West York Wrestling

 

www.westyorkwrestlingalumni.com

A Featured Lehman Interview

Charlie's 60's | Alumni | Records | Hall of Fame | History | Win-Loss

"Q&A" with
West
York Wrestling's
Mary
Jane & Coach John T. Toggas

Mary Jane & Coach John T. Toggas of Gettysburg, PA.
11/18/09
Interview with... The Toggas's!


westyorkwrestlingalumni.com interview

   Mary Jane (Svarnas) Toggas and John T. Toggas have been married
since June of 1955, and have 2 children, John S. "Moc" and Stephanie.
Coach and Mrs. Toggas have three grandchildren, Matthew, Samantha
and Brock.  Coach John T. Toggas is in six hall of fames and amassed a
stellar coaching record at both Biglerville and West York of 307-110-4.
Mary Jane Toggas has been and is presently - a staunch supporter of
West York Wrestling.  Coach Toggas taught and coached at Biglerville
from 1958 to 1964.  He taught Health and Phys. Ed. at West York High
from 1964 - 1994.  He also served as a freshman football coach for a
time while at West York.  Coach Toggas's first WY season was 1964-65.


Coach John T. Toggas (left) with West York and ESU Wrestling grad - Barry Gay.



WY COACH - JOHN T. TOGGAS


(Coach John T. Toggas Photo from 1973)
  For these achievements and more, John T. Toggas...
is honored by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a
"Lifetime Service to Wrestling" award winner, Class of 1999.


THE MARY JANE/JOHN T. TOGGAS INTERVIEW

by:
Don Lehman
Don Lehman
Webmaster, Archivist & Owner of westyorkwrestlingalumni.com


DL
- What have you been doing in Gettysburg to keep busy these days?
JT - I enjoy working in my wood shop refinishing and repairing furniture... but when you or (anyone else) calls and tells me we have a tee-time - I close the shop and grab my golf clubs!

MJ - Trying to keep up with JT is a full time job.  We also spend time with Steph, Carl and our grandson, Brock - and get together with Moc's children, Matthew and Samantha as often as we can.
 
