Willie Saylor, Editor
We are proud to announce Chris Mary as our National High School Coach of the Year.
Coach Mary has done remarkable things in his 12 year tenure as Head Coach of Canon-McMillan. His teams have won three straight WPIAL titles wrestling in one of the nation’s traditional hotbeds of southwestern Pennsylvania. The last two years have seen his teams produce historical state performances. In 2011, the Big Macs won the state individual tournament with 6 placers. And this season, they even surpassed that, winning both the state duals and once again the individual tournament with a state record, eight placewinners.
Mary’s development began as a standout wrestler in high school where he placed 3rd, 3rd, and 2nd for Chartiers-Houston, helping them win the state team title in 1984. After a successful career at West Virginia, where he was an NCAA Qualifier, he moved back to PA and began coaching at Peters Township. 1994 brought him to Canon-Mac as an Assistant. He’d take over the head duties in 1999.
Beyond the tangible accomplishments and records, Coach Mary’s bunch emulates his fundamental coaching philosophy; up and down the line-up, his wrestlers put on display their well-coached skills. Additionally, the Big Mac wrestlers collectively portray sportsmanship, and get the job done in the classroom. The two graduating Big Mac seniors will attend the strong academic institutions at Cal Poly and North Carolina next season.
A father of two girls, Ava Marie (2) and Alivia (1 month), Chris Mary often compares his team and community support to his family, stating that everyone must be on the same page and sacrifice, as he jokes, his dedicated wife, Amy, has done so often throughout his career.
Although there were many worthy candidates across the country, Coach Mary’s leadership, development, and guidance made him a no-brainer pick for this year’s National Coach of the Year honors.
We had the opportunity to speak with Coach Mary about his team, his success, and the memorable season.
WS: Did you know that this group was going to be special years ago?
CM: We had a good idea that we had some talent coming up through the system. But we couldn’t have predicted this. All the kids developed so well. Kids like Alex Campbell (195) and (Cody) Klempay (HWT). They all worked hard and started believing both as individuals and as a team.
WS: What do you attribute the progress and development of this group to?
CM: We’re just like a big family that trains hard and fights for each other. Everyone plays as a team. They each have a role. No one wants to be the guy to let the team down.
WS: What do you stress as a coach?
CM: My big thing is character. I preach about accountability and responsibility on and off the mat. I also handle the conditioning side of things, but so many people play a part in making us who we are. I’ve been blessed with a community that is incredibly supportive. And I have a wonderful assistant, Glenn Haynes, who is just a tremendous technician. The technique you see out there, that’s Coach Haynes coming through.
WS: You won both dual and individual state titles. You set a record for number of state placers. It was a banner year. Was there any moment that stands out more than others? What was most memorable to you?
CM: My father hadn’t been to Hershey since I lost in the state finals in 1984. This year he wasn’t going to come either. We had a big match in the state dual semifinals with Central Dauphin who at that point won four straight state dual titles and won something like ninety-plus consecutive matches. When I walked out of the tunnel to bring my guys to the mat, there was my father in the front row. My eyes welled up. I’ll never forget that feeling.
WS: What can we expect from Canon-McMillan going forward?
CM: Our program is very healthy. I’m blessed. We have a great staff. There are numerous ex-wrestlers working our youth program. We have incredible support from the community and administrators. I’m confident we’ll be strong in the coming years.
2012 First Team All-Americans
Valencia, just a freshman, and Jr. Cruz, both had outstanding campaigns in 2011-2012. Cruz went 9-0 at Cadet Duals, won Fargo GR and placed in FS, giving him two finals appearances and three medals in three Fargo tournaments. Later he placed 3rd at Ironman after being a runner-up the previous year, won Beast of the East for the second time, and earned state gold. As a Soph., Cruz earned titles at NHSCA’s and Super32.
Valencia, whose high school debut was long anticipated after a spectacular career on the Schoolboy circuit, went unscathed in his first year in high school. He won the Ironman, a state title, and FloNationals.
Brooks had always been a national-level talent, but over the past year he sky-rocketed. In-state, he earned placings of 5th and 2nd before winning state gold this year.
Last summer, he was a Fila Runner-Up at 110, and a Fargo Runner-up at 112. He then bested a deep field at Super32, beating Nathan Tomasello, whom he lost to in Fargo Finals, for the belt.
Following the season, at Dapper Dan, Brooks beat 2-time PA State Champion and former Fargo finalist, Billy Rappo.
“DiCam” has had a long and productive career, earning two state titles. This year he became just the 8th wrestler to win three Ironman titles.
George also reached the finals of Super32 this year, and has three career placings there.
