For the first time in 19 years, the Claysburg-Kimmel wrestling program has a new leader.
Dave Aungst was hired Wednesday at the school board meeting to replace Dave Marko, who stepped down in early September after guiding the Bulldogs to a 234-84 record in 18 years as head coach.
Aungst doesn't have coaching experience, and most wrestling followers would recognize him as the C-K scorekeeper and dad of former C-K stars Corey and Matt. He wasn't available for reaction, but at a recent District 6 coaches meeting he said he did most of the behind the scenes work, including weight information and updating statistics online, in addition to working with Marko on lineups.
"We spent many hours on the phone hashing lineups out," Aungst said, "and where we wanted certain guys based on who was in the district."
"Coach Marko did a super job with the student-athletes," said Brian Helsel, who was recently hired as C-K's athletic director. "I'm confident that Coach Aungst can do wonderful things with the program."
For many, the news that Marko was stepping down came as a shock. He's been the face of Claysburg-Kimmel wrestling, but it came down to family. He lives in the Spring Cove School District, and his oldest son, Logan, is in seventh grade.
"Basically, I didn't want to miss out on my kids," Marko said. "With Logan entering junior high this year, there were 12 out of 15 competition days that I would have missed. Doing this, puts me in the district where they're going to be at. I've been able to help coach them in football and baseball over the years, and now I'll be able to play a bigger role in their wrestling lives as well."
"I was probably the first person next to his wife that knew this was going to happen," Aungst said. "It's tough. We've tried many, many avenues to try to keep him there, and things just didn't work out. He will be really missed because he put Claysburg wrestling on the map. We're never going to replace him, but we're going to try and keep the program in place and keep that Claysburg tradition as good as we can."
Marko had said as late as last season that it would be two or three years before he'd step down at C-K, because Logan would be in high school. But, he said, he started looking at the schedule for C-K and Central in the spring.
"Technically, I could have waited another two years to avoid coaching against them," Marko said, "but I just didn't want to miss out on what they're doing right now. There's no way I could have possibly coached against my own kids."
Marko isn't done coaching. He has been hired as Central's junior high coach. He said it will a lot different coaching Central's junior high than the C-K high school team.
"But I'm excited for it," he said. "At Claysburg, we were the 11th smallest school in the state that has wrestling. It's exciting to have a much larger enrollment."
Interestingly enough, he'll be in the same program with Jan Clark, an assistant coach under high school varsity coach Mike Shippy. Clark, who coached Central, Tussey Mountain and, most recently, Northern Bedford, is a five-time Mirror Coach of the Year.
"I'm very anxious to work with Jan. Jan and I sort of had a real rivalry over the last 18 years because of us both having pretty good programs. But, I'm real anxious to learn from and watch Jan."
C-K went 10-9 last year, losing its last six dual meets with a young and inexperienced lineup, including its District 6 Duals match against Westmont Hilltop. Josh Brown, who placed fifth at states last season, has graduated.
"I keep on hearing about how the cupboard is bare at Claysburg," he said, "but Claysburg's got 10 returning lettermen from last year's team that went to the [District 6] Duals. The junior high and the varsity both had winning records last year. If that's a bare cupboard, that's a pretty good place to be for an awful lot of schools."