West York Wrestling



Feature Interview

Q&A with
West York Wrestling's
K.C. McCleary... WY '81

Ursinus College's K.C. McCleary

Ursinus Coach Bill Racich - "K.C. was a real pleasure to coach
and a true gentleman on and off the mat."


The K.C. McCleary Bio

K.C. McCleary
West York Wrestling's K.C. McCleary... graduated from West York in 1981...

but, it wasn't the senior year K.C. wanted as a memory.  He wasn't on the mats as a senior at West York.  K.C.'s West York Junior High School record was a stellar 22-3-1 (undefeated in 8th & 9th grades).  At West York Senior High - K.C. was a 2-year starter and earned a 3rd place finish at the 1980 YCIAA Sectional Championships @ 145lbs.  That year ('80) - K.C. lost to Spring Grove's Scott Wakeland in the semi-finals... and recalls having Wakeland locked up in a tight cradle and pinned... but, official Ralph Hartlaub wouldn't call the fall!  At the '80 District III tourney - K.C. lost his first match by fall to Brad Weigle of Cumberland Valley... (1980 District III AAA Champ).  That was it - the end of a "roller-coaster" wrestling career.

  K.C.'s "life on the mats" began at age six... following in the footsteps of brother, Kevin '73K.C.'s first day at Elementary Wrestling practice, which was for 4th through 6th graders, was scary.  K.C. was in kindergarten!  Coach John T. Toggas lined up the kids along the bleachers and asked for names and grades.  When he got to K.C. - the youngster said "no grade!"  For the next several years of the program, that was Coach Toggas's nick-name for K.C.  K.C. learned quickly at practice and LOVED every minute of it.  K.C. wrestled with great names like Dave & Tom Toggas, Steve Brown, Alan Silar, Rodger Gay, Brian Gay, Danny Shoemaker and lots of others.  Through those years, K.C. wrestled in many AAU and USA tourneys (folkstyle, freestyle, greco) while winning some and losing some against really good kids!  He competed against athletes like Wilbur Wolf from Big Spring (PIAA AA '81 Champ), Mark Dugan from Moshannon Valley HS (2-time PIAA AA '77 & '78 Champ) and Rico Chiapparelli from the Baltimore, Maryland area who was an '82 Blair Prep National Champ and NCAA DI Champ at Iowa University '87 @ 177lbs.

  In Junior High, K.C. had a very successful career (22-3-1) and won the Red Lion JH tourney twice.  When he moved up to the Senior High level at West York - it was a rude awakening!
K.C.'s first match was against Steve Bass of Warwick ('79 District III Champion @ 126lbs.) - and he got pinned.  K.C. was not prepared for that loss and his confidence in himself took a MAJOR hit.  K.C. shares that he never recovered from that loss... and since the mental part of wrestling is so HUGE, he started to lose additional matches that he should have won.  In fact, wrestling became a huge chore and quickly lost its joy.  He didn't make weight for a couple of dual meets.  K.C. quit the team for a period of time his junior year.  He then came back before the '80 sectionals.  That was the toughest time of his young life.  K.C. had a brother (Kevin) who was one of the best wrestlers in the history of West York.  He had set himself up to match Kevin's achievements.  In addition, K.C. felt pressure from his father to perform and never felt as if he fulfilled his father's expectations.  When he quit before the dual meet season ended - his father (Paul) didn't understand why - nor did he accept it.  K.C.'s relationship with his dad suffered.  However, God used this period in K.C.'s life to accept him.  K.C. had asked Coach JT Toggas if he could come back for the post-season after he left the team his junior year.  Coach Toggas was always supportive and not critical of him during this tough period.  K.C.'s dad wouldn't allow him on the team, but Coach Toggas went to bat for him and talked his dad into it.  The '80 Sectionals rolled around and other teams came to practice with West York.  K.C. had practiced with Spring Grove's best wrestler, the very tough Scott Wakeland, and could cradle him.  Wakeland and McCleary met in the Sectional semi's - and while losing 8-0, McCleary cradled Wakeland and had him FLAT.  K.C. knows the official (Ralph Hartlaub) missed the call, but life goes on and K.C. went on to gain a 3rd place, good enough for his only District III tourney experience (1980) in high school.   When the '80-'81 YCIAA season began at West York, K.C. was not on the mats... nor, would he return.  K.C. did not compete as a senior at West York High School. 

