Coach Howard Ferguson transformed St. Edward High School wrestling into the most dominant program in Ohio’s history in 1974 and continuing long after his death to the present day.
Ferguson, who began wrestling at John Marshall High School under hall of fame coach Gene Gibbons, turned to coaching in the 1960s at the West Shore YMCA. In seven years his YMCA teams compiled an incredible dual meet record of 138-2, which caught the attention of St. Edward High School.
He was handed the reigns of St. Edward wrestling in 1974 and almost immediately turned the Eagles into a powerhouse. In 15 seasons from 1974 through the spring of 1989, St. Ed’s won 11 team state championships. His wrestlers won 32 individual state championships and 20 runners-up. He produced one 3-time state champion and four 2-time state champions.
In college, his wrestlers captured three NCAA individual titles. Thirteen were college All-Americans a total of 26 times. At one time or another Howard’s alumni wore the singlets of nine of the original Big Ten teams.
Both the wrestling world and business world were shocked when Howard died of a heart attack in the prime of his career in October 1989. In his alternate life he became a millionaire in real estate. He was a pioneer in converting high-rise apartment houses into condominiums.
He also authored an acclaimed coffee-table book called “The Edge,” an accumulation of the quotes, beliefs and life lessons of the leading coaches and athletes of the day. The book was published not long before he died and is still in demand. It is out of print but can be located on e-bay for as much as $150.
In one of the final passages of the book, under the heading, “Leave something behind,” he wrote about his own principles:
“You can never pay back those who helped you. What you can do is follow their example and help others. Help some people get started. Teach them how to play the game the right way. Teach them about class. Show them how to overcome adversity. Take all your knowledge, experience and love and share it. Reach out to as many people as you can.”