Mary Jane (Svarnas) Toggas and John T. Toggas have been married
since June of 1955, and have 2 children, John S. "Moc" and Stephanie.
Coach and Mrs. Toggas have three grandchildren, Matthew, Samantha
and Brock. Coach John T.
Toggas is in six hall of fames and amassed a
stellar coaching record at both Biglerville and West York of 307-110-4.
Mary Jane Toggas has
been and is presently - a staunch supporter of
West York Wrestling. Coach Toggas taught and coached at
from 1958 to 1964. He taught Health and Phys. Ed. at West York High
from 1964 - 1994. He also served as a freshman football coach for a
time while at West York. Coach Toggas's first WY season was
Coach John T. Toggas (left) with West York and ESU Wrestling's - Barry Gay.
WY COACH - JOHN T. TOGGAS
(Coach John T. Toggas Photo from
For these achievements and
more, John T. Toggas...
is honored by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a
"Lifetime Service to Wrestling" award winner, Class of 1999.
THE 11/18/09 MARY JANE/JOHN T. TOGGAS INTERVIEW
Webmaster, Archivist & Owner of westyorkwrestlingalumni.com
- What have you been doing in Gettysburg to keep busy these days?
I enjoy working in my wood shop refinishing and repairing furniture... but
when you or (anyone else) calls and tells me we have a tee-time - I close
the shop and grab my golf clubs!
Trying to keep up with JT is a full
time job. We also spend time with Steph, Carl and our grandson,
Brock - and get together with Moc's children, Matthew and Samantha as often
as we can.
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- Wrestling has been a huge part of your lives since the 50's. If
you could pick out a couple "mat memories" from the many that stand
out, what would they be?
▪ Having my 1st PIAA State Champion (Dana
Luckenbaugh) in 1965 who was also York County's 1st PIAA
State Wrestling Champion. ▪ Winning the
Tournament Team Title in 1971 with four individual champions. ▪
Beating Dallastown in
the "Big Match" in 1971 and going 14-0 and winning the YCIAA title. ▪ Taking
two wrestlers to the 1969 PIAA State Tournament in State College, PA... and
coming home with
2 State Champs -
Bill Luckenbaugh @ 127lbs. and John Sprenkle @ Heavyweight.
I wasn't able to go to the 1965 PIAA State finals when Dana beat Shamokin's
Bill Welker 4-3, because Steph was just 3 months old... but it was still
exciting knowing JT, West York and York County had their first State
Champion! Moc, Steph and I were at the PIAA State finals in 1969 at
PSU's Rec Hall. It was a NIGHT
to remember! I remember making the trip to the Easton Holiday
Tournament in 1971 and being in awe of the District XI wrestling greats like
Don Rohn, Rocky Creazzo, Lance Leonhardt, Dennis Underkoffler and Rocky Chunko, to name a few.
We were so proud of our West York kids winning that tournament!
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- Coaching a sport like wrestling isn't a "3:30pm to 5:30pm" job for four
months a year. There is a ton of time not "on the meter" put in by
both a coach and the wife of a coach. Your thoughts?
If you want to have a good team and a successful program, you have to put in
a lot of extra time and you have to go to tournaments year-round.
The more you compete (in and out of
your area), the better you get as you get exposed to many different
wrestling styles. That pays off in the long run. We went
to many, many summer tournaments, camps and coaching clinics.
Moc, Steph and I understood that being a wrestling coach was not just their
Dad's "job", it was his passion. They never complained and as a matter
of fact - they loved it and we all supported their dad 100%.
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- I can't speak for other time periods, but when I wrestled in the Toggas
era per the early seventies, it really felt like a "family" in all aspects,
on the mat... and the support we felt from the great fans. Is that a
Absolutely! I always felt that a wrestling team was "family"... you
were "my kids" and we all worked together to make each other better.
We became winners and everyone loves a winner! When someone was going
through a rough time, we talked about it and tried to work on the problem
because we cared and that's what families do.
We always knew that "Dad's" team was like our extended family, too.
Moc and Steph often said that they had the best times growing up with the
West York Wrestling Bulldogs. The fans and parents were great, and we
made so many wonderful friendships that still mean so much to us.
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- There has to be a couple funny memories from the Toggas coaching era,
please share a couple that first come to mind.
