The Gateway Wrestling program had it’s infancy in 1963 – 64 beginning with nothing except an enthusiastic inexperienced coach and a group of young participants willing to work hard and learn a new sport. How do you begin to build a program and achieve success in a sport that requires individual skills, dedication, experience, facilities, time and leadership to develop a group of young athletes into a cohesive unit with a team mentality. These were some of the many challenges facing the first group of wrestlers and Coach Bulazo in initiating the wrestling program and establishing a firm foundation for the future. Everyone had to “buy into” this sport and be sold on it’s merits.
Coach Bulazo recognized the pitfalls and developed a plan. He was a graduate of Springdale High School and Grove City College where he played football, however they had no wrestling program. He acquired his skills and coaching experience as a Graduate Assistant at The Kent State University School in Kent, Ohio. After some exploratory efforts in 1962-63, a program was initiated in 1963-64 thanks to GHS Principal Eugene Yarnel and GHS Athletic Director Henry Furrie which provided wrestlers the opportunity to scrimmage other schools. Only two team members had any experience in wrestling prior to moving into the Gateway School District. Facilities were lacking, hallways and make shift areas were used for team practices. Participants had never seen high school wrestling nor had any idea what was involved in this sport. The nucleus of teams for the next few years was beginning to form and develop. Students were from grades ten through twelve and a number were recruited by Coach Bulazo to fill the lower weight classes. The program was very fortunate to have athletes who were willing to work and to give their best personal effort and determination. Adjustments were made because of circumstances and lack of facilities, but conditioning, basic skills, wrestling from a down position and the mastering of these skills and pinning with emphasis on the latter became important for the team.
The results of the first year 1964-65 varsity wrestling team was a record of ten (10) wins, one (1) loss and one (1) tie. Nine of these wrestlers were members of the undefeated 1965-66 undefeated wrestling team. Actually, over a three year period, Gateway did not have a loss for twenty eight (28) straight matches. In 1964-65, there were seven (7) wins, one (1) tie, followed by fourteen (14) victories in 1965-66 and six (6) more wins in the 1966-67 season. During the 1965-66 undefeated season, Gateway scored 531 points which involved may pins as opposed to opponents 206 points. During these years, WPIAL Sectional Wrestling was used to determine qualifiers for the PIAA Championship, only the sectional winner went on to the Regionals and State Tournament. Rick Kotulak was the unlimited section champion from the 1965-66 team. He lost in the WPIAL tournament to the eventual PIAA State Champion.
During the 1965-66 undefeated season, Gateway had three very close meets with arch rivals, Penn Hills, Churchill and a power house Lower Burrell team. Gateway squeezed out a 27-26 victory over Penn Hills and needed three victories in the final three weight classes to defeat Churchill. The Lower Burrell victory was preserved when Paul Jagdman, 180 pound class pinned Lower Burrell’s star wrestler, Chuck Swanderski and previous PIAA place holder while behind 12-2 late in the third period and after receiving a warning for stalling. Over 50 wrestlers represented the 1965-66 team competing for 13 weight divisions. All worked hard and some filled in to contribute if a starter was unable to compete in a given match.
Many of these team members have confided that the values, work ethic and perseverance instilled from this team experience provided character traits for future life successes. Many team members went on to achieve personal, professional, community service and leadership positions. Several team members continued onto collegiate wrestling including GHS / HOF 2004 Individual Inductee, John Sattler. Also a contributing member of this team, not present in the team picture and roster who joined in mid year and became a starter for the 1966-67 team was Ron Stephenson. Three years later, Ron would become one of the five GHS Vietnam War fatalities.
Many years later, Mr. Furrie confided to the Henry J Furrie Scholarship Board that the early success of Coach Bulazo’s teams were a primary factor in establishing and keeping the wrestling program at Gateway High School. Coach Dick Bane would take over and guide the wrestling program to continued success and individual accomplishments. In 50 years of continual WPIAL Gateway wrestling, only one undefeated season record has been posted in 1965-66.
On behalf of Coach Bulazo and the team members, the honor bestowed on the 1965-66 undefeated wrestling team is a celebration of the team’s accomplishment and personal bonds that were developed years ago and remain strong today.
1965-1966 GHS VARSITY WRESTLING STARTERS
88 lb Tony Santangelo 133 lb Bob Fox
95 lb John Kudravy 138 lb Rick Crousey
103 lb Art Steinweg 145 lb John Sattler
112 lb Rick Shannon 154 lb Walt Adams
120 lb John Rutledge 165 lb Jim Zollner
127 lb Rich Pecora 180 lb Paul Jagdman
UNL Rick Kotulak
1965-1966 GHS VARSITY WRESTLING ALTERNATES
Chuck Carnish, Calvin Wilson, Rael Slutsky, Nathan Boring
Mgr Art Trunzo
Coach Andy Bulazo
1965-1966 GATEWAY WRESTLILNG TEAM RECORD
Gateway 37 – 14 Pine Richland
Gateway 40 – 11 Upper St. Clair
Gateway 37 – 19 New Kensington
Gateway 43 – 14 Kiski
Gateway 27 – 26 Penn Hills
Gateway 41 – 15 Munhall
Gateway 32 – 15 Wilkinsburg
Gateway 31 – 20 Thomas Jefferson
Gateway 32 – 16 Churchill Area
Gateway 47 – 6 Serra Catholic
Gateway 29 – 19 Lower Burrell
Gateway 55 – 8 South Moreland
Gateway 29 – 17 Penn Joint
Gateway 51 – 6 Elderton
14 Wins 0 Losses
Christmas Wrestling Tournament Champions
133 lb Bob Fox
145 lb John Sattler
154 lb Walt Adams
UNL Rick Kotulak
WPIAL Section Champion
UNL Rick Kotulak