Sports announcer, writer Bill Byham and famous for "That's 30" signoff

Sports announcer, writer Bill Byham and famous for "That's 30" signoff

It was in the last years of life for Budd Whitehill that it was decided to stage a multi-team NCAA D-3 wrestling tournament during the winter holiday school break. At that time the tourney was just offered as a D-3 tourney with a bunch of teams from as far away as Wisconsin.It is one of those events one has to see to get the flavor of what is happening. Lamade Gymnasium is lined with mats with as many as eight teams wrestling for tourney position. It is also a colorful event plus being exciting as the fan focus jumps from mat to mat as teams down on the floor start cheering for one of their guys.

At that time Whitehill was one of the most recognized names in the D-3 wrestling ranks after starting a program at Lycoming College in 1956. He stayed there as the only coach of the program until health issues caused his death in 1983. The graduate of Lock Haven State Teacher’s College knew his sport and annually brought in outstanding young men to the campus. It was just natural that the large winter tourney be held at Lycoming and carry the name of the Budd Whitehill Memorial D-3 Duals. This year was the 21st time the tourney was here and, as usual, it was filled with very exciting wrestling from top to bottom of the pairings.

At the time of Whitehill’s death Lycoming had won 371 matches in what was, then, a highly competitive Middle Atlantic Conference and with Delaware Valley and Lycoming considered each year to be the best of the bunch. Lycoming hardly hesitated in naming Roger Crebs as the second ever head coach of the program. Crebs had wrestled for Whitehill for three seasons, winning three MAC championships (1984-1985-1986) and was a national qualifier. He had coached five years at William Tennent High School and followed that by being an assistant at Ursinus College.

Crebs has been the perfect replacement for Whitehill. He uses a basic coaching philosophy which asks its people to dedicate themselves to the program. His wrestlers have proven his success with six 20 win seasons, including an undefeated (22-0) regular season in 1996-97 when Lycoming won the MAC, the East Regionals and the Budd Whitehill Duals plus placing seventh at the D-3 Nationals with three Warriors gaining All American honors. He holds an NCAA D-3 Rookie Coach of The Year plus a Coach of The Year award.

The two men had a great respect for each other as coach and wrestler. Anyone who knew Whitehill knew him as a throwback to yesteryear of coaching. He was often described as a character and when you worked for him, as I did for five wrestling seasons, you did what Budd wanted you to do. Changing any part of the Budd System was not going to happen unless you could prove to him some higher power, such as the NCAA, had changed the rules. In short, Budd Whitehill, while working for Lycoming College as a physical education instructor and wrestling coach, was in total control of his program and you had best realize that as fact.

Crebs came in carrying that very same set of rules. You could almost smell discipline in the way he walked, the way he talked and the wrestler applying for his team had to know a weight class was waiting, all you had to do was wrestle your way into that weight. To stay in the lineup was the wrestler’s choice. Win and stay. Go soft and someone else was in the spot.

All of a sudden Crebs is into his 16th season at Lycoming and started the year with a record of 273-63-2. This season to date his team is 10-4 after posting a 3-2 mark in the 2009 Whitehill Duals that were held this past weekend with 20 teams on hand for the two day event. Lycoming defeated Springfield (18.-13), Kings (27-13) and Messiah (23-11) while losing to Wilkes (20-15) and John Carroll (25-7).

I would bet that the Warriors are a better overall team than John Carroll. It was a match to settle the fifth or sixth spot at the duals. Crebs had seen his kids work as a hard as they could. The Warriors were hurting so Crebs dug into his long freshman dominated roster for a team. Simply stated, those chosen did not get it done.

But here is the other side of Whitehill and Crebs. Both men knew when their kids had had it. The current Warriors were tired and some were hurt. Yet Crebs could gave sent them out versus John Carroll but chose to back off to allow the hurt to heal and the tired to rest.

Something else Crebs might have had on his mind. This Thursday and Friday Lycoming is in the Messiah Tournament. Monday Kings is at Lycoming in a rare home match. Next Wednesday Lycoming is at Gettysburg and then the Warriors will host nationally ranked Ithaca at Lamade next Wednsday in a dual match. The very busy month ends when Lycoming goes to Jamestown, New York for still another tournament on the 31st.

Space is running out but let me say this. When many of you entered Lycoming’s football stadium by the back gate you were greeted by a band of young men who hawked you for your ticket plus 50-50 ticket. When you went to get that game hot dog those guys who served you. Who were these young men? They were Roger’s wrestlers doing their best for their program in the off season.

Let’s put some numbers down to finish our Budd plus Roger equals success piece. To his credit, Budd scored 371 wins. To his credit Roger has scored 283 wins. 654 Lycoming College wrestling wins in 53 seasons by just two men. Add in the winning seasons, the national champions, the conference championships and what they offered to hundreds and hundreds of young men of college age.

They have been something special.

THAT’S  30

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