The first year I was at West York, we had a match with Columbia. We
got on the bus and were on our way... and as we were halfway
across the bridge at Wrightsville, we saw a school bus coming towards us...
and I asked Coach Bob Bowers if he could see the logo on the bus. He
said he couldn't and we thought it would be funny if it was the Columbia
Team. When we got to Columbia High School, the AD told us that their
team was on its way to West York because they thought the match was away!
We had the match the next night and we won.
To say that during the wrestling season - that the team comes first, is no
understatement. Our daughter, Stephanie was born a month early on
December 14th. I was to be discharged from the hospital that Thursday,
but Coach JT had a "big match" with Spring Grove that night, so he couldn't
bring us home until the next day! At that time, I didn't have a phone
in my room, (it was in the hallway) so sometime before 10:00pm, the phone
rang in the quiet hospital hallway and I shuffled out and heard the good news
that we had beaten Spring Grove! My friends in the Maternity Ward all
cheered when they heard the news.
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- I know the support staff at West York Wrestling was a good one during your
days as coach. From the elementary staff to the senior high staff to
the administration - all were part of the program's success. And, the wives
also played an important part
of the success of the program. Raymond Troxell, Neil Everhart, Bob
Bowers, Whedon Myers, Carolyn Tritt, John Sprenkle... some of the names from
the program past. How important was it to have that solid support system at
The key to having that successful
program is that we all worked together! No one person can
effectively run the entire program. The Elementary, Junior High and
High School staffs all had their jobs to do and we all worked to achieve the
Making our program the BEST it could be. I always emphasized
positive coaching and no negativity. I think one of the best ways to
make our kids better is to view films of their matches. Carolyn Tritt
did a great job taking videos of the matches and was a great
supporter of the wrestling program. We could see what mistakes were
made and what worked - so the wrestler could make himself better.
There is also no question that the
wonderful support we got from the administration enhanced our program.
Our coaching staff had a great group of wives supporting them and our
wrestlers... and we worked together. I still enjoy many of the
friendships I made years ago.
The coaching staff from the Elementary, Junior High and the High School was
like one big family working together for "our kids", the wrestlers.
Our husbands concerns, dedication and goals for the wrestlers became
important for us, too! We made some very special and enduring
friendships which we cherish.
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- Also - the WY Wrestling Booster Club was formed in 1967. What do you
remember about the start of that arm of the program and how did the fans
play an important part in the success of the program?
We started the WY Wrestling Booster Club to help raise money for our kids to
go to wrestling camps, because not everyone could afford to go. We
sold merchandise like sweaters, hats, and had hoagie drives - just to name a
few fundraisers, and we put the money raised towards the wrestlers needs.
We also had a big banquet at the end of the season to thank and honor our
wrestlers for all of their great accomplishments.
The Booster Club was made up mostly of the wrestler's parents who worked
tirelessly to promote our WY program and to raise funds for the kids!
Working with such a great group of people who shared a common goals (helping
our wrestlers) was so much fun and I think it created not only a bond for
all of us, but it made the coaches and wrestlers realize how much they were
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- Both of you have been involved with wrestling since the 50's, when a
young John T. Toggas wrestled at York High! I saw both of you at the
2009 District III SC Regional AAA Wrestling Tournament at Hersheypark and
the PIAA State AAA Wrestling Championships at the Giant Center. How
has wrestling changed over the years, or has it?
I really don't think wrestling has changed that much. As a coach, I
always liked to observe different wrestling techniques and moves from other
area teams. There were a group of us high school coaches that would
attend the NCAA tournaments every year and we'd look to see what different
moves they were using and then try to incorporate these moves and adapt for
the high school kids. Once we realized what they could handle, we
would drill them until they mastered the moves.
We don't miss many tournaments, Don. It has just become a way of life.
Thursdays and Saturdays were wrestling, February and March was tournament
time. As much as I love wrestling, I must admit that going to the PIAA
States and attending the AAA and AA Championships was a little much, but
that's what you do for your grandchildren and we proudly followed our
Matthew when he wrestled for Brandywine Heights. As for whether
wrestling has changed over the years, I'm not a coach, but I don't think
it's changed much. Of course there are a lot of new moves that are
pretty impressive, but the basics,
when executed perfectly, are just as effective.
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- Many rides home from West York to Gettysburg after a practice or a meet
ended with a late dinner at the Toggas home. Was the conversation
topic "wrestling" at the kitchen table?
