Kiski Area coach to receive Lifetime Service to Wrestling award

Bill West
| Thursday, April 24, 2014, 11:18 p.m.

Unsure of whether he can fit all that he wants to say about his 35-season career as a wrestling coach into a five- to seven-minute speech, Kiski Area's Chuck Tursky might employ some tricks that work on the mat to secure himself extra time Sunday when he receives a “Lifetime Service to Wrestling” award from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame's Pennsylvania Chapter.

“I might stall a little bit,” Tursky joked. “I'll be done when I'm done.”

Many thoughts will run through Tursky's head at the Harrisburg Hilton, where the longtime Kiski Area leader and eight other men will receive recognition for their contributions to the sport. To delve deeper into his achievements — a WPIAL-record 491 dual meet wins, two WPIAL Class AAA team titles, 16 section championships and a second-place finish in the PIAA in 2003 — Tursky wants to address and thank the many wrestlers and assistants who came and went during those three-plus decades.

“There are so many things that I want to say, and five to seven minutes is not long,” Tursky said. “I could just thank people along the way, and that'd be five to seven minutes.”

In 28 seasons with Kiski Area, Tursky has accumulated a 445-79-1 record. His coaching career began at Burrell in 1979.

This past winter, the Cavaliers went 16-3. But Tursky spent part of the season recuperating at home rather than with the team after he underwent major surgery in mid-December.

“Chris Heater did a great job — he's like a rock,” Tursky said of his longtime assistant, who served as interim coach in Tursky's absence. “He and Don Toy, another of our longtime coaches, they just took care of business.”

Through the years, Tursky has considered retiring on several occasions. Encouragement from Heater to reach 500 wins keeps Tursky, the owner of a 491-139-2 record, committed to coaching. Only eight PIAA coaches have 500-plus wins.

Tursky, who's already in the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame, views attaining 500 wins as one of the few items remaining on his wrestling checklist.

Another item on that list? Visit the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla. His induction into it via the Pennsylvania Chapter has created an incentive — his name will appear in the Hall of Honors in Oklahoma.

“It's on my bucket list to go out to Stillwater and see the place,” said Tursky, who has visited the Dan Gable Wrestling Museum in Waterloo, Iowa. “A lot of those guys are my heroes from when I was growing up wrestling. It took me all day to go through (the Dan Gable museum), so I'm really looking forward to (Stillwater).”

Wagner honored again

The name “Chuck Wagner” already graces the membership lists of several local halls of fame, but the former Springdale football coach will soon see himself appear in yet another group of all-time greats — perhaps the most obscure one to date.

Wagner, who retired in 2011 after a 50-year career, is in the 10-person induction class for the Minor Pro Football Hall of Fame's Pennsylvania Coaches Achievement Hall of Fame. Other inductees include Woodland Hills' George Novak, Clairton's Tom Nola and Aliquppa's Mike Zmijanac.

“I'll handle it in a major league manner,” Wagner said of being added to a hall of fame he finds unfamiliar. “I'm certainly very happy and proud to be inducted into it.”

Wagner already holds a spot in a handful of sports halls of fame: Alle-Kiski Valley, Western Pennsylvania, WPIAL, Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association.

All of the awards and other mementoes earned by Wagner now consume a large portion of the home occupied by him and his wife, Dee.

“We downsized, so we don't have a lot of space,” Dee Wagner said, “but (the awards) keep coming.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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