CUMBERLAND – Steve Gordon has been coaching wrestling at Cumberland High for 42 years.
He has seen a lot of people come and go during his more than four-decade career. But every long, wintry season, he knows one face will always be there and volunteering countless hours to add to the success of his program. It’s a person that has missed fewer matches than the fingers on your hand, his wife Judy Gordon.
On Monday, May 23, the woman that Steve Gordon says is the main reason for his longevity in the coaching ranks was recognized as the Coach’s Wife-of-the-Year by Wrestling USA, a national magazine for high school and college wrestling.
The Cumberland coach nominated his wife by sending a lengthy letter to the publication a few months ago.
“I read the write-ups and said my wife clearly has done more for wrestling than anyone here,” said Steve Gordon, a day after receiving the good news via the mail.
Judy Gordon, who was inducted into the Rhode Island Wrestling Hall of Fame last year for her contributions to the sport, has missed “maybe three or four matches” since her husband started the wrestling program at the high school in 1969.
According to Steve Gordon, his wife, a nurse and manager of the Community VNA Hospice Care in Attleboro, is not just a spectator at the matches, but has donated her time in numerous other ways. To name a few instances, she is one of the key people behind the scenes for the school’s own wrestling tournament, the Cumberland Invitational, and also served as the unofficial nurse during the early years when athletic trainers and physical therapist did not attend matches.
“I think they all just knew. They knew where I was. They knew where I was sitting,” Judy Gordon said. “Once I did CPR in the stands at a freshmen meet in late 1970s. A man was watching his son wrestle in the finals at the freshmen states at Barrington and had a heart attack. We brought him back but he did die shortly after at the hospital.”
The Gordons will be married 45 years this July. It wasn’t until she met her future husband, that Judy Gordon first got involved with wrestling.
“When I knew things were getting serious in our relationship, I knew that if I was going to marry Steve I would have to marry wrestling, too,” she said.
The first wrestling match she attended was one that Steve Gordon was actually refereeing just about five years before beginning the program at Cumberland.
“I thought it was great,” she said. “I loved it right away.”
The Gordons have made wrestling a family affair over the last four decades. Not only has Judy Gordon attended most of the matches, so have their two kids.
“My (daughter) Andi was born on April 1, 1970 and in December was at her first meet. (Judy) has made it part of our whole life,” Steve Gordon said. “I would not have been able to do this for so long if not for an understanding wife. She never complained.”
Judy Gordon downplays the fact that she was sacrificing her time for her husband so he could enjoy his career as a coach. In the early years, she would just bring some Cheerios and pack the kids in the car and go watch some wrestling at the high school.
“It was either I sit at home with just the kids or also be with Steve,” she said. “If he was playing chess, I would probably be involved with chess.”
Judy Gordon, who has worked at the VNA for 11 years but has worked in hospice for nearly 30 years, admits it’s been a tandem effort with her and her husband.
“If I have to make a visit at a home at 2 a.m., Steve’s up with me,” she said. “He would actually drive me to the homes and bring a book with a flashlight and read it while I was doing the visit. We are very lucky and very fortunate to have a relationship like that and a mutual respect for each other.”
Judy Gordon believes she will still be involved with the wrestling program for several more years. She understands that her dedicated husband isn’t leaving his top post anytime soon. I
In his career, Cumberland has won three state championships and numerous divisional titles.
“I think when he feels he can’t go on the mat and do what he wants to do, that’s when he’ll leave,” she said. “I’m going to say 10 more years. He’s still in very good shape.”
The recently-crowned Coach’s wife-of-the-year wouldn’t mind if it continued another decade, or even longer.
“It’s funny,” she said. “I sit in the stands and think maybe I am not going to be as excited when the season begins and then my heart starts pounding and it’s the same feeling – every year. It’s a special unique thing…I can’t describe it. My heart gets so full some times.”