YORK, PA – The York College wrestling program received outstanding news recently as the National Wrestling Coaches Association has announced that a pair of Spartans have earned induction into the NWCA National Division III Hall of Fame. Spartan head coach Tom Kessler and former All-American and current assistant coach Duane Bastress will enter the Hall of Fame together in March 2013.
Kessler just concluded his 20th season at the helm of the Spartans. One could argue it was one of his best as the Spartans finished with a dual meet record of 25-4 while four Spartans went to the Division III National Championship tournament. Kessler earned his 300th career win on January 28, 2012 as his nationally ranked Spartans downed Shippensburg 20-15 at the Mid-Penn Duals in Millersville.
Kessler boasts an overall record of 304-133-3, good for a winning percentage of .694. He has coached 14 Spartans that have earned 18 All-American awards while he coached Bastress, a two-time national champion. Kessler is also dedicated to his student-athletes getting it done in the classroom as the Spartans have had 17 wrestlers who have garnered 25 NWCA Scholar-Athlete accolades.
Kessler feels very blessed to be recognized by his peers.
"It is special and a real honor to be even nominated by your peers as a possible HOF candidate," states Kessler. "To be voted into the Hall of Fame by your peers is very humbling and since I just found out it is hard to put into words. I do find it very gratifying to know that others have followed your career and appreciate all you've given to the great sport of wrestling."
Bastress is one of the Spartans' all-time great wrestlers. He is a two-time national champion and a three-time All-American. Bastress earned the titles at 184-pounds in both 2005 and 2006. He finished his senior season with a perfect 40-0 as he closed out his career with a second national title. He finished his three-year York College career with a mark of 97-6 while his four-year mark, including his freshman year at Bloomsburg, with a career total of 114-21. Bastress concluded his career with a 65-match win streak.
The honor is just starting to sink in for the former Spartan standout.
"The first word that I can think of is: WOW!" says Bastress. "It's a honor to be recognized by the NCAA Division III with such a high honor. I believe that its everyone's goal to make their sports HOF and now my name is beside some of the greatest names in Division III wrestling history!"
Spartan Asst. Dean for Athletics and Recreation, Paul Saikia believes the quality of the York College program is reflective of both Kessler and Bastress' efforts.
"We are very proud of the tradition of our wrestling program. Tommy and Duane have been major contributors, and it's awesome to see them recognized in such a prestigious manner."
Kessler treasures the honor even more as he gets to get inducted with Bastress.
"Going into the HOF along with Duane is kind of a dream come true. To be able to share two National Championships with Duane and now this, well what more could a coach ask for? He is a well deserving inductee, and I know it will be a special moment that neither one of us will forget for the rest of our lives. I only wish it was locally so all of our friends and family could attend, but we'll take it even if we have to travel to Iowa."
Bastress also feels the honor is made even more special by getting to go in with his long-time head coach.
"The funny thing is I actually nominated Coach Kessler to the HOF as a surprise! I believed that after everything that he has done for the sport and the generations of student-athletes that he has coached, he needed to be recognized! I believe that we are the first wrestler & coach from the same school to be accepted in the same year. That to me speaks volumes to the kind of team that we make together. It's awesome that someone I consider to be a father figure to me is able to share in the same accomplishment with me. Since I have come to York in 2002, Coach Kessler and I have been on the same page with everything and have made a great team. He has done a lot behind the scenes to help me reach both my personal and now professional goals."
Both Kessler and Bastress are appreciative of those who have supported them through the process.
"Obviously to get an honor like this you need lots of dedicated people surrounding you," states Kessler. "I have been extremely fortunate to have GREAT assistant coaches along with the many student/athletes we've had attend York who have found success in the classroom and on the wrestling mats. It is truly a team effort to receive an award like this, and although it may take some time, I'll be sure to mention as many past coaches and wrestlers who have made this award happen."
"I first have to thank my mom, dad, & sister, my #1 fan," says Bastress. "The four of us took many road trips over the summers to wrestling tournaments all over the east coast and without those three in my corner every step of the way none of this would have been possible. I also have to thank my wife & best friend, April, who has been there since my senior year cheering me on and pushing me to achieve both my personal and professional goals. There are many other people that I could thank but here are a few; Aunt Dort 'my 2nd mom' and the rest of my family, Coach Metzger (the man who taught me how to wrestle), Coach McCollum, Coach Nebel, Coach Lentz, Coach Kessler, Coach Dom, my friends who talked me into wrestling my eighth grade year, my teammates from Bloomsburg & especially YCP, the training staff at YCP, Gavin Luckman & Jerry Bowne, the two best drilling partners that I could have ever asked for. Thank you to everyone who helped me achieve this award! I am truly grateful for everything that you all have done for me."
The Spartan duo will be inducted March 14, 2013 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa at the 2013 NCAA National Championship Tournament.