Bob and Sue Siar
By Ken Wunderley Tri-State Sports & News Service
It’s amazing how a sport can completely change the lives of two individuals.
Neither Bob Siar or Sue Freeman was familiar with the sport of wrestling when they met in 1956. Both have since become members of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
“I met Sue at Ridgway Hospital,” said Siar, who began his coaching career at Kane High School after graduating from Slippery Rock State College. “I had to take a basketball player who tore an MCL to the hospital and Sue was a nurse.”
Siar and Freeman started dating and eventually got married. “I started out coaching junior high basketball, then became the line coach on the football team,” Siar said. “I also took on an assistant coaching position for the track team.”
Siar spent two years at Kane and three years at Johnsonburg High School before returning to his alma mater, Brookville High School. That’s where Siar and his wife were introduced to the sport of wrestling. “
A coaching and teaching job opened at Brookville, so I decided to return to my alma mater to coach football,” said Siar, who played football at Brookville and Slippery Rock. “Coaching is the reason I chose education as my major.”
Siar’s return to Brookville couldn’t have come at a better time. “
The school wanted to add wrestling and track teams and the athletic director hired me to run both programs,” Siar said. “Nobody at Brookville knew anything about wrestling. I learned on the job.”
Siar needed somebody to keep score at his matches, so he enlisted Sue to be his scorekeeper.
“Sue was a quick learner,” Siar said. “She played basketball in high school, so we knew a lot about brackets and how to run a tournament.”
Both quickly fell in love with wrestling and their involvement in the sport increased exponentially.
“I spent five years at Brookville, then accepted a teaching and coaching position at Shaler High School,” Siar said.
Siar built one of the most successful programs in the WPIAL at Shaler before moving on to Hampton in 1989. He retired from the coaching ranks in 1993 after compiling a 315-108-6 record in 28 years.
During their time at Shaler, Sue Siar ran numerous tournaments at the varsity, junior high, and elementary levels. The two also joined the United States Wrestling Officials Association, Bob in 1974 and Sue in 1978.
Both became very active in the United States Wrestling Officials Association, which was formed to promote Olympic-style wrestling. When he retired from coaching, Bob Siar became more active in officiating freestyle and Greco-Roman, and eventually became a recruiter and teacher of officials.
During that time, Sue Siar worked more than a thousand tournaments on the local, state, regional, national, military, and international levels. “Sue became the foremost pairings official in the world and received the titles of ‘Pairings Master’ for FILA International and ‘1-Exeptionalle’ for USA Wrestling,” Bob Siar said.
Bob Siar was eventually named secretary of the United States Wrestling Officials National Executive Board and the director of the USWOA Pennsylvania Wrestling Officials Association.
“Bob and I are very close,” Sue Siar said. “We do almost everything together and working at wrestling tournaments is something we loved to do.”
Sue Siar has worked at three Olympic games and was the Chief Pairer for wrestling at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, and 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. She was also the Chief Pairer at nine World Championship Tournaments.
“Wrestling has allowed us to travel all over the United States and the world,” Sue Siar said. “We’ve been to Italy, Australia, Germany, and many other places. If it wasn’t for wrestling, I never would have done all that traveling.”
Sue Siar was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1998. Bob Siar was inducted two years later. The two are also members of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Wrestling Hall of Fame and Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
For their many years of service to the sport of wrestling, the Siar’s will be recognized at the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic with the Dr. Kurt J. Nellis Award.
“My brother Kurt learned about community service from different people from different social-economic backgrounds as a youth and young adult, especially from Mr. & Mrs. Siar,” Kraig Nellis said. “Through their devotion to the advancement of amateur wrestling, they’ve demonstrated their servant approach and principles. Together, they’ve made such a positive and lasting impact on the lives of many, youth and adults alike, over many years in organizations locally, like Shaler, Hampton and Fox Chapel, and across the country, in USA Wrestling and USA Wrestling Officials.”
The Nellis Award was created to memorialize Dr. Kurt Nellis for his community service and dedication to amateur wrestling. The award recognizes one individual each year from Western Pennsylvania that has served their community through the sport of amateur wrestling.
“It’s an honor for us to be recognized with the Nellis Award,” Siar said. “I was fortunate to coach the entire Nellis family and we’re still close.”
The Siar’s have since retired from the USWOA, but still help their son, Bob Jr., at the Allegheny County Tournament.
Nellis’ widow, Diane, will make the presentation to the Siars’ along with Ed McCallister, the Chief Information Officer at UPMC Health Plan. McCallister was a co-worker with Dr. Nellis prior to his death.