Former Harvard wrestling coach Sciacca dies

John Sciacca, who took Harvard’s fledgling wrestling program into prominence in the 1960s, died Thursday at age 90.

Sciacca coached Harvard for 17 seasons, in which time the Hornets were 194-69 in dual meets. Current Harvard wrestling coach Tim Haak said Sciacca, who still lived in Harvard, had been in poor health recently.

Visitation will be from 3 to 5 p.m. Monday at Saunders & McFarlin Funeral Home; the funeral will be at 5.

In the 55 years of Harvard’s wrestling program, there have been only five coaches. Don Hardle coached in 1959, the first year, with Chuck Riker coaching the next two. Sciacca then took over and eventually made the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Hall of Fame.

Dick Holtfreter coached nine years and also was inducted into the IWCOA Hall of Fame. Haak now in his 27th and final season, also is in the IWCOA.

“Those are the guys [Sciacca and Holtfreter],” Haak said. “That was Harvard wrestling, those two.”

Harvard’s Sciacca-Holtfreter Invitational Tournament, named in their honor, is one of the best in northern Illinois and will take place on Dec. 20-21.

Sciacca won his first district title as a coach in 1965 and had his first individual state qualfier, his son Jim, in 1967. He had 18 state qualifiers and nine placewinners in his tenure. Sciacca was named the Class A Coach of the Year for the state in 1978.