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L-L Hall of Fame welcomes Clair
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
Many people count it as a tremendous honor to be inducted into one hall of fame in their lifetime.
For Manheim’s Mike Clair, a long-time wrestling volunteer on the Lancaster-Lebanon League level, as well as the state and national scene, he will have his name immortalized in two Halls in a span of five months.
The first of those honors came last Saturday, when he went into the L-L Coaches Hall of Fame as a contributor prior to the finals of the League Tourney at Conestoga Valley High School.
In May, Clair will be inducted with 10 others into the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame in State College.
"It’s just a great honor," said Clair, who has devoted more than 50 years of his life to wrestling. "I do it for the kids. Everything I’ve done, even now with the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, I do it because of the kids. Some kids are a lot older than others. But to be recognized in the same breath with some of these other people means an awful lot to me."
The other people that he was recognized with last Saturday included contributor Dave Byrne, coaches Dale Dietrich and John Felix, and wrestler/coach Arlen Mummau (former Manheim Central High School principal).
A 1965 graduate of Manheim Central, Clair got his start in wrestling as a sixth-grader helping out as a manager with the Barons. Several years later, he was making the trip to Penn State University’s Rec Hall to be a time-keeper for the PIAA Championships.
In between, Clair witnessed Central’s magical 141-meet winning streak in league competition during a stretch between 1958-67. He got a first-hand look as the Barons snapped Mechanicsburg’s 65-meet win streak. The Wildcats, however, weren’t the only powerhouse rival of Central in that era.
"The highlight could very well be the night Manheim Central wrestled Lower Dauphin," said Clair, who will celebrate his 66th birthday next month. "The place (at LD), I mean, it was jammed that much that they wouldn’t even let anybody else in. After awhile, the match started and we looked up and we see people had crawled onto the roof at Lower Dauphin leaning down and looking through the top windows. They had to stop things to go get them off the roof. That’s what wrestling was. You had that and you had full teams. At Manheim, it was an honor just to be a JV wrestler as it was in so many other schools back in the day."
Wrestling was also big at Franklin & Marshall College, where Clair, following an enlistment in the Air Force, helped out on the administrative side of things with Diplomats’ coach Stan Zeamer. When he wasn’t keeping score at EIWA tournaments, Clair was making his presence felt back at Manheim Central serving as a volunteer under several coaches with the Barons’ wrestling program.
Beyond that, he shared his vast knowledge to the production of two editions of The History of Manheim Wrestling, and he was a key cog in the operation of the Manheim Lions Holiday Wrestling Tournament, serving for 25 years as a special assistant to the director.
Although he had a nine-year stint on the Warwick gridiron helping Mike Sload and Mark Snyder from 1970-79, Clair has also been a long-time aide on the sideline and pressbox with the Barons’ football program and he is a member of the Manheim Central school board.
Obviously, his wardrobe includes a lot of maroon and silver, but it has also added purple and gold in the last decade. His son, Josh, was hired as the head wrestling coach at Ephrata in 2004 and Clair took on volunteer duties with the Mountaineers. In addition to Josh, Mike and his wife, Jackie, have two other children, Chris and Jennifer, and two grand-children, Ryane and Jason.
"I love the kids no matter what singlets they wear and that’s the main thing," Clair said. "I have ties to everybody. It’s been a good career … a good volunteer career."
His wrestling ties branch out of just the L-L League. From 1993-99, Clair served as vice-president of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Then just before the turn of the new century, he was named the full-time national director of the State Chapter program. In that role, he is currently responsible for the NWHOF Chapter program in all 50 states.
If all of those responsibilities don’t keep him busy enough, Clair continues to help out at the tables for the District Three/South Central Regional and PIAA State Championship tournaments, while also volunteering at EIWA’s and the NCAA Division-I Championships.
The L-L League is still what Clair considers to be his home, however. For that reason, last Saturday’s induction was a special honor.
"It’s the schools that I deal with, it’s schools that I’ve been around not only in wrestling, but football and I’ve spent all my life with them," Clair said. "It’s a huge honor for me. I’m very humbled to do this. I’ve been doing this on a volunteer basis for 50 years and to be recognized by the League is very good." More CLAIR, page B-5