By Ken Wunderley Tri-State Sports & News Service
Chuck Tursky took over as head wrestling coach at Kiski Area High School in
1987, he knew the key to building a successful program was to build from the
“Kiski didn’t have an elementary program,” Tursky said. “All successful wrestling programs have a feeder system. We needed an elementary program to give the kids an early start in wrestling.”
That’s when Steve Joseph Sr. stepped into the picture. “I told Steve what I wanted to do and asked him if he would head up our elementary program,” Tursky said. “He had one question for me. He wanted to know if I would be around for a while.”
After hearing that Tursky was in it for the long haul, Joseph accepted the offer and the two teamed up to build one of the strongest programs in the history of the WPIAL.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my coaching career to surround myself with good quality people,” Tursky said. “Steve has played a big part in our success. Anyone who has been around him for any length of time will tell you that.”
Tursky has become the most successful coach in WPIAL history. He ranks 10th in the state with 475 career victories.
“Steve has been instrumental in coaching, helping and promoting young wrestlers for the last 30 years,” Tursky said. “Whatever he did, he did the right thing and he did it the right way. When a job needed to be done, you knew it was done well.”
For his many years of service to the sport of wrestling, Joseph will be recognized at the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic with the Dr. Kurt J. Nellis Award.
“I’m humbled and honored to receive the Nellis Award,” Joseph said. “In fact, I’m a little surprised. I just did what I thought would help the program. I never expected to be recognized like this. My reward has been to watch the kids grow as wrestlers and as individuals.”
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 who has served their community through the sport of amateur wrestling from Western Pennsylvania.
“Steve worked in the shadows for years and never wanted to be in the spotlight,” Tursky said. “He certainly deserves the recognition.”
Joseph graduated from Norwin High School in 1970. “I was a three-year starter for coach Joe Kane at Norwin,” Joseph said. “I made it to the WPIAL finals as a sophomore, but didn’t make it back in my junior and senior year. I was in the same section with Trinity’s John Chatman. He won three straight WPIAL titles and only the champ got a chance to wrestle in the state tournament.”
Joseph didn’t wrestle in college, despite an offer of a scholarship from Pitt coach Dave Adams.
“I got married pretty early, so my plans changed,” Joseph said. “I had ended my wrestling career, but I never lost my love for the sport.”
After graduating from Pitt, Joseph became a chemist for PPG Industries and still works there 39 years later. He also began a family.
“I coached two years at Norwin and two years at Franklin Regional before hooking up with Chuck,” said Joseph, who spent the next 24 years as head coach of Kiski’s elementary program. “And it wasn’t just Steve,” Tursky said. “His wife Karen was by his side when he needed help working at tournaments.”
Steve and Karen Joseph, who reside in Export, have been married for 44 years. They have five children and 10 grandchildren.
The Joseph’s four sons all wrestled at Kiski Area. Doug Joseph graduated in 1993, Steven in 1997, Andrew in 2004, and Scott in 2006. And all four qualified for the PIAA tournament during their careers.
Joseph retired from coaching in 2009.
“When I was coaching, I would come home from work at 4 p.m., then get to practice at 5:30,” Joseph said. “When I retired, I actually got to come home and eat dinner at 5, like a normal family.
I’m enjoying my retirement from coaching wrestling.” But he still enjoys watching good wrestling. “I’ve been bringing my sons to the Classic for quite a few years,” said Joseph, “This Classic will be a little different. I really appreciate what the Classic committee is doing for me.”
Seventeen wrestlers from Kiski Area have wrestled in the Classic. Senior Matt McCutcheon could be the 18th, depending on how he does at the PIAA Tournament.