Colleagues remember Lockcuff

Brett Michaels was still in junior high, but he remembers the match so vividly that best exemplified the coach, and the man, that Phil Lockcuff was.

Lockcuff’s Shikellamy wrestling team, the No. 1 Class AAA team in the state, was hosting North Schuylkill, the No. 1 Class AA team. And just after weigh-ins, North Schuylkill standout Chris Rickard, who eventually became a state champion, was informed by Spartans head coach Joe Cesari his younger brother had committed suicide earlier in the day.

When it came time for Rick-ard’s spot in the lineup to take the mat, North Schuylkill didn’t have a wrestler to send out in Rickard’s place. Lockcuff pulled his wrestler back from the mat, refusing to take the six points for the forfeit, even in such a big match.

“That kind of thing speaks volumes,” Michaels said. “Especially now in this day and age when everyone is so concerned about wins and losses and their magnitude.”

Lockcuff, the longtime head wrestling coach at Shikellamy High School, died Thursday night at the age of 75. Lockcuff was a 1955 graduate of South Williamsport High School and was inducted to both the Pennsylvania and National Wrestling Halls of Fame in 1995 and 1998, respectively.

As the head wrestling coach at Shikellamy from 1974 to 1996, Lockcuff compiled a 348-74-6 record. He won Class AAA state championships in 1984, 1985 and 1995 and coached 12 individual state champions.

“During his time as a coach at Shikellamy, he made the standard for this area as far as wrestling,” Warrior Run head coach Wayne Smythe said. “His program was a very good program. They always performed well and they were always a challenge for others in the area to rise to that level.”

But for all his accomplishments as a wrestling coach, Lockcuff was remembered Friday as a far better man, one who never had a negative word to say about anyone. Following his coaching career, he began calling Shikellamy wrestling matches as an analyst for WKOK in Sunbury.

“He was always a gentleman. He treated everyone with respect,” said Tom Elling, publisher of Pennsylvania Wrestling News, who knew Lockcuff since his time as an assistant coach at Shikellamy. “He carried that on to his broadcasting with Steve Williams. He was just always praising people, whether Shik beat the team they wrestled, or the team beat Shik. He always had good words to say about both teams. I’m really honored to have known him.”

Despite his success as a wrestling coach, Lockcuff didn’t wrestle in either high school or college. He lettered in football, basketball and baseball at South Williamsport, and was a three-year letterwinner in football and baseball at Bloomsburg University.

He was inducted into the Bloomsburg University athletic Hall of Fame in 1995.

“His story is incredible. It’s something that will never be repeated again,” said Michaels, now an assistant wrestling coach at Lycoming College. “He was able to achieve what he achieved through motivational tactics and caring about the kids.”

“He’d probably admit that he wasn’t the greatest technician in the world, but he was a student of the sport,” Elling said. “He surrounded himself with good people and learned the sport inside and out. And to be successful when the competition was so keen and there were so many great coaches … He went through that Northeast Region, too, with District 11 and often times brought multiple guys to states.

“I think his kids genuinely loved him, and the old cliche of running through a brick wall for him. He elicited that kind of thing without being a rah rah kind of guy. He was so genuine that his wrestlers loved and respected him. They would do whatever he said and whatever it took to win.”

Lockcuff stayed involved in the sport through his broadcasting, but he never forced himself upon the coaches at Shikellamy who came after him. Michaels said he would often approach Lockcuff to pick his brain about certain subjects.

Michaels wrestled for Lockcuff and said he knew him since he “was in diapers”. He also liked the challenge of living up to the high standards he left with the Shikellamy wrestling program.

“His influence was paramount. I learned so much on how to approach the sport from him,” Michaels said. “He loved to win, but at the same time, he realized sportsmanship was relevant and a priority. He did what was right. He was a mentor in many respects, beyond just on the mat.”

Lockcuff’s mark on District 4 wrestling in indelible. He’s responsible for more than half of Shikellamy’s all-time wrestling wins. He’s one of five District 4 coaches with at least 348 career wins.

But from the stories shared following his death, his mark was made well beyond the wrestling mat.

“I’d be happy and I’d feel like I made an accomplishment if I could be half the man he was,” Michaels said. “It’s a cliche that’s thrown around too often, but I’ve never been around anybody like him.”