It has been close to twenty-six years since I first met Joe Iacono, but the memory is crystal clear and etched in my psyche forever.
One Livermore High School Cowboy wrestling family member in particular, I have had the honor and privilege to coach, as well as mentor beyond high school is 1996 alumni Joe Iacono, a true student-athlete motivated by sheer determination to follow and achieve his dreams.
From day one, I saw something special in this kid. It wasn’t his words, but is actions that set him apart from many of his peers. So, let the story be told!
The sport of wrestling has been an integral part of my life for close to forty years now. This includes being a competitor, coach, historian, promoter, and writer.
Taking to the mat in the late 1970s, I learned first hand on day one that wrestling was not for everyone.
Unlike many other sports I had participated in, the rigor and intensity that goes with the day-to-day physical training, coupled with the mental fortitude required to set foot on the mat to do battle, is beyond comparison.
As a coach for over twenty-five years, I have had the honor and privilege to coach hundreds of kids at all skill levels. Each and every one of them is a true warrior and a member of a small club of athletes in the world’s toughest and most demanding sport.
Among the many life lessons and traits I had learned from my coaches and mentors, there is one in particular that resonates with me and has been my blue print for action for a greater part of my coaching tenure. And that is being totally committed to those I coach and mentor throughout the duration of their mat career and beyond.
At Livermore High School, we “Coaches” always emphasized the importance of being a family, an extended Cowboy wrestling family that goes beyond one’s mat career, which from my experience has established many strong bonds spanning several decades.
It was Monday, November 9, 1992, the first official day of wrestling practice, a day many of our coaching staff were more than eager to get started.
We had just come off a banner season with an undefeated 1992 team, regarded as the most decorated in the school’s history. The 1992 team produced multiple EBAL Champions, seven NCS medalists, five state qualifiers, and two state medalists.
Considering we had just graduated twelve seniors from this team, the 1993 team was not as experienced and consisted of several wrestlers coming from the JV ranks, as well as a good core group of incoming freshman.
It was very well known that we had our work cut out for us to repeat as EBAL Champions.
Much like any other start of a season, we began practice with a bang, making it known up front what our goals and expectations were for the season.
The common denominator for all in the room was total commitment to the program and an expectation for each individual to work hard towards achieving their ultimate potential.
I recall during our initial warm-up session many of the new incoming freshmen were staring at us with slight fear and demons of doubt. At the time, our program had a reputation of being very tough and to just make the second team (JV) was a large undertaking, let alone earning a spot on the varsity team.
Despite the anxiety among many of the new wrestlers in the room, one wrestler in particular caught my attention. An incoming freshman, this kid had fire in his eyes similar to several members of the 1992 team when they were incoming freshman.
Approaching him with a commanding voice, I stated, “What’s your name and why are you here…are you motivated for the intense practice to come?”
Without hesitation, he stated, “My name is Joe Iacono and I’m ready for whatever you throw at me, Coach.”
Immediately, I blew my whistle and shouted to the team, “It’s time to get serious…”
After two intense hours of practice, I approached Joe again and asked him, “What’re your thoughts…are you ready to be part of a championship team?”
With a totally serious look on his face, Joe stated, “Heck yah, Coach.” It was at this moment a bond began to form, establishing a friendship that remains strong to this day.
From the first day I met Joe in the practice room to his final match in high school, I can’t recall a day that he didn’t give 100% effort into all that he did.
Even in the toughest of circumstances, he never gave up. It was his dedication and determination to achieve his goals that is his driving force in life.
From the first year I coached him, I knew deep down that he would be successful at anything he set his mind to. Graduating with the class of 1996, Joe was a standout student-athlete at Livermore High School, earning a total of eight varsity letters in Wrestling, Football, Baseball and Track and Field.
On the mat, he was a great competitor, always in the match from start to finish. A team captain during his Junior and Senior seasons, Joe was a three-time East Bay Athletic League (EBAL) medalist (2x finalist), earned All-EBAL honors, as well as qualifying to the CIF North Coast Section Championships three times.
On the gridiron, Joe played tailback, earning two varsity letters and All-EBAL honors his senior season. Playing multiple position in Baseball, he earned two letters and had the unique opportunity to play at the Oakland A’s Coliseum for the North Coast Section playoffs.
While competing in several events on the track and field team, Joe was part of the 4×100 relay team that won the East Bay Athletic League Championship and placed fourth at the CIF North Coast Section.
As a result of his outstanding achievements at Livermore, Joe was awarded the honor of “Best All Around Athlete” and “Positive Role Model for Students” at graduation.
