By STEVE HEISER
Charlie Jacobs loves wrestling.
He loves the toughness it demands.
He loves the lessons it teaches.
He loves the character it develops.
And, most especially, he loves the way it turns boys into men.
For those reasons, Jacobs dedicated much of his life to the sport, first as a competitor and later as a coach.
Now, the wrestling community is paying back Jacobs for his many contributions.
The longtime Dover High School coach has been selected for induction into the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony is set for April 12 in State College.
The Shiloh resident becomes just the 10th man from the York area to earn the honor, joining Charles “Chuck” Richards, John Toggas, Bill Bence, Dr. Ken Ober, Terry Conover, Shaun Smith, Joey Wildasin, Tony Koontz and Brad Lloyd.
Those are legendary wrestling names in these parts, and Jacobs certainly deserves to be in their company.
“It’s a great recognition,” Jacobs said. “I was elated to hear that. When you look at the list of inductees, to join that kind of group, I’m really elated and happy to get that recognition.”
As a high school wrestler at Dover, Jacobs won a sectional title at 95 pounds.
He then served as the Dover High head coach from 1976 through 1992, compiling a 194-56-2 overall record (77 percent), including a 141-32-1 league record (81 percent). He won two York County titles (1983, 1984), four sectional crowns (1980, 1984, 1991, 1992) and a District 3 championship (1983).
He also coached 40 individual sectional champs, nine individual District 3 champions and one state champion (Shaun Smith in 1983).
Jacobs credited much of his success in wrestling and in life to two men who coached him at Dover High — Leon Senft and Harry Little. They served as his role models when he started coaching.
At the height of his coaching career, however, after winning his fourth sectional title in 1992, Jacobs decided to step away. Not because he was burned out, but because his family came first.
“My first son was 2 years old and I needed to be more involved in his life than in coaching,” he said. “I wanted to move on and do a better job of raising my son. Wrestling was always in me and will always be there. You appreciate the effort that kids put into the sport. The life skills they learn are just so valuable, and to see them go on in life and succeed is gratifying.”
After retiring from coaching at Dover, he continued to offer some individual coaching instruction and also became an avid spectator. In 2005, he was inducted into the York Area Sports Hall of Fame.
Keeping busy: At age 67, Jacobs continues to keep busy. He currently works at River Rock Academy in Spring Grove, which provides alternative education services. That followed a 37-year career in public education, including 30 at Dover. He also serves as chairman of the York Sports Night Hall of Fame Committee and said he plans to volunteer at the prestigious Cadet Duals national wrestling tournament, which is scheduled to be wrestled at the Utz Arena in each of the next three summers.
Jacobs was nominated for PWCA Hall of Fame by his friend, Don Lehman, who is a 1973 West York grad and the webmaster for westyorkwrestlingalumni.com, a very well-regarded wrestling website.
“Charlie loves the sport of wrestling and promoted the sport for many years,” Lehman said. “I have spoken with athletes that wrestled for Charlie at Dover and others around the county that worked with Charlie in the offseason, and all spoke very highly of him as a coach and a great man. Charlie is one of the most positive people I know. He loves to talk about wrestling and sports in general. … Charlie genuinely cared about every athlete he coached.”
Jacobs is still passionate about wrestling, and is quick to admit he’s concerned about its future. High school matches these days are often littered with forfeits and the Olympics recently tried to eliminate the sport.
“You don’t play wrestle. You play baseball. You play basketball. You play football,” Jacobs said. “Wrestling is a lot of work. It takes a special kid to put in that kind of effort into succeeding. I am worried about it. But you can’t make it less difficult, because it’s so rewarding after the effort is put in.”
Jacobs is a prime example of the type of man that wrestling can mold. And on April 12, the Pennsylvania wrestling community will bestow him with one of it highest rewards.
It’s an honor he richly deserves.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.