Valley Sports Report for Penn York Valley


For the most part, the daily sports beat day and night from the late 1970s into the 21st century followed a similar script.

First, prepare in advance for the night's flurry of phone calls with copies of game sheets and scorecards. Then, head out to photograph a game, match or meet. Sometimes maybe two or even three.

Back in the office, it was process film, print photos and settle in for the evening's avalanche of phone calls, neck strain, carpel tunnel, caffeine overdose and blurry eyes!

Every so often, things deviated from the norm.

Athens High School wrestling great Paul Keysaw's reign as an NCAA wrestling champion was one.

A Pennsylvania State Class AA champ in 1986, Keysaw climbed to the top step on the place-winning podium as the champion in the 190-pound weight class at the 1991 NCAA Division I championships staged in Iowa.

Having journeyed from Bloomsburg University out west to Cal-State Bakersfield, Keysaw, seeded fourth, weaved his way to the 190-pound finals where he squared off with third-seeded Randy Couture, some rough/tough Cowboy stud from Oklahoma State.

Members of the Keysaw family were on hand in Iowa.

But scores of fans back in the Valley — and of course the Saturday night crowd at Johnny's Tavern in Athens — were not.

Back then, big-time college wrestling was a second-class citizen in the televised sports world. There was no live TV broadcast.

And this was before the advent of social media, instantaneous info and photos at the flick of your fingertips.

Valley fans were in the dark. Well, sort of.

Well, believe it or not, I covered this match. Okay, not in person from a mat-side perch in Iowa, but from my desk at The Evening Times — thanks to an understanding and very accommodating newspaper staff in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and a radio-wave connection from a station that covered Oklahoma State athletics and was on site live in Iowa.

Having lucked out on a longshot stab-in-the-dark, the Stillwater newspaper's sports department agreed to help us out. They called The Evening Times' toll-free sports hotline while the 177-pound bout was in progress.

Once connected, they placed the phone on their end next to the radio and cranked up the volume, as I cranked up the speaker phone and tape-recorder on my end in Sayre.

Phoneline reception was crystal clear. The tape is rolling. Let the match begin.

History will show that Keysaw won by 4-1 decision.

Within seconds after the bout ended, my call was made to Johnny's. I believe the bartender on duty that night was Ric "Slip" White, who answered the call.

Word quickly spread: The Valley had its first NCAA Division I wrestling champ.

For those into nostalgia, Keysaw, in his semifinal bout, in 1:21, decked Oregon State's eighth-seeded Curt Strahm, who had dismantled No. 1 draw Dominick Black of West Virginia 14-5 in the quarterfinals.

In his five victories at 1991 NCAAs, Keysaw notched four decisions, outscoring those foes collectively 31-7.

Randy Couture, of course, would go on to become a U.S. Army sergeant and gain international fame as an actor and a star in the Ultimate Fighting Championship world. He was six-time UFC champion.

But one thing Couture never became was an NCAA wrestling champ. Twice, he was runner-up, losing to Keysaw in 1991 and to Syracuse University's Mark Kerr in 1992.

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