A native of Washington and a 1950 graduate of Washington High School, Stan Dubelle transformed Trinity from a struggling program into a powerhouse.
From 1956 through 1966, the Hillers won 108 matches under Dubelle’s coaching and lost just 26 with one tie. His teams won four section titles, one WPIAL championship and guided the team through an undefeated season in 1964-65. Dubelle was in the corner when 38 wrestlers won section titles, 17 captured WPIAL championships and seven took state titles.
“I took over a program that had a foundation,” said Dubelle, now 81. “Two previous coaches – Bud Allison and George Reihner – were solid guys, but the teams struggled.”
“I had a lot of kids that didn’t have a lot of confidence,” he said. “Once they walked into that wrestling room, it gave them a chance to compete, a chance to believe they can beat anyone.”
Dubelle taught the team a great work ethic, developed from his days serving in the U.S. Army.
“Listen, I worked the pants off those guys,” Dubelle said. “I wasn’t a drill sergeant. I did have kids who went on to serve their country and came back to tell me that their basic training was a piece of cake compared to my practices. I was a tough coach, but I firmly believe I was a fair coach. These were my guys. I wanted them to have confidence in themselves when they left Trinity. I taught them how to win, and I taught them how to take losses. A lot of my guys were farmers who worked with picks and shovels. They were hard workers, (and) they had good attitudes. I just wanted to polish their skills.
“We had talented guys. I helped them with their attitude. At the end they became a confident individual. Talent did not always win matches. I’ll take a kid with some talent and a great attitude and work ethic and chances are he will become a consistent winner.”
Dubelle treated every wrestler the same, but he did have some who got extra time in the wrestling room. One was a three-sport athlete at Trinity.
“I didn’t play favorites, but I loved working with Bob Junko,” Dubelle said of the current football administrator at Pitt under Paul Chryst. Bobby was a heavyweight who was light on his feet. I worked him hard. He developed into a wrestler that would be tough to beat.”
Frank Mosier, a two-sport star at Trinity, wrestled for Dubelle from 1958 to 1962. He went on to become an NAIA wrestling champion.
“Coach always told us he would give us an opportunity to excel,” Mosier said. “We needed that. Most of us lacked confidence. … You got the same medicine from Coach whether you were the best in the wrestling room or just a borderline athlete. He didn’t care if you were white, black, Irish, Polish, Italian. Coach Dubelle would make sure you were on the same page.
“His practices were like a military camp. He was so tough. But he was so organized. That toughness became our trademark at Trinity. Coach Dubelle walked the walk and talked the talk. He inspired all of us. He was a great influence on everybody in the room. During practice, you never sat down. You didn’t talk much, no clowning around because coach never missed a thing.”
Dubelle wanted to win, but more than that, he wanted to teach his wrestlers how to be successful in everything they attempted.
“It was not about winning. It was learning how to win,” Mosier said. “Coach Dubelle believed in giving to your family and loving your country. Go to college, then come back home to teach. The influence from him was there from Day 1. He was symbolic of Old Washington, style and fairness. I’ve worked with a lot of coaches around the country, good guys with great records, but no one was like Dubelle. When he said everyone has a shot at winning and competing, he meant it.
“Everybody – and I mean everybody – got the same medicine. Kids who didn’t have confidence and got pushed around, well let’s just say Coach Dubelle changed that.”
During his coaching career at Trinity, dubelle did have some regrets.
“I couldn’t beat Waynesburg. They were good,” he said. “They were very talented and very well coached (by Ernie Closser). We beat some very good Canon-McMillan teams. Mt Lebanon was a powerhouse. We beat them. Those losses to Waynesburg, I take the blame for that.”
“Of course, he would take the blame,” laughed Mosier. “He wouldn’t blame the team. He never pointed a finger. He would say after a tough loss, ‘Guys, I’ll take the blame.’ Then a few minutes later, he would say, ‘Mosier, you should have gotten a pin.’ He taught us how to lose. He just wanted your best effort.
“And if you wrestled for him, you gave it your best. You had to; he saw to it. I really believe he was the Vince Lombardi of wrestling. Lombardi taught the Packers all about respect and confidence. A lot of times that confidence was the difference between winning and losing.”
Dubelle has written several books on student discipline and teaching. He was inducted into the Washington-Greene Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1987, the second such class for the organization.
“He made us a productive group,” Mosier said. “We earned respect from other schools. You had to be real good to beat us.”
The toughest part of Dubelle’s career was facing Wash High. The Prexies were coached by his brother-in-law, Stan Mousetis.
“He married my sister. It was tough going up against him. I wanted to beat him,” laughed Dubelle.
His biggest disappointment?
“In 1966, we sent a lot of good kids to state. Trinity alone had three good wrestlers: John Abajace, Ronnie Junko and Champ Long. Add to the mix the big kid from Avella, Ralph Cindrich. No one won.”
Bill DiFabio writes a bi-weekly column about local sports history for the Observer-Reporter.