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History of the Lehigh Valley
Athletic Club

Founded 1999

A History of Putting People and Donations To Work

2000 Olympic Year: Thanks to the think big dreams of Head Coach, Greg Strobel, Penn State’s greatest-ever wrestler, Kerry McCoy, accepts offer to become our founding head coach and executive director of the LVAC, as well as Lehigh’s Volunteer Assistant coach. Thus continues a relationship where Strobel was already McCoy’s heavyweight coaching mentor for the U.S. World Team. Kerry arrives just before competing in the Olympic Games, where he places 5th in Sydney at 286 pounds. Wrestling writer, promoter and historian, Denny Diehl joins staff for PR and fund-raising role (2000 to present).

2000-01: A Joint LVAC/Lehigh U/NYAC World Team Trials Training Camp is held in the Spring in Taylor Gym, before a late summer Pre-World Championship Clinic/Camp.

2001-02: Annual LVAC Fall and Spring Clinics begin. The Club sponsors 2001 NCAA champ Mark Munoz (Okla State, 190) to fly from California to train with local athletes and the Lehigh University team.

2002-03: Multiple in-season visits are subsidized for ranked freestylers from the Olympic Training Center. Tim Dernlan (Purdue 1998 All-American; 2nd, U.S. National Open) and former Strobel captain, World Military Champion, Jason Kutz, visits to assist with lightweight training. This sets the stage for their later addition to the full-time Lehigh coaching staff.

2003-04: Olympic Year: $18,000 in extra funding is raised to support 3x Lehigh A/A Jon Trenge’s Olympic Training Center expenses, plus flights home to help train an NCAA 3rd place LU team. We also help McCoy send family to Athens (he placed 7th at 264) and Kutz continues to assist as part-time volunteer coach.

2004-05: Kutz becomes assistant coach to more fully replace Pat Santoro, whose departure in Oct. ’03 left Lehigh without a 2nd assistant coach other than LVAC head McCoy for 2003-04.

2005-06: After five years of service, McCoy retires from the LVAC as one the top four hwts. in U.S. history. His value was cited often by Lehigh protégés, including 10 All-Americans (20 medals; six trips to NCAA finals by 4 wrestlers). Trenge runs all clinics and breaks series records, adding first-ever Winter clinics, despite working two other jobs & going to Kutztown for teaching certificate; asks if he can assist for ’06-07.

LVAC Annual Fund sets a record for the 5th straight year by raising over $100,000 from gifts and sponsors, creating new funds to support area wrestling. Popular Lehigh Valley native, Jon Trenge (NCAA 2,2,2 for Lehigh; Olympic Trials 5th in ’08 at 211) agrees to handle all LVAC Clinics for the year – and he implements the innovation of a short series of annual late Winter clinic sessions designed as “Tournament Tune-ups,” to help area prepsters prepare for their high school post-seasons. Jon also donated funds toward a Fargo Challenge Gift program, with the LVAC now annually sponsoring 1-3 clinic particants per year, who need help to compete at Junior Nationals.

2006-07: In Club and University coaching moves, Chris Ayres becomes head coach at Princeton, with Kutz moving to East Stroudsburg for family reasons. Two with LVAC experience become full-time Lehigh assistants:  Trenge and  Tim Dernlan, the latter arriving from the Penn State staff, after service at Purdue and Ohio State. After a year assisting Kerry McCoy at Stanford, John Clark (2-time A/A, Ohio State ’04) agrees to become head coach/executive director effective Sept. 1, 2006.

Activity soars with Travis Frick’s weekly help at workouts and clinics, while working as an industrial engineer in suburban Phila; Olympic Champion Bobby Weaver co-hosted a clinic in Stabler Arena with fellow World medalist, Zeke Jones, head coach at the U. of Penn and Dernlan & Trenge create a Spring Intensive Camp in April ’06. Participants include local college and prep wrestlers mentored by regular LVAC staff, plus special visitors: Vic Moreno (NCAA 6,6 for Cal Poly; Top 3 in Senior Freestyle, 121) and former Penn Staters, James Yonushonis and Adam Smith. More innovation: LVAC Weekend Summer Campswere added, one each in Kentucky and West Virginia.

2007-08: Frick returns as a regular coaching and training contributor and Weaver makes three more special visits. In addition, former Lehigh Captain and NCAA 2nd, 3rd, Dave Esposito, (renowned clinic/camp teacher in Woodbridge, NJ) to run three days of local workouts and full practices. EIWA Champion, Dave Nakasone, does yeoman duty assisting with workouts during Spring, Summer and a second Intensive Camp is hosted in the Spring. An electrifying April ’08 announcement confirms the news that Greg Strobel was helpful in ensuring the return of his hand-picked successor, Pat Santoro, as head coach and LVAC overseer, with Greg now working with Lehigh’s Athletic Director.

2008-09: With the return of Lehigh Valley native, Santoro, LVAC activity again soars in Summer/Fall, with Trenge and Kutz serving as the first full-time pair of Club coaches, dove tailing their Club and Lehigh work with new full-time assistants, John Hughes and Brad Dillon.

The exciting 5-man staff is bolstered by a record level of total talent available to local wrestlers from age 10 to 23:  Frick continues his LVAC work all season until his corporate engineering career moves to NC. Trenge continues through the Fall, until beginning his planned career as a h.s. science teacher at nearby Parkland HS, his other alma mater (he’ll still help LVAC). Nakasone works until March, before the news that he joined the Army!

Despite the call of careers, the Club rarely missed a beat, thanks to active recruiting efforts by Santoro and his staff. Cary Kolat (NCAA 2,3,1,1, PSU, Lock Haven) becomes the sixth World medalist to be associated with LVAC’s history (McCoy, Weaver, Kutz, Zeke Jones –and Strobel as coach), unique among Eastern clubs. Matt Valenti (NCAA 5,1,1, Penn) visits Bethlehem three times for numerous workouts and is sponsored by the LVAC at the National Open (where he placed 3rd), World Team Trials and Canada Cup. Helping with the heavyweights is ’08 Olympic Trials 3rd, Pat Cummins (NCAA 4,2, Penn State). Mario Stuart (NCAA 4,5) joins LVAC in Fall ’08, as does local strength & fitness expert, Tom Koch (EIWA 1).

That’s an even dozen wrestling mentors in all – by far the biggest year in the Club’s 10-year history for post-grad participants receiving Club stipends.

2009-10: But it won’t stop there, as proven by Pitt NCAA champ Keith Gavin joining the Club in July ’09. The ultimate goals remain three-fold – to help young wrestlers in the greater Lehigh Valley achieve their best in both folkstyle and freestyle; to build Lehigh U and Lehigh Valley wrestling quality and to eventually some day build a 7-man LVAC team competing on the National and World stage.

That is our ultimate pledge as a commitment to using all donations (100% tax-deductible) to their fullest extent possible, for the improvement of the world’s oldest sport.

Join and become a donor today!