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HEISER: West York's Luckenbaugh adds another honor for York County wrestling

STEVE HEISER
YorkDispatch

The local wrestling community is justifiably proud of York County's tradition of excellence in the sport.

In the premier wrestling state in the nation, and against the toughest competition around, area high school athletes and coaches have thrived.

For proof, look no further than the list of local men who have been selected for the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

That prestigious honor roll is now up to 11.

West York High School graduate Bill Luckenbaugh became No. 11 this week. He's also the fourth Bulldog to be picked.

The man known as "Lucky" truly deserves the recognition after excelling as both an athlete and a coach.

At West York, Luckenbaugh finished with a 69-5-0 career record, including 50 pins. He won three sectional titles, two District 3 crowns and a PIAA state championship as a senior in 1969 at 127 pounds.

At East Stroudsburg State College, he compiled a 77-7-1 record with 59 falls, including Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and NCAA Division II titles in 1974 at 150 pounds.

As a high school head coach at Elizabethtown and later West York, Luckenbaugh finished with a 152-46-1 mark, including league titles at West York in 1992 and 1994. He was also the District 3 Coach of the Year in 1994.

That's one seriously impressive resume.

Luckenbaugh learned of his selection on Saturday, and he will be inducted in April 2016 in State College.

"I knew that I was nominated but being nominated doesn't mean you get in," he said. "It's a select fraternity, and it's a wonderful thing. I'm really happy about it."

Family legacy: Luckenbaugh lives in Florida now, where he is in the air conditioning and heating business. He moved from York County in 1996. He hasn't been actively involved in wrestling since leaving his position as an assistant coach at Lake Gibson in Florida in 2003. The sport, however, has left him with many lasting memories.

"My brother Dana used to beat me up all the time on a rug in the basement," he said of his start in wrestling. "I got a lot of brush burns. ... Dana got me going, and I wanted to be like him."

The early introduction to the sport would later prove invaluable. Dana Luckenbaugh was a dominant wrestler in his own right and became York County's first PIAA state champion in 1965.

The legacy of Luckenbaugh wrestling excellence didn't stop there, either. Bill's sons were both mat standouts. Chad Luckenbaugh was a three-time Pennsylvania state medalist, and Brandon Luckenbaugh was a 1998 Florida state champion, with a little help from his father, who was an assistant coach with the team.

Building relationships: Despite his many mat accomplishments, however, Bill Luckenbaugh says he most cherishes the relationships he's built.

"What's really special is the people you're involved with and the coaches and the kids that you're around," he said. "I think wrestling people are a wonderful fraternity."

Bill Luckenbaugh made sure to note the huge influence on him of his two primary coaches, John Toggas at West York and Clyde H. "Red" Witman at East Stroudsburg. Both men are already members of the PWCA Hall of Fame. Toggas died within the last month. Luckenbaugh also wanted to thank former West York wrestling standout Don Lehman, who nominated him for the award. Lehman runs the respected westyorkwrestlingalumni.com website.

"Bill dedicated a huge portion of his life to the sport at the competitive, coaching and officiating level ... as well as being the father of two sons who competed," Lehman said. "I thought, 'if anyone has the resume to be in the Pennsylvania Wrestling Hall of Fame, it's Bill Luckenbaugh.'"

When he's inducted in April, Bill Luckenbaugh will actually be a five-time hall of famer. He's already in the District 3, East Stroudsburg, NCAA Division II and Elizabethtown halls of fame.

More than the accolades, however, Lehman said he will remember Luckenbaugh, the person.

"When I was a sophomore, I suffered my only career dual-meet loss to Don Donley of York High, 3-2, early in the 1970-71 season at heavyweight," Lehman said. "Bill was at that match, and as I sat dejected in the locker room after the meet, Bill came over and said: 'Don't worry Donnie, your day will come.' That meant a lot coming from the best wrestler ever from West York."

Reason for county to celebrate: Lehman also believes that Luckenbaugh's induction should be a reason to celebrate for the entire York County wrestling community.

"(The York-Adams League and its predecessors) has had 40 PIAA state champions since 1965 — that is an unbelievable statistic when compared to all the other sports. (The York-Adams League) continues to have great wrestling. Being inducted into the PWCA Hall of Fame is a real honor."

Lehman's right. It is a real honor, and no one deserves it more than the man known as "Lucky."

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.

Hall of Famers

Following are members of the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame with York County ties.

Charles "Chuck" Richards (West York) 1976

John T. Toggas (West York) 1992

Bill Bence (Dallastown) 1993

Dr. D. Kenneth Ober (West York) 1994

Terry Conover (Hanover) 1996

Shaun Smith (Dover/) 2003

Joey Wildasin (South Western) 2004

x-Tony Koontz (Delone Catholic) 2011

Brad Lloyd (Red Lion) 2013

Charlie Jacobs (Dover) 2015

Bill Luckenbaugh (West York) 2016

x-Delone was not a member of the York-Adams League when Koontz wrestled, but later joined the league. In addition, many athletes from Delone live in York County.