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Connellsville wrestling, football coach Dolde remembered as someone 'you wanted to play for'

Paul Schofield
| Monday, May 15, 2017, 7:03 p.m.
Former Connellsville wrestling coach Tom Dolde, seen here holding a photo of his 1999-2000 wrestling team, was inducted into the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.
Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
Former Connellsville wrestling coach Tom Dolde, seen here holding a photo of his 1999-2000 wrestling team, was inducted into the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.

Southmoreland athletic director Charlie Swink was saddened to learn legendary Connellsville wrestling coach Tom Dolde died Friday.

Swink wrestled and was a star linebacker for Dolde in the early 1980s.

“He was the kind of coach you wanted to play for,” Swink said. “He wasn't overbearing, and he let you be yourself. He was more than a coach to students. He was a friend and mentor. I'll miss him.”

Dolde, 78, taught 44 years at Connellsville. He was married to his wife, Donna, for 55 years and had two sons, Tommy and Don.

He started the Connellsville wrestling program in 1974, and the team won one match his first season. But it didn't take Dolde long to make Connellsville a power.

His record was 448-137-6. His teams won four WPIAL Class AAA titles, and he coached seven PIAA individual and 22 WPIAL champions. He also served as an assistant with his son, Tommy, as the Falcons won three more WPIAL titles and a PIAA title.

“He was a motivator,” Swink said. “I remember his halftime speech my senior year at Penn Hills. It was so inspiring. It was the first time we had beaten Penn Hills, and it was big win for us and the coaching staff. It was a knock down, physical battle, which he loved.”

Dolde served as linebackers coach and defensive coordinator. Swink said Dolde had a knack of finding the right guys to play defense.

“He would pick reads and made it simple for us,” Swink said. “He let you be you. He was a quiet person. He wouldn't say much during a wrestling match, but when he did, you got the message.

“I came out for wrestling season later because of football. I came in 10 pounds overweight before a match against Hempfield. I worked all day to make weight, and I lost. He ripped into me and told me not to come to practice the next day overweight. I was shaking when I got on the scale. I'm glad I wasn't over.”

Dolde taught health and physical education. He also was a Civil War buff and loved to discover things at Gettysburg. He wanted to be a park guide on the battlefields.

In addition to his wife and sons, he is survived by his brother, Don, and wife Sandra Dolde, of Connellsville; grandchildren, Jared, Alexis and her fiance Nick LoNigro, Jessica, and Michaela. In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his brother, Richard Dolde, of Baden and brother-in-law, Jake Cappa.

Family and friends will be received at Paul G. Fink Funeral Home in Connellsville from 2 to 8 p.m. Tuesday. A funeral Mass will be held at St. Rita's Roman Catholic Church, Connellsville at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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