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DL - Wrestling has been a huge part of your lives since the 50's.  If you could pick out a couple "mat memories" from the many that stand out, what would they be?
JT - ▪ Having my 1st PIAA State Champion (Dana Luckenbaugh) in 1965 who was also York County's 1st PIAA State Wrestling Champion.  ▪ Winning the Easton Holiday Tournament Team Title in 1971 with four individual champions.  ▪ Beating Dallastown in the "Big Match" in 1971 and going 14-0 and winning the YCIAA title.  ▪ Taking two wrestlers to the 1969 PIAA State Tournament in State College, PA... and coming home with 2 State Champs - Bill Luckenbaugh @ 127lbs. and John Sprenkle @ Heavyweight.
MJ
- I wasn't able to go to the 1965 PIAA State finals when Dana beat Shamokin's Bill Welker 4-3, because Steph was just 3 months old... but it was still exciting knowing JT, West York and York County had their first State Champion!  Moc, Steph and I were at the PIAA State finals in 1969 at PSU's Rec Hall.  It was a NIGHT to remember!  I remember making the trip to the Easton Holiday Tournament in 1971 and being in awe of the District XI wrestling greats like Don Rohn, Rocky Creazzo, Lance Leonhardt, Dennis Underkoffler and Rocky Chunko, to name a few.  We were so proud of our West York kids winning that tournament!
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DL - Coaching a sport like wrestling isn't a "3:30pm to 5:30pm" job for four months a year.  There is a ton of time not "on the meter" put in by both a coach and the wife of a coach.  Your thoughts?
JT - If you want to have a good team and a successful program, you have to put in a lot of extra time and you have to go to tournaments year-round.  The more you compete (in and out of your area), the better you get as you get exposed to many different wrestling styles.  That pays off in the long run.  We went to many, many summer tournaments, camps and coaching clinics.
MJ - Moc, Steph and I understood that being a wrestling coach was not just their Dad's "job", it was his passion.  They never complained and as a matter of fact - they loved it and we all supported their dad 100%.
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DL - I can't speak for other time periods, but when I wrestled in the Toggas era per the early seventies, it really felt like a "family" in all aspects, on the mat... and the support we felt from the great fans.  Is that a correct assumption?
JT - Absolutely!  I always felt that a wrestling team was "family"... you were "my kids" and we all worked together to make each other better.  We became winners and everyone loves a winner!  When someone was going through a rough time, we talked about it and tried to work on the problem because we cared and that's what families do.
MJ - We always knew that "Dad's" team was like our extended family, too.  Moc and Steph often said that they had the best times growing up with the West York Wrestling Bulldogs.  The fans and parents were great, and we made so many wonderful friendships that still mean so much to us.
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DL - There has to be a couple funny memories from the Toggas coaching era, please share a couple that first come to mind.
JT - The first year I was at West York, we had a match with Columbia.  We got on the bus and were on our way... and as we were halfway across the bridge at Wrightsville, we saw a school bus coming towards us... and I asked Coach Bob Bowers if he could see the logo on the bus.  He said he couldn't and we thought it would be funny if it was the Columbia Team.  When we got to Columbia High School, the AD told us that their team was on its way to West York because they thought the match was away!  We had the match the next night and we won.
MJ - To say that during the wrestling season - that the team comes first, is no understatement.  Our daughter, Stephanie was born a month early on December 14th.  I was to be discharged from the hospital that Thursday, but Coach JT had a "big match" with Spring Grove that night, so he couldn't bring us home until the next day!  At that time, I didn't have a phone in my room, (it was in the hallway) so sometime before 10:00pm, the phone rang in the quiet hospital hallway and I shuffled out and heard the good news that we had beaten Spring Grove!  My friends in the Maternity Ward all cheered when they heard the news.
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DL - I know the support staff at West York Wrestling was a good one during your days as coach.  From the elementary staff to the senior high staff to the administration - all were part of the program's success.  And, the wives also played an important part of the success of the program.  Raymond Troxell, Neil Everhart, Bob Bowers, Whedon Myers, Carolyn Tritt, John Sprenkle... some of the names from the program past.  How important was it to have that solid support system at West York?
JT - The key to having that successful program is that we all worked together!  No one person can effectively run the entire program.  The Elementary, Junior High and High School staffs all had their jobs to do and we all worked to achieve the common goal: Making our program the BEST it could be.  I always emphasized positive coaching and no negativity.  I think one of the best ways to make our kids better is to view films of their matches.  Carolyn Tritt did a great job taking videos of the matches and was a great supporter of the wrestling program.  We could see what mistakes were made and what worked - so the wrestler could make himself better.  There is also no question that the wonderful support we got from the administration enhanced our program.  Our coaching staff had a great group of wives supporting them and our wrestlers... and we worked together.  I still enjoy many of the friendships I made years ago.
MJ - The coaching staff from the Elementary, Junior High and the High School was like one big family working together for "our kids", the wrestlers.  Our husbands concerns, dedication and goals for the wrestlers became important for us, too!  We made some very special and enduring friendships which we cherish.
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DL - Also - the WY Wrestling Booster Club was formed in 1967.  What do you remember about the start of that arm of the program and how did the fans play an important part in the success of the program?
JT - We started the WY Wrestling Booster Club to help raise money for our kids to go to wrestling camps, because not everyone could afford to go.  We sold merchandise like sweaters, hats, and had hoagie drives - just to name a few fundraisers, and we put the money raised towards the wrestlers needs.  We also had a big banquet at the end of the season to thank and honor our wrestlers for all of their great accomplishments.
MJ - The Booster Club was made up mostly of the wrestler's parents who worked tirelessly to promote our WY program and to raise funds for the kids!  Working with such a great group of people who shared a common goals (helping our wrestlers) was so much fun and I think it created not only a bond for all of us, but it made the coaches and wrestlers realize how much they were supported.
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DL -  Both of you have been involved with wrestling since the 50's, when a young John T. Toggas wrestled at York High!  I saw both of you at the 2009 District III SC Regional AAA Wrestling Tournament at Hersheypark and the PIAA State AAA Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center.  How has wrestling changed over the years, or has it?