Read Joe’s “MEMORABLE SHORT STORY: The coveted pair of White/Green Adidas Equipment wrestling shoes that motivated Joe Iacono to earn his first trip to the CIF North Coast Section Championships – 1994″
JOE IACONO PROFILE
Entrepreneur – Kid Kustoms, the Roddler (US Patent)
Graduated from Oregon State University with a BFA Degree in Graphic Design
Spark of the Realm Award (Senior year at Oregon State in 2000)
Earned 8 Varsity Letters at Livermore High School (Wrestling, Football, Baseball, and Track)
3x EBAL Championships Medalist/3x North Coast Section Qualifier
Varsity Wrestling Team Captain – 1995 & ’96
All East Bay Athletic League in Football (Tailback) and Wrestling
4×100 relay team – East Bay Athletic League Champions (Track & Field)
“Best All Around Athlete” Award (Class of ’96)
“Positive Role Model for Students” Award (Class of ’96)
Athlete, Entrepreneur, and Family Man
Q&A WITH JOE IACONO
TCW: How did you first get involved in the sport of wrestling?
IACONO: Freshman year of High School, 1993. I was actually trying out for the basketball team after football season and Richard Diaz, Adam Orr, and Nick Jepsen came to practice one night…”No, no, no bro, you need to come join the wrestling team.” I actually walked out after just 2 practices. Once I met Coach Page, it was game over for basketball.
TCW: Who was your biggest influence in the sport?
IACONO: Well, I had no early childhood references since the sport had no major exposure to masses. It had to be the wrestlers from the 1992 team that to date is the greatest in the school’s history. During my freshman year, I think we had close to 100 members and every team was good. It was very tuff just to even make the JV roster in those days. Outstanding wrestlers, such as Richard Naval, Ken Zanato, Marc Kavanagh, and Jerry Bohlander come to mind. Prior to that Varsity Team lots of guys talked about Livermore Hall-of-Fame wrestlers Scott Page, Chris Ornellas, and Pete Matheson.
TCW: What are your fondest memories of wrestling at Livermore High School?
IACONO: Wow, So many to choose from since it was such a strong bond all four years. The smaller training room if you qualified to NCS, the dual meets with the single spotlight in the entire gym. Being team captain my senior year, the travel tournaments and breakfast after weigh-ins. So many laughs, we had a good group that knew how to win on the mat, but also knew how to stay loose. We had a Coach named Fontes, he would kick the door open at start of practice and yell “ Time to get serious” ha-ha.
TCW: What life lessons did you learn in the sport of wrestling that applies in your day-to-day life, both as a family man and entrepreneur?
IACONO: Wrestling was a great team sport, but so much of being on the team was isolated individual work. The short rounds with a high level of intensity in close combat duals. You never had a lot of time to change momentum or rebound from adversity during a match. You had to just get it done, and you practiced the exact same way. I think many of the sports disciplines in order to be competitive were consistency combined with ambition. No other time in my life has helped define the discipline and consistency that I take into my own family and professional career.
TCW: Whom were your role models growing up? How did they inspire you to be the person you are today?
IACONO: I collected anything Bo Jackson. I was a super fan. I was attracted to the idea you can play any sport and be great at them all.
TCW: Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in graphic design?
IACONO: Oregon State University had an incredible visual communication department. The Liberal Arts Department staff was incredible theory based communication design leaders. Professor David Hardesty upper level classes were when it all turned into a new passion to pursue. The class presentations, studio critiques, creative problem solving studies, and long 24 hour sessions in the computer lab defined a career that I still love to practice everyday. I was lucky enough to be in his final two classes of his 30-year career at the University. Seeing the students’ comeback to visit him from all 3 decades to celebrate his career because of how he changed lives as a teacher was powerful. Very inspiring. Many of his students went on to become some amazing industry leaders. I will always be in debt for his efforts to help build that part of my life.
TCW: It’s my understanding that the “Roddler” is among your early career graphic design creations. Please explain how you came up with the concept, as well as the process to market it both in the United State and internationally.
IACONO: In 2002 I opened up Iacono Design Group. California based Branding and Marketing Company that helped me continue my education in brand development. While I built my client base and accounts in packaging and branding, I was getting requests for illustrations / concept art for the automotive industry. My Hot Rod sketches got national attention. My artwork has been published in over 65 publications world wide for all kinds of clients and mediums. The work built a reputation as a high profile transportation designer / stylist. I started getting request to work for bigger brands like General Motors and Ford Racing on Prototype Aftermarket Concepts out of Detroit.
