Brother Melchior Polowy, C.S.C.(1911-1997)
Coach: Holy Cross High School
Inducted: June 20th, 2007
-- This biographical information reprinted courtesy of Coach Bill Bofinger (2003 edition of "Ready...Wrestle.")
Brother Melchior Polowy, a long time Holy Cross High School faculty member and wrestling coach, died in November of 1997 from pneumonia at Dujane House in Notre Dame, Indiana. He was 86 years old. His death marked the ending of an era for Brother Melchior, who spent more than 50 years of his life at Holy Cross, from 1939 to 1942 and from 1943 to 1996. He taught religion, English, German and physical education, but he is best remembered as the wrestling coach for the all-boys school for almost 30 years.
Brother Melchior was born in Chicago and was a baker by trade. During his mid-twenties he entered the religious life to become a Jesuit Brother. After a leave of absence because of a family illness in 1938, he returned and chose to enter the Community of the Holy Cross at St. Joseph's Novitiate in Rolling Prairie, Indiana. He took his vows in 1939.
Brother Melchior and William B. Schriever of the New Orleans Athletic Club (NOAC) almost single-handedly put high school wrestling on the map in Louisiana. Together they organized the first Interscholastic Wrestling championships that were held at the NOAC in 1945. Brother Melchior was the chairman of the Louisiana Interscholastic Wrestling Committee. "He was truly a legend in this area and the father of wrestling in the state of Louisiana," Holy Cross principal Terry McGaha said.
Brother Melchior's Holy Cross wrestling teams won 22 state championships from 1945 to 1968, failing to win only when they did not enter a team in 1951 due to Brother Melchior being ill. He was recognized by the National Wrestling Coaches Association, honored by the Louisiana Coaches Association, and inducted into the Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame. His picture hangs in the Louisiana Superdome. "Everybody in every high school knew who he was, whether you went to Holy Cross, or Holy Angels, Mount Carmel or Jesuit," said David Tibbetts, a New Orleans firefighter who graduated from Holy Cross in 1973 and wrestled on Brother Melchior's teams for four years.
Brother Melchior retired from coaching in 1971 and relinquished his direct work with students in 1987. But he remained at Holy Cross until January of 1986 when illness forced him to move into the Brothers' infirmary in Indiana.
Brother Melchior was an imposing physical presence in his younger days. Even in his silence there was a certain amount of intimidation. And when he spoke you knew he meant business. Yet he had a sense of humor that was often corny - the students would laugh at his jokes whether they were funny or not.
In his later years Brother Melchior was still a memorable presence. He roamed the Holy Cross campus at the edge of the Mississippi River in the Lower 9th Ward in a golf cart with his beloved German shepherds. You could see him riding around with his dogs like a security guard and sometimes he'd have a student or two with him - you could see they considered this an honor.
In spite of his rugged, mountain-man look, he was truly a gentleman and a good role model. not too many years ago about 75 former wrestlers honored him. On a cold and foggy night he entered the cafeteria with the Holy Cross Alma Mater playing in the background. He greeted each man with remembrance and a broad smile, then he gave the most eloquent inspirational speech on the values of loyalty, commitment and dedication. He loved the word "dedication," perhaps because he was a truly dedicated man.
Brother Melchior was caring, as evidenced by his compassion for animals, especially his German shepherds. He had endless gratitude to the alumni who had given him Ludwig, Gretchen and Lisle to him with utmost respect and trust.
During the last four years of his life Brother Melchior faced imminent death on five occasions. When given the choice to fight for his life no matter what the odds, he emphatically responded, "I want to live." He felt that God's work for him on earth could be done if he lived. Even in his 86th year he experienced the value of his precious life not only for himself, but moreover for others through his presence and his prayers.
Brother Melchior was a role model for young men; he was a man of wit and humor; he was eloquent and, although he was a man of few words, he possessed great wisdom which was only superseded by his self discipline. He was a man who perceived everything and almost never judged others...at least not verbally.
As a great man among men, Brother Melchior was consummately religious. His devotion to God and to prayer and his dedication to the Holy Cross family was saintly in nature.
In the summer of 1998, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association voted to honor Brother Melchior for his dedication to the sport of wrestling. Starting in 1999, the Brother Melchior Trophy will be given to the coach of the teams winning the state championships in Divisions I, II and III.
-- Reprinted from NWHOF 2007 Program
Lifetime Service to Wrestling
Brother Melchior Polowy, C.S.C., long considered the "founding Father" of wrestling in Louisiana, received the Lifetime Service Award for his coaching and his contributions to wrestling. While completing a 55 year career of teaching religion, English, German and physical education, Brother Melchior served 29 years as coach of Holy Cross high School. During those years his teams won 23 Louisiana state championships. This accomplishment has been attributed to his introduction of weight training to high school sports along with his requirement that his athletics avoid flat-surface conditioning in favor of running the incline of the Mississippi River levee located behind the school.
The Louisiana State Wrestling Trophy bears Brother Melchior's name. He has been honored by Wrestling USA Magazine as its "Man of the Year," by the N.W.C.A. and the Louisiana Coaches Association. In 1983, he was inducted into the Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame and his photo was added to the display at the Superdome.
"Every day, when you diligently choose to do what is right and good instead of what may be convenient, easy or advantageous, you have the right to wear the insignia of a Melchior man." (Buck Landry - Holy Cross Class of 1961)