South Xtra: McGuffey brings back Caffrey as its wrestling coach
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When filling a head coaching opening, high school athletic departments usually prefer candidates with previous success at the varsity level.
Having a familiarity with the program would be a bonus.
McGuffey's athletic department got both when they hired former Highlanders coach Mark Caffrey to his third stint with the wrestling program. Caffrey has returned to head coaching after an eight-year layoff.
"I'm retiring from teaching, so I'll have a lot of extra time," said Caffrey, who has taught in the McGuffey School District for 34 years. "I've wanted to get back into coaching, but was waiting for the right opportunity. I had two schools [Fort Cherry and Charleroi] offer me coaching jobs last year. I considered both very seriously, but felt the drive [from Washington] was too far."
Caffrey posted a 307-62 record in 21 seasons at McGuffey. He took a one-year leave of absence during the 2000-01 school year due to health concerns, and retired after the 2004-05 season.
"McGuffey had one of the most successful programs in the WPIAL," said Caffrey, who replaced Jeff Breese Sr. "The program has gone through some tough times. My goal is to build the program back up."
Caffrey ranks 13th on the WPIAL's all-time list for coaching victories, and is one of only 15 with 300 or more wins. He also has the distinction of having the highest winning percentage (83.2 percent) of any WPIAL coach with 150 or more wins.
"We started our weight-lifting program on Monday," Caffrey said. "My next goal is to talk with a half dozen kids who have previous wrestling experience, but decided not to wrestle last season. My hope is to convince them to come back next season."
Bob Bove took over at McGuffey when Caffrey stepped down. He led the Highlanders to a 16-13 record and two WPIAL team tournament appearances in his two seasons.
Breese was hired the following season and compiled a 29-52 record during his five seasons. The Highlanders did not qualify for the WPIAL team tournament during Breese's tenure.
"One thing that really helps is that I taught all of the juniors and sophomores," said Caffrey, who served as a drivers education teacher for 14 years. "Having that familiarity with the kids will make my job easier."
During his layoff, Caffrey did serve as an assistant coach at Washington for two seasons when Rich Burgdolt was the Little Prexies head coach.
"Rich was a junior high assistant coach at McGuffey last year under Eric Nicolella," said Caffrey, referring to two Highlanders alumni whom he coached. "Both have agreed to stay on as my junior high coaches. Eric has two sons coming up, including one who will start next year as a freshman."
Caffrey has not hired a varsity assistant yet, but expects to fill that position shortly.
Caffrey has hopes of improving interest in McGuffey wrestling. To do that, he must build a winning team. The Highlanders have had a .500 or better record only once in the past six years.
"I remember when we had a lottery for tickets to our big matches," Caffrey said. "We could only seat 900 people in our old gym, so we held a lottery to see who would win tickets. They've since built a new gym that has more capacity. It would be great if we could eventually fill that gym for big matches."
McGuffey entered only eight individuals in last year's Section 4-AAA tournament, with just two seniors. The top three returnees are juniors, Christian Whipkey (17-7 at 132), Brent Blaharczyk (27-10 at 160) and Erik Capra (30-7 at 195).
First Published June 14, 2012 12:00 am