Leave it up to Wyoming Valley Conference teams to ruin Steve Stahl’s last dance.
Stahl, who has been leading Coughlin’s wrestling program for the last seven years after being an assistant under Hall of Fame coach Dana Balum for 12 years, will no longer be the head coach for the Crusaders after this season because he’s taking an administrative role with the school district.
“It didn’t hit me yet. When it’s going to hit me is going to be next October when we’re preparing,” he said. “But we’ll see what happens. I’m sure I’ll be involved in the program some way, shape or form. But that’s how it goes; we had a good run.”
While he’s still getting some royal treatment from opposing coaches, he’s not getting any gifts — or gifted victories for that matter — on his farewell tour.
Instead, WVC Division I teams have been taking it to Stahl’s team. Struggling with a plethora of injuries and not being able to fill the two lower weights, Coughlin hasn’t won a dual in the division at all this season. This is a team that is just two years removed from representing the conference in the District 2 Class 3A duals final. It was the first time the program ever reached the championship dual. In 2012, he led the Crusaders to a share of the Division I championship, the first time the program ever claimed the D-I title, for the first division championship in eight seasons.
Senior Paul Cole, one of the team’s leaders, hasn’t seen any action yet due to a shoulder injury during the football season. Early results were that he would miss the entire wrestling season. But he has been cleared to wrestle and could rejoin the lineup this weekend.
Still, the Crusaders have had a successful stint with Stahl leading the way. In 2011, he coached Josh Popple to the state final. Popple is one of just three wrestlers in school history to reach the finals of the PIAA Championships. In the previous two seasons, Stahl coached Brad Emerick to a pair of state medals.
While with Balum, he was an important piece of Justin Accordino’s run to numerous medals and accolades in high school. Accordino became an NCAA All-American two years ago wrestling for Hofstra.
“It was a good run. You work with these kids and these parents and you have a good time,” Stahl said. “I don’t want to think about it yet. We have a lot of work to do this season.”
Stahl didn’t mention who his successor would be, but there certainly isn’t a lack of coaching expertise on his staff.
Rubin Prophete has been his top assistant for a few years, while Bob Hawkins has always seemed to be around with Stahl. Stahl joked that there’s as many coaches on his staff as wrestlers. Among notables who are on the staff are former GAR heach coach Frank Castano and Crusaders’ junior high coach Tom Belles, who has helped start prominent careers for many Coughlin wrestlers.
“I have my pick. If the administration asks me I’ll tell them who I like, but we haven’t got to that point yet,” Stahl said. “We have a great wrestling tradition at Coughlin and I hope it stays alive.
“This year, I’m not doing such a hot job, but it shouldn’t reflect on the coaching staff. These guys aren’t even getting paid and are putting out the effort they do. … I think the program will survive.”