At the Dapper Dan, George defeated Jr. World Team Member, Nick Roberts, the #2 ranked wrestler in the country.
Gulibon etched his name in Pennsylvania lore this winter in becoming the Keystone State’s 10th ever 4x State Champion. He was an Ironman Champ last year, a finalist this year, and had three placings of 3rd or better.
Also a 4x POWERade Champ, Gulibon beat Iowa’s Cory Clark at this year’s Dapper Dan.
Along with HWT-Brooks Black, Jimmy is 1 of just 2 returning first team All-Americans.
One of the nation’s most illustrious careers comes to an end as Mark Grey graduates this year.
Grey, a Jr. World 5th placer last summer, is still tied for the record with 8 Tulsa National Titles. He has three titles, four finals appearances, and six medals in his Fargo career. Two more titles and five more medals were won at Fila’s.
This year, Mark became the 1st wrestler to win four Beast of the East titles, and the 10th to win four National Prep Championships. Other accolades include Cheesehead, POWERade, and Bethlehem Holiday Classic titles, and four Ironman placings.
One of the most entertaining wrestlers to watch, Whitford attacks with an aggressive, fast-paced style that has propelled him to win some of the nation’s premier events.
Last summer he won Fargo double titles for the second consecutive year. Never failing to reach the finals, Ben has five total stop signs and one runner-up finish in six career Fargo tournaments.
In October, Whitford won the Super32 in dominating fashion, posting five falls, a tech, and a major decision. He’s also won Cheesehead and Ironman titles, as well as two state championships in Illinois, and one in Michigan.
The 4xer from Indiana has an impeccable national resume as well. He won his first Fargo last summer after knocking on the door for years, with 3rd (’10), 2nd (’09), and 4th (’08) place finishes. At Fila’s, he was 4th in each of the last two years.
Tsirtsis was also a 2x Super32 Runner-Up, a 2x FloNationals Champ, and won his bout in the Dapper Dan.
Bo won his third state title this season. And after winning an Ironman crown as a Soph, he did it again this year, beating the #2 ranked wrestler, Isaiah Martinez (CA) in the finals. He’s on a two-year undefeated streak and was named to this year’s Clash All Tournament Team.
This sophomore’s first two seasons have seen him win two state and POWERade titles without taking a single loss.
In two years at Fargo, Marsteller has gone 3-for-4 in the stop sign department, winning double titles last summer. In October, he’d go on to win a Super32 belt in a bracket featuring eight ranked wrestlers.
Along with Mark Grey, Massa is 1 of just 2 of our 1st Team All Americans that was a member of the US World team. He’s long been a superstar on the high school level, winning Fargo titles as far back as 2008 when he earned a rare Triple Crown for winning Cadet Folk, Freestyle, and Greco.
In all, Massa has earned a four Fargo titles and six medals, and three Fila titles. He’s the only current wrestler to have won Fila JR’s (which feature college wrestlers), twice.
Massa has also had a fantastic four-year run at the Super32. He competed in the High School division as an 8th grader and placed 3rd. He was 3rd again as a Freshman, Runner-Up as both a Soph. and Jr., and won the belt as a Sr., to give him five Top 3 finishes.
Griffin is our 5th and final 4-time State Champion, winning titles at 160, 171, 189, and 182. This season, he was undefeated with a signature win over then-#1 Nikko Reyes in the finals of the Sierra Nevada Classic.
His Fila and Fargo performances resulted in four medals and one title.
Brandon reached the finals of Super32 in each of the last two seasons, winning it in 2010.
Peterson’s track record in the international styles is jaw-dropping. Starting in 2008, he’s been a double AA every year. He won double titles in 2009 and 2011 and has a total of five stop signs.
Devin won Fila Jr. Greco last spring, and was an alternate on the World Team.
In folk, he’s a Cheesehead champ and three-time state finalist, winning state gold this year.
Along with Marsteller and Valencia, Snyder is just our third wrestler that’s a Soph. or younger.
He came right out of the gates last season winning a 215lb Beast of the East title as a Freshman, and hasn’t looked back. In two years with a solid schedule, Snyder has yet to lose a regular season bout. He’s won two Beasts, two National Prep, and an Ironman title.
In his first Fargo, he reached the finals in both styles, finishing Runner-Up in GR and as a champ in FS.
Our top heavyweight last year is back again after an undefeated regular season that saw him win his second Ironman, Beast of the East, and National Prep titles. He also won POWERade, and beat a nationally ranked opponent in each of those finals.
Last spring Brooks again won Fila’s, his third title there, to go along with his three Fargo titles.