To the Editor:
Now that high school wrestling season has begun, I think it’s time Clarksville recognized part of its history.
This year is the 51st anniversary of when high school wrestling started in Clarksville. I hope the story of the beginning will be an inspiration to area coaches and wrestlers as to what can be done in a relatively short period of time.
In 1968, Clarksville High School started a wrestling program. The head coach was Ed Bunio, assistants were Paul Von Weigandt, Bob Stumpf and the next year the great Artie Manning.
In our first season, we won 10 and lost four dual matches, which surprised the wrestling world in Tennessee.
In our second season, we had a much tougher schedule, but we honed our skills, and in just his second year, Marshall Stewat, who was a senior, finished fourth in the state.
In our third season, when the best of us were seniors, we were invited to the Hillwood tournament. Ten of the top teams in the state competed. Included was the No. 1 team, Chattanooga East Ridge and the No. 2 team, Father Ryan. Three of us made it to the championship match in our weight class – myself, Stewart Salyer and Steve Kulback. Stewart went on to finish third in the state, and Steve was state runner up.
I want to recognize the late Larry Szfko. While Larry was not real strong for his weight class, he had the heart of a lion. He wrestled the Kentucky state champion our senior year. He lost both times, but the second time, he gave that champion a good match.
I also want to recognize Frank Miller. Frank was Steve Kulback’s backup. I don't believe Frank ever got to wrestle a varsity match, but he could have started for many of the teams in Tennessee and maybe even placed at state; he was that good.
In just three short years, we went from a bunch of inexperienced feisty kids into one of the best teams in Middle Tennessee. I wish we could have had one more year together. We may have had two or three state champions. But this is the short story of how high school wrestling began in Clarksville.