From left: Historical Society representatives Tom Schott and Tom Rubritz accept the donation of framed clippings about DuBois Central Christian wrestling from Steve Volpe and Robert Martini.
Today, if a high school student in DuBois states that they are on the wrestling team everyone know they compete for DuBois Area High School.
For a seven-year period from 1964-71, a student would have to identify his team affiliation because DuBois Central Christian (now DuBois Central Catholic) supported its own wrestling team.
Memories of those teams recently became a part of the collection of the DuBois Area Historical Society when DCC’s first coach Robert Martini and one of the school’s two state champions, Steve Volpe, presented a framed set of clippings and photos to the Society. Tom Schott, the Society’s second vice president, and Tom Rubritz, director of building and grounds for the Society accepted the donation.
Martini, who resides in Brockway, received a request in 1962 from Fr. Robert Riley, Central’s headmaster, to start a wrestling program at the school.
“There were a lot of interested students, but 65 to 70 percent of them had never seen a wrestling match,” recalled Martini. “At an organizational meeting over 30 wrestlers and parents turned out and over 20 of them stayed on to start the program.”
For the first two years wrestling was intramural but Martini recalls the gym at the old Central Christian High School filled with spectators for intramural matches and exhibitions. “We received support from the Booster Club led by Rollie Noble and Che Rogers,” said Martini. “In 1963 the Boosters bought us our first uniforms.”
Following two years of learning the basics from Martini the school’s first interscholastic team took to the mats in 1963-64. The team included: Robert Toven, Don Okonski, Jim Grinnen, Bernie Hockman, Pete Manco, Gary Troyan, Jack Castonguay, Dick Castonguay, Joe Drayer, Steve Volpe, Randy Martini, and Al DiGilarmo. Fr. August Coccarrelli was the assistant coach.
Leading the way for that team was Steve Volpe. A Brockway native, he participated in wrestling programs in his home town starting in the seventh grade, providing him a head start on all of his teammates. The experience helped when the Cardinals competed at the state championships of the Pennsylvania Catholic Invitational Wrestling Tournament. During the time period from 1943-1974 Catholic schools throughout Pennsylvania held its own state championship events.
Seven schools competed in the championships held in Pittsburgh. They included: host Canevin High School of Pittsburgh, St. Pius X of Pottstown, Lancaster Catholic, South Hills Catholic of Pittsburgh, Erie Cathedral Prep, Pittsburgh Central, and the Cardinals.
In the 165-pound weight class Volpe defeated Yunitch of Pittsburgh Central 2-1 on riding time in his opening match. Both grapplers had an escape during the match. Volpe drew top seeded Pagan of Lancaster in the second round and recorded a pin in 52 seconds. That brought him to the championship match with Gail from South Hills Catholic. Fifty-five seconds later Volpe had a pin and a state championship.
“We didn’t have a weight room,” said Martini about training his team. “We emphasized conditioning and a lot of our victories were won in third period.”
“Wrestling is one of the greatest sports,” said Volpe. “No one else can take the credit for the results. Either you have it or you don’t.”
It was Volpe who wanted to present the items to the Society when he discovered that the E. D. Reitz Museum’s sports displays did not have anything about Central Christian wrestling. “I wanted other people to know that there was a wrestling program and for there to be some kind of record here in DuBois,” said Volpe.
Fred Pisoni, at 127 pounds, won the second and final state championship for the Cardinals on March 5, 1967. His victory was achieved in Lancaster at what was then called the Pennsylvania Catholic Interscholastic Athletic Association championships.
The format pitted the top four qualifiers from western Pennsylvania and the top four qualifiers from eastern Pennsylvania. Pisoni opened with a 3-0 overtime win over Dave Ference of Lourds High School in Shamokin. He then cruised to an 11-0 victory over Ron Rice of Lancaster Catholic in the semi-finals. Pisoni earned a 2-0 win over Gene Sacarakis of Notre Dame scoring an escape with 34 seconds left in the match to claim the state championship.
Wrestling continued at Central Christian through 1971. Following Martini as coach were: Fr. Robert Pudlo in 1966, Sam Catalfamo from 1967-70, and George Say in the program’s final year 1971.