West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

...on Home-Grown Athletes

Don't you just miss the "home grown" great athletes of the Ohio Valley, or any other area for that matter?

I am not a native of the Valley, but I love Ohio Valley athletics. I also know about home grown athletes who have made it big -- and made their communities proud.

To tell the rest of the story, you must consider my entire past. I was blessed with so many great teachers and coaches in my hometown, as well as many mentors I have had in the Ohio Valley. And as they say in writing circles, author your experiences; so here I go.

During the early 1900s, the little anthracite coalmining town of Shamokin in central Pennsylvania produced Baseball Hall-of-Famer pitching great Stan Coveleski. This is much in the same tradition as Bridgeport's legendary Niekro brothers, Bobby Douglas, Martins Ferry's Lou "The Toe" Groza, and so many other Ohio Valley superstars.

I, personally, will never forget learning about Coach George Kovalick's 1959 tiny Bridgeport wrestling squad capturing the overall Ohio state mat team title. Wow! And they were all home-grown.

With the passing of time, the wrestling record in my hometown also gets even more impressive. Shamokin High School began its mat program in the early 1920s. In fact, two Shamokin wrestlers were crowned champions in Pennsylvania's first state tournament at Penn State's Recreation Hall in 1938. And note, one of the state champs that inaugural year was my cousin Harold Welker, who wrestled at the 145-pound weight class.

Since then, this small school produced 18 individual state champs. It's quite amazing when you consider the size of the Keystone State, and the many big schools that there are.

The state wrestling record book still ranks Pennsylvania's District Four contender Shamokin HS 8th with the most individual state champs after 85+ years, including the first brother-team to win states in District Four. Furthermore, the school is listed as 29th with the most dual meet wins (683). And all the grapplers were hometown born and raised.

Today, times have changed. In the greed to produce great athletic programs at all costs, we have witnessed the phenomena of recruiting in high schools -- some dubious in nature, some under the guise of student exchange programs.

To my way if thinking, how could an athletic program take pride in winning a state championship, when the fans of the community have no idea who many of the players are?

Unfortunately, the scholastic recruiting trend is growing in leaps and bounds all over the country. I think it is wrong. I, like so many other sportsmen of years past, take deep pride in competing as "home-grown" athletes.

I don't blame the youthful recruits, but I do shame the adults who promote these recruiting activities. They don't realize that victories, under such circumstances, are empty victories with little or no ethical fiber. What are their parents teaching them?

I'll let you decide that one.


"Men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed."
- L. Jones

Editor's Note: A former Pennsylvania State Champion, Dr. Welker is a nationally recognized authority on amateur wrestling who has published hundreds of articles and two best-selling books (The Wrestling Drill Book, 1st & 2nd Editions) on the subject in which 1000s of copies have been sold nationwide. His drill book can be purchased at www.Amazon.com or www.HumanKinetics.com.

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