^^^During the mid 1900’s the town of Lock Haven, nestled in the Bald Eagle Mountain area of central Pennsylvania, was blessed with two giants of wrestling media coverage. One was Harris Lipez, who was the voice of Lock Haven State Teachers College and Lock Haven High School wrestling. Harris covered LH wrestling home and away on the town’s radio station WBPZ. The other Homeric wrestling follower/reporter was Ross Nevel, who covered sports/wrestling for the Lock Haven “Express.” Today I am going to “borrow” very heavily from Ross Nevel’s sports column in the November 22, 1988, edition of the “Express,” covering the start of Lock Haven College wrestling in 1939 and into 1940.
This column was the start of Mr. Nevel’s five-month effort to record the first 50 years of Lock Haven State’s wrestling program. On October 10, 2008, a large group of Lock Haven State wrestlers and fans got together on the campus of Lock Haven University, for a wrestling banquet to celebrate the school’s 70 years of college wrestling.
In his 1988 column, Mr. Nevel quotes the 1939 LHSTC yearbook: “Another high-light in the realm of sports was added to the athletic curriculum when ‘Ringie’ Smith took over a group interested in a wrestling program. For a first-year organization this team certainly earned all the praise and glory that can be bestowed upon it. The leader and honorary captain of the squad was Henry ‘Hank’ Blake, a husky 175-pound mat artist, who went through the season undefeated. That 1939 LHSTC wrestling squad, according to Ross Nevel, “surprised everyone by posting a winning 3-2 record.”
I’d like to digress a bit here to note that the Lock Haven legend, Hank Blake, was from DuBois, PA, and during the mid 1930’s was coached there in high school by another LH Legend (with a capital “L”) Herb Jack. Blake became the first wrestling coach at LHSTC and was followed by his former high school mat coach, Hub Jack. Flash forward 70 years, and the Lock Haven 2008 Wrestling Banquet, MC’ed by former LH grappler and PA wrestling historian Tom Elling, featured Mr. Blake as banquet speaker. (I was unable to attend the 2008 Banquet, but the last time I talked with Hank Blake he was living I believe in Monroeville, PA, over near Pittsburgh.)
Back to Ross Nevel’s coverage of the 1939 team – The wins came over Indiana (PA), 23-12, and Bloomsburg twice by scores of 23-13 and 20-16. Loses came in the first two meets, to East Stroudsburg, 23-10, and Mansfield, 20-16.
Further, “Blake, wrestling at heavyweight, posted a 5-0 record. Demonte Temple was 2-0 at 121 and 128 pounds, and Gordon Giles went 3-0 at 165. Bob Patterson went 4-1 at 175, and Bill Bressler was even up, 2-2 at 128 pounds.” The Nevel column continues, “Also competing on the initial (1939) team were Bud Stehman and Ed Saires, who both went on to great coaching careers at LHHS; Charles Yaggie, Paul Grieco, Judson Klepper, Robert Kemmerer, Robert Williams, and Ned Fairchild.
By the way, Bud Stehman coached the 1961 LHHS team that featured four PIAA state champs – Mike Johnson, Lee Deitrick, Gary Cook, and Jerry Swope. All four of these Bud Stehman-coach grapplers became NCAA All-Americans. Johnson was an NCAA finalist in 1963 for Pittsburgh (under Rex Peery, who recruited heavily out of Lock Haven in the 1950’s), Deitrick (also an excellent golfer now living in California) was an All-American for the University of Michigan, Cook was a 3X NCAA All-American for East Stroudsburg under Red Witman, and Swope was a 3X NCAA All-American at Lock Haven State and a 4X NAIA champion, under Herb Jack and Gray Simons. Three Ed Saires-coached LHHS Bobcats (if my memory is correct) who rolled on to post high school fame were: Dave Johnson, Paul Powell, and Bob Bubb. Dave Johnson (Mike’s older brother) was an NCAA semi-finalist for the Pitt Panthers in the mid-1950’s and later was head coach at that university, and Paul Powell won the 1959 NCAA title, competing for Pitt (under Rex Peery) in 1959.
Bob Bubb, who is one of the most wrestling-accomplished Lock Haven natives of all time, was an NCAA All-American for the Pitt Panthers in 1959 (under Rex Peery) and went on to phenomenal, legendary coaching status at Clarion University. By the way, Bob Bubb was a LH “Express” paper boy in his youth, and, I do believe, his wife is from the Island just east of town. Back in the mid 1900’s the fertile Island (in the Susquehanna River) was known mainly for its tobacco farming.
Hank Blake was named Lock Haven STC wrestling coach in 1940, while a student there and he also continued to wrestle for the team. I realize this post is a bit esoteric, but if anyone wants me to continue on this historic LHSTC line a bit, please say so and I will try to do so. Thanks, -Allen (WR.com)