Tyrone losses a wrestling legend

A local sports legend was taken from us this past week. When we received the news that Bruce Wallace had passed away over the weekend, it seemed like something dear had been taken away from each of us.
If we think about Tyrone Area High School and its ties to sports, two things immediately jump to the forefront.
Football, which is just kicking into gear with fall preseason practice beginning this past Monday, culminating in that greatest of games-the annual Backyard Brawl with Bellwood-Antis. In northern Pennsylvania, we eat sleep and revere football.
The second is wrestling and by no means in number, but only perhaps because the football season comes upon us first and then when the leaves are gone from the trees and the weather is colder and harsher, we go indoors and we turn our hearts to the wrestling mat. This is not a recent thing, it has been going on for more than 50 years.
Bruce was THE wrestler during the early 1980s in Blair County and far beyond. Twice, Bruce went to war at the old Hershey Arena in the ultimate high school wrestling tournament and in 1982 and 1983, at those state tournaments Wallace brought home the PIAA State Championship medal.
Wallace was 37-0 in his senior year 1982-83, was never taken down and almost never even slightly challenged.
Those of us who were fortunate to see Bruce wrestle at Penn State’s Rec Hall in the initial Challenge of Champions in 1983, between the highest placing senior in Double-A against his counterpart in Triple-A saw more than a win. Wallace got that double-arm bar on Erie Tech brute Craig Costello and the entire building erupted with the screaming and applause and yelling of the fans who witnessed the annihilation.
His wrestling record at Tyrone, under head coach Tony Yaniello, over four seasons was 111-15.
Tyrone wrestling under present coach Blair Packer has been phenomenal. Before all is done, there may be seven Eagle wrestlers who were teammates on the 2003-04 team, finish with 100 wins or more. Several have and will take turns setting and resetting the school record for career wins. But to put what Bruce Wallace achieved in perspective, one has to look at a few facts. All teams wrestled in less individual matches in those earlier years and tournaments usually consisted of eight teams or less with few exceptions. Wallace finished his high school, wrestling career in the spring of 1983. At the time, Wallace was tied for the record in wins in all of District VI. It would be 21 years before Thadd Westley broke Bruce’s school mark in 2003-04. Terry Tate reset the record this past March. Wallace had wrestled as a freshman at Tyrone and had won a district title and placed sixth at states as a sophomore.
Perhaps the best memories we have of Wallace on the mat was his three memorable matches on the postseason tournament trail in 1982, against Huntingdon adversary Greg Wykoff. In the district finals, at Tyrone, Wykoff slipped past Wallace to earn the crown. The two grapplers then wrestled through separate brackets at the Northwest Regional Tournament at Clarion with Bruce winning 8-1. Finally, and again in different brackets, the two opponents met once again for the state championship. This time the evenly-matched battle went into overtime, before Wallace emerged as the winner 1-1, 3-1. The district final loss to the Huntingdon senior, was Wallace’s only loss during his junior wrestling season
The only other wrestler to win a pair of state titles for Tyrone is Gib Fink.
Bruce went on to Bloomsburg State College, now Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania where he wrestled and earned a masters degree. Keeping his hand in wrestling, Bruce was an assistant coach at Line Mountain and later a head coach at Palmerton in District 11.
Bruce was elected to the Tyrone Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2000 and to the District VI Wrestling Hall of Fame a year later.
In each sport we have our favorite teams and individuals. Sometimes because of their stats and accomplishments, and sometimes because he was the kid next door, or down the street, or our son or friend of our children.
Bruce Wallace was a little bit of all of these to Tyrone. Never one-dimensional, he also played high school football and he played hard. The teams won more games than they lost each year 1980, 1981 and 1982, a remarkable feat at that time, because the teams the Eagles put on the field from 1971-77 did not have a single winning season on the gridiron. Wallace was a major contributor to that success. Wallace played only during the early part of the ‘82 season due to a knee injury.
Bruce Wallace was a success in wrestling and in life. He was a family man with five sons, the oldest 14, and he loved them all. Bruce was a hands-on father-he actually played with his children and backed them up in their decisions, although not to the point of going against their wrestling coaches!
Wallace, 40, a 1983 Tyrone graduate, was a teacher, a businessman in landscaping, who also raised horses. Bruce and his family lived in Pipersville, in Upper Bucks County. He was a very-likeable warm human. When Terry Tate won the 2005 PIAA heavyweight wrestling title, at Hershey, Bruce was there to congratulate him.
Bruce was so strong and virile. It is hard for us to accept that he is gone. There has been a constant buzz around Tyrone, coming from people who remember and respect and love Bruce Wallace. When you hit your knees tonight, ask a special prayer for his family and their sudden and final loss.