Louisiana wrestling loses another giant: Sam Sara - 1946-2019
January 8th, 2020 | Written by: Editor
Special thanks to Marc Devenport for informing the editor about Coach Sara



 Sam John Sara, III, passed away peacefully last Sunday at the age of 73. 

Never having wrestled himself, Coach Sara started the wrestling program at John Quincy Adams Middle School in the late 1970s and at Grace King High School in 1981.  In his first year at Grace King his team placed fourth in Division II.  A year later they won the Division II state championship.  In the following 16 years competing in Division I, Sara's teams placed in the top-five seven times.  The Irish were fourth four times, third once and they took home the runner-up plaques twice, in 1986 and 1987.  In 1987 the Irish won the Greater New Orleans Championships.  He coached eleven wrestlers to state championship titles - seven in Division I and four in Division II.  In 2005 Coach Sara was inducted into the Louisiana Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame with a Lifetime Service to Wrestling award.  Three years later his wife Stephanie was accorded the same honor.

Coach Sara at his 2005 HOF Induction banquet Stephanie and Coach Sara at the 2007 HOF banquet Coach Sara with Coach Pat Davis at the 2007 HOF banquet  Coach Sam Harnsongkram, Coach Sara, James Ravannack, Mrs. Sara and Coach Harold Bourgeois at the 2007 HOF banquet
Coach Sara at the 2005 and 2007 Louisiana Chapter National Wrestling Hall of Fame banquets

Coach Sara (far left) at the Louisiana Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame induction banquet in 2007.  Also pictured (left to right) Coach Ray Gremillion, Michael Gaffney, Coach Harold Bourgeois, Coach Sam Harnsongkram, Bill Bofinger, Coach Pat Davis, Cliff Strider, Coach Dale Ketelsen and James Ravannack.

"To all of the wrestlers, moms, dads, sisters, brothers and grandparents who had the pleasure of knowing Coach Sam:

 What a great man and wonderful coach he was.  It was my pleasure to know Coach Sam and I owe him a belated "thank you."  When I first started coaching, Coach Sam allowed my team to join his practices.  Because of his generosity, my small team was able to get the competition it needed which eventually helped build the St Martin's wrestling programs of future years.  Coach Sam's heart was always with the young men, helping them to become better wrestlers and well-rounded men."

-- Keith Hosli

Full Times-Picayune Obituary

I recall at least seeing Coach Sara at Adams once when I had just started wrestling in 1977.  But I did not get to see his true character until 1981.  That was my senior year and Coach Keith Hosli's second year coaching at St. Martin's.  1980 was a good year for the Saints, as we had two state champions and two runners-up.  1981 was another story.  Aside from myself we only had four other wrestlers, three of whom were in their first or second year.  Meaning no disrespect to any of my teammates, as I respect anyone who will go through a practice or a match, get whipped, and come back the next day, I simply was not going to get any better competing with them.  As for Keith, I was neither going to beat him nor adopt his style of wrestling in one season.  Hence, I was basically wrestling against solo drilling.

At Grace King in 1981, his first year of coaching at the high school level, Coach Sara had the opposite problem.  He had plenty of bodies to work with but was not quite settled-in to coaching a full high school team with wrestlers to spare.

I am not sure when they made the agreement, but at some point in late 1980 Coach Sara and Keith came up with a plan to benefit both teams.  The St. Martin's contingent would drive over to Grace King every afternoon and practice with them.  I would have other people to practice against and Keith would have a team of mainly new wrestlers he could coach.  And Sam would learn coaching techniques from Keith.  It worked out great for everyone involved.

After my return to wrestling after a 20-year hiatus I always talked to Sam when I saw him, which was rarer and rarer as time went on.  I remember he always sounded glad to hear from me when I needed to ask him questions I do not recall now.  And I am proud to include him in the list of people who coached me in high school, along with Al Trevino, Keith Hosli and Sam Harnsongkram.

Martin Muller









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