THE WILMER PRESSEL INTERVIEW
West York's Wilmer Pressel
1985 District III South Central Regional AAA Championships...
Wilmer Pressel - 2nd Place.
PIAA State AAA Wrestling Championships...
Wilmer Pressel -
6th Place @ 185lbs.
PIAA 5th/6th AAA - Kevin Benton (Easton) dec. Wilmer Pressel (West York) 15-3.
AAA PIAA State Wrestling Results 1974-2010 -
Finals '74-'10 A/AAA.
2-time West York Wrestling Outstanding Wrestler Award -
'84 & '85.
WILMER PRESSEL BIO
Wrestling's Wilmer Pressel...
graduated in 1985. Wilmer finished his wrestling career with a
record of 64-32-1. Wilmer's senior year record of 29-8 (in the
1984-85 season) included seven
losses to PIAA Top 5 State place-winners! Another loss in Wilmer's
WY career was to the nation's
top-ranked 167lb. wrestler,
John Heffernan of
St. Edwards, Ohio in the prestigious Top Hat Wrestling Tournament!
Heffernan went on to be a NCAA All-American at Iowa. Wilmer
attended wrestling camps at both Millersville and Lock Haven
Universities. Wilmer's high school tournament finishes include a
4th at the 1983 Top Hat (Williamsport) Tourney, a 4th in the 1984 AAA
Sectionals, a 2nd in the 1984 Top Hat Tourney, a 2nd in the 1985 AAA
Sectionals, a 2nd in the 1985 DIII AAA South Central Regionals, and a
6th at the 1985 PIAA AAA State Tourney. Wilmer won many summer
tournaments... including the
West York Wrestling
Booster High School/College Open Tournament, twice.
Wilmer is married
to a wonderful and lovely woman - Billie Jo, (11 years) and they have
three children - Darren Gross, David Pressel and Harley Pressel (ages
15, 11 and 9). Wilmer and Billie Jo are presently fostering
another young man - Ta'Shon Jiles, who is trying wrestling for the first
time as a senior at West York.
Wilmer's family is his true
Wilmer has coached
soccer for ten years and wrestling the last two. All his boys play
soccer and baseball, as well as competing in wrestling. Wilmer
likes to be involved with their activities. Darren posted an 8-12
record last year in Junior High Wrestling and David was 7-2 in
Elementary Wrestling. Ta'Shon will try our for the 189lb. senior
high slot, and - like Wilmer growing up, battles some physical
challenges. Wilmer knows
that wrestling will make a big difference in each of his boys lives -
both physically and mentally. Billie Jo is also a
STRONG supporter of the families sports activities! Wilmer
spends a lot of time coaching, so Billie Jo is extremely patient and
takes care of everything at home! Daughter Harley plays soccer and
is also a baton twirler... a sport that takes a lot of time and
commitment! Harley competes at both the state and national levels
and has been twirling since she was three years old. Wilmer
"lives" to see his kids grow in their sports and school, and loves
helping them out in any way! Wilmer tells his kids - "It
doesn't matter how many you win or lose, but if you put your heart into
it, you will be better at the end of the competition!"
WY Coach Wilmer Pressel
∙ photo by Kevin Drawbaugh of
Wilmer Pressel has been in the flooring business for 25 years, 12 years
as an independent installer (his own business) and he also mastered
interior renovations, dry-walling, painting, build-outs and more.
Presently, Wilmer works as a Labor Manager for
of Minnesota. Accounts include Best Buy, Kohl's, Michael's,
Sleepy's, Sears/K-Mart and about 88 more businesses! Wilmer works
from his home office... which gives him a little time to help out with
soccer and wrestling coaching duties.
▪ Don Lehman, owner
and webmaster of westyorkwrestlingalumni.com caught up with Wilmer and
asked if he would do a Q & A... and he graciously agreed.