JT - I really don't think wrestling has changed that much.  As a coach, I always liked to observe different wrestling techniques and moves from other area teams.  There were a group of us high school coaches that would attend the NCAA tournaments every year and we'd look to see what different moves they were using and then try to incorporate these moves and adapt for the high school kids.  Once we realized what they could handle, we would drill them until they mastered the moves.
MJ - We don't miss many tournaments, Don.  It has just become a way of life.  Thursdays and Saturdays were wrestling, February and March was tournament time.  As much as I love wrestling, I must admit that going to the PIAA States and attending the AAA and AA Championships was a little much, but that's what you do for your grandchildren and we proudly followed our Matthew when he wrestled for Brandywine Heights.  As for whether wrestling has changed over the years, I'm not a coach, but I don't think it's changed much.  Of course there are a lot of new moves that are pretty impressive, but the basics, when executed perfectly, are just as effective.
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DL - Many rides home from West York to Gettysburg after a practice or a meet ended with a late dinner at the Toggas home.  Was the conversation topic "wrestling" at the kitchen table?
JT - What else?  Yes, we'd sit down to dinner and if was after a meet, we'd talk about the match and if it was preparing for an upcoming match, we'd talk about who had to make weight and the possible line-ups.  After dinner, we'd go downstairs to our rec room and look at films to get ready for the next match.  The next day I would spend a lot of time making up different line-ups, trying to put together the best team possible.  Wrestling was always on my mind.
MJ - It's a good thing wrestling was always on his mind because over the years, some of my dinners were a disaster!  First of all, I'm the first to admit I'm not the greatest cook, but not knowing what time he'd get home didn't help my cooking either.  He never complained and neither did the kids.  They would have a snack when getting home from school since we never knew what time he'd walk in the door.  First we talked about how Moc's and Steph's day at school went and then we'd hear all about John's day.  We have the greatest kids in the world!!!  They both grew up with wrestling and loved the sport... it was just a way of life for all of us.  Moc followed in his dad's footsteps and Steph still goes to as many wrestling matches as she can.  (I truly think she could officiate a wrestling match as well as most referees!)  And, her son Brock is starting his 4th year of wrestling in the Neshaminy area program.
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DL - Both of you saved so many photos and memories from over the years, and I've tried to capture those photos and statistics on the alumni website as best I can.  But, a flood ruined much more memorabilia.  That had to be a nightmare!
JT - It was really a nightmare!  I was sitting downstairs watching a ballgame (around 10:00pm) and all of a sudden, the back door at the bottom of our outside stairwell broke and water just gushed in!  Gettysburg was hit with a freak once-in-a-lifetime storm that dumped 13" of rain in less than 4 hours.  Shortly before 1:00am it had stopped and we had 7 feet-4 inches of water in our rec room.  There really wasn't time to save anything.  Thankfully, we didn't lose our electricity and our sump pump worked the entire time, but we were just overwhelmed with the volume of water.  We lost so many pictures, wrestling films, yearbooks and scrapbooks!
MJ - I never did like rainstorms, but since that night, I'm absolutely terrified of heavy rains.  Most of the furniture, John could refinish, but we lost so many irreplaceable things like the yearbooks, photos, films, and scrapbooks which I had compiled each season for John and Moc per their wrestling matches and accomplishments.  Moc always tried to be positive and did his best to console me by saying "we know what we did, mom, and that's all that matters!"
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DL - The first year at West York was 1964-65... after a stint with Biglerville.  Your thoughts as a coach coming into the WY program - and Mrs. T., your thoughts when your husband decided to make the huge move to Bulldog Country.
JT - When I came to West York, I had 65 kids come out for wrestling and I felt that was a really nice size group of kids.  I know I worked then pretty hard to become even better wrestlers.  I anticipated some of them would quit and I'd end up with a group of 45, but by the end of the year, we had about 75 tough kids!
MJ - I knew the decision had to be John's, but to be honest, I wasn't enthused as he was because I'm a small town girl.  Moc was in 2nd grade and all the friends he had grown up with were here and we were expecting our second child in a few months.  I told him I'd support whatever decision he would make - BUT I WASN'T MOVING!  So, being the loving and special man he is, he traveled 60 miles each day to keep his family happy!
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DL - Coach Toggas, seeing West York Wrestling Alumni go from high school to college meant a lot to you - and you had to be proud when in November of 1973, you and a busload of West Yorkers' traveled to the Poconos to watch the F&M-East Stroudsburg State College dual meet.  Five of your wrestlers were on the ESSC mat that night, with the feature match at 158lbs. between Bill Luckenbaugh and Kevin McCleary!  Mrs. Toggas, you also had to be proud that night.  How important was it to you to help your wrestlers pursue further education?
JT - I can't begin to tell you how proud I was to have four of my kids wrestling for East Stroudsburg State and one kid wrestling for F&M that night!  I had five of my kids out there that night!  What a great night it was for me!  If I would have had buttons on my shirt, I know I would have been popping them!  I always felt that my job didn't end when you graduated from high school and I did encourage my wrestlers to go on to college because I felt that education was the key to success and, hopefully, a way to a better, more secure life.
MJ - This was just one more exciting and proud night being mat-side and cheering for our WY Bulldogs.  So many wonderful memories, not just for your Coach JT, but for our great children - Moc and Steph... and me, too.  It really was a good life.
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DL - Family is very important to both of you.  I have to bring up and ask the tough question.  Your son, John S. "Moc" Toggas, was tragically killed last April.  I know it has been extremely tough on the both of you daily, as well as your daughter Stephanie, the grandkids Samantha and Matt, and the rest of your extended family.  As I sat at the second of the two memorial celebrations of Moc's life in Allentown with Mike Stambaugh, I was amazed at the number of people in attendance to pay their respects.  The number from the wrestling community was great - from West York Wrestling, Parkland Wrestling, Brandywine Heights Wrestling and the other coaches, referees and friends in Moc's life!  It had to be comforting to see the outpouring of support from this special wrestling community during this tragic time.  Your thoughts on that period of time?
