West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker
National Wrestling Hall of Famer

Memories and Advice from a Former Wrestler, Part 1

In December, Don Lehman, webmaster of the West York (PA) Wrestling Alumni website, asked me for an interview regarding my scholastic wrestling career and my involvement in wrestling throughout my life. The reason he was interested in interviewing me is because I competed against a West York opponent my final bout as a high school wrestler. I told him I would be glad to accommodate him. Below are excerpts from the interview, part one of two.

Don Lehman - After reading your resume, I guess I can safely say that the sport of wrestling has been a huge part of your entire life! At what age did you take up the sport of wrestling... and who were your early mentors up in the Shamokin (PA) area of Pennsylvania?

Bill Welker - I began wrestling in the third grade. We had a six-week wrestling program in elementary school which concluded with an intra-squad tournament in the high school gym sponsored by the Key Club. Varsity wrestlers were the officials and no one ever complained.

My coaches were Mr. Delbaugh, Mr. Artman, Mr. Dapra (state runner-up) and Mr. Cawthern (regional champion). They taught us only the basics, absolutely no fancy stuff. But, what was just as unique, none of them had a son on the team. They coached out of their love for the sport, not to protect the interests of their off-spring, which you often witness today.

Don Lehman - Dr. Welker, your wrestling accomplishments at Shamokin HS are exceptional ... 85 high school victories in a three-year span with three Sectional titles, three District IV titles, two Northeastern Regional titles, a PIAA State second place and a PIAA State title! I know you give a lot of credit for your success to Coach Mal Paul and Coach Lyman "Beans" Weaver of Shamokin HS. Tell me a little about the technique drilling and physical training emphasized and taught by these two fine gentlemen during your high school career.

Bill Welker - I can still remember the first day I walked into the Shamokin High School wrestling room. I was in awe with the two icons of Shamokin's "Golden Age" of wrestling - Mal Paul and Lyman "Beans" Weaver. Their success as wrestling coaches was their emphasis on drill work, be it takedowns, rides and pinning combinations, or escapes and reversals.

We were introduced to situation wrestling, round robin workouts and chain wrestling on the bottom. Back then, it wasn't one escape or reversal move and stop, but combinations of escape-reversal maneuvers, constantly moving and changing directions.

Their primary area of emphasis was takedown instruction. In fact, our adversaries referred to the Shamokin "Greyhound" wrestling team as "Double Leg" High School.

Finally, when it came to physical training, they kept us moving all the time. If we weren't wrestling, we were running. If we weren't running, we were climbing ropes multiple times, arms only. In essence, we were continually moving throughout the entire practice.

No wonder Coach Mal Paul and his assistant Lyman "Beans" Weaver were both inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame - Pennsylvania Chapter. They were truly "masters of the mat sport."

Don Lehman - Did you do any off-season training, such as weight-lifting or running... to prepare for the sport of wrestling?

Bill Welker - Unlike today's philosophy of just specializing in one sport, we in the 1960's were influenced by our coaches to participant in various sports during the course of the year.

I also participated in football as a junior high student. In high school, I played baseball and golfed off-season; we didn't have a track program at the time. I also remember lifting weights three days a week and running in the summer.

Whereas contemporary coaches place emphasis on their wrestlers competing in various off-season tournaments, our mentors stressed attendance at summertime wrestling clinics to fine tone our mat skills. My clinic mentors included the likes of Chris Poff, Edwin Peery (3-time NCAA Wrestling Champion), Henry "Red" Campbell, LeRoy Alitz (Army's Hall of Fame coach), and Gerry Leeman (Lehigh's legendary mat mentor, Olympic Sliver Medalist and NCAA Wrestling Champion). I was indeed surrounded by the best coaches during my competitive days.

My advice to contemporary wrestlers who attend clinics - don't try to learn as many new moves as you can, but instead (1) observe the clinicians carefully when they are demonstrating moves you use to see how you can execute them more effectively and (2) take home one new wrestling maneuver in each area of wrestling you like, and add it to your total mat repertoire of moves.

Don Lehman - As a senior, you reached the 1965 112lb. PIAA State Wrestling finals... and your opponent was West York High School's Dana Luckenbaugh. What did you and your coaches know about Dana before the match... and, walk me through your mental approach?