THE WILMER PRESSEL INTERVIEW
Webmaster, Archivist & Owner of westyorkwrestlingalumni.com
- Wilmer, it will be almost 25 years since you finished 2nd to
Egloff of South Western HS in the 1985 District III SC AAA Regional Tournament
(your teammate Tony Hoffman finished 3rd) and both of you qualified and
wrestled in the
PIAA State Tournament, where you made it to the semi-finals @ 185lbs.
and ended with a 6th place medal! You are one of
sixteen West York Wrestlers to
earn a PIAA State Wrestling medal/trophy. Take us back to that
grueling couple of weeks... what were your thoughts and preparation?
You're right it was
grueling... but it was also a lot of fun! I think Coaches
McCleary and Gay were really focused on getting me more aggressive to
compete at that level. I remember them pounding aggression into me at
practice. They wanted me to cross-face harder, "combination" wrestle and
really hit my moves with a purpose.
They pushed me hard but I
liked it. There is a gratifying
feeling after a hard workout. I would dream my moves at night and
day dream in class. To me, going to the PIAA State Wrestling Tournament was
just part of the plan and they were preparing me mentally and physically to
meet the challenge. They were dedicated and proud and I wouldn't have
gotten as far as I did without their commitment.
I don't remember ever being
as focused on anything as I was then.
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- How many times did you wrestle South Western's Jay Egloff in your
career - and did you ever garner a win?
I wrestled Jay Egloff six
times and never won against him. It's funny, in preparation for this
interview, I couldn't remember my record or what tournaments I placed in...
but, I definitely remember that stat. Jay was a great wrestler. He
had a way of forcing mistakes without ever making any errors himself. As
Coach Barry Gay once said to me, "He had your number!"
(South Western's Jay Egloff was a 2-time District III South Central Regional
Champion - '84 & '85, a 2-time PIAA State AAA Medalist - '84◦5th & '85◦3rd,
and finished his
career with an 85-15-1 record... which is 6th all-time at South Western.
In the 1984-85 wrestling season,
was 34-1... his only loss in the '85 PIAA State AAA semi-finals)
1985 YCIAA AAA Sectional Champions
▪ West York's Tony Hoffman (1st on left in
captured the 1985 138lb. YCIAA Sectional AAA Crown!
West York's Tony
Hoffman also placed 3rd at the '85 SC Regionals
and qualified for the PIAA AAA
State Tourney along with West York's
Wilmer Pressel, who finished 2nd at the '85 Sections & SC Regionals.
1985 PIAA State AAA
placewinner's from the above photo:
∙ Mark Banks, York Vo-Tech (back - 2nd from left) - PIAA 2nd at 145lbs.
∙ Jay Egloff, South Western (back - 5th from left) - PIAA 3rd at 185lbs.
Dallastown (back - 6th from left)
- PIAA 2nd at Hwt.
▪ York Vo-Tech's
Mark Banks went on to win the
PIAA State title
@ 155lbs. while going 28-0 &... became a 2-time NCAA All-American
at West Virginia University!!
photo submitted by
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- When did you take up the sport of wrestling and who were your early
coaches and teachers?
I was in sixth grade and I
remember my dad taking me to Loucks Elementary School to wrestle. I walked
in and I was the only wrestler there. It was at that time I met Kevin
McCleary, as he was the coach. Kevin McCleary was involved in coaching me
my whole career. Michael Young was my WY Junior High Head Coach, but
Kevin McCleary was always there. In 10th grade, I had the honor of
being coached by a couple of the greatest guys ever in
John T. Toggas and
John W. Sprenkle.
Both Coach Toggas and Coach Sprenkle are very inspiring people in their own
way. I don't think anyone can teach an arm-bar like Coach JT and there is
no one on earth that can "fire you up" like Coach Sprenkle! As my wrestling
became more advanced, Coach McCleary was there to take me to the next
advanced level. I can't go past
this question without mentioning my greatest mentor though, my
father. It didn't matter what it took or how much it cost, we would
go to tournaments "anywhere"... and, if I needed anything - he got it for
me. My father never missed
any of my matches... not one! He taught me at an early age to never
quit - no matter how little or big. He was proud of me if I did my best,
even if I lost. But, if I did not do my best... he would be sure to let me
know that too.
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- I typed up a York Daily Record article from March 1985 (below) that outlined
your early age blindness in one eye - and how that challenge was a
precursor to you focusing on wrestling and weightlifting! How did it
affect your wrestling... and, your everyday activities?
I've always been blind in one eye so
to me it's normal. It's everyone else who has that three-dimensional
problem!! Actually, when I was a kid... you could really tell there was
something going on with my eye. I had a hard time focusing unless I turned
my head at people and the other kids picked on me a lot. I think my dad
wanted me to get into a tough sport so I would be able to take care of
myself and help build my self confidence. One way that it affected my
wrestling is that I was a "left-footed shooter." I don't think I realized
what a benefit that stance was until late in my career. Most wrestlers lead
with their right foot. I just did it this way because I could see what I
was shooting at. Weight-lifting was just part of the program that helped me
become a much better athlete. I took to it like a duck to water. As far as
my everyday activities, I don't do anything any different than anyone one
else. I just bump into more
stuff doing it!
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- Tell me about the coaching and philosophy changes during your career
at West York. You wrestled your sophomore year for Coaches John T.
Toggas, John Sprenkle, Kevin McCleary and Brian Kuntz. Then, your junior and senior
years brought in the Kevin
McCleary era. Your thoughts and memories? (assistant
wrestling coaches under Coach Kevin McCleary at that time... 1983-1985 included Barry Gay, Ken Shorts, and Larry Gay)
Well, let's start with Coaches
JT Toggas, John Sprenkle and Brian Kuntz. As I mentioned earlier, these are
great people! Coach JT emphasized the basics and drilled them
everyday until "everyone" got it. He taught us to perform a move, then move
quickly to anther move if the first one didn't work. Coach Toggas has a
proven track record of success and he did it all with the basics, but
knowing them well. You had to know a couple take downs, how to get out of
the bottom... and of course an arm-bar. Getting out of the bottom was
beating the guy off the whistle, exploding, and not stopping until
you were out. Coach John Sprenkle had a way of doubling your pulse
rate just by talking to you! He absolutely loved intensity and could get
more out of you than you ever thought you could do. My interaction with
Coach Brian Kuntz was limited because he worked more with the lighter
weights. There was an unspoken intensity in the wrestling room at all times
with these guys. It was just expected that you give it all or get out!
I don't think anyone wanted to
Coach Kevin McCleary was like
perfection on steroids in everything he taught. He would
breakdown every move... showing all the pressure points and finer points of
the tactic. As you would progress, he would add to it until you were
performing combinations. He knew how to work with what you were strongest
at... and build off of it. I wrestled Coach McCleary, or should I say he
beat on me, all the way through my career and he was like an immovable
object! Tough as nails!! But Coach Mac, if you are reading this, I DID
take you down that one time in the corner of the wrestling room, even if it
was for just a second!! (That'll get him going!) Coach Barry Gay assisted
Coach Mac when I was there and he was more than just a great coach. He
filled in the blanks when I was confused (which was pretty much often).
Coach Gay was my counselor when I was falling apart and he would boot me in
in butt when I needed it. I really looked up to him. He could teach a
turn-in like no other and I do my best to mimic his explanation of it now
when I coach... but I don't do it as well. Coach Ken Shorts also helped
and he taught me that anyone could be thrown at anytime. He was a lunatic!
Coach McCleary, of course elaborated on this for me. I did like to throw
people. Coach Larry Gay also came in to help out (beat on me), especially
during the post season. I'd like to also say that in addition to Coach Kevin McCleary
John Chiappy was a huge influence on me - early on.
All of these above people had a
profound effect on my life in a positive way.
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- When you wrestled for Coach McCleary, it appears you wrestled in some
very tough tournaments and duals, including the Top Hat event in
Williamsport, PA. What is your recollection of your
toughest dual meet and toughest tournament match... and the outcome of each
Well I've had quite a few
tough ones, Don. I don't want to open up the Jay Egloff wound again, you
know how that turned out! So I will tell you about a match I had in the
finals of the Williamsport Top Hat Tournament. I wrestled a guy named John
Heffernan from St. Edwards-Ohio, and he was allegedly one of the nation's
best. It didn't turn out so good for me... as he pinned me in the third
period. Nothing fancy, he ankle-picked me to take me down and wrist and
half'ed me into submission. But, the way he did it was animalistic. My
neck hurt so bad I couldn't pick my head up for two weeks! I learned a lot
from that match. I would say that one of the toughest dual meet matches
with a lot of suspense building up to it was against Brian Slowey from
Bethlehem Catholic. We wrestled at Lehigh University's Grace Hall before
one of their college matches. I was a junior and he was a touted senior. I
weighed in at 167lbs. and he at 185lbs., so BECAHI's coaches were guessing
who was going to wrestle him. I threw him twice and put him on his back for
two points - both times. I won the match 8-4. I think I turned a corner
that day because I was not supposed to win!
▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪
- Coach Kevin McCleary (West
York 1973), from junior high (7th-8th-9th grades) to senior high
(10th-11th-12th grades), never lost a dual meet! He is one of
two WY wrestlers,
the other being Dr. Glenn Amsbaugh (Lehigh Wrestling Alumnus, EIWA 2nd &
NCAA Qualifier), to never lose a dual meet
in their careers.
Coach McCleary went on to garner a NCAA DIII 3rd place All-American finish
in 1974 @ F&M - and in my eyes, is one of the best wrestlers in West York
Wrestling History not to win a PIAA title. What can you tell me about
the practices and technique teachings from such an accomplished wrestler?
NO question in my mind how good Kevin McCleary was! I touched on
this earlier (above) on how Coach McCleary could "detail" every move so you
could understand how it worked. He would take the time to instruct,
and then we would drill... and drill at a fast pace. If one of the
guys was skilled at a certain move, he would have them perform the move with
him instructing it, also. It was very cool... because he would be the
"dummy" for the move and it made you feel good that he trusted you to do it
correctly! Other guys in the room thought... "Well, if he can do it, so can
I." We had a lot of fun at practice
while still working very hard. He never yelled at you if you didn't
do well in a match as far as I can remember. He would wait until the next
practice and show you what you did wrong AND how to correct it. Sometimes
with Coach McCleary, it was the things never spoken that said the
most if you didn't do well or if it was the best match you ever
wrestled! If he was trying to explain something to you - he was excellent
at relating to something you were familiar with to understand. Coach
McCleary got to know all of us really well so he could relate to us when he
needed to. He won with you and lost with you. He had a true understanding
of what each wrestler's capabilities were... and lead you in the direction
you needed to get there. I don't get to see him much these days, but I
still consider him a great friend.
McCleary is currently the head junior high wrestling coach at Dover, PA)
▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪
- What did wrestling teach you with regard to the challenges of everyday
Wrestling taught me that if you want something bad enough and you work hard
enough for it... you can succeed in whatever it is you want to do. It
doesn't matter what it is. I wasn't the most coordinated, natural athlete
that walked through the wrestling room door. But, I worked really hard and
had some success because of it. It doesn't matter if you win all your
matches, the reality is that you will be a better, more confident person...
who knows how to strive for goals by giving all you have in the wrestling
room everyday. I was an Operations/Labor Manager for a division of DuPont
at one time. Our branch was one of the best performing branches in the
country. We used to have meetings where all of the operations guys would
get together and upper management would ask me what I did to get the numbers
we posted and I would tell them the truth. They basically told me that I
just "willed" things to happen and that I was the exception to the rule.
Well, in my mind... every person who gave their all on a wrestling
mat is the "exception to the rule!" Everyone has "challenges" in their
life, but there is no challenge that can't be overcome.
There is a student on our WY Junior
High team who has cerebral palsy (Brandon Gordon) and he does everything
"and more" that the other student wrestlers perform! If you want to know
what a challenge is, try to walk in his shoes for a day! Brandon Gordon is
my hero! He inspires me every day I see his smiling face!
▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪
- How good was your 1985 West York teammate - 138lb. Tony Hoffman, who
accompanied you to the '85 PIAA State Wrestling Tournament?