JT - Of all the tragedies anyone has to face in life, there is absolutely none worse than losing your child, and I don't think we will ever recover from that.  I will say that the support and love that we received from the wrestling community gave us comfort and strength at a time when we really needed it.
MJ - A parent's worst nightmare is to lose a child; it just leaves a big, aching hole in your heart and we, Steph, Matt and Samantha and all our family, will never, ever be the same.  Moc was always there for us with that grin that was as big as his heart and his comforting and wise words and out-stretched loving arms.  Yes, life goes on but that doesn't mean we've stopped crying inside.  We've always referred to the wrestling community as "family" and their caring and strength was just like family looking after family and we'll always be grateful.  Moc's Memory Page
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DL - John S. "Moc" Toggas will be inducted into the 2010 PWCA State Hall of Fame in April of next year in State College, PA.  That letter from Norm Palovcsik had to be a blessing!  This, after Moc's dad was inducted in 1992.  I know that the kids Moc coached from Parkland - Jon Trenge, Matt Roth, Sean Jenkins, Howie Miller, Roger London. Jim Best, Steve Baumbach, Mario Moses, John Lantz, Brad Maurer, Kyle Wolfe, John-Tom-Andy Yankanich, Keith-Matt-Kurt Pryor, and many, many more wrestlers played a big part of the nomination.  Are you excited about the induction ceremony next year?
JT - Yes, we're so very proud of Moc and all he did... and we're also very proud of all the young men whose lives he touched and who made it their mission to see their "Coach T" inducted into the PWCA Hall of Fame.  His mother and I miss him very much and we know his children, Matt and Sam really miss him as does his sister, Steph, her husband Carl and their little son, Brock.  We keep in touch with Moc's wrestling kids, too and know too - that they miss him.  We've always been so proud of the great job Moc did at the Parkland Wrestling program.  Being a wrestling coach, as well as his proud father, I felt he put his heart and soul into a mediocre program and turned it into a State and Nationally ranked program.  Of course, he didn't do this alone... he had great coaching assistants and an outstanding bunch of tough and talented kids!  He was also fortunate to have great supportive parents and a cooperative administration.  Moc was always a very hard worker no matter what he did and I was always so proud of his dedication to his wrestlers and their wrestling program.  He coached four PIAA State Champions (Matt Roth, Derek Jenkins, and Jon Trenge - 2 titles), a runner-up, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th place winners at State's, also.  He was constantly searching for the toughest tournaments to enter because he felt that would make his kids tougher and more ready for the post-season competition.  In all my coaching associations and experiences, I've never seen anyone study and dissect wrestling films the way he did.  He loved the sport of wrestling and always wanted to be the best... and he was. 
MJ - Over the years, John and I have felt that Moc was a worthy candidate to be inducted in the PWCA Hall of Fame and for the past seven years we've been submitting his name for consideration.  Last year, coming home from States in Hershey, we talked about how disappointing it was that our letters didn't bring about his nomination and since we were not getting any younger, we were hoping we'd live to see him inducted.  Well, a little over a month afterwards, the unthinkable happened.  As we thought about submitting yet another letter to the committee this year, we decided why not contact as many of Moc's wrestlers as we could reach as ask them if they would consider writing letters to the committee expressing how they felt about their coach, what they had learned from him on and off the mat and how he influenced their lives.  Their response was overwhelmingly successful and THEIR letters resulted in Moc's unanimous induction into the PWCA Hall of Fame and we're so grateful to all of them.  It's as we've told them, we felt, too... that Moc deserved this honor, but knowing our son and how he always felt about such things, we know the most meaningful honor for him would be to know how his kid's felt.  That's what mattered to him the most.
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DL - I forgot to mention earlier... it had to be a thrill to be part of the 1978 West York Wrestling 14-0 YCIAA Championship reunion held in January, 2009 at the WY/Dallastown match!  Your thoughts as you saw some of your former wrestlers, coach John Sprenkle and the fans?
JT - What a great evening!  I want to thank you, Don and the Blazer (Randy Blasdell) too, for all your hard work in the planning of this special event.  It was wonderful to see all of the guys and I'm so proud of all that you have done - and that your West York Wrestling experience is still so important to you.  Seeing my 1978 "kids", Coach John Sprenkle (one of my "kids:, too) and the many wrestling fans, made it a night to remember for me!
MJ - I was so sorry that I couldn't make the 1978 WY Wrestling Championship reunion because I had committed myself to take care of Brock that weekend.  As much as I love wrestling, family comes first!  I can tell you that I heard all about it and how much it meant to Coach JT to get together with all of you and reminisce... thank you for making it such a special night for him and his "kids."  I truly don't think anyone enjoyed it any more than your coach.  Thank you for all you do for West York Wrestling Alumni, Don.
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DL - Coach & Mrs. Toggas, thank you so much for sharing your memories with the westyorkwrestlingalumni.com readers.  And, most of all - thank you for being a big part of my family, life, and also for being dear friends through the years!
JT - Our wrestling team was more than a team, we were family and we took care of each other and cared for each other... and still do.  I would like to thank all the kids I had out for wrestling.  We had a really great group of kids who worked very hard to develop the fine program we had.  I did push all the kids we had out for wrestling to go to college or further their education beyond high school because I felt it would give them a better shot at a good and secure future.  I am so proud of all of you who did go on to college and also those of you who didn't, but have worked hard and made something of themselves.  I really did want the best for all of you.  I wish I could do it all over again - it was FUN.  We had a good program and we all worked hard to be the best and we were.  Thanks, Don Lehman - for all you have done with the websites... and the work you continue to do with the Alumni.  I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart.
MJ - Don, it is we, who thank you.  You have always been there for us in good times and in bad times, too.  This past year and a half has been devastating for us, but your kindness, your concern, caring and encouragement have meant so much to us!  Yes, you're one of JT's West York Wrestling "kids", but you've become even more that that, you're like family, too.

