Many thanks to West York Wrestling Alumni webmaster, Don Lehman, for giving me a heads up about the death of John C. Bowser Jr., a former Bulldog wrestling great.
Bowser died last Friday at Manor Care North at the age of 87.
He was the husband of Ruthanna Phillips Bowser, to whom he was married for 67 years, and the father of two sons, Dennis Bowser, of York, and Gary Bowser, of Burke, Va.
He graduated from West York High School, where he starred in football and wrestling despite topping out at about 115 pounds in his senior year.
Bowser, a three-time District 3 wrestling champion and a state runner-up, was inducted into the Pennsylvania Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2007.
I had no idea. The first West York
To be honest, had it not been for Lehman, I probably never would have recognized Bowser for being one of the early wrestling giants at West York, even though it's my alma mater, too.
There's a reason for that, I guess. For one, I didn't wrestle in high school. I played basketball. So I don't have the depth of knowledge about the history of the wrestling program that someone might have if they'd actually wrestled.
That's why I rely on Lehman and his wrestling website to educate me about the wrestling program, especially the early days.
That's the other thing: Bowser was a grappler in the early-1940s, which meant he was making a name for himself almost 10 years before I was even born.
So I don't recall ever hearing anything about John C. Bowser Jr. He was a wrestling legend in his own time, but well ahead of mine.
That being the case, I was pretty much ignorant of Bowser's wrestling accomplishments.
For three consecutive years -- 1940 to 1942 -- Bowser was a District 3 champion, the first two years at 85 pounds and the third season at 112 pounds.
For those same three years, he was also a PIAA state qualifier.
In 1941, Bowser finished second in the state at 85 pounds when he battled Clearfield's Jim Mohney to a 6-6 tie in regulation in the PIAA finals, only to lose 2-0 in overtime.
He wasn't West York's first District 3 wrestling champion -- there were four in 1938, the first year the district tournament was held -- but he was one of the first. All three district championships came under the tutelage of head coach Chuck Richards, the founder of the West York wrestling program in 1934.
Bowser was also selected to the West York Wrestling Alumni "All-Time" Hall of Fame team at 106 pounds.
It's a shame, but I suspect hardly anyone under the age of 60 would have known that Bowser was one of the first truly great wrestlers in York County. And that's saying something, given the excellence York County athletes have shown in wrestling going back 75 or more years.
We are a county with a fine history in high school wrestling. We are part of a district with a wonderful history in wrestling. And York-area athletes have been instrumental building a reputation for top-notch wrestling statewide.
And Bowser was one of the guys who helped get it all started.
That's worth remembering.
Sports columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Thurs days. E-mail: lhick firstname.lastname@example.org.