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Lions to honor 50 years of wrestling

Patrick Strohecker
505-5402/@P_Strohecker

Fifty years is a lot of history to celebrate in one night.

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But on Tuesday, Red Lion High School will honor and celebrate 50 years of wrestling at the school, going back to the first team in 1965-66. On the docket is a social scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. and last until 6:30 p.m. in the commons area of the high school outside the Fitzkee Center. During that time, former coaches and wrestlers, and anyone else who was involved with the wrestling program over the past 50 years, will have a chance to enjoy food and drinks, as well as talk and catch up, while viewing a slideshow of pictures from each season in program history.

Following that, there will be a coaches presentation in the gymnasium before the match against Dallastown to recognize all of the former and current coaches who have helped with the team over the years. As of right now, only three former coaches will not be in attendance for the event: Brad Keeney, the current head coach of Susquehannock's wrestling program; Biff Walizer, the head coach at Central Mountain; and the late Lynn Reigle, who died in the 1990s.

After the coaches are introduced, the members of the first Lions wrestling team from 1965-66 will be brought out onto the mat and honored, along with all state place winners, 100-victory wrestlers and members of each graduating class.

"Hopefully we have enough there to fill up the gym," current head coach Chris Schell said.

After all of the festivities are complete, the match between Red Lion and the rival Wildcats will begin. Once the match is complete, there will be another social at one of the local bars in Red Lion.

As of right now, Schell believes that there should be at least 100-200 former members of the wrestling program in attendance, and he said that was a low-ball number because it's on a weeknight.

The idea for the event began more than a year ago and required some schedule changes to make sure the event took place against rival Dallastown.

"Last year we were supposed to have them at home," Schell said. "And when we started talking about this, we contacted (athletic director) Arnie Fritzius and he immediately contacted (Dallastown AD Tory) Harvey about switching years, that we would wrestle at Dallastown back-to-back years and then come home for our 50th, and he was more than willing to go ahead with that because of our milestone of being 50 years of wrestling."

Recent success: Red Lion's history of success doesn't date back through all 50 years. In fact, much of the program's success didn't come until this century, when the team made the District 3-AAA team tournament for the first time in 2004. The Lions qualified for the postseason tournament every year after that through 2010 and then again most recently in 2014.

Within the league, Red Lion has only ever won three league division titles, but never as sole champions. The program's first co-championship season came in 2003-04, when it tied with Spring Grove and Dallastown with 7-1 York-Adams records; the following year when it tied again with Dallastown and Spring Grove at 8-1; and in 2006-07, when it tied with the same two schools at 7-1.

As for this year's team, the Lions are 5-4 overall and 1-3 in York-Adams Division I competition, while the Wildcats are 6-9 overall and 2-3 in Division I. Between the rivalry match and the milestone event taking place on Tuesday night in a gym packed with decades worth of former team members, it's created a bit of angst among the Red Lion wrestlers.

"A couple of them are afraid to make a mistake," Schell said about his team's mindset for Tuesday's match. "And I said to them, 'You know what, it's wrestling, just go out there and have fun. Just go out there and enjoy the moment.' It's against arch-rival Dallastown and we always have good, hard matches against those guys."

For information on the event, call Jeff Thomas at (302) 864-7849.

— Reach Patrick Strohecker at pstrohecker@yorkdispatch.com