Bill Welker - Coach Paul and Coach Weaver were exceptional when it came to scouting our opponents. Their analytical abilities in evaluating our adversaries mat skills were nonpareil.

I don't remember the specifics of our strategy for wrestling Dana Luckenbaugh, but I do know my general "game plan" for the match. I was aware that Dana was an exceptional pinner, strong and very aggressive. My strategy was to slow down the pace of the match to get Dana away from his style of wrestling. In other words, I wanted to keep him off-balance regarding the tactics he normally felt comfortable with during a match. My goal was to keep the match close until the third period and then let loose. Everything worked as planned when Dana and I reached the final period of the bout. In fact, the score was tied 3-3 at that point. Victory and a second state championship was mine for the taking since I was down the third period, and escapes and reversals were my forte.

Next week I will share with you the action in that final period, along with other words of wisdom in Part Two of "Memories and Advice from a Former Wrestler."

The Near Fall

Only the top or offensive wrestler can score near-fall points. He can do so by forcing his opponent (the defensive wrestler) into any of the following positions:
1) The defensive wrestler is in a high bridge situation.
2) The defensive wrestler is leaning back on his elbows with his shoulders facing the mat.
3) The defensive wrestler is exposing both his shoulders to the mat within four inches or less contact with the mat surface.
4) The defensive wrestler has one shoulder in contact with the mat and the other shoulder at a 45-degree position from the mat or less.

The offensive wrestler can score two match points by holding the defensive wrestler in any of the previously discussed positions for two seconds.

If the offensive wrestler is able to control the defensive wrestler in any of the previous positions for five continuous seconds, he would be awarded three match points.

The official usually indicates the presence of such near-fall situations by making an angular sweep of his arm, with each sweep indicating one second of back exposure. The referee will not signal any match points until the near-fall situation is terminated.

Also note, a near-fall can still be awarded if both shoulders of the defensive wrestler remain partially in-bounds or just one shoulder is completely in-bounds.

The half-nelson, arm-bar series, cradle, and three-quarter nelson are common pinning situations that can score near-fall points as well as the pin or fall, concluding the match - which is next week's rules discussion.

Mini-Mat Quiz

Q: Utilizing a half nelson, Wrestler A forces Wrestler B to a high bridge on his head for four seconds before Wrestler B was able to turn over on his stomach. Then Wrestler A quickly caught Wrestler B in a cradle and placed him placed him in another near-fall situation for over five seconds before the end of the period buzzer sounded. How many near-fall points would Wrestler A receive?

A: Five match points. He would receive two match points for the half nelson, which was held for less than five seconds. Then Wrestler A earned three match points for holding the cradle near-fall for five seconds before the period ran out.

OVAC Joe Thomas Wrestling Warrior

Coach Joe Thomas OVAC Wrestling Warrior of the Week is St. John's Joe Kosky, the 135 pounder for the Irish. Kosky is a two-year letterman for the Irish wrestling team with an over-all record of 22-11. He did not see much action last season due to a plethora of injuries. This year Joe Kosky placed 3rd at both the Union Local and Shadyside Tournaments. Kosky placed 6th at this season's Ron Mauck OVAC Championships. His current record for the year is 17-7 Congratulations are extended to Joe Kosky - this week's OVAC Wrestling Warrior.

The OVAC Mark Gerrity Wrestling Fan of the Week is St. John's SARAH KOSKY. An outstanding athlete herself, Sarah shows tremendous support for her brother (Joe) and the entire team.

The Deaton-Regis Weekly Dual Meet Predictions

Larry Deaton and Jack Regis, two of the Valley's finest mat officials are competing with each other this season, picking the winners of selected weekly matches. This week's dual meets featured matches are East Liverpool at Oak Glen 6:00 p.m. (Wednesday) and Steubenville at Brooke 5:00 p.m. (Wednesday). Deaton picks Oak Glen over East Liverpool 41-29 and Steubenville over Brooke 42-12. Regis calls two upsets: East Liverpool the victor over Oak Glen 36-34 and Brooke over Steubenville 39-36.

Mat Message
"I never complained about any of my principals because I was too busy teaching."
-- Bill Welker

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