What else? Yes, we'd sit down to dinner and if was after a meet, we'd
talk about the match and if it was preparing for an upcoming match, we'd
talk about who had to make weight and the possible line-ups.
After dinner, we'd go downstairs to our rec room and look at films to get
ready for the next match. The next day I would spend a lot of time
making up different line-ups, trying to put together the best team possible.
Wrestling was always on my mind.
It's a good thing wrestling was always on his mind because over the years,
some of my dinners were a disaster! First of all, I'm the first to
admit I'm not the greatest cook, but not knowing what time he'd get home
didn't help my cooking either. He never complained and neither did the
kids. They would have a snack when getting home from school since we
never knew what time he'd walk in the door. First we talked about how
Moc's and Steph's day at school went and then we'd hear all about John's
day. We have the greatest kids in the world!!!
They both grew up
with wrestling and loved the sport...
it was just a way of life for all of
us. Moc followed in his dad's footsteps and Steph still goes to
as many wrestling matches as she can. (I truly think she could
officiate a wrestling match as well as most referees!) And, her son
Brock is starting his 4th year of wrestling in the Neshaminy area program.
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- Both of you saved so many photos and memories from over the years, and
I've tried to capture those photos and statistics on the alumni website as
best I can. But, a flood ruined much more memorabilia. That had
to be a nightmare!
It was really a nightmare! I was sitting downstairs watching a
ballgame (around 10:00pm) and all of a sudden, the back door at the bottom
of our outside stairwell broke and water just gushed in! Gettysburg
was hit with a freak once-in-a-lifetime storm that dumped 13" of rain in
less than 4 hours. Shortly before 1:00am it had stopped and we had 7
feet-4 inches of water in our rec room. There really wasn't time to save
anything. Thankfully, we didn't lose our electricity and our sump pump
worked the entire time, but we were just overwhelmed with the volume of
water. We lost so many pictures, wrestling films, yearbooks and
I never did like rainstorms, but since that night, I'm absolutely
terrified of heavy rains. Most of the furniture, John could
refinish, but we lost so many irreplaceable things like the yearbooks,
photos, films, and scrapbooks which I had compiled each season for John and
Moc per their wrestling matches and accomplishments. Moc always tried
to be positive and did his best to console me by saying "we know what we
did, mom, and that's all that matters!"
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- The first year at West York was
1964-65... after a stint with Biglerville.
Your thoughts as a coach coming into the WY program - and Mrs. T., your
thoughts when your husband decided to make the huge move to Bulldog Country.
When I came to West York, I had 65 kids come out for wrestling and I felt
that was a really nice size group of kids. I know I worked then pretty
hard to become even better wrestlers. I anticipated some of them would
quit and I'd end up with a group of 45, but by the end of the year, we had
about 75 tough kids!
I knew the decision had to be John's, but to be honest, I wasn't enthused as
he was because I'm a small town girl. Moc was in 2nd grade and all the
friends he had grown up with were here and we were expecting our second
child in a few months. I told him I'd support whatever decision he
would make - BUT I WASN'T MOVING!
So, being the loving and special man he is, he traveled 60 miles each day to
keep his family happy!
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- Coach Toggas, seeing West York Wrestling Alumni go from high school to
college meant a lot to you
- and you had to be proud when in November of 1973, you and a busload of
West Yorkers' traveled to the Poconos to watch the
State College dual meet. Five of your wrestlers were on the
ESSC mat that night, with the feature match at 158lbs. between Bill
Luckenbaugh and Kevin McCleary! Mrs. Toggas, you also had to be proud
that night. How important was it to you to help your wrestlers pursue
I can't begin to tell you how proud I was to have four of my kids wrestling
for East Stroudsburg State and one kid wrestling for F&M that night! I
had five of my kids out there that night! What a great night it was
for me! If I would have had buttons on my shirt, I know I would have
been popping them! I always felt that my job didn't end when you
graduated from high school and I did encourage my wrestlers to go on to
college because I felt that education was the key to success and, hopefully,
a way to a better, more secure life.
This was just one more exciting and proud night being mat-side and cheering
for our WY Bulldogs. So many wonderful memories, not just for your
Coach JT, but for our great children - Moc and Steph... and me, too.
It really was a good life.
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- Family is very important to both of you. I have to bring up
and ask the tough question. Your son,
John S. "Moc" Toggas, was
tragically killed last April. I know it has been extremely
tough on the both of you daily, as well as your daughter Stephanie,
the grandkids Samantha and Matt, and the rest of your extended family.
As I sat at the second of the two memorial celebrations of Moc's life in
Allentown with Mike Stambaugh, I was amazed at the number of people in
attendance to pay their respects. The number from the wrestling
community was great - from West York Wrestling, Parkland Wrestling,
Brandywine Heights Wrestling and the other coaches, referees and friends in
Moc's life! It had to be comforting to see the outpouring of support
from this special wrestling community during this tragic time. Your
thoughts on that period of time?
Of all the tragedies anyone has to face in life, there is absolutely none
worse than losing your child, and I don't think we will ever recover
from that. I will say that the support and love that we received from
the wrestling community gave us comfort and strength at a time when we
really needed it.
A parent's worst nightmare is to lose a child; it just leaves a big,
aching hole in your heart and we, Steph, Matt and Samantha and all our
family, will never, ever be the same. Moc was always there for
us with that grin that was as big as his heart and his comforting and wise
words and out-stretched loving arms. Yes, life goes on but that
doesn't mean we've stopped crying inside. We've always referred to the
wrestling community as "family" and their caring and strength was just like
family looking after family and we'll always be grateful.
Moc's Memory Page
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- John S. "Moc" Toggas will be inducted into the 2010
State Hall of Fame in April of next year in State College, PA. That
letter from Norm Palovcsik had to be a blessing! This, after Moc's dad
was inducted in
1992. I know that the kids Moc coached from Parkland -
Matt Roth, Sean Jenkins, Howie Miller, Roger London. Jim Best, Steve
Baumbach, Mario Moses, John Lantz, Brad Maurer, Kyle Wolfe, John-Tom-Andy
Yankanich, Keith-Matt-Kurt Pryor, and many, many more wrestlers played a big part of the
nomination. Are you excited about the induction ceremony next year?
Yes, we're so very proud of Moc and all he did... and we're also
very proud of all the young men whose lives he touched
and who made it their mission to see their "Coach T" inducted into the PWCA
Hall of Fame. His mother and I miss him very much and we know his
children, Matt and Sam really miss him as does his sister, Steph, her
husband Carl and their little son, Brock. We keep in touch with Moc's
wrestling kids, too and know too - that they miss him. We've always
been so proud of the great job Moc did at the Parkland Wrestling program.
Being a wrestling coach, as well as his proud father, I felt he put his
heart and soul into a mediocre program and turned it into a State and
Nationally ranked program. Of course, he didn't do this alone... he
had great coaching assistants and an outstanding bunch of tough and talented
kids! He was also fortunate to have great supportive parents and a
cooperative administration. Moc was always a very hard worker no
matter what he did and I was always so proud of his dedication to his
wrestlers and their wrestling program. He coached four PIAA State
Champions (Matt Roth, Derek Jenkins, and Jon Trenge - 2 titles), a
runner-up, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th place winners at State's, also. He
was constantly searching for the toughest tournaments to enter because he
felt that would make his kids tougher and more ready for the post-season
competition. In all my coaching associations and experiences, I've
never seen anyone study and dissect wrestling films the way he did. He
loved the sport of wrestling and always wanted to be the best... and he was.
Over the years, John and I have felt that Moc was a worthy candidate to be
inducted in the PWCA Hall of Fame and for the past seven years we've been
submitting his name for consideration. Last year, coming home from
States in Hershey, we talked about how disappointing it was that our letters
didn't bring about his nomination and since we were not getting any younger,
we were hoping we'd live to see him inducted. Well, a little over a
month afterwards, the unthinkable happened. As we thought about
submitting yet another letter to the committee this year, we decided why not
contact as many of Moc's wrestlers as we could reach as ask them if they
would consider writing letters to the committee expressing how they felt
about their coach, what they had learned from him on and off the mat and how
he influenced their lives. Their response was overwhelmingly
successful and THEIR letters
resulted in Moc's unanimous induction into the PWCA Hall of Fame and we're
so grateful to all of them. It's as we've told them, we felt, too...
that Moc deserved this honor, but knowing our son and how he always felt
about such things, we know the most meaningful honor for him would be to
know how his kid's felt. That's what mattered to him the most.
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- I forgot to mention earlier... it had to be a thrill to be part of the
1978 West York Wrestling
14-0 YCIAA Championship reunion held in January, 2009 at the WY/Dallastown
match! Your thoughts as you saw some of your former wrestlers, coach
John Sprenkle and the fans?
What a great evening! I want to thank you, Don and the Blazer (Randy
Blasdell) too, for all your hard work in the planning of this special event.
It was wonderful to see all of the guys and I'm so proud of all that you
have done - and that your West York Wrestling experience is still so
important to you. Seeing my 1978 "kids", Coach John Sprenkle (one of
my "kids:, too) and the many wrestling fans, made it a night to remember for
I was so sorry that I couldn't make the 1978 WY Wrestling Championship
reunion because I had committed myself to take care of Brock that weekend.
As much as I love wrestling, family comes first! I can tell you that I
heard all about it and how much it meant to Coach JT to get together with
all of you and reminisce... thank you for making it such a special night for
him and his "kids." I truly don't think anyone enjoyed it any more
than your coach. Thank you for all you do for West York Wrestling
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- Coach & Mrs. Toggas, thank you so much for sharing your memories with the
westyorkwrestlingalumni.com readers. And, most of all - thank you for being a
big part of my family, life, and also for being dear friends through the
Our wrestling team was more than a team, we were family and we took
care of each other and cared for each other... and still do. I would
like to thank all the kids I
had out for wrestling. We had a really great group of kids who worked
very hard to develop the fine program we had. I did push all the kids
we had out for wrestling to go to college or further their education beyond
high school because I felt it would give them a better shot at a good and
secure future. I am so proud of all of you who did go on to college
and also those of you who didn't, but have worked hard and made something of
I really did want the best for all
of you. I wish I could do it all over again - it was FUN.
We had a good program and we all worked hard to be the best and we were.
Thanks, Don Lehman - for all you have done with the websites... and the work
you continue to do with the Alumni. I thank all of you from the bottom
of my heart.
Don, it is we, who thank you. You have always been there for us in
good times and in bad times, too. This past year and a half has been
devastating for us, but your kindness, your concern, caring and
encouragement have meant so much to us! Yes, you're one of JT's West
York Wrestling "kids", but you've become even more that that, you're like
The Toggas Family
(L-R) Mary Jane, John S. "Moc", Stephanie & Coach John T. Toggas.
▪ 1965 - West York High
School Phys. Ed teacher - John T. Toggas.
John T. Toggas Bio
(.729 Winning %)
6 Hall of Fames...
(York County - '95, District III - '80, Pennsylvania PWCA - '92,
South Central - '00, Adams - '01,
National Hall of Fame - '99)
Graduate of York High School - York, PA '51
(lettered in football, wrestling and track @ York High)
Attended Millersville State Teacher's College & York Junior College
Graduate of Gettysburg College - Gettysburg, PA (BS in
Graduate of Western Maryland College -
(Masters in Education) '71
▪ As a Coach at Biglerville and West York
(over 30 years)
5 YCIAA Titles, 6 Sectional Team Championships, 83 Sectional Champions,
12 District III Champions, 12 Regional Champions, 16 PIAA State Qualifiers,
2-3rd Place PIAA State Finishers, 2-PIAA State Runners-up,
3-PIAA State Champions*,
2-times YCIAA Coach of Year, PIAA Wrestling Official, NCAA Rules Committee (HS
∙ Founded the West York Elementary Wrestling Program.
(L-R) West York Wrestling Coaches - Bob Bowers & John T. Toggas.
T. Toggas "Top 60" Wrestling Team
JT Toggas coached York, PA's
1st PIAA State Wrestling Champion...
1965 - Dana Luckenbaugh
1972 YCIAA Sectional
Toggas and one of his
the late A. Scott
▪ The West York HS Weight Room "addition" is in memory of A. Scott Callahan
and was donated by his father, Norman M. Callahan, Jr.
1983 West York
Wrestling Dual Meet vs. Central York
(L-R) Coaches John T. Toggas with son
John S. "Moc" Toggas,
and standing in back (middle) is assistant Kevin McCleary.
JOHN T. TOGGAS
▪ West York Head Wrestling Coach,
John T. Toggas
receiving award from the West
Coach John T. & Mary
Jane Toggas Memorial Scholarship
The John T. Toggas Page