Shaler grad Ken Nellis headed into Clarion Hall of Fame
Ken Nellis compiled numerous honors during his collegiate wrestling career at Clarion. One of the Shaler graduate's favorite memories came from a less-than-memorable match.
Nellis, who will be inducted to the Clarion Athletics Hall of Fame in May, lost 15-5 to Oklahoma State's Kenny Monday during a 150-pound bout at the 1984 NWCA All-Star Classic in Iowa City, Iowa.
“That was pretty cool,” said Nellis, who is the athletic director at Penn State DuBois. “I got my butt whupped. He was ranked No. 1 in the country, and I was ranked third or fourth.”
Throughout Nellis' Golden Eagles career, he constantly made adjustments. A two-time PIAA champion at Shaler, Nellis had to adjust to a different level of wrestling and academic rigor at Clarion.
“It taught me a lot about self-discipline, hard work and the sport of wrestling,” Nellis said. “Training and making weight and trying to keep up with the grades the best you can. I wasn't the best student to start with, and I'm sure other people found it easier than I did. I think the work ethic I developed from those days from practicing, training and being a college partner helped me as a parent and provider.”
Nellis, who earned a degree in business management, found plenty of success in both areas of focus. On the mat, Nellis was a three-time Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference champion, three-time runner-up in the Eastern Wrestling League and four-time NCAA qualifier.
Nellis compiled a 113-28-5 record at Clarion.
“There's always a learning curve,” Nellis said. “I had to adjust to the physicalness of the sport. I was never big or strong for a college wrestler. That was a big-time adjustment. My high school coach, Bob Siar, had us travel a lot and introduced us to a number of different things.”
Nellis returned to Clarion as head coach from 1998-2006 after serving as an assistant during the 1990-91 season.
During his tenure, Nellis coached seven Division I All-Americans, 11 EWL and 16 PSAC champions. The Golden Eagles had their best finish nationally in 1998 (24th place).
Wrestling among the PSAC schools have changed since Nellis was in school. Only four programs — Bloomsburg, Clarion, Edinboro and Lock Haven — are Division I. Eight others are Division II programs, and Slippery Rock dropped its program.
“It's definitely changed,” Nellis said. “The PSAC schools, there's a disparity in money as far as scholarships. Obviously, the Penn States and Lehighs are fully funded. The operating budgets and scholarship budgets are difficult. It makes it difficult to recruit and keep kids in your programs sometimes.”
Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.