Two away: Kiski Area coach nears record
Kiski Area wrestling coach Chuck Tursky needs one win to tie the WPIAL all-time career victories mark.
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At the end of every Kiski Area wrestling practices, the team runs to one wall and hits the word 'pride,' which is painted in large letters on the wall.
The exercise is a reminder for his wrestlers to take pride in themselves and their team, but it could also define coach Chuck Tursky, who certainly has plenty to be proud of.
In his 34th season, Tursky needs just two more wins to pass Tom Dolde, Sr., as the winningest coach in WPIAL history.
"When I started out, looking all the people that I looked up to and I wanted to emulate, I'm about to pass them all up," Tursky said. "When I was a young coach, I just looked at what they did and kind of did my thing and just before I knew it, I've had over 400 wins."
Tursky has 447, to be exact. He began his career at Burrell in 1979 when he was a student-teacher, and won 46 matches there before taking over at Kiski Area in 1986.
In 25 seasons with the Cavaliers, Tursky has compiled a 401-72-1 record. His teams won WPIAL titles in 1997 and 2003, when they also advanced to the PIAA finals.
From 1993-2003, Kiski Area won 11 consecutive section titles. During that stretch, the Cavaliers won 102 consecutive section matches.
This year, the Cavaliers are 8-0 with their next team match coming Wednesday at Franklin Regional. If they win there, Tursky would have a chance to break the record against the school where he started his career when Kiski Area entertains Burrell next Friday.
"I don't really have any feelings one way or another about beating them in that match," he said. "Burrell's done pretty good the last couple of years. We have a little bit of a rivalry because we're neighboring schools. I just find it a little ironic."
While he coached two teams to WPIAL titles, Tursky said it was difficult to distinguish between all the different teams he has coached over the years.
"Probably, if I look all the way back to my first couple of teams all the way to now, I've got a warm spot in my heart for all of them," he said. "Every guy that I've coached."
Stephen Joseph wrestled for Tursky from 1994-97, when he was a part of Kiski Area's first WPIAL championship. He said Tursky did an exceptional job at coaching every player on the roster.
"He's helping out the guy that doesn't have the most talent in the wrestling room. He's helping him better himself," Joseph said. "But on the other hand, he's had guys place second in the state and he's helping him try and perfect himself on the same day."
Joseph also said Tursky had a unique skill for motivating the team before big meets.
"He's a big guy with a big, booming voice. Whenever he starts throwing his fists in the air, getting his body moving and yelling, it's hard not to be inspired and ready for the task that's coming," Joseph said.
Behind that exterior, though, was a coach with a close personal connection to each of his wrestlers. Joseph said that bond made the motivation especially effective.
Joseph, now the head coach at Pine-Richland, said he uses lessons learned from Tursky on a daily basis.
The 34-year veteran certainly has a wealth of experience from which to draw. Over his career, Tursky has seen wrestling, and high school sports in general, change significantly.
He said the biggest shift has been the numerous entertainment options afforded to high school students today, from video games to Facebook to cell phones. Especially in a sport such as wrestling, which demands intense focus and commitment, it can be tougher to get through to students.
"There's a lot of distractions and it's hard to teach things like work ethic, staying at something," he said. "When you diet, if you don't stay at it, then you come off your diet."
Two years ago, it didn't look as if Tursky would have the opportunity to break the wins record. In the spring of 2010, he told long-time assistant Chris Heater that he planned to step aside and name Heater the head coach. Tursky said he planned to stay on as an assistant.
Heater, who has been at Tursky's side the past 21 years, wouldn't have any of it, though. He sat Tursky down and said he wouldn't let him step down until he broke the record.
"It was one of the most selfless things any friend could do for another friend, just stepping aside," Tursky said. "There's a lot of guys that will sabotage a program to try and become a head coach."
Tursky said he plans to coach for at least five more years, but didn't specify if that was as a head coach or as an assistant under Heater.
It's not as if he has much more to accomplish. Tursky and Dolde, Sr., are the only WPIAL coaches with at least 400 wins. At his current pace, it would take four more seasons to become the first WPIAL coach to reach 500 victories.
The PIAA record-holder is Ridley (Folsom, Pa.) coach Carl Schnellenbach, who entered his 52nd year this season with 713 wins. Tursky has said he has no plans to stick around that long.
"I'm proud of my career," he said. "I'm proud of the kids that I've coached. I'm proud of the coaches that I've been with."
WPIAL wrestling coaches with at least 300 victories:
Rank/Coach, School(s), Years, Wins-Losses-Ties
1. Tom Dolde Sr., Connellsville, 34, 448-137-6
2. Chuck Tursky, Burrell/Kiski Area, 34, 447-132-2
3. Ken Lockey, Seneca Valley, 33 392 158 13
4. Dave Kling, Keystone Oaks, 30 381 152 2
5. Leonard 'Gus' DeAugustino, North Allegheny, 34 380 104 2
6. Stan Mousetis, Bellefonte/Washington/Plum/Franklin Regional, 43, 343-260-11
7. Ron Frank, Central Catholic/Fox Chapel, 31, 340-245-7
8. George Lamprinakos, Mt. Lebanon, 32, 333-130-6
9. Rob Waller, Kane/Greensburg Salem/Mt. Pleasant, 24, 317-100-0
10. Bob Siar, Brookville/Shaler/Hampton, 28, 315-108-6
11. Steve DeAugustino, Munhall/Grove City/West Mifflin, 40, 308-252-4
12. Mark Caffrey, McGuffey, 29, 307-62-0
12. Tim Giel, Shady Side Academy/Avonworth, 29, 307-194-0
14. Dick Bane Gateway, Riverview, 37, 306-224-6
15. John 'Buzz' Walters, West Greene/Beth-Center/Clay-Batelle, 31, 300-143-4
First Published December 30, 2011 12:00 am