Roger Crebs got the call in August. He was going to be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame Pennsylvania Chapter for lifetime service to the sport.
“I was shocked and surprised. You kind of think of halls of fame when you’re done coaching,” Crebs, Lycoming’s head wrestling coach, said. He’s the lone inductee of the 2020 class still active in the sport. He’ll be inducted April 26 at the Hershey Lodge.
In this age of stats, it’s numbers all around in all sports. Crebs can stack up.
Oh, can he stack up. Since taking over from long-time coach Budd Whitehill in 1993, Crebs has 409 dual meet wins (137 losses, 2 ties). He’s coached three NCAA Division III champions and has had one losing season. Lycoming did go 7-8 in 2011-12.
The youngest of nine children, Crebs came into wrestling naturally. “All my brothers wrestled in some form or another so I kind of got into it,” the coach said.
At Lewisburg Area High School he finished third in the state at 167 in 1982. Then he won three MAC championships at Lycoming. Next came a five-year stint as head coach at William Tennent High followed by one year as an assistant at Ursinus College. Then on to Lycoming.
The 55-year-old Crebs started strong as the Lyco coach, fashioning a 17-2 record and being named the National Wrestling Coaches’ Rookie Coach of the Year.
Crebs notes that Lycoming has a lot to offer to a wrestler who doesn’t want to wrestle at the D-I level.
“Some kids just want to continue the sport. No, Lycoming doesn’t offer money and the sticker price scares some off but there are grants,” the coach said.
One emphasis that Crebs is most proud of is the fine graduation rate of his wrestlers and launching them on career paths. His biggest disappointment is his failure, at times, to get wrestlers to realize their potential.
He butts heads with other Pennsylvania schools, including D-I schools, in going after recruits.
Schools in the Midwest tend to dominate the D-III landscape and they are leading the early season rankings. No. 1 is Loras College of Iowa and only Stevens Institute of New Jersey is in the top 10 with a spot at No. 8.
Crebs said there’s an obvious reason for that domination. “Look at how many D-I schools there are in this state. In the Midwest, there usually is only one or two schools. Those Midwest schools get good kids that don’t go to D-I schools.”
Crebs’ contributions have gone beyond the mat room. He’s served on the National Wrestling Coaches Association committee, the National D-III Championships committee,and the NCAA D-I Championships committee.
He’s a member of the District 4 Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame, the NWCA Division III Wrestling Hall of Fame and the West Branch Valley Sports Hall of Fame. He’s won numerous coach of the year awards.
In addition, he has to monitor the wrestling careers of his two sons. Gable (named after Iowa legend Dan Gable) is a freshman at Lycoming. Gable was seventh in the state in March at 195 pounds. His other son, Cael (named after Penn State’s Cael Sanderson) is a junior at Montoursville High.
“It’s disappointing not seeing them as much as we would like. Last year I was at nationals when Pennsylvania’s states were held. I’m on the road recruiting. This year I’ll miss the Powerade Tournament (Christmas week in Washington, Pa.).”
Those attendance duties fall to his wife, Tara. “She tries to get to everything,” Crebs said.
So when Crebs gets his plaque and green jacket at the Hershey Lodge, it will be the result of hard work by Crebs and whole Crebs family.
Others going into the hall on April 26 are Mark Billett, a coach at Latrobe and contributor; Ken Davis, an official; Robert Koffler, a coach at many levels for 55 years; John Little, the long-time coach at Solanco High in District 3; Carl Poff, former Bloomsburg University wrestler and coach at Lock Haven; Marty Strayer III, a wrestler and official; and Rich Vetock, a coach and contributor. The Outstanding American Award will be presented to Steve Capoferri, a coach and business leader.
Mat burns: Welcome to upset weekend. It started Friday night when Rider’s Broncs, coached by former Bucknell coach John Hangey, hung a loss on the Big Ten’s Minnesota. Rider followed that up with a win over Northern Illinois.
Then Lehigh posted a criteria 21-20 win over Oklahoma State. The Mountain Hawks earned the win when a Cowboy wrestler, Travis Whittake, failed a skin test.
Virginia Tech added to the upsets topping Ohio State in Columbus.
This week’s top dual is Friday night’s Penn State at Arizona State matchup. The meet may feature a No. 1 against No. 2 if two-time NCAA champ Zahid Valencia of Arizona State goes against PSU’s Shakur Rasheed, ranked No. 2. Rasheed has not seen action this season while recovering from knee surgery after the 2018-2019 season.
John Huckaby, of Lewisburg, has reported on amateur wrestling for more than 40 years. He has covered numerous NCAA and PIAA tournaments and attended three Olympic Games. He can be reached at email@example.com.