Hoffman was an awesome wrestler! Tony had an unmatched work
ethic and would push the others as well. I think Tony Hoffman could have
also placed at states, but he had a bad seed coming into the '85 AAA PIAA
tournament... and lost a really close match to a guy that I think,
placed in the top three. I don't know what Tony's middle name is, but it
should be "intensity!" Tony Hoffman was SUPER intense! When he shot at
someone... you wouldn't even have to be looking to know he shot - because
you could hear it. If you've ever seen that yellow license plate
with the evil looking smiley face on it, well that's Tony Hoffman!
Tony Hoffman placed 3rd @ 138lbs. at the '85 DIII South Central
Regional Tournament and qualified for the '85 PIAA State Tournament)
West York's 167lb. Wilmer Pressel (left) - 4th in the '84 AAA Sections.
(WY's W. Pressel - 6th
1985 PIAA State Championships)
photo submitted by
▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪
- Wilmer, did you participate in any other sports while at West York?
Yes. I played football and
really enjoyed it. I played 7th grade through 12th grade...with
the exception of 11th grade. During my sophomore year in football, I got in
a varsity game and someone rolled my ankle and I ended up in a cast for six
weeks. I almost missed the start of wrestling, so the following year I
didn't want to chance it... so I focused on my weight training for
wrestling. Looking back, I regret that move because participating in
football helped my aggressiveness for wrestling, which was a key component
for me. I came back and played my senior year, though. It was a blast...
and we won the county championship! I also went out for track & field a
couple of times.
▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪
- Tell me a little about your off-season weightlifting and tournament
regimens while you were at West York?
I started weight-lifting about
the same time I started wrestling. Like I said earlier, I took to it like a
"duck to water." I religiously weight trained at least three times a week,
even during wrestling season. I would go to the local gym after wrestling
practice. Back in the mid 1980's, we didn't have weight training equipment
at West York. I wrestled probably five or six wrestling tournaments over
the summer. I really liked it, because we would travel to different places
and the trips were cool. I remember one that my dad and I went to when I
became of driving age. We went to Meadville, PA which was just outside of
Erie, PA. We left around 2:00am... and I drove about half way, wrestled the
tournament, and I drove the entire five hours back. That made for a
really long day. But, I valued
that time I spent with my dad.
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- You have two sons in the West York Wrestling program... one in senior
high and one in elementary. Do they ever ask you about your wrestling
past, and... how tough is it to watch your sons wrestle?
We didn't talk much about my
"wrestling past" before they started wrestling. It comes up once in a while
when my oldest son wants to talk about the "stone ages." I believe my
daughter, Harley... inquires more about it than the boys do! As far as
watching them wrestle, it's really tough! I try not to get too
excited, but inside I'm flipping out! My wife, Billie Jo, is afraid they'll
get hurt and I'm wishing that they pound their opponent!
I've come to realize the pride my
parents must have felt, though. Even if they lose, I want to be
there for them and point out the good things they did to make them feel
better. We video tape their matches so I get to talk to them about the
good, the bad and the ugly things objectively... when they are calm. I
usually try to joke around about the bad stuff. I'll stop the video right
at the appropriate moment and say "So, what was going though your mind when
this guy was head locking you?" My boys are no different than anyone else's
kids, if they give all they got, I'm proud of them - win or lose.
▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪
- Do you see anything different with today's wrestling versus the mid
1980's when York County really had some talented wrestlers at both
the AA & AAA level?
I'd say locally there are
YAIAA studs... but, it doesn't seem like you see that "weekly" matchup
between two outstanding grapplers as often as you used to. You know what I
mean... the "big" match of the week. The big matches seem to be a little
more spread out now. But, they still happen and you don't have to go far
(District III) to see some serious top-notch wrestling between real strong
schools. I think that there is more competition with wrestling now,
also. The other sports seem to have the year-round dedication that
wrestling used to have. When I was in school, the football players were
encouraged to wrestle because the movements and workouts helped them
tremendously in football, especially linemen. (PSU's Joe Paterno LOVES
wrestlers!) The same is true for wrestlers, as I think that participating
in football helps your aggressiveness for wrestling. How about the
endurance of a soccer player? I do
think that kids should participate in multiple sports. It's a
nice, short-term break... but, you can stay in shape and you aren't so one
▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪
- If you could go back to your sophomore year at West York and relive
that year - to your senior year... what would you change about those three
years and why?
