Excelsior Springs Honors Legendary Coach Vic Bonuchi with Highway Naming Ceremony

Coach Vic Bonuchi Highway signs went up mid-December in Excelsior Springs (photo S Jason Cole).

In a heartfelt tribute to a local coaching legend, members of the Excelsior Springs community came together to lead an initiative to name a section of Highway 69 in honor of Vic Bonuchi, a name synonymous with excellence in high school sports. 

The initiative, spearheaded by Excelsior Springs citizen and coach Sam Brown, renamed the stretch of highway from Crown Hill Road to Tracy Avenue as “Coach Vic Bonuchi Highway.” A move that symbolizes the community’s high regard for Coach Bonuchi, a figure revered for his wholesome character and outstanding football, wrestling, and baseball career at Excelsior Springs High School.

This map shows the stretch of highway named in honor of Coach Bonuchi.

The project culminated in a large gathering and ceremonial ribbon cutting at the Community Center on Friday, December 29, 2023, where more than 75 former players, students, assistant coaches, and family members gathered to pay homage to a man who influenced not only their lives but impacted the entire community.

At the dedication ceremony, Brown emphasized the collaborative effort it took to make the road dedication possible. Benny Wierzbicki, a former player for Coach Bonuchi, helped organize the fundraising efforts locally. The group also worked closely with Missouri State Representative Doug Richey to shepherd the application process through the bureaucratic process.

Last week, the Missouri Department of Transportation installed signage along the newly designated highway stretch. The $4,000 for this signage was funded entirely by private donations, reflecting the community’s commitment to honoring Coach Bonuchi’s legacy.

From left to right, Benny Wierzbicki, Coach Bonuchi, Doug Richey, Joann Bonuchi, Sam Brown (photo S Jason Cole).
Former players, coaches, co-workers, family members, and community leaders gathered to celebrate Coach Bonuchi (photo S Jason Cole).

Bonuchi’s coaching legacy began in 1959 when he arrived in Excelsior Springs as an assistant football coach and physical education teacher, fresh from William Jewell College, where he had distinguished himself as a remarkable three-sport athlete. His talent and dedication quickly shone through, earning him the head football coach position by 1961. Under his leadership, the team recorded an impressive streak, including 45 games without a loss between 1963 and 1968, a record that still holds a prestigious place in Missouri’s sporting history. When he returned to coaching football, Coach Bonuchi led the Tigers to State Championships in 1994 and 1996

Beyond the football field, Coach Bonuchi started the Excelsior Springs wrestling program in 1961, leading his teams to state championships in 1974 and 1975. His influence also extended to baseball, with his teams making three Final Four appearances in the 90s.

Bonuchi’s extraordinary achievements have earned him a place in several halls of fame, including the Missouri High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame, the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Hall of Fame, the Missouri High School Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame, and the National Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the inaugural class of the Excelsior Springs High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

Eddie Bonuchi spoke on behalf of his father and reflected on the great support his father had from fellow coaches, staff, and the community (photo S Jason Cole).
Coach Bonuchi with members of his family (photo S Jason Cole).

The community’s respect and admiration for Bonuchi are evident in their current highway naming initiative and past tributes. The Tiger Stadium field was named in his honor, a testament to his lasting impact on the community. “A good coach can change the game, but Coach Bonuchi changed lives,” Brown said as the crowd applauded.

Vic Bonuchi’s influence extends far beyond football, wrestling, and baseball. His dedication to sports and the development of young people has made him a beloved figure in Excelsior Springs and an enduring symbol of sporting excellence in Missouri.

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