Last updated: February 25. 2014 11:48PM - 2547 Views
By Dave Rosengrant drosengrant@civitasmedia.com

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It seemed like just a matter of time before Ernie Yates got the call.

The former Berwick wrestling coach didn’t expect it so soon. Last month, he found out he would be part of the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame Class of 2014.

Yates piled up 325 career wins in a 25-year career, and most coaches who win that many duals are enshrined the first year after retirement. Yates will be enshrined with 1941 Forty Fort grad Bob Bach, who became the first wrestler in District 2 history to ever win four district gold medals.

“I really didn’t have any expectations because they vote on the people so you can be put in for it,” Yates said. “But it’s pretty elite people I’m going in with, so I feel like I’m honored to be considered and that they accepted me.”

His wins are third most in Wyoming Valley Conference history behind Tunkhannock’s Frank Wadas, who has 329 and Coughlin’s Dana Balum, who racked up 461 victories in 35 years. Wadas and Balum are both PWCA Hall of Famers.

“I always respected Frank Wadas and Dana Balum so much because they broke me into coaching,” Yates said. “I really feel honored to be a part of a group they are in.”

In addition to making history, Bach was also a three-time state finalist finishing second in 1939 and 1940 before winning the state title in 1941 at 115 pounds. At that time he was only the fifth state champion in D2 history. There are now 55 state champs from the district and 27 four-time District 2 champs with two more being added last weekend.

The induction ceremony used to be held before the finals of the PIAA Championships, but that tradition has been abolished due to time constraints. This year it will be held May 11 at the Ramada Inn in State College.

All 13 inductees will have their names listed in the program of the PIAA Championships and will be read prior to the state final matches. Yates said he will be in attendance, but there is nothing special going on for the inductees.

Yates coached 43 District 2 champions, seven regional champions, 14 state qualifiers and 10 medalists including back-to-back appearances in the state final in 2007 and 2008 with Aaron Karns and Nick Venditti, respectively.

More Hall recognitions

Russ Houck, who got Yates interested in coaching, is going into the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame on April 27 at the Hilton Harrisburg. Among his accolades, he was a member of the U.S. Olympic Wrestling Committee from 1964-1976.

“Russ taught me to grow up. He was a taskmaster and worked me real hard,” Yates said. “Coach Hauck was such a respected person that it was definitely due for him to be enshrined.”

Another local tie going into that Hall of Fame with Houck is former Wilkes wrestler Joseph Kiefer, who was NCAA runner-up in 1966 and went on to coach every level for 43 years until 2011. He piled up 411 wins with Pennsbury and Fairless Hills high schools.

Regional connections

Those attending the Class 3A Northeast Regional Tournament at Liberty High School in Bethlehem this weekend are sure to hear the last name Lizak being called several times. Parkland’s Jacob Lizak was District 11 third-place medalist last weekend at 113 pounds and his brother, Ethan won the D11 title at 120.

They are the sons of former Pittston Area wrestler John Lizak. Last year, Ethan Lizak won a state title as a junior, while Jacob qualified for states as a freshman.

More D11 connections

• The Northampton youth team recently won its district title. Part of that team is Cooper Price, who won his weight class. Price is the grandson of George Price, former assistant coach at Meyers with Bill Hilburt.

• Lee Miller, who was a two-time district champion for Meyers winning in 1982 and 1983 and was also state runner-up, helps the Emmaus youth wrestling program.

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