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Throwback Thursday: West York's wrestling success can be traced back to a 1965 state championship

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In 1969, West York had a pair of PIAA wrestling champions in John Sprenkle (heavyweight) and Bill Luckenbaugh (127).

In fact, that championship closed Sprenkle's stellar career with a 55-6 record and Luckenbaugh went on to star on the mat at East Stroudsburg, where he won both PSAC and NCAA Division II titles n 1974.

But the example of what was possible was set when Luckenbaugh's brother, Dana Luckenbaugh, earned the first-ever PIAA championship won by a then-YCIAA (now YAIAA) wrestler.

Dana Luckenbaugh topped former state champ Bill Welker of Shamokin High School, 4-3, in the 112-pound final.

Sprenkle said that, and the entire 1965 West York squad, showed his team how to be successful.

"I was blessed and fortunate to be on some great teams at West York," said Sprenkle, who was also a football star for the Bulldogs. "That '65 team was an awesome one. (John) Toggas was a phenomenal coach."

It capped an amazing three-year run for West York which won the YCIAA team championship from 1963-65, amazingly with three head coaches: Bob Brown, Ken Ober and Toggas.

Dana Luckenbaugh was a three-time YCIAA sectional champ. Teammate Darryl "Smokey" Dennis (120 pounds), won two sectional titles.

Several years later, his brother, Bill, followed by Neil Bupp, Kevin McCleary and Donald Lehman would go on to become the school's other three-time section title winners.

Sprenkle recalled seeing Dana Luckenbaugh when kids would go to the former A. H. Martin Elementary School and "roll out the horsehair" wrestling mats under the watchful eye of coach Don Strausbaugh.

"(Strausbaugh) could never keep Dana in the wrestling room. He always wanted to be up in the gym shooting baskets," Sprenkle laughed. "Everything to him came natural. He didn't have to work as hard as Bill and I did."

But Dana Luckenbaugh, who posted a 56-6-1 record as a high school grappler, was one of a kind. Just ask Charlie Jacobs, who wrestled at rival Dover during the same time period.

"He was very strong, he never panicked," Jacobs said. "He used to read the comics before the matches. Nothing excited Dana. He had extremely long arms and thick hands. When he put a tight waist on you, you knew it. He was very tough."

Reach Steve Navaroli at 771-2060.

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