As an athletic competitor, George W. McCormack fought to the bitter end, never giving up hope of coming up with a victory.
As a patient battling esophageal cancer for the past year, Mr. McCormack exhibited the same spirit.
"He fought to the end and it really showed me how to persevere," said Mr. McCormack's son, Brock, 13.
Mr. McCormack, 46, the long-time head wrestling coach at Baldwin High School and a former wrestler at the University of Pittsburgh, died Saturday at his Mt. Lebanon home of the cancer, which had spread to his stomach.
He had been diagnosed about a year ago and took leave from his positions as physical education teacher and coach at Baldwin, which he held for 19 years.
Mike Bilbie, his fellow coach and friend since college, said Mr. McCormack held a coach's meeting about a year ago to explain that he had been diagnosed with cancer but that he planned to have surgery, make a full recovery and return to coaching and teaching. He had surgery to receive an artificial esophagus in February and worked to get well enough to return to school and coaching this fall.
But as the new school year approached, doctors found that Mr. McCormack's cancer had spread.
"We have a pretty tight-knit wrestling community, and he's been a part of thousands of kids' lives. He's going to be sorely missed, and things won't be the same without him for sure," said Mr. Bilbie, a science teacher at Harrison Middle School in the Baldwin-Whitehall district and the new head wrestling coach.
Mr. McCormack was a 1985 graduate of Dallastown Area High School in York County. In his senior year of high school, Mr. McCormack came in second place in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association wrestling championships.
He initially attended Temple University, where he played football, but later transferred to Pitt, where he was a wrestler on the same squad with Mr. Bilbie. Mr. McCormack earned bachelor's and master's degrees in physical education and graduated in 1990. He was a student teacher and substitute in Baldwin-Whitehall before starting his full-time teaching job.
Mr. Bilbie said the high school wrestlers liked Mr. McCormack because of his laid-back coaching approach. "He wasn't one of those coaches who was going to be in your face screaming and yelling at you. He had a very calming influence," Mr. Bilbie said.
In addition to wrestling, Mr. McCormack at times coached football and track.
His son said he and his father enjoyed attending numerous sporting events and held season tickets to Steelers and Pirates games. The father and son were able to attend the Pirates playoff games this fall.
Mr. McCormack also coached his son's baseball team, and the two collected sports memorabilia, including more than 100 bobblehead figurines of sports figures, which they stashed in their man cave at their home, Brock said.
Brock said his father also set examples for him about helping other people by helping with Special Olympics and participating in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life before he was diagnosed with the illness.
Surviving in addition to his son are Mr. McCormack's wife, Kimberly Ann; his parents, James and Janet McCormack of York; sisters Karen McCormack and Jessica Baughman, both of York; and a brother, Dan of York.
A funeral will be held at 1 p.m. today at St. Paul Episcopal Church, 1066 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon.
Mary Niederberger: firstname.lastname@example.org; 412-263-1590.