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Tofurky

Why Pennsylvania?

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There's a lot of research done on these talent hotbeds but it's difficult to isolate root cause from empirical observations. Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, though fairly incomplete as a research piece, is famous for bringing the topic to the media forefront. There are lots of other great studies on the topic that make for really interesting reading (a few recommendations: Bounce, The Talent Code, Top Dog, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success).

I appreciate the book references.  Thanks.

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I think several folks have hit on why Pa has consistent success at the HS level.  Lots of those D1 schools (Lock Haven, Clarion, Edinboro, Bloomsburg, Millersville) are primarily teaching schools.  Kids go there to become HS teachers and coaches.  It is a natural breeding ground for coaching.  My HS coach wrestled at Clarion, and he wasn't even a starter...but we always had Clarion guys coming into our practices.  A kid a few years older than me was a good, solid HS wrestler.  Regional qualifier, maybe once or twice but never made it to states.  He walked on at Clarion and ultimately earned a starting spot through sheer effort.  He wasn't a great D1 wrestler, but when he came back to our practice and beat the crap out of us, it helped make us better. 

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I thought about this several years ago.

 

I think much of it stems from WWII.  Back in 1940, PA was the 2nd most populated state and had the most serve in WWII (1.25 million).  We had high school wrestling back then but was much more sparse than it is today or even in the 1980's before you started seeing a lot of school consolidations.  Back in 1940, it was pretty much the same 40 programs producing the state champions.

 

After the war, many of those 1.25 million veterans became the first person in their family to go to college and PA was perfectly situated with our many state (teacher colleges) colleges throughout the state.  East Stroudsburg, Bloomsburg, Clarion, Lock Haven, Slippery Rock, Millersville, etc...Some were sanctioned schools while some probably had wrestling as a club sport back in the late 40's.

 

Wrestling exploded throughout the state in the early to mid 1950's on the high school level because these veterans who competed either seriously or dabbled with wrestling in college lobbied to start wrestling at the school they were employed by.  I can think of one school there was a direct result to this which contributed to later NCAA success.  One veteran started the wrestling program and his grandson became a multiple AA 40 years later, the same team, the first official wrestler for the team had a son become a NCAA champion.

 

These programs came out of the steel, coal, timber and farming towns of PA.  I remember the stories of Shorty Hitchcock's strength which he attributed to growing up on a dairy farm.  Shorty was the first generation of Pennsylvanians to have wrestling and go to college themselves, have success on the college level and still come back to the state and coach.

 

I do not think PA wrestlers are the most technical and I saw somewhere when Sanderson was hired when he saw PA high schoolers training that he thought PA kids don't even train as hard as mid west kids.  But it is a grind from 5 years old and it has just manifested out of the 1950's.  This could attribute to PA's mat skills, lack of technique will force you to become a better mat wrestler.

 

The PA club scene has only really taken off in the last 10 or so years.  The vast majority of good PA wrestlers were a direct result of solid HS coaching and tough off season tournaments every weekend in a 50 mile radius of your home.

 

I am not confident that PA will continue their quality of depth domination (I did not say PA kids are the best nationally).  The populations around and above much of interstate 80 and north are plummeting.  PA's population has only seen a 23% gain since 1940 while the nation's population has more than doubled.

 

Many people within the state think the depth has dropped off a bit in the last few years and many people have noticed JH is very weak right now but the same people say elementary is the strongest they have ever seen.

 

But the power has shifted in the state.  Areas like Wilkes Barre, State College/Lock Haven area, The Lehigh Valley and Erie used to produce very good wrestling (especially the Lehigh Valley).  The power has shifted from the rural and economically depressed areas to the suburbs of Philly, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.

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I thought about this several years ago.

 

I think much of it stems from WWII.  

I like this post a lot.

 

I'm trying to remember where I saw a list of All-Americans by state across the decades.  Maybe it was on the Wrestlingstats website or maybe Jason Bryant posted something like that at some point.  If Pennsylvania exploded on the scene in the 1950s and 1960s, Ohio's surge came later - maybe the 1970s or 1980s?  I'd be interested in thoughts on why Ohio started getting better.  

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Could it also be that the power centers of many of PA's top programs are in primarily working class areas? I've yet to find a team of "rich kids" who have had a sustained power grip on any one area of wrestling. Even the teams that recruit, both public and private, pull kids from solidly lower-middle to middle class areas.

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Could it also be that the power centers of many of PA's top programs are in primarily working class areas? I've yet to find a team of "rich kids" who have had a sustained power grip on any one area of wrestling. Even the teams that recruit, both public and private, pull kids from solidly lower-middle to middle class areas.

Blair kids are pretty rich. Same with Wyoming Seminary. Blue collar work ethic, sure, but wrestling has transcended class for some time now at the elite level.

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Tofurkey, I believe Franklin Regional would at least be considered upper middle class.

