Tom Dolde (2012)

When he got into wrestling in college at the urging of a teammate on the football team, Tom Dolde had no idea he was embarking on the start of a career in that sport.


John “Wally” Schroyer  

Dolde moved to Connellsville from Leetsdale and attended Connellsville High School for one year before graduating in 1956.
“In high school I played football, basketball and ran track,” he recalled. “I was probably a better baseball player than anything else, but they didn’t have a high school team then. I played one year and we were pretty competitive in football.”

After graduating from Connellsville, Dolde attended Slippery Rock University.

“I played football and ran track at Slippery Rock,” Dolde said. “It was a great experience playing there. My first year we weren’t very good and they won the Pennsylvania Conference I think the year after I graduated.”

Dolde received four letters at the “Rock” as a guard and middle linebacker, served as team captain and earned “Outstanding Player” and second-team all state honors in football. Dolde also lettered two seasons as a member of the 440 relay.

While he was at Slippery Rock, Dolde became a part of the first wrestling team in 1959.

“I had never wrestled before and a friend of mine, a guy who played tackle on the football team, Duane Patterson from Franklin, got me involved,” Dolde explained. “He was the one who went to the President and got the okay to start a wrestling program. We only had like seven or eight matches. I wrestled at 170 pounds and I enjoyed it.”

Dolde graduated from Slippery Rock in 1960.

“I had a deal with the Air Force that I could opt out of,” Dolde stated. “I was going to go to pilot training, but when I went to an Air Force base in Harrisburg that is no longer there and I spent three days taking tests, I didn’t pass the pilot part of it because of vision and I got an order to report to Lackland Air Force base for navigator’s school.

“But I opted out of that and I had been hired as a teacher and a coach at Connellsville. I taught at the junior high and was an assistant varsity football coach, junior high basketball and junior high
track coach.”

He would soon become involved with wrestling again after the program started when Connellsville and Dunbar merged in 1966.
“When they started the program at Connellsville I wasn’t at the high school teaching – I was at junior high,” Dolde remembered. “It was Stan McLaughlin that started the wrestling program and it was pretty much to make the football players get in shape.

“It wasn’t meant to be the sport that it turned out to be. When McLaughlin got the football job I was bumped down to coach the sophomore team. He had one of the varsity football coaches handle the wrestling team. He coached for one year and then I took over the wrestling program in 1968.”

Dolde built the wrestling program from scratch.

“It was tough,” he recalled. “We had a regular schedule and we were put in a section and the first year it was just like a junior varsity type thing. The next year we started to count wins and losses and we won one match my first year.

“We were in with Uniontown, German Township, Waynesburg and Beth Center. German and Waynesburg were very tough. We ventured into Westmoreland County and wrestled Greensburg and Latrobe.”
Dolde had a plan and built up a feeder system for the wrestling program.

“We started a junior Olympic program,” Dolde offered. “I’d go up into the mountains a couple nights a week – up around Indian Head. We had a small mat up there and I went to the schools and talked and tried to get the little kids involved. We also started a junior high program at Junior High West and Junior High East and that blossomed.”

Connellsville soon developed into a high school wrestling power.
“I watched those kids in junior high and I felt we were going to be pretty good,” Dolde opined. “The first year we won one match and the second year two and the third year four. The next year we were 8-8 and from there we never had a losing season.”

Dolde holds the WPIAL record for victories with a 448-137-6 mark. He was named Coach of the Year in the WPIAL in 1992, 1994, 2000, and 2001. His teams won 25 of 27 sectional titles and four Regional titles.
He coached seven PIAA Champions and 28 place finishers. Dolde stepped down as wrestling coach in 2002 and retired from teaching in 2003.

He also served 36 seasons as defensive coordinator for Connellsville’s football team and played a significant role in the school’s 1991 WPIAL championship season.

Dolde, 74, still resides in Connellsville with his wife of 47 years Elizabeth. They have two sons Tom Jr. and Don.

He has garnered numerous honors from the wrestling community.
In 2005 he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and the State Chapter of Pennsylvania Hall of Fame as well as receiving the “Lifetime Service to Wrestling” award. Dolde has been inducted into the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches and Southwestern Pennsylvania Coaches halls of fame and is in the Slippery Rock Athletics Hall of Fame.


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