West Virginia Wrestling


by Dr. Bill Welker

A Tribute to Joe Thomas

Last June wrestling in the Ohio Valley lost a great supporter who cared about all area wrestlers - Joseph J. Thomas.

I had the honor of coaching Joe Thomas when he wrestled in high school, but it was he who later taught me about friendship. I was never one to make a lot of friends. However, Joe Thomas became my friend and this relationship lasted nearly 30 years. Allow me to tell you the rest of his story.

I never met an individual who loved the mat sport more than Joe Thomas. In fact, he was always looking for ways to promote wrestling. This desire to be a "PR" person for the mat sport was a constant personal priority of Joe Thomas. A former Wheeling Park wrestler, Joe Thomas first decided to join the ranks of our local Ohio Valley Wrestling Officials Association. He put his heart into it. Joe studied the rules inside and out, asking questions that even stumped me at times. Unfortunately, refereeing was not for him.

By no means a quitter, Joe Thomas set his sights on coaching. Again he quizzed me on every aspect of teaching kids to wrestle. Joe then enrolled in the WVSSAC's mandatory coaching course, passed it, and began his mat mentor career as an assistant at Warwood Middle School. After that, there was no stopping him.

Joe Thomas moved on to become the head coach at Bridgestreet Middle School. There he produced numerous PAC-8 champions and future all-state wrestlers. But 1 most important, his boys admired and respected him. Joe Thomas found his niche.

As to my relationship with Joe Thomas, he was my best friend and traveling companion for many years. Most if our excursions were related to wrestling, but we also took a few vacations together.

My fondest experiences with Joe Thomas were our trips to my hometown. There he had the opportunity to meet my mom and late dad, my high school wrestling coaches, and my school-day wrestling buddies. They were some great times!

In closing, I want to extend my personal sympathies to his devoted mother Betty Parsons, his adoring sister Sherry Bonham, and the love of his life, Jeannie Goletz.

As a lasting tribute to my friend, the Mat Talk "wrestler of the week" will always bear his name. Joe Thomas will be deeply missed by the entire Ohio Valley wrestling community especially the Welker family. Thanks for the great memories, Joe.

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