Copenhaver inducted in D6

ALTOONA – Lew Copenhaver will be making his second trip to Altoona Area High School in as many weeks Saturday.

Copenhaver will have a chance to see Mifflin County’s wrestling team, a program whose history he helped write, at the District 6 Class AAA tournament, which begins today.

The onetime Chief Logan grappler and the county’s next to last state champion in wrestling is being inducted into the District 6 Hall of Fame. Copenhaver, who wrestled in Class AA, was present for the small-school tournament a week ago as well.

Copenhaver said his induction was a surprise – in the most literal sense.

“I really didn’t know about it until a couple weeks ago. My boys said they saw something on the Internet, on Facebook or something,” he said. “I didn’t hear anything from anybody, and I didn’t think anything of it.”

But eventually, family members told him that local wrestling historian Bob Hower was trying to get ahold of him, and by way of the family of former teammate, former Indian Valley coach – and fellow state champ Joe Heller – he was made aware that he would be honored in this year’s class.

“I didn’t even know they did that, to be honest. I had no idea,” he said.

Copenhaver was part of a program that set the standard for quality wrestling in Mifflin County. It was under the Penn Highlands banner that the late Rod Tate became the first gold medalist from the county; Lewistown had one in its history in former coach Ken Whitsel. Kishacoquillas, Rothrock and Indian Valley never got a wrestler to the top of the state medal stand.

Chief Logan? How about four titles from three different wrestlers. Heller won twice – 1978 and 1979 – and Copenhaver made it three in a row with the 138-pound crown in 1980. Mingo Joe Daubert was the last from the county, winning in 1988.

“We had one of the better schools for wrestling,” Copenhaver said. “We almost won a state title – we took five to states in 1979.”

Copenhaver took his talent to Elizabethtown College for a year, making it to the Division III nationals, before coming home.

“College wasn’t for me,” he said. “I got out of that and went into the work force.”

Watching the action at the tournament Saturday, he noticed more than a few changes from his day.

“They use more legs and tilts. Back in our day it was bar arms and cradles, barrel rolls and half Nelsons. It’s just different,” he said. “We didn’t have a technical fall. We didn’t have the choice to stand up, take the bottom go neutral. You had to get down, you had to get on them, one guy was up and one guy was down. You each took a turn doing it – you couldn’t defer.”

Copenhaver went 26-2-1 in his championship year, and won 67 career matches. He could have had more, but missed part of his senior year. He was a district runner-up in 1978 then finished first each of the next two years. He won a region title in 1979, but came into the state meet as a third-place finisher in 1978 and 1980. He finished fourth in the state in 1979.

At the 1980 state tournament, he won a 6-4 decision over the same wrestler who beat him in the regional semis a week earlier, Ridgway’s John Capiello. In the championship match, he scored a reversal just before time expired to take an 8-6 decision over Tim Naughton of Erie Strong Vincent.

The district tournament is the first stop in the tournament trail for the Huskies, who won the District 6 Class AAA team title. The first round today is at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, semifinals are at 11 a.m. with consolation finals at 5 p.m. and the title matches at 7.