We are wrestlers at Cambria Heights for coach Mike Eckenrode.
We recently read a letter saying that he should not have received the District 6 coach of the year award because he did not want to wrestle in the District 6 Duals.
Coach Eckenrode has always had the best intentions for us and did so with his decision to not wrestle in the duals.
He did not want to take the risk of any of us getting hurt and then not being able to make a run in the District 6 tournament.
Take Bedford's Tanner Williams, for example. He was a kid who had a good shot at making it to states and even placing. He did not get a chance to make his run because he broke his hand at the team state tournament.
Luckily, for us, no one got hurt wrestling at Mount Union, but Coach Eckenrode was just looking out for us.
In the letter we read, it said that Mount Union's coach should have been the District 6 coach of the year. Mount Union had no one in the district finals and Coach Eckenrode had five of his wrestlers in the finals. You're telling us that's not coach of the year material?
Two of his finalists beat Mount Union kids in the semifinals, and another finalist beat a Mount Union kid in the quarterfinals.
The letter mentioned that they do not know how District 6 could have given the award to him. District 6 isn't who decided who got the award. The winner was voted by the other coaches of District 6 so most of the coaches thought that Coach Eckenrode deserved it.
Coach Eckenrode was very deserving of that award. He knows his wrestling and how to push us in the mat room, but that's only part of being a coach of the year. The other part is caring about your wrestlers like they are your own family, and he does just that.
He was just looking out for us by not wanting to wrestle in the district duals. Coach Eckenrode is like another parent to us. He is our Coach Pappy.
Joseph Davis and Ross Inzana
'A man of character'
If the quality of a coach were measured on record alone, Mike Eckenrode, wrestling coach at Cambria Heights, would be among the best.
He's coached state champions, future collegiate All-Americans and national champions. However, if the District 6 Coach of the Year Award were based solely on wins, it's likely that this year's award would have gone to Mount Union's head coach, Corey Wertz.
Yet, coaching entails more than could ever be measured on a scoreboard. Unlike John Leonard, who wrote a letter criticizing the District 6 committee for selecting Mike Eckenrode as coach of the year - without realizing that it is voted on by coaches of all 24 schools in the district - I am not going to comment on the character of a coach whom I barely know.
My purpose is not to take anything away from Mount Union but to stand up for one of the most honest, hard-working men I've ever known.
Coach Eckenrode taught me how to wrestle, but it is his lessons on being a man of character - who accepts responsibility and enacts justice on behalf of others - that I attempt to instill into my two children every day.
As for attempting to opt out of the duals, Coach made a decision based on an ethical foundation and attempted to do what was right - not just for himself or his own athletes, but for the entire district.
This kind of selflessness does not warrant his being called "gutless" by a stranger who does not understand how the award is picked nor the flaws in the seeding of teams for the duals.
To quote Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., "The character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done."
If character is measured by the impact you have on those around you, Coach Eckenrode is more than deserving of this award.
Uninformed letter troubling
I have personally known Mike Eckenrode, Cambria Heights wrestling coach, for close to 20 years through a common sport in which we both participate - volleyball.
Recently a gentleman from Virginia wrote a letter to the Mailbag basically giving a tongue lashing to Coach Eckenrode and District 6 for choosing him as the coach of the year in Class AA.
The uninformed statements this gentleman made troubled me over the past week.
Coach Eckenrode is one of the most honest, forthright and caring individuals I have had the pleasure to be associated with both in the field of athletics and academics.
He is a class act, and the community of the Cambria Heights School District should be honored to have him in a leadership possession teaching their student-athletes.
Coach Eckenrode was bestowed the coach of the year award by his brethren - his fellow coaches at the District 6 Class AA individual championships.
I believe the honor is more than well deserved.
Cambria Heights, not being a regular in the district championships in wrestling, qualified for the District 6 team tournament and placed second in the team standings at the individual championships.
Congratulations, Coach Eckenrode - an honor definitely well deserved.
This season, I believe the coaches could not have chosen a better recipient.
Central High School
Parents need to accept reality
I am writing this in response to a recent letter written by a mother who was unhappy with the fact that the opponents of her child's basketball team held the ball for the last two minutes of a blowout game.
This is exactly what the problem is with youth today. Most children are told by their parents that they should all be given the opportunity to shine and that they are all winners no matter what.
The fact of the matter is that in the world of sports and of life, you have to face adversity and you're not always going to win.
I find it tragic that young people are exposed to this false sense of accomplishment.
In sports only one team can win, and that is what makes sports what they are. I'm also quite sure that if the opposing team would have kept scoring, a letter would have been written about how it was disrespectful that they were running up the score.
Instead of complaining and making excuses for their children's failures, they should just stick to being positive and encouraging hard work.
True champions give credit where it is earned and do not dwell on how everybody else is the bad guy.
You may think that making excuses can make up for defeat, but I, for one, am fed up with it.
Steelers should make Ward a coach
Pittsburgh lost a great wide receiver - the hardest hitting, best blocking receiver in the NFL.
Hines Ward is also a great man, doing so much for the Pittsburgh community as well as the Atlanta area community.
However, as a diehard Steeler fan, I realize that the NFL is a business. In the last couple years, it was obvious that Hines lost a step or two on the field. His stats say it all.
Just as it was so difficult to see longtime great Jerome Bettis retire, Hines will always be in the hearts of every Steeler fan. Players get old. It's as simple as that. I really wish the Rooneys would hire Hines as a receivers coach since he has been a leader in the locker room for 14 years.
See you in the Hall of Fame, Hines, and thank you for the great memories.
McCutchen will be worth money
If you are a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, and especially a fan of Andrew McCutchen, I trust you're as elated as I am over his extended contract. Perhaps not to the degree of "Cutch," as he has affectionately been tagged, but nonetheless excited.
Watching "Cutch" in the outfield was worth the price of a ticket when he was here in Altoona playing for the Curve.
The first time I had the pleasure of watching him I knew he would go far in baseball, and I had high hopes it would be with the Pirates.
There is little doubt $51.5 million would make anyone happy, but "Cutch" said he always wanted to play ball for the Pirates since he was a young boy.
It's nice to see such an excellent, give-all player make it - and with Pittsburgh.
I love baseball, and I love watching the Pirates, especially when McCutchen is in the outfield. I have seen him snatch away probable homers and make batters talk to themselves through their bats.
McCutchen has nailed fly balls that would have ended up giving the batter a double or triple.
I'll take a "Cutch" shirt any day! And I'll anxiously turn the Pirates on just to see what he's going to do.
Congratulations, Cutch. You deserve it.
William Snyder Jr.