By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
SUNBURY -- For anyone who wondered what kind of an impact the late Shikellamy High School wrestling coach, Phil Lockcuff, had on the community, here is the answer.
On Saturday, not only will the school dedicate its gymnasium and name it in the late coach's honor, but the first event held in the newly christened fieldhouse will be the initial Phil Lockcuff Duals.
If that isn't enough, this six-team tournament, which will begin at 9 a.m., will include District 3's Kennard-Dale, coached by former Lockcuff wrestler Mike Balestrini. The Rams' lineup includes a three-time defending Class AAA state champion, Chance Marstellar. Oh, and by the way, Marstellar has never lost a bout in high school.
The plan to honor the coach in this manner was hatched shortly after his passing in January, according to former Braves wrestler and current assistant coach Justin Michaels, who is the tournament director.
"This (idea) was just a reflection on how he touched so many lives," Michael said.
Michaels said it was the influence of the late coach Lockcuff that led him to return to coaching at his alma mater, even though his own son wrestles in the Lewisburg program.
"I am volunteering once or twice a week with (Lewisburg coach) Jim Snyder and helping in the youth program but I wanted to see that this is an annual event and maintain the legacy of Phil Lockcuff," he said.
"What he has meant to me in my life and the thousands of lives that he's touched, it is so important that his legacy is carried on with the tradition of Shikellamy wrestling. This is one way to do it -- with an annual event, honoring him and honoring his family and what this family has meant to the community and to Shikellamy wrestling."
In addition to Kennard-Dale and the host team, the participants are Bloomsburg, Juniata, Coatesville and West York.
After the first four rounds, the dedication ceremony will take place at about 3:30 and, in the final round, starting at about 4, the Braves will take on Balestrini's Rams.
Michaels said the tournament and dedication were the result of the efforts of the Shikellamy school board and superintendent Pat Kelley, athletic director Brad Skelton, former wrestler and Braves' radio broadcaster Steve Williams, along with the coach's widow, Liz Lockcuff, and her direct family
Kelley himself is a former state wrestling champion (Athens High) and, although he didn't know Lockcuff at that time, he knew about him.
He knew of Shikellamy as a top-notch program and knew that Lockcuff was the coach.
"This is a testament to his endeavors and a wonderful gesture by the board," he said.
Kelley noted that the action by members of the community to spur the action by the board was an example of what the late coach meant to them.
Michaels also lauded the Resilite Wrestling Club, Paul Gilbert of Resilite Mats (who donated a full mat that will be used for the tournament), former wrestler Greg Underkoffler and his company, AdOne, of Sunbury; and Jeremy Fritz of the Sunbury Eagles lodge.
In addition to the day-long event, a social gathering will be held from 8 to 11 p.m. at the Sunbury Elks Lodge. Tickets for that event are on sale at Shikellamy home meets, including Saturday's tournament, for $10. At the door that night, they will cost $13.
"The key to Saturday is that it is everything he would have enjoyed, a day of wrestling, enjoying his family and friends and finishing the night with a good social.
"He loved his wrestling and he loved socializing with friends and family of the program."
In addition to the well-decorated Marstellar, the tournament has several other top-quality wrestlers, including Coatesville's Michael Boykin (third in the state last year at 220.
Michael said it has not yet been decided if the tournament will expand to more teams in future years, but those involved are determined that it will continue.
"The goal is to keep it as an annual event and we want this to be a first-class tournament because of its reflection on Shikellamy wrestling and on Phil. He and his program were always first class," Michaels said.
He said that Lockcuff taught him much more than the fundamentals of wrestling.
"In my 15 years of coaching, he taught me that it is much more than about wins and losses," Michaels said.
"It's the development, seeing the young men becoming men and people who are involved in the day-to-day work force."
Michaels aded that Lockcuff was close to his family, even traveling out of state, with his wife, to attend Michaels' wedding.