Sports Person of the Week
Kapushinski Excited to Coach Branford Wrestling
After assisting in several programs, Kevin Kapushinski is excited to take on his first head coaching role with the Branford wrestling team during the 2021-’22 season. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Kapushinski)
The Branford wrestling team returned to the mats with new leadership following a matchless season last year. Kevin Kapushinski was hired to take over the Hornets as head coach and is being assisted by program alum Zach Cash.
Kevin brings experience as a four-year high school wrestler and former assistant coach at several schools. When Kevin saw the position at Branford, the Wallingford resident saw an opportunity to take on the role of head coach, while also working a little closer to home after having served as an assistant at Foran for the past three years. While he wasn’t 100-percent sure about making the leap, Kevin’s wife Alison gave him the extra push.
“I wasn’t actively looking for a head coaching position and, when I saw the Branford position, it took me a couple weeks to decide if I was the right person for the job,” says Kevin. “When I told [Alison] I wasn’t sure, she said, ‘You absolutely need to do this.’ She’s extremely supportive and has been my No. 1 motivator. She drives me to be the best person I can be, and I don’t know what I’d do without her.”
Since Foran and Branford both compete in the SCC, Kevin was familiar with the Hornets and remembers seeing Branford succeed during the 2019-’20 season before COVID halted the sport last winter. While he didn’t know what to expect coming in on the heels of a canceled season, Kevin is now in the midst of a successful debut campaign at Branford.
“I knew it was a successful program with talented wrestlers on the team, but I wasn’t sure where it was now. I had an idea the team could be successful, but wasn’t sure of the potential, so I laid out practice plans and hoped they could come to that level and be successful and, since week one, they have shown they could live up to those standards,” Kevin says. “The main goal we have is trying to be one of the best teams in the state and the best team we possibly can be. I know they have the potential to be great. We have to work hard every day and be better than we were the day before.”
Kevin aims to be as technical as possible with his wrestlers. He spends time researching technique and drills in order to “get the most out of them at practices.” The hard work is paying off so far as Branford won 11 of its first 12 matches with Kevin saying that the “way the season is going and what I’m seeing with the kids, think I made the right decision.”
Coming in as a first-year head coach, Kevin also needed an assistant. At the suggestion of Athletic Director Tom Ermini, Kevin met with Zach Cash, a former Hornets’ wrestler. After meeting, Kevin saw that they shared similar philosophies and brought Cash info the fold as his assistant coach.
“Zach was successful in this program and, the first time we met, we talked for an hour and he was on board with everything I had in mind,” says Kevin. “Tom has also been very helpful as he coached many of these wrestlers in middle school, so they’ve both helped me with the personal side of the kids as I try to lay out the plans that will help each wrestler individually and the team as a whole.”
When Ermini interviewed Kevin at the beginning of the school year, he was impressed with Kevin’s plans for the team, along with his familiarity for the Branford program.
“What impressed me the most during our interview process were the expectations and plans he laid out for the program,” Ermini says. “Both Kevin and our Assistant Coach Zach Cash have incredible passion for both the sport and coaching student-athletes. It is on display regardless if it is a practice or competition. I’m looking forward to seeing how the program continues to grow under Kevin’s leadership.”
Kevin first became interested in wrestling when he was introduced to the sport as an intramural activity in middle school. Though he had played football since he was 10 and continued throughout high school, Kevin found his passion on the wrestling mat at Conard High School.
“I loved it, and it taught me so much and challenged me more than anything else,” Kevin says. “I had a lot of experience with football, but as the years went on, football would drag on from June to November, and then I’d never want wrestling season to end.”
While he says that he wasn’t the “most spectacular athlete out there,” Kevin made it to the final of the Greater Hartford Open as a junior and also notched a win at the Class L State Championship. One of the things that Kevin enjoyed the most was helping the younger wrestlers on the team, giving him the first hint that he would lean toward coaching.
After high school, Kevin shifted his focus to mixed martial arts before stepping away from competing in order to focus on his studies. Kevin considered different paths, including physical therapy and working as an athletic trainer, but eventually settled on physical education and earned his degree from Central Connecticut State University in 2013.
“I love sports and I love athletics, so I thought that would be the way to go,” says Kevin. “It also allowed me to get into coaching.”
Kevin’s started his career by subbing in several districts before taking on his first full-time position at The Grove School, a therapeutic boarding school in Madison. He was then hired into the Connecticut Technical district, first serving at Ellis Tech before transferring to his current position at Platt Tech in January 2018.
Kevin earned his master’s in sports administration. While he would consider taking on an athletic director’s role in the future, Kevin found that the information and skills he learned could one day help him start his own wrestling club in the area in an effort to help grow the sport.
“The goal is to expand the sport as much as possible,” says Kevin. “If we can do so in other towns that don’t have it, it gives us more competition.”
Ever since he began teaching, Kevin has been coaching. Prior to the past three seasons at Foran, Kevin was an assistant coach in Simsbury for a year. Kevin’s first foray into coaching wrestling was with Vinal Tech during the 2013-’14 season. Kevin then was an assistant coach for one year in Simsbury before taking the position at Foran. Kevin, who also gave coaching football a try at Simsbury and Sheehan, says that he’s picked up things from the head coaches at every school, as well as local wrestling clubs such as Fisheye and Southside.
“I had a lot of great kids on my teams and learned a lot,” Kevin says. “I love the sport of football, but I get a lot more passion out of wrestling. It’s the fact that you have to have that determination to go through any obstacle in the way and figure out how to rely on yourself and others at the same time. With wrestling, you learn so many life skills, including that you have to fight everything that it’s in front of you to be successful in life.”
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .