New England.”

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