You can e-mail Mary Jane & Coach JT Toggas... HERE!

West York Wrestling Alumni - if you want to support this website - GO HERE!


The Toggas Family
(L-R) Mary Jane, John S. "Moc", Stephanie & Coach John T. Toggas


▪ 1965 - West York High School Phys. Ed teacher - John T. Toggas


                                       John T. Toggas Bio
   307-110-4  (.729 Winning %)
   6 Hall of Fames...
   (York County - '95, District III - '80, Pennsylvania PWCA - '92,
   South Central - '00, Adams - '01, National Hall of Fame - '99)
   Graduate of York High School - York, PA '51
   (lettered in football, wrestling and track @ York High)
   Attended Millersville State Teacher's College & York Junior College
   Graduate of Gettysburg College - Gettysburg, PA  (BS in Education) '58
   Graduate of Western Maryland College - (Masters in Education) '71
   ▪ As a Coach at Biglerville and West York (over 30 years)
   5 YCIAA Titles, 6 Sectional Team Championships, 83 Sectional Champions,
   12 District III Champions, 12 Regional Champions, 16 PIAA State Qualifiers,
   2-3rd Place PIAA State Finishers, 2-PIAA State Runners-up, 3-PIAA State Champions
*,
   2-times YCIAA Coach of Year, PIAA Wrestling Official, NCAA Rules Committee (HS Rep).
   ∙ Founded the West York Elementary Wrestling Program.

 


(L-R) West York Wrestling Coaches - Bob Bowers & John T. Toggas.

John T. Toggas "Top 60" Wrestling Team

*Coach JT Toggas coached York, PA's 1st PIAA State Wrestling Champion...
1965 - Dana Luckenbaugh

1972 YCIAA Sectional Championships

Coach JT Toggas and one of his favorite athletes the late A. Scott Callahan...
after Scott's
1972 Sectional Championship
.
▪ The West York HS Weight Room "addition" is in memory of A. Scott Callahan
and was donated by his father, Norman M. Callahan, Jr.



1983 West York Wrestling Dual Meet vs. Central York
(L-R) Coaches John T. Toggas with son John S. "Moc" Toggas, John Sprenkle,
          Brian Kuntz and standing in back (middle) is assistant Kevin McCleary.




JOHN T. TOGGAS

▪ West York Head Wrestling Coach, John T. Toggas
receiving award from the West
York School Board.

Coach John T. & Mary Jane Toggas Memorial Scholarship
 



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