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TribLive's Paul Schofield to be honored in Southwestern Pennsylvania Wrestling Hall of Fame

Prior to beginning his career as a full-time sports writer after college in 1980, Paul Schofield had limited exposure to high school wrestling.

Before he began working as a full-time sports writer after college in 1980, Paul Schofield had little exposure to high school wrestling.

As a child, he recalls watching the state finals on WQED-TV and wondering about distant places like Tyrone or Shikellamy or Shickshinny.

While attending Frazier in 1976, the school lacked a wrestling team. During his time at California State College, he observed national champion wrestler Bill DePaoli running around campus at various times to make weight.

When he started at the Connellsville Daily Courier in 1980, Schofield covered the PIAA wrestling championships for the first time in 1981. Teams like Connellsville, Mt. Pleasant, and Southmoreland had strong teams, so he needed to learn about the sport to effectively do his job.

He sought advice from renowned Falcons coach Tom Dolde and listened to the radio broadcast team of Sully Gambone and Don Lynn while watching matches to learn the moves.

He quickly grasped the sport, and now, more than four decades later, Schofield is a highly respected writer covering Pennsylvania high school wrestling.

On Saturday night, he will be inducted into the Southwestern Pennsylvania Hall of Fame during Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic events at Peters Township.

“It’s something you never expect, but it’s great to be recognized by your colleagues, coaches, and former wrestlers that I’ve covered,” Schofield said.

Schofield mentioned that some of his favorite stories have involved underdogs rising up and accomplishing extraordinary feats, such as winning a state championship.

He’s also covered his fair share of favorites, of course.

At the risk of leaving someone out, he listed off a group of athletes whose remarkable achievements he documented.

Recent Westmoreland County standouts such as Nico Megaludis and Michael Kemmerer from Franklin Regional, as well as Kurtis Phipps from Norwin.

Four-time state champions like Cary Kolat from Jefferson-Morgan, Jimmy Gulibon from Derry, and Rune Lawrence from Frazier.

“And (Lawrence) happens to be from my alma mater. He’s stolen my thunder,” Schofield joked.

Schofield has no trouble pinpointing the best high school wrestler he’s ever covered.

“The top spot would go to Spencer Lee,” he said. “What an outstanding individual he is.”

Schofield particularly recalls sharing the story of the time when the Franklin Regional graduate, while in eighth grade, decided to challenge his mother, a former Olympian, to test her jiu-jitsu skills.

“She tapped him out,” Schofield said with a chuckle.

Since joining the Tribune-Review in 1995, Schofield has reported on 30 state tournaments, with at least one Westmoreland County wrestler claiming gold in each of them.

Undoubtedly, Schofield has observed significant changes in the sport. He witnessed the dominance in PIAA wrestling shift from the eastern to the western half of the state. Within the WPIAL, he’s seen the main areas of talent move from Washington and Greene counties to Westmoreland and Fayette counties.

He said that the sport has changed a lot. Many moves remain the same, but the sport has evolved. Nowadays, kids are stronger and in better shape, and the most talented ones stand out.

Schofield is among the four individuals being honored in the Class of 2024, along with Matt Lebe, Ken Hackman, and Jim Akerly.

Lebe, who coaches at Franklin Regional, was a three-time WPIAL champion and three-time PIAA medalist at Jeannette. He had a 132-10 record, earned two EWL titles, and became an NCAA All-American in 2005 for West Virginia.

Hackman, a 1984 Derry graduate, had a 95-23-2 record in high school, won a WPIAL title, and placed third in the state as a senior. He then went 101-10 at Cal (Pa.), claiming two national titles. He also served as a coach at Derry from 1994 to 2000.

Akerly, the founder of Quest School of Wrestling in Washington, achieved 119 victories at West Virginia and became an All-American in 1987 before finding success as a college coach.

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