By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News
DANVILLE — School board members regretfully accepted the resignation of Ron Kanaskie as head wrestling coach, ending his historic career with the sport.
“My yes vote will be with regret,” said board president Allan Schappert, during the board’s meeting Tueseday. Member Stephen Schooley said his yes vote was also cast “with regret.”
“He’s been here longer than anyone else here. Ron is kind of an institution in and of himself. He’s certainly well known and respected throughout the state,” Schappert said.
The board’s unanimous yes vote had nothing to do with of dissatisfaction with his service, Schappert said. “I think the directors first of all were stunned by his resigning,” he said. “His decision to resign as wrestling coach was his decision, based on a multiplicity of factors which I’m unaware aside of what he’s put in his letter.”
In a letter received by district administrators earlier this week, Kanaskie wrote that his decision came after months of thought and deliberation. Kanaskie, who was not at the board’s meeting, wrote that he would like to continue to serve as the district’s athletic director.
“For the past 42 years I have had the great fortune to serve this tremendous school district as the head wrestling coach,” he wrote in his letter. “These years have provided me the opportunity to be a positive influence in thousands of young people’s lives.
Over the course of his career with the district, Kanaskie coached 75 wrestlers who qualified for state competition and 38 PIAA medalists, including six champions and eight runner-ups. His state champions included Paul Wysocki, 1981, Jim Martin, 1982 to 1984, Brian Stamm, 1982, and Chris Ackerman, 1987.
He led Danville to 1982 and 1984 PIAA Class AA team titles, and the PIAA runner-up rank in 1983.
He had a career record of 662 wins, 242 losses and four draws. He is only one of 26 coaches with more than 600 career wins, and has the second most wins in state history.
Kanaskie is a member of the District 4, PIAA and National Wrestling halls of fame and was inducted into the national hall of fame in 2004 in State College.
Three of his former wrestlers went on to win four NCAA titles. They were Brett Stamm, brother to Brian, in 1980 and 1982, for Illinois’ Wheaton College, Jim Martin in 1988 for Penn State, and Aaron Fitt for Lycoming in 1997. Brett Stamm and Aaron Fitt were named outstanding wrestlers at the NCAA championships.
One member of the school board remembers his own experience with Kanaskie.
“He was probably the best coach I ever had,” said board vice president David Weader, who wrestled for Danville High School from 1986 to 1988. “I was not a good wrestler … Ron was great at building character and spending time with a wrestler like myself — who wasn’t going to be winning any medals at the state tournament — as he was with anybody else. He had a very big impact on me as a student and an athlete.”
High school principal Lee Gump joined the district four years ago, and said he had heard of Kanaskie’s “stellar reputation” prior to joining. This was only confirmed in his dealings with him, Gump said.
“I have the utmost respect for Ron. I’m happy he’s ready for this next step in his life and appreciate everything he’s done. Through all these years, he’s put students first,” he said.
The school board postponed a vote to continue Kanaskie’s contract as athletic director for three years, through June 2017, at a cost of $20,000 per year.
Schappert said the postponement came because the board had not yet had time to discuss the matter and wanted time to reflect and talk with Kanaskie.
“We’re kind of stunned by his decision and want some time to talk to Ron a little bit,” he said. “We want to find out what his true desires are and go from there.”