HYDE — To say there have been some legendary coaches at the helm of the Clearfield wrestling program would be an understatement.
The program began in 1934, founded by the “Dean of Pennsylvania Schoolboy Wrestling” Arthur J. Weiss, who guided the Bison to 184 dual meet wins over the span of his 25-year career at the head of the program.
There have been eight head coaches to follow Weiss, but only two — Gary Barton and current program leader Jeff Aveni — have eclipsed 100 wins.
Barton picked up 123 victories from 1983-93 and was the head coach of Aveni, who placed in the top 8 in the state as a senior in 1993. Aveni went on to become the ninth head coach in Bison program history eight years later and has become the all-time leader in dual meet wins with 208 following Saturday’s action.
Aveni, who led the program to its 700th and 800th all-time wins was unaware he had eclipsed the 200-win mark when it happened.
“Due to an error in record keeping (the record said we had 787 wins coming into the season when we actually had 798) we missed the program’s 800th win, which was also my 200th win against Philipsburg Osceola at a quad meet in Bellefonte this season,” Aveni said.
Aveni’s current record through the end of the regular season is 211-128.
Prior to becoming the head coach at Clearfield, Aveni was a varsity assistant for two seasons and a volunteer for one season. He also currently coaches Little League baseball, Pee Wee football, and has previously coached youth soccer.
He was a 2-year letter winner in football, and a two-year letter winner in wrestling at Clearfield. He played baseball until his junior year when he missed the season with a shoulder injury. Aveni also played travel soccer until he was 21 years old, and he earned an Eagle Scout Award in Boy Scouts.
Aveni went on to Lycoming College and wrestled there for four years, and was a member of the undefeated 1997 team which finished third in the nation in Division 3.
The long-time Bison head coach took the time to answer questions about himself as part of a series spotlighting area high school coaches in all sports:
The reason I enjoy coaching is ... I got into coaching to give back to the sport that most shaped me into the person I am today. I had the honor of having great coaches in the sports I competed in. Coach Barton was my varsity coach, Coach Smith was my junior high coach, Coach Janocko was my varsity football coach, and Roger Crebs was my wrestling coach at Lycoming. All are legends for lack of a better term and were great coaching models for developing my coaching style. I love helping and watching athletes work toward and achieving their goals. Wrestling is the ultimate sport for the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, and both have a tremendous role in the development of the young men that we coach. It is my honor to be a part of that experience with my wrestlers and athletes.
The hardest thing about coaching is ... I think the hardest thing today is recruiting athletes to come out of their comfort zone and try athletics. In all the sports I coach, recruiting athletes is a big part of it. If you give a kid a choice to go out on a mat or field and risk the chance of failure and having their flaws exposed, having to work hard to be successful or staying at home playing video games, it’s hard to convince them to come out for sports today. But the rewards of the hard work and the lessons from failures are the core of building character and that’s the great part of coaching, being part of the journey.
The biggest reason I continue to coach is ... Once again, just being part of the athlete’s journey, experiencing the thrills of victory, the agony of the defeat, and helping to learn the lessons along the way.
My real job off the court is ... I have been employed by Clearfield County as a probation officer for the past 23 years. Once again helping with the development of our youth. I am currently the school based probation officer at Clearfield High School, so that has definitely helped me continue coaching.
The person(s) who influenced me to get into coaching ... I believe my college coach, Roger Crebs is the person that inspired me to get into coaching. He was very hard on me, but for all the right reasons, and he guided me in the right direction many times while I was in college. He made me grow up, and I am sure it would have taken a lot longer without him.
My favorite team/season or game that stands out to me is ... I remember many matches, dual meets, and great moments over my career. Some of my favorites were Jonathan Graham winning his district championship, Shadoe Bauman winning the final match against DuBois to send us to the state team duals, the unbelievable performance of our team in the match against Hempfield in the state wrestle in, and many more. I love seeing our teams rise to the occasion and produce incredible performances that they have worked hard for. The 75th anniversary of Clearfield Wrestling was also a special season and was my only undefeated season in which the team went 15-0 in regular season duals, and 18-2 overall.
Has coaching during the COVID-19 pandemic changed your coaching style ... We have had to change our philosophy on the season definitely.
We started the season by preparing to compete right away, lots of live wrestling and conditioning, not much technique work until after we started competing.
My favorite thing outside of coaching is ... When not coaching something, including my own kids, I am usually hunting or fishing with my boys and now my wife has started to hunt, and I love to vacation with my family.