  Those events in K.C.'s life started a search for meaning and purpose in life.  At his high school graduation, K.C. was depressed.  Wrestling meant so much, but not achieving his goals caused him to evaluate things - and he turned to Jesus Christ.  K.C. started attending church and reading the Bible.  K.C. hasn't been the same person since.

  K.C. graduated from Ursinus College in 1986 with a B.A. in English and received his Masters degree in Public Administration from Penn State University in 1993.  K.C. wrestled and lettered at Ursinus College under former West Chester State College wrestler and current Ursinus head coach and NCAA Division III Hall of Famer - Bill Racich.  Coach Racich, in 2010, will mark his 30th year of coaching and his 400th win!  K.C. McCleary had a 56-29 career record at Ursinus College, was team captain as a senior - and had a great experience!  K.C. was a 3-time MAC Conference place-winner (5th in '83 @ 158lbs., 6th in '84 @ 158lbs., 6th in '86 167lbs.,).  K.C. placed 3rd at the '85 Lebanon Valley Invitational.  K.C. wanted to qualify for the NCAA DIII tourney, but it didn't happen.  While in college, K.C. really enjoyed following Dover grad and '83 PIAA State Champion - Shaun Smith (Delaware Valley) become a 4-time MAC Champion and 3-time NCAA DIII Champion!

  K.C. McCleary is married to Martina (in 1988) and they have three children... Lauren - 13yrs. old, Lydia - 11 yrs. old and Michael - 6yrs. old.  K.C. is an Assistant Administrator at the York/Adams Tax Bureau.
 K.C. McCleary is the son of Paul C. and Pat McCleary.  K.C. has helped his brother Kevin at Dover JH and was a wrestling official (something he might get back into doing!).  K.C., now 47 years old, is running and getting in shape - maybe in good enough shape to once again compete in the sport K.C. always loved - WRESTLING.

K.C.'s brother, Kevin - is a 1973 West York Wrestling Alumnus.

  ▪ West York Wrestling's Kevin McCleary (above right)... graduated in 1973, and in my (DL) opinion, is the BEST wrestler out of the West York Wrestling stable NOT to win a PIAA State title.  There are names - John Bowser, Neil Bupp, Jeff Meckley, Mike Stambaugh and others who had the potential for the title... but, Kevin McCleary had all of the tools to capture a state trophy.  Kevin had speed, strength and a vast array of moves to go along with his tenacity and love for the sport.  Kevin McCleary is one of TWO West York Wrestlers to go undefeated in their varsity high school dual meet careers... the other Bulldog being Dr. Glenn Amsbaugh.  Kevin was also undefeated in three years of Junior High dual meet competition!  Kevin McCleary is one of five West York Wrestlers to win three YCIAA Sectional Wrestling Titles, and is an Easton Holiday Tournament Champion and Outstanding Wrestler Award recipient in '72.  Kevin was a captain of the '73 (13-1) West York Mat Team and a great student.  Kevin's West York Wrestling Teams were 40-2 during his three year campaign with one YCIAA title in 1971-72.  Kevin McCleary... went on to F&M College, where he captured a 3rd place medal at the 1974 NCAA Division III National Championships @ Wilkes College... and, NCAA All-American status @ 150lbs.  Kevin was a freshman at F&M when he placed 3rd at the 1974 NCAA DIII Championships!  Kevin is currently Head Junior High Wrestling Coach at Dover, PA... and, a former Team Pennsylvania Greco-Roman Head Coach.  Kevin is also on the Icebreakers Wrestling Club coaching staff.  Kevin is married to the lovely Jane Hoover McCleary and they have a son, Shawn McCleary (an excellent wrestler and baseball player!) and a daughter, Kari McCleary.        Don

  I asked my friend K.C. McCleary... to complete an interview for the West York Wrestling Alumni website and fans.

Don Lehman
Don Lehman
Webmaster & Owner of westyorkwrestlingalumni.com

The K.C. McCleary Interview... by Don Lehman

K.C. McCleary Q & A

DL - KC, I want to assure you that I've always paid my taxes!  How is the job going at the York-Adams Tax Bureau?
KC -
Itís taxing!  Actually, there are lots of changes coming to local earned income tax collection that will affect the way we do things here.  One of the biggest changes is that you will now be able to file your local tax return online.  Also, in 2012, Northern York County School District and the Hanover area will become part of our collection jurisdiction.  A lot of work has to take place behind the scenes to make sure that the municipalities and school districts that we collect taxes for receive the revenue that is due them in a timely and accurate fashion.  We do our very best to make sure that happens.

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DL - I see that you entered the recent 2010 Keystone Games in the Masters Wrestling Division.  How did that come about and how did you do?
KC -
It never gets out of your blood.  This past February I stepped on the scale and weighed 192.  Itís the heaviest Iíve ever been.  So I decided I needed to change my lifestyle and start exercising.  Since leaving college in 1986 I had tried numerous times to get into an exercise routine and failed to stick at it.  But I knew that if I didnít do something now, at age 47, I never would.  So I started running and lifting, and by the end of June I was down to 168.  In fact, I felt so good that I worked out a few times with West Yorkís Broken Cage Wrestling Club, rubbing shoulders with Billy Randt and the guys.  It was the first time in more than a decade that I had been on the mats, and I loved it!  I started checking out USA Wrestlingís website, www.themat.com, to look for competitions for veteran wrestlers.  I learned that there are several held in Iowa and Utah each spring, and there is even a Veteransí Freestyle World Championship held in Europe each summer.  Guys compete into their 60ís, if you can believe it.  Maybe next year, Lord willing.  I found that the Keystone Games has a Masters division, so I took a leap and signed up.  I was in good physical shape but hadnít had a chance to really drill, so I was a little rusty.  I lost my first match to Mike Greco of New York, 4-3, giving up a couple of takedowns.  Then the organizers of the tournament threw us a ringer.  Itís supposed to be a double elimination tourney, so I would have wrestled Mike Greco at least once more.  Since I was in better shape than he was, I felt I had a real good chance of winning.  But the organizers put a 20-year old kid from the Open Division in our bracket (without consulting us), and he proceeded to beat both of us.  I pulled a muscle in my ribs and had to default against him.  So I wound up placing third.  But I loved it!  It was a fantastic experience, and I hope by next spring to be able to travel out west and wrestle guys my own age.
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DL - I entered a couple/three "Alumni Tourneys" that the York College staff (Rich Achtzehn-Tom Kessler) used to run.  Did you take a shot at any of the past YCP Alumni Mat Tourneys... and how was the experience?
KC -
I competed several times at the YCP Alumni Tournament, the last being 12 or more years ago.  I won it once or twice if I recall.  That was always a fun tournament.
DL note:  Rumor has it that K.C. McCleary beat West York PIAA runner-up and IUP wrestler, Jeff Meckley at one of those old YCP Alumni Tourneys!

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DL - KC, you started wrestling at age six.  I see that your son Michael is six years old.  Is Michael showing any interest in the sport of wrestling?  How young is "too young" to start the sport?
KC -
Michael loves to wrestle his dad on the living room rug, and I hope to introduce him to some elementary wrestling this fall.  Itís not too early to start teaching the basics, but I believe it is too early to compete.  It needs to be kept fun, and the pressure kept to a minimum.
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DL - I'm sure that following in the footsteps of your brother Kevin was tough!  And, your dad, I'm sure... expected you to succeed just like he expected Kevin to succeed.  Did you feel that pressure and how did you deal with it?
KC -
I definitely felt that pressure, but it was largely self-inflicted.  Kevin was undefeated in dual meets, and itís hard to follow that act.  But he was my inspiration, and I was immensely proud to be his younger brother.   As I got older I was not as successful as he had been and I began to doubt myself.  I lost many, many matches simply because I didnít believe I could win.  The mental game is the biggest part of being a champion, and my mental game took some hits that I wasnít able to recover from during my high school career.
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DL - What was your relationship like with your brother (Kevin) during your "younger" years growing up - and, did he help you learn the ins and outs of wrestling?
KC -
We were very close, and he taught me just about everything I know about wrestling.  He coached those Junior Olympic AAU teams I was on starting in 1974, and they were tremendous learning experiences.  As I got older, he and I would wrestle and bang heads.  We got to know each otherís style so well that we could anticipate the each otherís moves.  But he was always the better wrestler, and wrestling him improved my skill.
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DL - Since I graduated with Kevin, I remember your grandparents and mom being at every match!  I don't want to exclude your dad... because he was at every practice and every match!  I know he was a PIAA wrestling official at one time... and, he seemed to be very passionate about the sport of wrestling.  Tell me about that total family support you had during your wrestling career?
KC -
Yes, wrestling was the focal point of our lives for much of my youth.  We traveled to tournaments all through the summer, all over the state.  Everyone was passionate about the sport.  My mom filmed all our matches on a Kodak Super-8 camera, and we still have those old films.  Sometimes you get seasick watching them, because mom had trouble holding the camera steady when one of her boys was on the mat.  My grandfather, Paul McCleary Sr., followed all the West York wrestlers starting with Dana Luckenbaugh ('65 PIAA State Champion).  He (my grandfather) absolutely loved watching the sport.  My dad never missed one of my matches that I remember, and he was always there to cheer me on and encourage me.  He (dad) often got a little too passionate and had to cool off after a match.  When I was in junior high someone showed a tape at the awards banquet of all the dads watching their kids wrestle during the year.  It was the funniest thing to watch their antics and gyrations during a match.  My dad was one of funniest.  I wish I had that tape today.
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DL - KC, your Junior High wrestling experience was successful, as you only lost a handful of matches and were undefeated in 8th and 9th grades.  But, when you hit the Senior High level... you hit a wall.  Was it a mental or physical determent that frustrated you?
KC -
It was mental.  My first match as a 10th grader was against Warwickís Steve Bass at 132 lbs.  Steve Bass was a ('79 District III Champion @ 126lbs.) and very tough.  He pinned me.  The loss completely shattered my confidence.  Iím not sure why, but I was unable to recover from it in the years to come.  Physically I was strong and in good shape.  I was always a good practice wrestler.  I could hold my own or beat anyone in the wrestling room.  I always tried to set the pace in practice.  But for some reason I couldnít translate that to "live" competition.  I would make mistakes and give up points, and end up losing a match I should have won.
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DL - Do you think that cutting weight was a factor in the loss of interest in the sport of wrestling... or, did you cut weight the wrong way?
KC -
It certainly took the joy out of the sport for me, because I didnít know what I was doing when it came to losing weight.  I would starve myself and then binge over the weekend and come in 10-15 lbs. overweight.  Several times as a junior, I didnít make weight for a match.  I would sit in sweat boxes and saunas, go home and run at night after practice, and hate every minute of it.  During the dark months of January and February my junior year, I lived in a constant state of depression because of the weight loss grind, even though I never cut a great deal of weight percentage wise.  Other guys on the team lost more weight than I did, but it was always a struggle for me.
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DL - You walked away from the sport during your junior year at West York - and then came back for the '80 YCIAA Sectional Tournament.  How tough was that decision?
KC -
Tough doesnít describe it.  It was a nightmare for me.  I left my team down, disappointed my family (especially my dad), and felt a personal sense of failure unlike anything Iíd felt before.  But I was totally burned out by that point, and I wanted out.
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DL - Through those tough times... you stated that Coach John T. Toggas never gave up on you or berated you when the decision was made to leave the team during your junior year.  I'm sure you never forgot that support from the coach.
KC -
He was like a second father to me.  I canít overstate how much respect I have for Coach John T. Toggas and his support of me during that time.  When I finally wanted to come back, my dad wouldnít let me, because he was angry at me for quitting.  But Coach Toggas came to my house and talked to my dad into letting me wrestle the end of my junior year.  I will never forget that.  It is the reason I got back into the sport and went on to wrestle in college, and why I still love to compete today.  I will always admire Coach Toggas for that.
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DL - KC, you took a year off after graduating from West York before making the decision to enter Ursinus College in the fall of 1982.  What did you do during that "year off" and why did you choose Ursinus College?
KC -
I worked painting houses and wrestling in some tournaments.  It was good for me to take some time off from school.  I applied to Ursinus because my dad graduated from there.  The events of my high school career had caused me to start searching for meaning and purpose to my life.  At my high school graduation, which should have been a happy time, I was really depressed and lost.  I didnít know what I was going to do with my life, and having failed to meet the goals I had set for myself in wrestling caused me to evaluate what was really important in life.  It was at this point that a friend introduced me to Jesus Christ.  I began attending church and reading the Bible.  In Christ I found a Savior who offered forgiveness for all the selfish things I had done, and a purpose for my life far beyond anything I had known before.  I havenít been the same since, and I praise Him for it.
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DL - It sounds like you had a GREAT experience at Ursinus College wrestling for NCAA DIII Hall of Famer in '03 - Bill Racich!  Tell me how Coach Racich influenced your life and... how did it feel to again - experience mat success later in life at the college level?
KC -
I did.  It was interesting, because I already had a connection to Coach Bill Racich through my brother, Kevin.  Bill had wrestled Kevin at the West York Summer Wrestling Tournament during Billís days at West Chester State and Kevin beat him.  When I showed up he knew who I was, and when I ducked him on the first day of practice, he said that Kevin did that to him too!  Coach Racich pushed us Ė hard.  He definitely made me a better wrestler, and one season he brought in a workout partner for me Ė Jon Moser, who had been a PIAA State Champion ('79 @ 126lbs.) while wrestling for Methacton High School  He pummeled me, but gradually I came to hold my own against him.  Wrestling against competitors of that caliber always caused me to wrestle better.  We had some great workouts.
DL note:  Coach Bill Racich e-mailed that "K.C. was a real pleasure to coach and a true gentleman on and off the mat."
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DL - I know you were a wrestling official in the past... are you thinking about getting back into it at some point?
KC -
I would love to when my kids get a little older.  I always enjoyed officiating.  Itís a great way to give back to the sport that has meant so much to me.
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DL - KC, I want to thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts with me and the westyorkwrestlingalumni.com website readers!
KC -
Thank you, Don!  I am very humbled and honored to be interviewed, and to have been a part of the great history of West York Wrestling.

You can e-mail Don Lehman HERE!

1976 Junior Olympics Article w/West Yorkers!

'81 Nebraska AAU Wrestling Trip
(L-R) Bill Webb, Kevin McCleary, Herb Webb, K.C. McCleary, John T. Toggas,
Kevin Hannigan, Paul C. McCleary, Brendt Gladfelter.

'81 AAU Freestyle Nationals @ Lincoln, Nebraska
(L-R) Medalists - Kevin Hannigan, Todd Kern, Brendt Gladfelter, K.C. McCleary


1978-79 West York Wrestling Varsity Team
Front (L-R) Loren Emig, Joel Pugh, Dave Toggas, Van Emig, John Silar,
Mike Einsig,
K.C. McCleary, Dan Shoemaker.
Back (L-R) Don Botterbusch, Dennis Heath, Alan Silar, Marty Szala,
Mark Younker, Scott Luckenbaugh, Thomas Tallman.  (larger photo w/staff)


1983 Middle Atlantic Wrestling Championships @ Lycoming College.
▪ Ursinus College's
K.C. McCleary (right) places 5th - 158lbs.

Ursinus College DIII Hall of Fame Coach ('03) - Bill Racich

1989 @ South Western HS - K.C. McCleary officiating!

              1948-49 West York Wrestling Team
     ∙ 1st Row (L-R) Edgar Swartz, Gene Wise, Llewellyn Miller, Dale Bahn, Leon Senft,
                                             Paul C. McCleary, Lynn Harbold, Mark Reeves.
     2nd Row (L-R) Russell Aldinger, John Bare, Wayne Miller, Elvin Clark, Glenn Miller,
         Philip Hoover, Austin Edgington, Richard Barley, David Hoover.
     3rd Row (L-R) Nolan Hengst, Donald Becker, Charles Smith, William Zech, Lester Mollison,
                                             Donald Nace, William Aldinger, Donald Rudisill.
     4th Row (L-R) Coach Chuck Richards, Harlan Mummert, Wilbur Klinedinst, Robert Miller,
                                             Jack Hayes, Gene Kessler, Whedon Myers.
*click here for larger '48-'49 photo page

McCleary 3rd @ Keystone Games!

  8-4-12 - '81 West York and '86 Ursinus Alum, K.C. McCleary (right)
decisioned Tim Reitz...
3-0, to take the Bronze at the Keystone Games!
Congratulations K.C.!  All that running around Herman Dr. is paying off!


Other Archived Q & A Interviews:



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