As far as my wrestling goes,
nothing. Sure, I would like to say I was a PA State Champion... but,
I feel I worked to the best of my ability, pounded the weights and
wrestled every tournament I could get to. And, I had an absolute blast
doing it! So, I can't say I would want those fantastic memories to be
any different. If I could go back and change something academically, I
think I would have tried to be a better student in school.
Education is so important... and, it
is even more important now. The only other thing would be...
that I should have played football in my junior year.
▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪
- Wilmer, thank you so much for sharing some stories from the past with
our alumni! I wish you and your sons the best of luck this
upcoming wrestling season. Thank you, again.
Thank you, Don! Keep up the
great work on the alumni website!
▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪
∙ 1985 District III South Central Regional AAA Wrestling 185lb. Finals.
West York's Wilmer Pressel (top) lost to South Western's Jay Egloff,
(Tony Hoffman of West York finished 3rd @ 138lbs. in
'85 to qualify for the
1985 2nd Annual York Senior Mat Stars Results
Green All-Stars 26,
▪ Jason Stabley (Dover) dec. Mike White (Northeastern) 12-2
▪ Harold Sprenkle (York High) dec. Terry Yohe (Eastern) 10-7
▪ Dave Schimp (South Western) dec. Jeff Baum (Eastern) 8-1
▪ Scott McMullen (Dover) dec. Chris Steckel (Red Lion) 9-3
▪ Chad Toomey (West York) dec.
Chris Golden (York Catholic) 10-1
▪ Tony Hoffman (West York) dec.
Scott Groft (Hanover) 16-9
▪ Mike Bobb (York Suburban) dec. Matt Ream (York Catholic) 10-3
▪ Jeff Myers (Spring Grove) dec. John Wampler (York Catholic) 10-7
▪ Jay Egloff (South Western)
dec. Wilmer Pressel (West York) 5-1
▪ Ken Weaver (Hanover) dec. Eric Bortner (South Western) 11-9
▪ George McCormack (Dallastown) dec. Mike Olewiler (Eastern) 9-1
March 18, 1985
by Lynn Arnold...York Daily Record staff writer
Despite blind eye, West York's
Pressel is sixth in state tourney
HERSHEY - When Wilmer Pressel was
younger, the neighborhood kids used to call him names and pick on him
because he had a peculiar handicap. No one is picking on Wilmer
Pressel these days, though. The West York senior wrestler has
long-since dispelled the notion that he is in any way weak or inferior
simply because he is blind in one eye. Pressel, who lost sight in
his right eye as an infant because of a nerve disorder, placed sixth in
the highly competitive 185-pound division of the PIAA Class AAA State
Wrestling Tournament Saturday at Hersheypark Arena. Pressel
downplays his partial blindness, but admits it helped spur him toward
athletic excellence. "I don't consider it a handicap anymore.
I just make adjustments and work around it," said Pressel, who finished
the 1984-85 season with a 29-8 record. "Most of my moves are
one-sided. I always shoot for takedowns to the left because that's
where my line of vision is. Actually, it (the disorder) is why I
got involved in wrestling in the first place," Pressel said. "When
I was little, the other kids used to pick on me, so I decided to work
out and get involved in wrestling."
West York Coach
Kevin McCleary said
he recalls a skinny, somewhat uncoordinated sixth-grader named Wilmer
who decided to begin weightlifting and wrestling. "I
believe his eyesight problem motivated him to seek success in
athletics," McCleary said. "I think that's why he's been hitting
the weights so hard the past six years to build his strength.
Wilmer is a guy who didn't have a lot of natural talent to start with,
and I think the vision problem would make wrestling very difficult.
He's made himself what he is by hard work."
∙ 2009-10 West York SH
Team Photos - 2009-10
West York JH Team Photos -
Schedule - 2011-12
w/Coaches Brian Gross & Wilmer Pressel