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Alum Testa Gets Call to National Wrestling Hall of Fame

Mike Testa ’80, MS ’85 is a modest man. But he finally accepted being inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Massachusetts Chapter. 

Man at lectern
Mike Testa ’80 MS ’85

Jim Peckham, longtime athletics director and wrestling coach for Emerson and the Olympics, wanted Testa in the hall when the Massachusetts Chapter was created. But Testa actually started the chapter, and didn’t feel comfortable being inducted at that time.

“I’m humbled. I’m just so humbled,” said Testa.

Back in 2007, Testa came close to being inducted thanks to his teenage son Lucas, whose teacher happened to be fellow Hall of Famer Denis Mulvihill.

“Denny sent Lucas home with the Hall of Fame application. He gave him an assignment for extra credit,” said Testa. “[Mulvihill] wanted my kid to understand what I had done.”

A roll call of his wrestling accomplishments could last longer than a wrestling period: founder, Massachusetts Chapter of National Wrestling Hall of Fame; member, Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Directors – Wrestling; founder, Boston City Championships; founder, Boston-Japan All Star Wrestling Tour; president, MIWOA Referees Association; MIWOA official; Catholic Memorial High School assistant coach; current president, Melrose Friends of Wrestling; announcer for wrestling events, volunteer assistant, MIT; volunteer assistant, Lexington High School; and producer, myriad wrestling events.

Wrestling coach stands behind players sitting on mat
Mike Testa, sitting second from left, watches an Emerson College wrestling match with Head Coach and Athletic Director Jim Peckham standing behind the team. (Photo from Emerson College Archives)

“Mike has had his hands on everything, and everything he touched is better off for it. He has donated so much time to wrestling it is hard to chronicle it all,” Current Massachusetts Chapter President Sean Harrington said.

He Wrestled for Emerson – But Wasn’t an Emersonian Yet

Testa wrestled in high school and while attending the now defunct Grahm Junior College in Boston, he saw a classmate in the cafeteria with wrestling shoes and headgear. Grahm didn’t have a wrestling team. But back then, before the NCAA’s rules and regulations, things were looser.

Five people stand together posing for photo
Mike Testa ’80, MS ’85 was vice president of the Varsity Club in 1980. (Photo from Emerson College Archives)

“He said, ‘I’m going tomorrow to see this guy, Peckham, at Emerson.’ He said this guy will let anyone walk onto his team,” said Testa. “I met Jim Peckham and he handed me an Emerson singlet, headgear, and told me to be at practice at 5:00 pm.”

Testa said that day changed his life, as meeting Peckham opened a lot of doors.

Testa finished his associate’s degree in spring 1978 and officially started at Emerson in June. He became class treasurer, played catcher for the baseball team, captained the wrestling team, worked in the Athletics Department office, and was Emerson’s Wrestler of the Year in 1980.

After graduating he continued at Emerson to get his master’s degree while working with Peckham in the Athletics Department. Testa was an assistant coach for the baseball team, and the women’s head softball coach for a season.

Peckham also pulled Testa to the regional US Olympic wrestling trials in 1980 at Harvard, where he placed third in the heavyweight weight class.

“There were 50 people in the state who would’ve had my head,” joked Testa. “No one came, and that’s why he dragged me there. He needed to fill out the weight class.”

Man and woman look at papers together while standing
Mike Testa reviews notes during a wrestling meet. (Photo from Emerson College Archives)

Honing Production Skills at Emerson

Testa knew how to run a TV camera and make a radio spot, but Emerson advanced his skills.

“Emerson taught me how to produce an event. My first job with the city of Boston was DJing [at events]. My radio and TV skills taught me how to do the job,” said Testa.

He went on to produce a citywide Boston Ballet tour; Celtics, Red Sox, and Patriots rallies and celebrations; created the Saturday Night Oldies concert series at the Hatch Shell; ran campaign events in Michigan for Bill and Hillary Clinton; inaugural balls for the Clintons in DC, campaign events for George H.W. Bush, produced tree lightings, and more. He worked for three Boston mayors, five Massachusetts governors, and now organizes hundreds of events a year for the Downtown Boston Business Improvement District.

While working for the city, he heard that a Japanese sumo wrestling tour was coming to Boston. The team needed a place to work out, so Testa connected the sumo team with MIT. He formed a friendship with the team, and created an international tour between sumo and American wrestlers. For several years the teams would visit each other’s country.

Readying Hall of Fame Speech

The induction ceremony for the Massachusetts Chapter will be at Gillette Stadium in November. 

“I’m nervous about my speech,” said Testa. “I’ve emceed the event, and introduced people who’ve made that speech. Now I’ve got to make that speech, and I’m nervous about it. I’ve got time to write it. My speech writing at Emerson will make sure I rehearse it 20 times.”

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