Former Nogales football, wrestling & track & field coach Vince Villanucci passes away

Vince Villanucci, who coached Nogales’ football program to five winning seasons and five state-playoff appearances during his tenure as a head coach from 2007-13, has passed away because of health reasons at the age of 58 at his home in Lorain, Ohio.

Villanucci, nicknamed “Nuch” from his time at Nogales until he retired as a PE teacher in 2019, coached the Apaches’ football program to the state semifinals for the first and only time in 2012.

A native of Lorain, he returned to that area after leaving Nogales to spend more time with his family. His last four years included fishing in Lake Erie with his parents. His father passed away last October.

His record at Nogales was 50-28, including back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2011 and 2012. Following the 2012 season, he was named Division III Coach of the Year and Arizona Coach of the Year runner-up — second to Matt Johnson, who coached Ironwood Ridge to the state title that season.

Villanucci also coached the Nogales wrestling and track and field teams during his time at the school from 2001 to 2013.

He is inducted in the Lorain Sports Hall of Fame for his successful career in 1982-85 as a defensive tackle at Bowling Green, where he blossomed into an All-Mid-American Conference selection as a senior. He was a practice-squad member of the Buffalo Bills in 1986 and played for the Green Bay Packers in 1987.

His move to Southern Arizona occurred after he worked as an assistant coach at New Mexico Highlands following a stint as an assistant at Villa Angela-Saint Joseph High School in Cleveland. After working on his post-graduate master’s degree at New Mexico Highlands, he moved to the Tucson area to coach.

He was hired by Baboquivari High School in Sells to lead the football program in 1999. He experienced immediate success although the Warriors had a history of shortcomings. Baboquivari canceled seasons previously because of a lack of participants.

By his second year in 2000, he had 42 players on the team and Baboquivari advanced to the state playoffs for the first time.

He moved to Nogales in the 2001-02 season to coach the Apaches’ wrestling program. He also served as an assistant with the football team before he was thrust into the head coaching job in 2007 after the former head coach, James Martinez, left right before fall camp to coach in Pennsylvania.

“I had a lot of great memories,” Villanucci told the Nogales International when he retired from coaching 2013. “I helped a lot of kids and seen them move on to college. People just can’t coach forever.

“You gotta be blessed with a special personality just to be able to work with kids, and my kids respected me and what I told them and what we coached. You gotta have a little magic, too, and how you get through to kids—and I’ve been blessed with that.”

Nogales High School posted a tribute to Villanucci on its Instagram page on Sunday. Included in the post was this statement:

“‘Nuch’ as he was known to his players and students will be best remembered for the positive and profound impact he had on the teams he coached and the students he taught. Not only was he among the winningest coaches in recent Apache memory, but he was a dedicated educator and loyal mentor and friend. He had a genuine care for the students of Nogales, and for the community as a whole. His larger-than-life presence was felt on every field of competition, within every classroom, and among all the lives he impacted in his educational career.”

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