Former athletes reflect on Coach Mike Conners

by Rob Tetro

Nearly a week ago, the news became official.

The Oswego City School District’s web site acknowledged that Fulton’s Mike Conners was now its new football coach and athletic director.

The turn of events marked the conclusion of one of the most memorable coaching eras in the history of Fulton athletics.

Towards the end of 2011, Conners surpassed the 500 win mark as head coach of the Fulton varsity wrestling team. Overall, Conners led Fulton to 510 wins on the mat.

While at the helm of the Fulton varsity football team, Conners had a record of 110-54. Oddly enough, Conners’ last victory was a 22-8 win over Oswego in last fall’s season finale.

Conners influenced the lives of many during his 25 years as a coach, including Hannibal varsity cross country and track and field Coach Dan Pawlewicz, Army Sergeant Derrik Wise and former Syracuse University football player Jason Tanner.

Pawlewicz was a junior when Conners took over as head coach of the wrestling team in 1987. During his first year, the team had a 15-1 record, which put the Raiders in the top 5 in all of New York State.

Conners replaced another legendary coach in Wayne Bleau in 1987. Pawlewicz suggested that 25 years later, history is repeating itself.

“There is another set of huge shoes to fill,” Pawlewicz said.

During the 1988-89 season, Pawlewicz was a senior tri-captain on a team that proved to be among the best teams in the country. Conners led the Red Raiders to his first New York State High School Wrestling Championship following an undefeated season.

When Pawlewicz recalls his senior year as a tri-captain of one of the best wrestling teams in the country, there aren’t many words that come to mind that describe what that team was built on.

However, he pointed out that the athletes worked hard, showed dedication, set goals, understood tradition and acknowledged their teammates in a way similar to how they would acknowledge their own siblings.

Wise referred to Conners as a “total class act.”

He said that Conners has not only been an inspiration but he’s also been a motivator to athletes and other individuals during his tenure in Fulton.

Wise added that he is grateful for the positive influence Conners has had on his life.

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