GIRARD - Take away all of the high school athletic achievements from Tony Cardiero and what are you left with?
Away from the playing fields and gymnasiums, Cardiero was the model student. He recently graduated from Girard High with a 3.86 grade point average. The honors student earned the Principals Award and the Award of Leadership, he was the Student Council president and the president of the National Honor Society. In addition to his excellence in the classroom, Cardiero was involved in numerous extracurricular activities, including a number of civic volunteer organizations.
Now throw in Cardiero's exploits on the football fields, baseball diamonds and wrestling mats, and what do you have?
A clear-cut choice as the Girard High male Student-Athlete of the Year.
Cardiero was recently chosen by school officials and coaches as Girard's nominee for the Tribune Chronicle's annual Athlete of the Year Award.
Each year, the Tribune Chronicle invites area high school athletic directors to nominate one male and one female athlete from their respective school. Nominees must be seniors, they must participate in at least two sports, and maintain a 2.5 grade point average.
From all of the nominees, The Tribune will select its male and female Athlete of the Year. The winners will be announced later this month.
"This is a huge honor because I can name a number of guys who could have easily been nominated from our school," Cardiero said. "All my life my parents kept telling me that good things would come if I dedicated myself to practice and especially toward my studies. I'm starting to see that they were right."
During his four years at Girard, Cardiero earned nine varsity letters - four in wrestling, three in baseball and two in football. Even as a freshman, he established himself as one of the area's top wrestlers, a status he maintained throughout his high school career.
This past winter Cardiero earned Trumbull County, Conference, and Eastern Ohio Wrestling League first-team honors for a fourth consecutive year. He also placed in the state meet in Columbus after qualifying in the 130-pound bracket.
"Placing at state was a dream come true and I loved everything about being down there," Cardiero said. "I've been around wrestling all my life. Being able to go so far my senior year seemed like a reward for all of the time I put into the sport. I remember thinking to myself, 'there are a lot of 130 pound wrestlers at home watching this,' and I felt pretty lucky to be there."
Luck had nothing to do with Cardiero's success, according to his uncle Jim Cardiero , who also serves as Girard's wrestling coach. Jim noted that Tony's work ethic earned him the respect from teammates even as a freshman. Tony served as the team captain both as a junior and senior.
"Tony never really had any the opportunity to be a freshman or sophomore in the true sense of the word," Jim said. "From the very start, he was counted on to win matches and he was the guy who everyone in the program looked up to. He's been a leader since day one. In addition to his talent, I think the other kids on the team totally respected his will to succeed. He simply hates and refuses to fail at whatever he does."
Along with his success in wrestling, Cardiero excelled in both football and baseball. When asked to name his favorite sport, he insisted that "it changed with the seasons." He said that he loved the camaraderie of team sports, but also enjoyed the challenge of being on his own in on the wrestling mat.
"Playing football last year and going 9-1 was a blast. We had so much fun the entire season. And I've been playing baseball since I was a little kid, I absolutely love the sport," Cardiero said. "But what is neat about wrestling is that you're on your own. You decide your outcome and you don't have no one to blame but yourself if you lose. I love that challenge."
Though tough at times, Cardiero also enjoyed the challenge brought on by a hectic schedule. Participating in three sports meant that Cardiero was either practicing or participating in athletics on a year-round basis. And in addition to all of his extracurricular activities at school, he was a regular volunteer at events such as Relay For Life and Earth Day Community Clean-up. He also is an avid member of St. Rose Church. Yet he never failed to make the honor roll during his four-year high school career.
"As soon as I began playing sports as a little kid, my mom and dad stressed the importance of placing academics above everything else," Cardiero said. "They set my priorities straight early on and that helped me get where I am."
Those priorities will also help guide Tony through a successful future, according to Jim. Tony plans to continue his studies next fall at Youngstown State University, where he will begin his pursuit of a law degree.
"I know this much, whatever path Tony chooses, it will be a success," Jim said. "Tony is something special and he's going to turn into an impressive man."
Tony is the son of Mike and Chris Cardiero of Girard.