Transportation design lead me in 2006 to start my second company, Kid Kustoms LLC. A juvenile products brand that would change the industry with a product named “The Roddler”. It was a 3-wheeled Art Deco concept that took the industry by storm with styling. A napkin sketch to full production model sold all over the world. It was the first Stroller that transformed into a trike. Clients included, LeBron James, Romanian POP Singer Corina, Nicole Richie, Kourtney Kardashian, Prince George, Adrienne Janic, Sabina Kelly, Wendy Burch, and many more. It was featured in publications world wide, and more notably, Wired Mag, Pregnancy Mag, Robb Report, and the LA Times. Featured in News and TV shows including Kourtney & Khloe take Miami, The Price is Right Game Show, ABC News, E Hollywood, CNN, and the hit television show on ABC Family Baby Daddy where its was scripted into the entire show. Wired NYC, Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas, Bel Bambini West Hollywood, and Pinky Blue in Canada just to name a few of the popular high end boutiques. The Roddler went through five generations of chassis and safety development standards for 10 years. I sold the company and model five tooling in 2016.
The Roddler concept was a world famous stroller identity in juvenile products. The Roddler started as a napkin sketch and quickly turned into a media and celebrity sensation. 10 years defined a grass roots brand that was home grown production that literally started in a garage. The highly stylized concept had 4 generations of prototypes and 2 Generations of production.
TCW: What is your greatest achievement thus far as a Graphic Designer?
IACONO: Developing small strategic design concept ideas that grow legs into brands have always been my early goal. So many projects over the last decade that are note worthy of my favorite work, however I think we are more proud that we have been in business since 2002. 15 years defining solutions in visual communication might be at the top of my list.
I have worked with builders and design companies all over the world but as the years passed with the ups and downs of industry politics I stayed faithful to one Torrance based automotive company, Cartel Customs. Owned and Operated by Jeremy Lookofsky, I worked with the team to help develop many concepts in last 6 years for Scion and now Toyota. Many high profile prototypes over the years, but none bigger than the official production model Scion tC Series 9.0. 2000 units were made and sold in dealerships all across the US.
TCW: Based on what you have learned and experienced thus far in your career, what is your short and long-term goals?
IACONO: Our First Son Matthew was Born in 2011, and our second son Ryan was born in 2013. One of my proudest decisions was to stay at home to help raise our boys. Life, Kids, Career… maybe a combo of all of it, but in late 2014 a doctor visit that reviewed heart health problems that I was having. I have family history of heart issues and diabetes so I needed change.
I made a conscious decision I was going to document a journey of weight loss and healthy living. “Get back in the game” was my goal. As a father of two, I wanted to be healthy for my family. The new journey began when I walked into a Crossfit gym. Who knew 1 hour could literally save my life. The functional fitness community and lifestyle holds accountability by showing up and being happy to suffer together with daily notes on results. Sound familiar? Every month I would find new challenges and attack it. The small changes with small manageable goals started to add up.
Crossfit Livermore became my home away from home. Members all ranged in fitness levels /age groups. CFL head coach Matt Souza has hands on team involved in fixing functional movement patterns and diet. The genius high intensity workouts feel a lot like wrestling. In fact the creator Greg Glassman often compares classic Crossfit workouts like capturing the feeling of a 2-minute men’s gymnastic rings routine. A time domain wrestlers also know very well. It’s a gritty fitness sport but very effective! As of today all my heart health numbers dropped to healthy levels and I have lost almost 70lbs. The most rewarding piece to training hard for the last 4 years has been the mobility and strength gains.
Recently I had been inspired to develop more of my Olympic weightlifting skills. Diet and recovery patterns have allowed me to continue to train 5-6 days a week with double days. During those extra sessions I was working late with the OLY Barbell club coach Albert Gonzales. Could I get back into a singlet? Would I? Hell yeah I would… in late 2017 I signed up to become a USAW Masters competitor. In my second competition earned a qualifying total in the 105-kilo weight class to compete in the 2018 Nike American Open Finals powered by Rogue. I weighed 227 lbs. the lightest I have been since 2005. As of today I’m riding the wave and having fun with the community and family of friends that continue to inspire me to stay fit for my family. Top 5 in the world at age 40? 41? What not. LETS GO!!
TCW: Growing up in the city of Livermore for the past thirty plus years, how else are you involved in your community?
IACONO: I have worked close with the City of Livermore and the Downtown Association. Last 5 years I got more involved with Livermore High School Athletics, and participate weekly in the Livermore School district activities. Iacono Design Group is a Livermore Business so I like to be a part of the downtown community.
Story by SportStars INSIDER, Al Fontes, thecaliforniawrestler.com