West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

... On A Day of Dejection and Ejection

In a previous column, I mentioned that I was the last coach removed from the West Virginia State Wrestling Tournament in 1976. Now it is time to tell the rest of the story.

My Wheeling Central heavyweight, Wayne Lichwa, wrestled his way to the state semi-finals. In the third period of the match, Wayne and his opponent were in the neutral position. As all the big guys do, Lichwa and his adversary were aggressively pummeling for the inside arm position.

The referee in the bout mistake their actions as fighting and disqualified both wrestlers. I was in shock, especially having observed the official in previous matches during the tourney. He seemed to perform competently, but he either panicked or over-reacted in this match.

Yes, I lost it. Even other officials, who witnessed the match, attempted to persuade him to overturn his call. But he finally stood by his decision. And I, well I was spitting nails and had to be removed from the premises. To make matters worse, this same referee was in the hospitality room when I entered.

Needless to say, I was asked to leave there as well. I ate the sandwich I made inside my car. I was NOT a happy camper.

There’s a few other points you need to know to understand my rage. First, it was a rough season for Central wrestling and Wayne Lichwa was my only shining star. Second, the match was terminated with only 45 seconds left -- and Wayne was winning by a score of 7 to 1. Ouch! Third, his opponent actually told the referee to just disqualify him (if he had to disqualify anybody), and give Wayne the match because he knew he was beat. Finally, Wayne Lichwa would have competed in the state finals against a wrestler he beat the previous weekend in regionals. As it was, he got nothing and I was livid.

So now you know the rest of the tale. And to be quite honest, if it had happened today, I would still be out in the parking lot eating my sandwich.

My only regret is how it affected Wayne Lichwa. To this day, Wayne has a sour feelings when it comes to officials. I have made peace with the official in question, but I doubt if Wayne Lichwa ever will. As his coach, I understand.

In closing, as the state rules interpreter with 10 years of coaching experience, I have a deep respect for all sports mentors. When wrestling coaches come to me with serious concerns, I respectfully listen...because they deserve at least that. Afterall, I have been there, too.

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