YORK, PA – Longtime York College head wrestling Coach Tom Kessler has announced 2012-13 will be his last season at the helm of the Spartans. Coach Kessler is entering his 21st season as a highly successful coach as he owns a career record of 304-133-3.
It's a decision that was not easy to make for the Spartan mentor.
"My decision was not an easy one and involved many hours of thoughtful consideration, particularly with respect to my own plans for my future," states Kessler. "I personally have paid a price for the rewards over the years. It is time to direct my attention to what should be most important. I am confident I made the right decision."
"It has been an honor and a privilege to coach so many outstanding student athletes. I enjoyed the teaching aspects of coaching the student athletes about wrestling, but most important about doing the right thing in life on and off the mat".
With the amount of time that a head coach needs to dedicate to a successful program, Kessler knows how essential his assistant coaches have been to the overall success of the program. Kessler lauded former assistants Mark Lentz, Joe Dominick, and Brandon Bailey along with current assistants Duane Bastress, and Cory King for their contribution to the Spartan program.
Kessler's accomplishments are many. He reached the 300-win milestone on January 28, 2012 with the win over Shippensburg. His team established a new single-season standard last winter as they went 25-4 during their dual meet season.
He led the Spartans to the school's first Metropolitan Conference wrestling championship in 2006 and then led the Green and White to a fifth-place finish at the 2006 NCAA Division III National Championship tournament, the highest finish for a York College wrestling team at the tournament. For his efforts in 2006, Kessler was named the Metropolitan Conference Coach-of-the-Year and later selected as the NWCA Division III National Coach-of-the-Year.
He has been named the Metropolitan Wrestling Conference Coach of the Year on four occasions, collecting the honor in 1996, 2004, 2006, and 2012. Under Kessler's leadership, Bastress earned the conference Assistant Coach of the Year in 2012.
Assistant Dean for Athletics and Recreation Paul Saikia appreciates Kessler's contribution to the department.
"Coach Kessler's contribution to our program is immense," says Saikia. "His record speaks for itself, but as with all college coaches, his impact on the student-athletes he has mentored, although harder to quantify, is even more important. I think the loyalty we see from our wrestling alumni tells the story. Tom has devoted himself to his athletes, the College, and his sport. I think all of us who have witnessed this over the years recognize his passion and appreciate the opportunity to have been associated with him."
Kessler has coached six Daniel J. Klinedinst award winners, an award given out to York's top senior male athlete. Kessler has also coached five Jake Jaquet "Fighting Heart" award winners, recognizing a senior Spartan student-athlete who has exemplified perseverance despite challenging circumstances during their career.
He has coach 45 NCAA Division III National Qualifiers, as 18 Spartans have earned NCAA Division III Wrestling All-American honors, which includes coaching Bastress, who ended his career as a two-time national champion. Kessler is also dedicated to his student-athletes getting it done in the classroom as the Spartans have had 25 wrestlers who have garnered NWCA Scholar Academic All-American accolades.
A 1985 graduate of York College, Kessler holds a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, a secondary education-teaching certificate, and a master's degree in special education. In addition to his Spartan coaching position, Kessler teaches Geography to 7th graders for the Northeastern School District.
A four-year letter winner and team captain while at York College under former head coach Rich Achtzehn, Kessler compiled a 75-15 collegiate record and captured numerous championships. A three-time NCAA Division III National Qualifier, he is the only Spartan wrestler to win two NCAA Division III Eastern Regional titles and in his senior year, he earned All-American honors with a fourth place finish at 126 pounds in the national tournament. He was also selected as an NWCA Scholar All-American by the National Wrestling Coaches Association as a result of his outstanding academic and wrestling record.
Achtzehn knew that Kessler would be a great leader for the Spartan wrestling program.
"When I was thinking about stepping down as York College's head wrestling in the late '80's I wanted my replacement to be someone who had a passion and understood the tradition of York College wrestling plus the ability to keep the program strong," states Achtzehn. "Tom Kessler was the first person to come to mind. Even after he graduated from York College in the mid-1980's, Tom always remained close to the program and me. I asked Tom to become my assistant coach in the late '80's and as I watched him the first couple weeks of practice and saw his passion for the program along with how well he connected with wrestlers I knew without a doubt he was the right person to take over the program. I knew Tom would not only keep the program strong but take it to even a higher level."
Kessler will be inducted into the National Wrestling Coaches Association National Division III Hall of Fame in March 2013. He also is a York County 2007 Hall of Fame inductee, and a member of the York College Athletic Hall of Fame.
Achtzehn knows the impact Kessler has had on his student-athletes.
"Tom's success as a coach is directly related to his uncanny ability to reach his wrestlers in so many different ways to get the best out of them on the mat, in their studies and as a member of the college community. His caring about their total development as a student-athlete is the real key to his success as a coach and the wrestlers he coached understood it. Unfortunately, York College is losing one of the best coach's in their athletic history and without a doubt the best wrestling coach they ever had. Tom will be hard to replace."
Kessler feels very fortunate to have an extended run at York.
"I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by great people during my time as head coach," says Kessler. "I am proud to have been a wrestler and a head coach at York. It was a great experience and I am excited about moving to a different stage of my life."
A national search for Kessler's replacement will take place at the conclusion of the 2012-13 season.