All great points but another key factor is that there is tough wrestling all over the state. While most states have a single hot bed like created Cleveland in Ohio, PA has hot beds all over the state. Therefore, you may not reside in a hotbed but you can hit weekend tournaments by driving 100 miles and wrestle in that tough area. Those kids get better and increase the talent in their area. Some kids may not travel as far as others but they will see the kids that do travel and get better to be able to compete. The point is that no matter where you live you can't escape tough kids. Take Brock Zachryl, now at Clarion as an example. He is from Brookville Pa, population 3900.

The only point I disagree about 100% is about someone wrote about PA governing body had good organization or something. The PIAA does a fine job overall for the HS State tournament etc. but the PAWF for freestyle and Greco is not a model organization by any stretch. Many summer clubs do not participate at all. The FS and GR state tournament gets relatively few state medalists competing. There are some but not as many as you would expect. Many cadet wrestlers wrestle Fargo for the experience and to get on the national map then do not compete as Juniors.

Some think that the summer folk teams that dominate Disney duels etc. are sponsored or sanctioned by some PA wrestling governing body or something. Those are just club team coaches who make some calls and assemble a team. Obviously some are loaded with top talent from a broad area. Other teams are made up of kids who are relatively local.

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Some great posts and hard to disagree with any of them. The level of competition is great in pa and you don't have to go very far to find competition us a great point. There are many examples but i know a kid right now who has been in the finals of some top national tournaments and just went 1-3 at an in state tournament in the off-season!

 

Also, look at a kid like verkleeren who wins a world title but had 7 losses last year in the state of pa! Look at Dapper Dan records and the us team has awesome records while most pa kids have 10-20 losses and they still compete. Eventually, the talent of those us kids shine thru but they just aren't tested like you get in Pa.

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Blair kids are pretty rich. Same with Wyoming Seminary. Blue collar work ethic, sure, but wrestling has transcended class for some time now at the elite level.

 

I'm no insider, so I don't know what sort of financial packages those families are receiving to be able to attend schools such as Blair and Sem. As a guy who works in private school admissions and financial aid, I suspect that quite a few of those families are paying a good deal less than sticker price.

 

The work ethic may be there for kids who are from upper-middle income families, but those families tend to find other athletics options for their kids beyond wrestling. In my experiences, the local schools that have/are in areas with primarily financially flexible families--unlike Blair and Sem who pull kids from just about anywhere--usually do not have very strong wrestling programs.

 

jstock, thanks for that info. I wasn't aware. However, wouldn't FR be the exception to rule instead of the rule?

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Tofurkey - I really don't know, never considered the economic situation of groups of athletes. I think that kids that are highly competitive and confident will strive to win no matter what their economic situation is. I would guess that just as the talent is spread geographically all over the state you will also see kids with a vast economic state competing in PA. Many have heard of the Peppelmans, Dad is a surgeon so you can make an assumption that the family was OK financially. Could name PA kids from all economic backgrounds.

Floyd Maywether just made an obscene amount of money in his last fight and he still competes to win and I bet he would coach his kids to win.

Wrestling is still a minor sport in PA but maybe a larger number per capita have at least heard of it and know some good wrestlers so it's not foreign to them. They may not follow the sport but they all knew the intense crazy kid that no one messed with or was respected in HS because of the hard work he put in.

True story,2 weeks ago, new grad at work with engineering degree from duh Ohio State didn't know who Logan Steiber was, didn't know there was a wrestling team and didn't know they won D1nationals. She said OSU is all about football. Penn State awards their teams and individual accomplishments at PSU football halftime, maybe because they know a large percent of fans can at least truly appreciate what these kids have done because they are familiar with the sport and know people who have competed in PA.

BTW, There aren't many steel mills and coal mines in PA anymore.

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I've yet to find a team of "rich kids" who have had a sustained power grip on any one area of wrestling. Even the teams that recruit, both public and private, pull kids from solidly lower-middle to middle class areas.

 

Its been decades, but in the late 60s early 70s Mt. Lebanon HS in Western Pa was as upper class as a large public high school could be, and produced a stunning record of dominance in the WPIAL and at states.  Individual wrestlers might not have fit that mold, I'll agree.

 

Its hard to generalize.

 

PA is slowly slipping, I think, if only because other areas are slowly improving. NJ and Ohio have become better than they were decades ago, and Florida is steadily coming up.  Things change over time. 

 

I do think that the depth of coaching in PA was a key to the success.  (Although, as I write that, I have to note that the Mt Lebanon coach of those teams I mention was George Lamprinakos, who never wrestled himself.)   Another key, as mentioned was a culture that valued physical prowess and toughness, whether acquired on the farm or in the mill.  

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I wonder how much of an impact multi-generational wrestling families has. There are a lot of areas in the country where a large percentage of the kids are first or only second generation wrestlers. In some of the areas mentioned it seems that there are quite a few 3rd and 4th generation wrestling families.  

 

There is definitely an impact there but a lot of PA's greats came from no wrestling background.

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