After more than 37 years as both a head and assistant coach on the Columbia High School Fencing Team, Coach Frank Mustilli has retired following the 2022-2023 fencing season.
During his time with the CHS Cougars, Mustilli trained hundreds of aspiring fencers. He was an integral force in leading the CHS girls team to 12 state championships and the boys team to seven state titles from 1998-2023.
In the midst of the pandemic, Mustilli assisted the girl’s team in achieving an undefeated 2020-2021 season despite the trying circumstances. The following year, Mustilli helped lead the Girls team to a state silver medal in 2022. According to his fencers, “Coach Frank” has consistently inspired drive and passion in them on a level unmatched by other coaches.
Mustilli opened the New Jersey Fencing Alliance, a three-weapon fencing club, in Maplewood in 2001. It has remained Maplewood’s sole fencing club to date. After the building’s rent was tripled in 2022, he oversaw the move of the club from its former Burnett Avenue location to its current location at St. Joseph’s Church. Through NJFA, Mustilli has had thousands of students under his tutelage. He has trained multiple Olympians, including 2016 Women’s Bronze Medalist and CHS grad Ibtihaj Muhammad, and many more Olympic hopefuls. Currently, Andrew Doddo (sabre) and Zander Rhodes (foil), the current Women’s Junior Foil World Champion, are working to qualify for the 2024 U.S. Olympic team. Both are former students of Mustilli and CHS fencing alumni.
Frank’s daughter Nicole Mustilli, CHS Class of 1995, was a member of the first U.S. Women’s Gold Medal World Championship team in 2000, for women’s sabre.
Though he will no longer be a direct part of the CHS fencing team, Mustilli will continue to facilitate the growth of new and current high school fencers through the NJFA. Mustilli hopes he can carry on spreading his love for fencing to the MapSO community and beyond for many years to come.
Mustilli says that, no matter where his coaching career takes him, he will always be a CHS Cougar at heart.