One accomplishment you won’t find in the long list of honors for the late Floyd “Shorty” Hitchcock is PIAA wrestling champion.
But when wrestling fans gather to talk about the sport, there’s plenty of discussion about the strongman from Wyalusing who died way too early in 2002 while head coach at Millersville University.
“Shorty” posted an 84-7-2 dual meet record at Bloomsburg University, won three PSAC titles for the Huskies and in 1974 won both the Division I and Division II national titles including the OW Awards in Division I and Division II. Throw in a silver medal in the 1973 World University Games in Moscow and you have some solid credentials.
But there’s more. As coach at Lake-Lehman High in District 2, Hitchcock coached the Black Knights to four D-2 titles and was named top district coach four times. In 1981, his team won the PIAA Class AA championship while coaching Ricky and Rocky Bonomo. Both later were All-Americans at Bloomsburg with Ricky winning three national championships. Ricky is a distinguished member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
At Millersville, Hitchcock’s team went 180-113-4 and won three NCAA Division I East Regional titles. Under Hitchcock, the team recorded 13 winning seasons.
The honors are many and deserved. And they live on, but it is Hitchcock the person who really lives on in the numerous stories about him.
Let’s go back to the no PIAA title.
Karl Schnure, of Watsontown, coached many on a championship team at Wyalusing, but Shorty wasn’t one of those wrestlers to make it to states (it was one and done at that time.)
Schnure tells it this way, “Shorty didn’t wrestle until his junior year. He played basketball. He came to me and told me he wanted to wrestle an exhibition match. This was his sophomore year. I told him he couldn’t do it.
“The next year he came out and lost only once I think. One wrestler we didn’t want to face was Bob Sacavage of Mount Carmel who used legs. That’s who we got in district semis. Sacavage (now a retired Northumberland County judge) put the legs in and we couldn’t get out,” Schnure noted about Shorty and his title team.
Sacavage later won states.
Schnure, who coached at Wylausing for 22 years, said Hitchcock was recruited by Russ Houk, at Bloomsburg and Neil Turner, at Clarion. Houk won out.
It was several years later when Hitchcock won the NCAA titles with Roger Sanders coaching the Huskies.
“He (Shorty) practiced hard, he wasn’t just strong,” Schnure said.
Todd Myers, the former coach at Selinsgrove High, has high praise for Hitchcock as a coach. And a couple of humerous stories about Myers’ time at Millersville.
“Shorty taught me a lot about aggressiveness and getting ready mentally to wrestle. I went to Lock Haven for two years and then transferred and Shorty helped me change my mindset.
“In the mat room he would push you to tears and then build you up,” Myers said.
Shorty had ways to make practices fun, Myers said.
“One way to break it up would be to play commando, a war game. We had to give him a 30-second start and he would head off through the woods adjacent to the campus. If we caught him, practice would be over. We only caught him once – we found him submerged in a stream, with only a straw sticking up in the water.”
Myers said, during another game of commando. Shorty took off and went through some briars and later across the stage at Penn Manor High (adjacent to the Millersville campus). They were rehearsing a play and Shorty had to talk to the college president to apologize.
“He was always a competitor. One time Joe Geesey was officiating a match and Shorty and Joe had words. Geesey kept looking for Shorty who had gone behind a water cooler. Afterwards they both laughed about it,” Myers said.
“Before duals, Shorty didn’t have much of a pep talk,” Myers said. “He got you mentally ready before hand. You were ready to go.”
“I respected him. The first year I taught at Selinsgrove I was teaching at the middle school and Shorty was in the area. He stopped in to see the principal to check on how I was doing and teaching. He cared about his wrestlers,” Myers said.
“He was more than a strongman.”
REMEMBERING BILL ENNIS
Our condolences go out to the family of photographer Bill Ennis, who died this week. Mr. Ennis was a familiar sight on the sidelines at junior high, high school and college events. Mr. Ennis, a Towanda Black Knight through-and-through, was more than a photographer. He was a genuinely nice guy, the kind you don’t find many of today.
He’ll be missed.