As an athlete, you couldn’t find a more unassuming young man.
Confident, yet quiet. Talented, but always pushing himself to be better.
The attributes which made Bobby Cozzarelli a standout wrestler at Belleville High from 2003-2007 have carried him into a standout academic career at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, with a future as bright as the young man himself.
Cozzarelli is concluding his studies at Quinnipiac this spring. When he finishes those final 18 grueling credits, you may officially address him as Dr. Robert Cozzarelli, PhD, with a concentration in Physical Therapy.
It’s what Cozzarelli has dreamed about since his childhood, and he’s just about reached the finish line of an arduous path of study, whose attrition has claimed nearly half of his original class.
“It was a six year program when I began school (in the fall of 2007),” Cozzarelli said. “We’re down to about 62 left. You have to maintain a 3.0, or better, each semester. It’s not easy, but it’s been worth the hard work.”
Cozzarelli is quick to credit that work ethic, in which he is maintaining a 3.8 GPA in college, to his days as a wrestler for the Bucs. The son of Robert and Susan Cozzarelli and older brother of Rebecca (who was graduated Belleville High in 2008), Cozzarelli was an outstanding wrestler for Belleville.
But it was a weekend at the 2006 Region 4 championships which established Bobby as more than just a talent on the mat. It was that weekend when most casual observers learned of Cozzarelli’s fortitude.
As a junior in ’06, Cozzarelli had high hopes of making it to the NJSIAA championships in Atlantic City. However, on that Friday night at the regions, he was defeated in the quarterfinals, meaning Cozzarelli had to win three straight matches at Passaic Valley High School the next day if he were to finish third and qualify for the states.
Deeply disappointed that he wouldn’t be a region champion after most favored him to hold that distinction, Cozzarelli battled back and won three consecutive matches to punch his ticket to Atlantic City. When he had concluded his improbable run, he went into the stands where his mother, father and sister were in tears of joy over the accomplishment.
“Throughout Bobby’s wrestling career, he learned to never quit on himself, always believe in himself, and to conduct himself with confidence and pride both on and off the mat,” said Bob Cozzarelli, Bobby’s dad and himself a former BHS wrestler. “Foremost he was taught to always be a gentleman. We always told our son that someday wrestling will be over and to remember all the great moments, but to take from wrestling that ‘never quit attitude’ and carry it over to your everyday life.”
The following year, Bobby went back to the regions and emerged as the champion of his weight class, ensuring a second trip to the state championships. While an injury limited his time on the mat in A.C. in ’07, Cozzarelli had reached his expectations and the mental preparation needed to be a region champion has certainly helped him in his career endeavors.
Cozzarelli admits the challenge provided on the wrestling mat in high school keep him focused on his studies today. His final classes this spring include Neuro Pediatric Rehab, a Mulligan manual course, Advanced Clinical Decision Making, Community Health and Wellness as well as his Capstone Project. Bobby hopes to return to New Jersey to pursue his career, and while he hasn’t made a firm decision on his practice, he did say he has found a niche in orthopedics.
Cozzarelli’s upbringing in Belleville and his path through the township’s school system, is something his parents take great pride in. In these days where parents of talented student-athletes seem to search for private high schools, it’s good to see the value of an education in the Belleville public school system.
“My children have achieved their goals because of their principals, teachers and coaches,” said Susan Cozzarelli. “They supported and believed in them. Parents can only take their children so far, then we have to hope that others will continue to support and encourage them. The Belleville school district and Quinnipiac University really proved to be the right match for our son.”
That same discipline has provided a marvelous opportunity for Rebecca Cozzarelli, herself a standout track athlete at Belleville High. A 2012 graduate of the University of Connecticut, Becky is in her first year at St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine in Grenada.
While Bobby always wanted to focus on Physical Therapy, Becky’s dreams since her childhood, because of her love of animals, was to be a veterinarian.
“I am very fortunate to have two wonderful children, who continue to follow their passions and challenge themselves to pursue their goals and dreams,” Susan Cozzarelli said.
The family bond has indeed benefited Bobby Cozzarelli.
“Having supportive parents really helped make the journey possible and enjoyable for me,” Cozzarelli said. “And I’m so proud of my sister, too. She’s going to do great in veterinarian school.”
So as he tackles the final semester in what was indeed a monumental challenge, Bobby Cozzarelli can look back on a day seven years ago, when the odds said he had no chance of making it to the state tournament, but his will and heart dictated otherwise.
It’s the same resolve which will take him into greatness in his career endeavors, and it gained a foothold on a wrestling mat at Belleville High School.