By Chris Rossetti
After 20 years and 192 wins, long-time Clarion and Curwensville head wrestling coach Randy Cathcart is stepping down from the head coaching ranks.
Cathcart, who has been at Clarion for the past 13 years after spending seven years at his Alma Mater Curwensville, believes the time is right for him to step down. His youngest son, Kyle, a four-time District 9 champion and a two-time PIAA champion is graduating from Clarion High School today and will wrestle for Penn State next season.
"Deep in my heart, I knew when Kyle was done that was the right time (to step down)," Cathcart, who will continue as Clarionís vice principal, said. "I just didnít want to admit it to myself until it was over."
Cathcart leaves coaching going out on top. In March, at the PIAA championships, he was inducted into the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association (PWCA) Hall of Fame, an honor that is bestowed only to those who have made significant contributions to the sport of wrestling. Past inductees have included the likes of long-time Clarion University head coach Bob Bubb, and former Clarion University wrestle and Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle.
"There were two reasons why I decided to stop coaching right now," Cathcart said. "One was Kyle and the other was my induction into the PWCA Hall of Fame. Just to be nominated for the Hall of Fame in my mind is an honor. To be nominated and then voted into by your peers is just a phenomenal honor for me. You look at the journey and where it was headed and this was the light at the end of the tunnel. It was the final climax of what seemed like a picture perfect ending. My family was there, Kyle was in the finals, I couldnít have written a better clip for and ending. It was just a great honor and a great day that will live with me for ever."
Some might find it surprising that Cathcart called it quits just eight wins shy of what some consider a milestone, 200 wins. But Cathcart doesnít see it that way.
"Two hundred career wins sort of crossed my mind," Cathcart said. "But when you put it into perspective with everything else it didnít seem as important. Two hundred would have been nice, but it would have been anti-climatic."
Cathcart, who was a three-time District 9 champion as well as a state champion (1977) at Curwensville, started his coaching career as an assistant at his alma mater in 1980-81 while a senior at Clarion University.
"I had always known that I wanted to coach," Cathcart said. "I also knew that I probably wanted to coach wrestling before I graduated from high school. In wrestling more so than in any other sport you know a kid as an individual. You spend a lot of time with the kids. You go on overnight trips with them. You share heartaches and triumphs with them. I think you have a direct impact on them more so than in any other sport."
After spending a year at Curwensville as an assistant coach, Cathcart graduated from college and got a teaching job at Clearfield in 1981-82. He spent that year as an assistant coach for a Bison program that was use to enjoying a lot of success.
"When I was at Clearfield, it was a powerhouse in wrestling," Cathcart said. "I think I developed a lot of the traditions and commitment to the programs I have coached from watching the Clearfield kids work and from watching how proud those kids were."
The following year, 1982-83, Cathcart took a teaching position at Curwensville and became the Golden Tides head coach. He took over a program that was not in very good shape according to him with the goal of building it into a championship program.
"I had known I had wanted to be a head coach," Cathcart said. "Taking the job at Curwensville was a no-brainer. I got a job at my hometown high school, and it was an opportunity for me to give something back to the program.
"The lure of trying to build a program at my home school was very attractive. When I wrestled at Curwensville the program was marginally successful. The school didnít have a strong tradition. I wanted to try to build a strong tradition."
And build a strong tradition is what Cathcart did. In seven years at Curwensville he compiled a 74-44-1 record. He was named District 9 Coach of the Year twice (1985-86 & 86-87) and his team won the team championship at the District 9 meet in 1986-87 after taking second the year before.
"We were able to accomplish a lot of what I wanted to do," Cathcart said. "We had five straight winning seasons, one district title and one state champion (Brian Irwin). "
Following the 1988-89 season, Cathcart didnít really plan on moving on to Clarion. But he was approached by some wrestling people at Clarion and a school board member in the district and asked if he had any interest in taking over the Bobcats program.
"I wasnít necessarily interested in coming to Clarion at the time," Cathcart said. "But at the same time I was stagnant at Curwensville. I came up for the interview out of curiosity and really feel in love with the area. I had known that it was a great town to raise a family in, but I didnít realize the school was such a special place to teach in. But I knew it was when I walked in."
Cathcart said Clarionís program was at an all-time low when he took over.
"They were thinking of dropping the program," Cathcart said. "I saw it as another challenge."
It was a challenge Cathcart quickly conquered. It took him just two years to produce his first winning season at Clarion. After having losing record in those first two years, Cathcart helped the Bobcats roll off 11 consecutive winning seasons, a streak that continues today. He also helped Clarion produce seven consecutive double-win seasons from 1994-95 until 2000-01 to go along with a District 9 team championship and a third-place Northwest Region finish in 2001.
In his 13 years with the Bobcats, he compiled a record of 118-82-3.
"The person who had the most influence over me in coaching was Coach (Bob) Bubb, the long-time Clarion University coach," Cathcart said. "He was probably the most instrumental person in my life as far as coaching goes. He was probably as committed to the sport of wrestling as any one individual I ever met in my life. The integrity and loyalty he showed me helped shape my character as a coach."
Cathcart, who will be replaced by Lee Weber, the former head coach at Punxsutawney, as head coach, hopes to stay involved with wrestling both at the state level and at Clarion.
"I really love the sport of wrestling," Cathcart said. "It has done a lot more for me than I can do for it, so I want to continue to contribute. I am not sure what I can do other than stay involved. I will help run the tournaments and coach at some level. I will also stay involved with the PWCA at the state level. The PWCA has done a lot of important things for the sport of wrestling, and it has a lot of input at the PIAA level."
Cathcart believes the thing he will carry most from wrestling is the friendships that he has developed over the years.
"There are so many great memories and so many great friendships that have been created over the years," Cathcart said. "They are life-long friends."
Cathcart said wrestling is like real life in that it helps shape a personís character and identity.
"So many people say wrestling is a dead-end sport because there isnít a professional level after high school," Cathcart said. "But the sport has given so much to me. It has shaped my character and existence. That is what I have hoped to give back to the sport, and I think I have given some of it back. That is what I hope to be remembered by, if I am remembered by anyone."