Friday, March 3, 2017

Catching up with .... Marc Gasparini, Boylan

Marc Gasparini's professional career has been as varied as his athletic career was in high school.

During his Boylan days, he was an all-conference defensive lineman in football and conference champion in wrestling.

Professionally, the son of former Winnebago County Sheriff Don Gasparini gravitated into becoming a fire fighter. An injury during a fire ended that career. He moved into politics, serving as Winnebago County Circuit Court Clerk. Frustrated with the lack of political options, he was recruited by Merrill Lynch, where he survived the Great Recession, and now is a senior financial advisor and vice president of the Rockford office.

I got to know Marc well when he was circuit court clerk and was surprised to see how accomplished he was back in his high school days.

Q: You played football, wrestled and ran track. What did you do in track?

"Not much. I tried pole vaulting, which I liked. I tried shot put, discus. I did some sprinting, but I wasn’t the sprinter in the family. My older brother, John, he was the sprinter in the family. He was a fullback at Boylan. He was the better athlete in the family."

Q: Your senior year in football, 1985-1986, that was the year East won the state title in 5A and Hononegah finished second in 4A and they both finished behind Boylan and Jefferson. What was it like to play in the conference that year?

"We beat Hononegah that year and we beat East the last week of the regular season, 14-7. We beat them on a Friday and then had to play them again in the playoffs on Wednesday. We had to use every trick in the book to beat them on Friday and then we still played them tough, but it was a huge upset to beat them the first time and we couldn’t pull it off twice."

Q: You were an all-conference defensive lineman during perhaps the best season ever for the NIC-10. What was your style?

“I was a 170-pound nose tackle, probably the lightest nose tackle ever. We stunted on every play. We liked to play that Bears 46 defense so it was a lot of fun."

Q: When you were in those defensive game plan meetings, what were the one or two players in the conference where you went “oh, this guy’s good. We got to stop this guy."

“It depended on the team. Guilford, it was guys like John Brent, who got hurt when we played them. I hate to say this, but the good guys who got hurt usually got hurt playing us. Matt Larson from Hononegah was a tough kid. When you hit him you knew it. East had a guy, Sprite Matthews, that few people remember, but he was the most underrated player. He was fast. He was a potential touchdown every time he got the ball."

Q: What was the Marc Gasparini go-to wrestling move?


It’s one of the reasons I didn’t do as well in the post season. I’m trying to be as humble as I can, but most of my matches didn’t go past the first period. I’d get them in a headlock and pin them in the first couple of minutes, so I didn’t have the stamina to last for a full three periods. I’d be gassed and when I started going up against the really good guys later in the tournament. That hurt me.

Wrestling is probably the greatest high school and collegiate sports there is from an individual standpoint. You have no one else to blame if you lose. I started out wrestling 112, sophomore I was 132, junior year I was 145. Senior year, I didn’t cut weight. I weighed 170, but I was wrestling 185. I won the conference at 185. I certified at the lower weight, 167, in the playoffs as you’d call it. But I got hurt wrestling these bigger guys. I was 20 to 30 pounds lighter. It wore me down.

Kids are wrestling younger and younger now. It’s more organized. It is fun. I have one son and he didn’t get into wrestling because Pecatonica doesn’t have a tam. He’d probably been pretty good. My kid, he loves to hunt and fish and Pecatonica didn’t have a bass fishing team. So he went to the school board to get them to start one. Last year, they were sectional champions and went down state in bass fishing."

Q: If there was bass fishing back in the 1980s, would track have been out the window?

"No. I probably would have stayed with track. I did the hunting and all that because of my dad. My brothers, they were up at 4:30 in the morning. I’d go out at 9 a.m. – and get the biggest deer."

Q: You’re in wealth management now at Merrill Lynch. What from your athletic career helps you today as a wealth manager?

"Competitiveness. Merrill Lynch looks for high achievers - people who have been involved in sports when they were younger, the ones who stand out as leaders on their team or even in individual sports. We look for people who excel, who go above and beyond. You have to be able to take a loss and continue to work hard. You get a lot of rejection in business, you need to be able to bounce back."

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