Emerson’s Maggiulli, deaf student athlete, awarded scholarship

Summarized by Rachel Janis, staff writer

Despite his doubt, Rob Maggiulli and his team of three other guys won the 4 by 800-meter relay during the state sectionals for the Emerson Junior-Senior High School boys’ spring track team.

Maggiulli said that out of his whole high school career, the victory was his best accomplishment. However, what is even more surprising is his involvement on the wrestling team. The 6-foot 2-inch 202-pound Maggiulli was named the seventh-best high school wrestler in the state during the championship in Atlantic City last year; however, he wasn’t even sure he was going to wrestle starting his freshman year. He was concerned that he wouldn’t be able to hear the moves. Maggiulli was born with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, which is a condition that affects the central processing centers of the brain.

“I’ve always been a work in progress,” said the athlete, 18. “Each day, you learn how to deal. I understand my disability.”

Because of his speech therapist and his childhood hearing aid, Maggiulli was receiving positive results of living with hearing loss. His self-esteem was strengthened by his involvement in the Leadership Opportunity for Teens (LOFT) at the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Washington, D.C. when he was 14 years old. Having a strong support system, Maggiulli excelled in the classroom and on the mat.

“A strong support system taught me not to doubt myself and stand strong,” he stated.

Maggiulli worked with wrestling coach Stan Woods, who encouraged him think less and act more.

“I always over-thought everything,” Maggiulli reflected. “I was a thinker. He turned me into a do-er on the mat.”

Although he struggled to learn the moves to compete, Magiulli developed both mental and physical strength through wrestling, which he applies to all aspects of life. He says “everything is 10 times easier” after pushing himself through tough practices.

“You feel like a soldier a bit,” he said.

His biggest influences, though, are his parents.

“They’ve been there every step of the way,” he said. “They’ve known me at my worst and known me at my best.”

Through his strong support systems, Maggiulli recalls going from a “long-haired gawky teen” during freshman year to a confident young man. He also participated in Heroes and Cool Kids, a local nonprofit where professional athletes train high school students to mentor middle school students on essential life skills. In addition, Maguilli was a member of the National Honors Society and the student council. He will go on to attend Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, studying biomedicine and wrestling for the Division III team. Maguilli was one of the four students in the state to receive a $1,000 scholarship from the Hearing Loss Association of New Jersey. The association president Linda Schaab acknowledged Magiulli’s success and accomplishments achieved through his hearing loss.

Schaab, in a press release, said, “It is difficult for people with normal hearing to realize how hard it is to do what Rob has succeeded in doing….From the classroom to the wrestling matt and his other activities, Rob has faced a daily struggle to understand teachers, coaches, and classmates to overcome the stigma that is too often attached to serious hearing loss.”

Magiulli said he values the imperfection of people, and that “normalcy” is a relative term.

“It’s just whatever you want to be. I appreciate the difference. I value uniqueness… Not a day goes by that I wish I didn’t have hearing loss,” Magiulli stated. “My struggle is worth it, and I’m thankful for it.” 

Read the full story here.

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