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EDITORIAL: Sending a 'slimy' message

York Dispatch

Everyone wants to win.

In fact, when mentoring our kids, winning should be far down the list of important "things" that coaches should be concerned with. Well, that may be true in the cutthroat world of the NFL, but when it comes to youth athletics, winning shouldn't be the "only thing. "In fact, according to one popular quote, widely attributed to legendary Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi: "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing. "It's part of the competitive nature that's genetically hard wired into each of us.

Instilling sportsmanship, developing character and teaching life lessons should all trump winning.

This past weekend, however, one area wrestling coach unashamedly delivered the wrong message that winning is his No. 1 priority.

Background: First, some background is needed.

In 2014, the Diocese of Harrisburg, which includes York, established a policy which forbids male wrestlers from Catholic schools from wrestling females from public schools. According to the policy, boys and girls competing together in sports that involve "substantial and potentially immodest physical contact" would conflict with Catholic teachings.

You can agree or disagree with that policy, you can call it sexist, but the diocese certainly has the right to make and enforce its own rules for its schools.

The details: Now fast forward to Saturday. Delone Catholic, which is in McSherrystown and comes under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Harrisburg, was competing in the Canner Duals in Biglerville. In the event, each competing school wrestles five matches against five different teams. Delone's match vs. J.P. McCaskey was tied at 30-30 with three bouts remaining in the 138-, 145- and 152-pound weight classes.

That's when things got interesting.

McCaskey coach Isaias Rodriguez decided to insert two female wrestlers into the 138 and 145 bouts, knowing that Delone would have to forfeit those bouts to comply with the diocesan policy. That gave McCaskey 12 team points and assured the Lancaster school of winning the overall match vs. the York-Adams League team. Delone got a pin in the final bout at 152, but McCaskey still won, 42-36.

The two female wrestlers are normally reserves. In fact, they didn't wrestle in any of the other four McCaskey matches in the Canner Duals. It was obvious that the only reason Rodriguez put them in the lineup vs. Delone was so he could win the team match. When asked if that was the case, he told the Gettysburg Times: "Absolutely."

He didn't stop there, either.

"I guess it was slimy, but I had to do what I had to do to win the match," he told the newspaper.

The wrong lesson: Yes, maybe it was what he had to do to win the match, but he certainly had better alternatives. He could've, and should've, used his normal lineup of wrestlers and took his chances that the best team would win.

For his part, Delone head coach Frank Sneeringer took the high road. He refused to criticize the McCaskey coach for his actions.

"There's a reason we have 'Catholic' behind our name," he told the Times. "You can't take away our integrity. The diocese made a ruling and we have to abide by them. We're not upset, it's just unfortunate from a competitive standpoint, but (McCaskey) did what they had to do."

Yes, Rodriguez did what he thought he had to do. Instead of competing, head to head, to decide the match, he adopted a "strategy" straight out of the Lombardi tradition. There's just one problem. He was coaching impressionable teenagers, not professional adults. His No. 1 job shouldn't be to win at all costs, it should be to teach.

Well, on second thought, he did teach his wrestlers something. He taught them that: "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing."