Tribute to Art Weiss
The great man of PIAA wrestling, former Clearfield wrestling coach Art Weiss, has died at the age 102 in Clearfield.
Emphasis on great man.
Most Pennsylvania wrestling fans, even those new to the sport, have heard of Weiss, and for good reason: Weiss coached a PIAA record 31 state champions and made Clearfield one of the prominent names in state wrestling.
But his state champions, spread among 24 individuals, are just his most visible public legacy. Art Weiss was first and foremost a gentleman who took a sport in which he never participated and molded it into one of the great athletic endeavors and sporting events in Pennsylvania.
We are all proud of Pennsylvania’s wrestling history and heritage. And much of that heritage stems directly from Weiss’ effort as a coach, official and contributor.
Weiss graduated in 1927 from Nazareth High School where he captained the football, basketball and baseball teams; Nazareth had no wrestling at the time. His first exposure to wrestling came at Perkiomen Prep, which he attended before matriculating to Albright College. Wrestling caught his eye, but he did not participate in the sport. (Some bios about Coach Weiss, who is a member of the National High School Sports Hall of Fame, are here and here. God bless the Internet.)
So Weiss, the man whose name is synonymous with high school wrestling in Pennsylvania, never wrestled a minute in his life. In fact, Weiss came to Clearfield after graduation from Albright as a basketball coach. Clearfield had decided to start an intramural wrestling program in the mid-1930s and Weiss agreed to develop the program. Little did anyone know the history that would spring from that decision.
Weiss was just an extraordinary man who had an incredible ability to remember details. My first year at Clearfield Area High School was Weiss’ last as a math teacher (I was not in his class, darn it) and my wrestling career was a bit stunted (0-0 at the varsity level; I love to tell people I never lost a varsity match at Clearfield). So I was a very minor figure in the Clearfield wrestling hierachy.
But I did write for The Progress, my hometown paper, and Weiss took note, one time calling me at the paper to tell me how much he enjoyed my articles. Folks, it was like getting a call from God Himself. I’m not alone when I tell you I had that much respect for the man.
And, of course, I always called him Coach Weiss, even though Ron Park and Neil Turner (Coach Park and Coach Turner, to this day) were my high school coaches. (Coach Park once introduced to me to a friend as “the toughest JV wrestler he ever had at Clearfield.” I still haven’t quite determined whether that was a compliment or an insult, aside from the fact that, um, I wasn’t very tough.)
Weiss lived a simple, but plentiful and important life: He positively affected hundreds of young men directly, thousands more indirectly. And although his health slowly deteriorated in the last few years of his life, he remained bright and alert right up to the last days.
Art Weiss was a wonderful and remarkable man. I have always been grateful that he remained in Clearfield and gave my hometown a deep sense of pride and honor.