Modesty amid the fury of wrestling
Talking Sports By
Bruce Morgan As I stood talking to Mike Clair and Dale Dietrich outside of the Conestoga Valley gym last Saturday afternoon, one of the biggest things that struck me was the contrast.
First of all, wrestling is supposed to be — and in fact is — a tough sport. It’s a battle of wills between two opponents in the center of the mat with no place to hide. Bloody noses are a regular occurrence, the result of cross-face maneuvers and getting faces slammed into the mat.
With the intensity increasing at the District and PIAA state tournaments and the stakes becoming much more serious, I marvel walking through the tunnels at the amount of bloody lips, black eyes and bruises faces as I pass wrestlers in the tunnels at the Hersheypark Arena and Giant Center. If you don’t realize how physical the sport is before then, that brings it home loud and clear.
Anyway, getting back to the contrast … here are Mike and Dale, two grizzled veterans of a tough, punishing sport, and they were a couple of teddy bears as I talked to them about their induction into the Lancaster-Lebanon League Coaches Hall of Fame last Saturday. And I say that with all due respect about both of them because they are immensely deserving of the recognition they received prior to the championship matches.
You could absolutely see in their eyes how humbled and appreciative they were of the honor. With Dale, the long-time junior high coach at Warwick and Manheim Township, in particular, the emotions flowed. While talking about his career and some of the highlights from the 35 years that he spent on the bench for the Warriors and Blue Streaks, you could really sense his passion.
In typical fashion, Dale handled it with class. He talked about Bob Derr, Terry Kauffman, Jerry McDonald, his family and wife, Cathy, and everyone who was part of his career. Then he said something that surprised me a bit, commenting, "Being named to this is really a great honor for me especially since I was just a junior high coach my whole career. It’s totally unexpected. Most of the people that get honored in this are high school coaches or high school wrestlers that went to States or something like that. So to be included in this group is just an incredible honor."
Knowing Dale, he was 100 percent genuine and modest when he said that he was "just a junior high coach his whole career." And if you read the rest of his quote and the context that he was putting it in, I know what he was trying to say. But I’m sure that I’m not alone in my belief that junior high coaches are a vital cog to their program and that Dale, although he didn’t coach on the high school level, is nonetheless richly deserving of the honor.
I’ve probably gotten to know Dale a little bit better than Mike over the years through my association with Warwick, but it was equally as touching talking to the long-time Manheim Central volunteer, current EHS assistant and state-wide icon as he prepared to be inducted in front of a large crowd at CV.
When you think that Mike has been involved with wrestling for more than 50 years, that is truly a remarkable feat. I look around our newsroom that’s longer than most of us have even been alive. But as Mike’s bio read in the L-L Tournament program, he really has been a fixture, and not just in wrestling. Every Friday night during the fall, wherever the Manheim Central football team is, that’s where Mike is as well.
It was fun re-living some of the memories from his career, including the one about Manheim Central wrestling at Lower Dauphin years and years ago when fans who were shut out of the packed gymnasium resorted to climbing the roof and watching through the windows from above.
That’s classic stuff.
Mike, like Dale, has been involved for the right reasons — the kids. He, too, talked about his family and what it means to him to be able to help his son Josh now at Ephrata. And he noted a lot of the names of those he has been involved with in his long career.
My hearty congratulations go out to both Dale and Mike, along with the others who were honored on Saturday, including long-time Lancaster sports writer Dave Byrne. It’s great to see a real good guy like Dave get that recognition. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat beside Dave at wrestling matches and asked, ‘What move did he pin him with?,’ or some other technical question.
Speaking of a physical sport, he’s probably wanted to give me a black eye a time or two.
Staying on the topic of wrestling, the Warwick wrestlers were one of just four L-L League teams to reach the District Three Triple-A Team Duals, which got underway on Tuesday. It’s one thing knowing you have a good team on paper, as they did in the pre-season, but the Warriors went out and proved it on the mats as well, putting together a 12-4 record.
Congrats to them and good luck to the Warwick boys basketball team in their final two games as they battle for a playoff berth. There probably weren’t a lot of people giving them that shot earlier this season, but they could really help their cause with wins over Penn Manor and Manheim Township in the coming week. More MODESTY, page B-6