Growing up in Belleville, Joe Spina long had an interest in wrestling, and was an excellent grappler at Belleville High.
That same hard-nosed commitment to be a good wrestler has been applied to Spina’s professional life, as an educator and coach, in the West Orange school system.
Joe was named the District 12 assistant wrestling coach of the year for the 2018-2019 season. In his ninth season at West Orange, Spina’s success as a coach and mentor shouldn’t really be a surprise.
Spina (holding plaque) celebrates a well-deserved award with coaching colleagues, including head coach Stephan Zichella (far right). (Click on photo for larger image)
Joe’s older brothers, Carmen and John, are also outstanding coaches. Carmen, a tremendous all-around athlete at Belleville High and the MVP of the 1990 Belleville-Nutley football game, has found success as a baseball coach at Rutherford High. John, also an excellent athlete at Belleville, has returned to his alma mater as a teacher and volleyball coach, for the boys and girls teams. Carmen, John and Joe also has a younger sister, Maria.
Joe was graduated from Belleville High in 1999, eight years after Carmen went through those doors of the Blue and Gold.
Joe was a good wrestler for the Bucs and coach Joe Nisivoccia, wrestling at the 215 pound weight class. As a senior, he finished third at Region 4 and advanced to the super regions.
Joe (far left) is joined by siblings (l to r) Carmen, Maria and John. (Click on photo for larger image)
Following high school, Spina attended New Jersey City University and realized a career in education and coaching would be in the cards for him, as well as his brothers.
“Coaching was something I wanted to do for a long time,” said Joe. “I learned a lot from my high school coaches, as well as watching Carmen and John get their starts in coaching.”
West Orange head coach Stephan Zichella was proud of Spina earning the accolade from District 12.
“Joe has been coaching at West Orange since the 2010-2011 season,” said Zichella. “He previously coached at Hanover Park High. Coach Spina is regarded as one of our finest educators in West Orange. However, most do not know what an exceptional coach he is, but I do.
Spina in his most comfortable role, coaching at West Orange, along with a hard-working group of assistants. (Click on photo for larger image)
“Throughout our season, the demands placed on my assistant coaches is equivalent to a full-time job. Coach Spina has his hands in everything, and goes far above and beyond what is expected, while furthering his education and being an outstanding husband and father to his family. Joe is an extraordinary role model to our students and wrestlers. We’re very fortunate to have him as a teacher and coach in the West Orange community.”
Joe and his wife, Dana have two children, Olivia, 8, and Joseph, 4. Joe teaches Special Education in West Orange.
“I loved wrestling as a kid, and I try to use that passion in my coaching today,” said Spina. “Coach Zichella has been great to work with and he’s had some really successful teams here. I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Zichella felt the accolade was long overdue.
“Coach Spina never looks for any recognition for all the that he does,” said Zichella. “The district assistant Coach of the Year Award is a great honor and it allows us, even for just a brief moment, to appreciate the great coach Joe is.”