Former Danbury state champ named head coach of wrestling program

Mike Silvestri, a former Danbury wrestling state champion and assistant coach, has been named the new head coach of the Hatters' wrestling program.

Mike Silvestri, a former Danbury wrestling state champion and assistant coach, has been named the new head coach of the Hatters' wrestling program.


Mike Silvestri called Danbury wrestling a big part of his identity and his life.

Which is why this moment in time seems a bit like a movie script for the long-time Hatter.

Silvestri was named the head coach of the Danbury wrestling program, taking over for his former coach, Ricky Shook, who stepped down after 23 years following the winter season.

A member of Danbury’s Class of 2004, Silvestri wrestled at Penn State and was an assistant coach for Shook for several seasons. He was an assistant at New Milford last winter, and is now returning to his roots.

“It’s an honor that you don’t think would happen to you,” Silvestri said. “I grew up wrestling in Danbury, it was a big part of my identity and a big part of my life. Now to be able to come back and replace arguably one of the greatest high school coaches ever is something you can’t make up.”

Silvestri has been involved with Danbury wrestling at every level. He won a pair of FCIAC championships as well as Class LL and State Open titles while wrestling for Shook’s Hatters in the early 2000s.

Since graduating from Penn State in 2008, Silvestri has stayed connected with the city’s high school and youth programs, and was an assistant for Shook.

Having a coach who knows the Danbury landscape is a big plus, according to Danbury Athletic Director Chip Salvestrini.

“He has a great wrestling background, but the thing that I liked the most is he’s lived the Danbury wrestling tradition all the way up from elementary school, through high school and being a state champion,” Salvestrini said. “And he’s continued to work over the years with the wrestling program and the community.”

The numbers Shook’s wrestling team’s posted during the past 22 seasons are astounding. He had a career record of 391-25, and led the Hatters to 21 FCIAC, 18 CIAC Class LL, and 17 State Open championships, as well as two New England crowns.

Those stats are tough to follow, but Salvestrini said when he showed that to Silvestri and asked “do you still want to do this?” there was no hesitation.

“I couldn’t finish the sentence and he came right out and said ‘I want it,’” Salvestrini said.

Having the opportunity to work with Shook as a wrestler and a coach helped Silvestri.

“I learned so much from that guy,” Silvestri said. “As a wrestler, he has a way of making you calm and making you understand the big picture, which is why I think he has had so much success.

“He cares about the kids and that’s what ultimately translates into his success. Everyone buys in.”

Salvestrini said Shook was a supporter of Silvestri taking over as head coach “from the get-go” and he was also highly recommended by New Milford coach Chris Piel.

Danbury is coming off an 11-1 season in which it won an 11th straight FCIAC championship, as well as a Class LL title.

Silvestri’s message to the returning wrestlers is straight-forward.

“I’ve been there,” he said. “I’ve been there as a wrestler and I’ve seen the ups and downs. I was JV for two years and I had two successful varsity years, and I’ve seen the whole picture of what it means to be a high school wrestler in the Danbury wrestling program.

“I understand the Danbury wrestling mentality, how Shook ran this program, and it’s going to be picking up where he left off and just getting to work right away.”

Salvestrini said there is always a transition period with coaching changes, and replacing a coach like Shook is a “tall order,” but he’s confident Silvestri can handle the situation.

“I want Mike to come in and be himself,” Salvestrini saidi. “And in time, we’re going to see the same type of program moving forward.”; @dstewartsports