Dave Kling walks away from KO wrestling
Just as a wrestler knows when it is the right time to make a move in a match, Keystone Oaks wrestling coach Dave Kling knew when it was time to make his.
After 30 years of coaching the Golden Eagles wrestling team, Kling will walk away from the mats at the end of this season. He also will retire from teaching social studies at the end of the school year.
"It's time," said Kling, 55, of Castle Shannon. "I pretty much came into this year knowing I was going to retire at the end of the year. It will be difficult to say good-bye to a sport I have known all my life."
Kling said the hardest part will be leaving the young men whom he enjoyed teaching the intricacies of the sport. He could not pinpoint one specific moment which was his best, but said each year had its special times. Kling was honored Wednesday prior to the Golden Eagles final regular-season home match against Belle Vernon. He was presented with a plaque for his dedication to the school and the sport. During his tenure, Kling recorded a 380-152-2 career record, not counting last night's match.
Kling said it was perfect timing because he believes he has built a solid program which can survive without him. He plans to leave the area and retire to Lakeland, Fla., with his wife, Lynn. That will give him more time to work on his golf game. He also expects to stay connected to the sport by officiating in the sunshine state.
But it was at Keystone Oaks in the Keystone State, where Kling has always felt at home.
"The coaches and parents and the administration have been great," said Kling, who has been inducted into the Pennsylvania Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Hall of Fame. "I have had the support of so many people over the years. It has been a real satisfying career for me. I haven't had many negative feelings in all those years. My time at Keystone Oaks has been near perfect."
One of the biggest things Kling will miss is the practices, he said. He enjoyed practices because they were times for him to work one-on-one with each athlete, Kling said.
"That was my time to work with the kids and watch them grow and get better," Kling said. "That was rewarding."
Former Seneca Valley wrestling coach Ken Lockey has known Kling forever. Lockey said Kling is a super promoter of wrestling in western Pennsylvania. The sport is in his blood. His father, Lynn Kling, is also a western Pennsylvania and Southwestern Pennsylvania Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee. They are the first father-son pair inducted into the state.
So, even when Kling retires, he will stay involved in the sport in some way, Lockey said.
"Dave is a friend and a person I respect," Lockey said.
Kling's teaching colleague at Keystone Oaks Bob McGregor said Kling is a competitor and what has made him a successful coach is the fact that he cares about the complete athlete. He passed his competitiveness on to his wrestlers.
"They were more than just athletes to Dave," McGregor said. "He cares about their academics and their athletics. He was very regimented and kept kids from straying the wrong way. He achieved success and not just from the amount of wins he's had. He had the ability to take an average athlete and make him achieve and use his individual talents."
Keystone Oaks athletic director Joe Perry said Kling will be tough to replace.
"He is a quality individual and outstanding coach," Perry said. "But I am happy for Dave. This was his decision. He has made Keystone Oaks one of the top wrestling programs in the WPIAL. He created long-term stability in that coaching position. He is a good teacher which is why he was such a good coach."