Mifflin County’s last champ among Hall of Fame inductees

ALTOONA – Mifflin County’s last state champion wrestler, along with a Mount Union coach and one of his charges, are being inducted to the District 6 Wrestling Hall of Fame this year.

Joe Daubert, who won the 1988 Class AA heavyweight title wearing a Chief Logan singlet, retired coach Dan Brown and another champion in the 1988 tournament, Clayton Grice, are being honored by the district at its two tournaments, the second of which takes place Saturday at Altoona Area High School.

Brown coached the Trojans from 1984 to 2000. His career record was 144-136-2; he oversaw the careers of 15 district and five regional champions. Among those he coached were Grice, former Penn State coach and fellow hall of famer Troy Sunderland, and Mount Union’s current coach, Corey Wertz.

Of Grice, who will not be able to make the trip to Altoona for either event, Brown said, “He was very talented, and very quick. He would high you high, hit you low on his feet.”

Grice and Sunderland – another 1988 champ – were workout partners, Brown recalled.

“It was kind of special the night we were coming home to think we had two state titles in the van,” he said.

Brown recalls Grice losing to Richland’s Eric Bowser – another inductee, who had won state gold in 1986 – in both the district and regiona finals.

“Something that really sticks out in my mind was Clayton in the regional finals. They went into overtime. It was a fabulous match. It was just back and forth all over the mat and they worked hard the whole time,” Brown recounted. “Then at the end of the match – I think Clayton lost by a point – everybody stood up and started clapping. They got a standing ovation. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a gym where I’ve had that happen before.”

Sunderland, he said, was a fireball on the mat.

“When you wrested Troy, especially when he was in high school but in college too, you had to pack a lunch,” Brown said. “He was going to be in your face for six minutes. He was exceptional on his feet.”

Brown is soft-spoken compared to his student turned successor, admitting he was more of a technician than a motivator.

“I thought that my strong suit was I liked to organize my practices in such a way to get them in shape, also that they were fundamentally very sound,” he said. “I thought I was better as a teacher of the sport. I still got pumped up and did it in my own way.”

Brown still gives some time to elementary wrestling, but admits the sport has taken its toll, especially on his knees. He misses the fun part, this part of the season, he said.

Brown credits his wrestlers for being the reason he was inducted.

“When Corey called me and informed me last spring I was pleasantly surprised. I only had a little better than .500 record,” he said. “I think the reason I’m in here is because coaching so many tough kids over the years.”

Brown and Grice were honored at the Class AA tournament on Feb. 15. Saturday, it’s another former Class AA wrestler who later became part of a strong Class AAA program that will be welcomed back to the mat.

“It’s exciting to be able to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, to have your name with all the district’s best wrestlers,” said Daubert, who followed up his 1988 title with a finals appearance under the Indian Valley banner in 1989, then coached the Warriors until Mifflin County High School was formed.

In his second shot at gold, against Bald Eagle Area’s Skip Pighetti, Daubert admitted he “didn’t make out as well.”

An injury default ended his scholastic career.

“I look back at it now – at the time it was the most horrible thing in my life,” Daubert recalled. “It was still a great accomplishment for a great season. I thought I had a very good high school career.”

Daubert, laid back but occasionally cheeky, remembered the change in classifications, and the differences that were more obvious in his era.

“At Chief Logan, I can remember we went to the Lock Haven tournament. … I was a freshman or sophomore, and the second kid I got to wrestle was Doug Rosenberry from Altoona and I pinned him. They were like, ‘Where did this kid come from?,'” he said. “The next kid I wrestled was (Chris) McCracken from Jersey Shore – I think he pinned me.

“To see the difference between the triple-A and the double-A, you got to see the real good wrestlers.”

Daubert recalls wrestling with the Mount Union kids, and the good times it represented for a bunch of teenage boys.

“When we turned 16 we said, ‘Hey, we’re driving to the tournaments ourselves.’ We thought we were the coolest people in the world,” he laughed.

Today, he can look back on three eras of wrestling in Mifflin County. He remembers working hard to make the end of one era memorable.

“Chief Logan was a great school, and I haven’t gotten to see that connection with school. That year I won it was the last year of the school – there was so much hype,” he said. “I think that motivated me to definitely work harder.”

As a coach, he was never able to get a wrestler to the top of the medal stand – in fact, Indian Valley never crowned one in its existence.

“I’d say the closest one was when Adam Will wrestled, I don’t recall which Alton it was,” Daubert said, referring to the Central Mountain twins now at Penn State.

“When (Will) tossed him in the first period and threw him on his back and got some back points there, he was just that far away from it,” he said, holding his fingers an inch apart. “Even at that point you could just see he was upset he didn’t win. I told him, ‘In about 15 years you’ll get over it.'”

Daubert said today’s wrestlers are better, stronger than in his day, something he noticed even as a coach. The gap between good and average is wide – which makes it harder to get to the top. But even though this year’s state tournament marks 25 years since someone from the county even had a chance, Daubert believes the Huskies are on the verge of making a statement.

“This group of young kids that we have here, there just a tough bunch. Hopefully we’ll be able to see someone jump up on that podium,” he said. “And I think we’re going to see it, if not this year maybe next year.”