Charles Danhof, Interim Head Coach
Paul Clavel ’88, Associate Head Coach
Jody Giuricich '99, Assistant Coach
Anthony Valles '08, Assistant Coach
Jared Platt '07, Assistant Coach
Chris Thatcher, Assistant Coach
John Grey, Assistant Coach
The Standard of Excellence
“Blair Academy is the standard against which the nation’s top programs grade themselves,” this according to parents, coaches and wrestlers from Blair’s strongest competitors. To appreciate just how high Blair has “set the bar,” consider the following:
At the High School Level
Blair Academy has been the #1 team in the USA eleven times since 1995 and was USA #1 again this past season, i.e., 2012-2013.
Blair Academy was named the USA’s “Team of the Decade” for the first decade of the 21st century, when it was USA #1 seven times, USA #2 twice and USA #3 once.
Blair has won an incredible 28 of the 39 Ironman and Beast tournaments held to date. In effect, Blair has won these two top in-season national tournaments more than twice as many times as have all the other teams in the country COMBINED.
Blair has won the National Prep Championship 33 straight times, 1981 through 2013. This is easily the longest streak of end-of-season state or National Prep tournament championships in US history.
Blair holds countless individual records at Ironman, at Beast of the East and at National Preps. These records include the following:
The most individual champions all time
The most individual champions in a single year
The most place-winners all time
The most place-winners in a single year.
At the NCAA level
Blair has had 16 NCAA champions, from Lehigh’s Mike Lieberman in 1975 to Michigan’s Kellen Russell in 2011 and 2012 and Penn State’s Ed Ruth in 2012 and 2013.
Blair has had 55 NCAA Division 1 All Americans, more than two-thirds of whom have placed in the top 3 at NCAA’s (Specifically, of Blair’s 55 All Americans, 37 have placed in the top 3, as follows: 16 champions, 9 seconds and 12 thirds.)
Blair wrestlers are coaching at top universities across the land. Two-time NCAA Champ and four-time All American Pat Santoro is Lehigh’s Head Coach. All American Chris Ayres is Princeton’s Head Coach. Two-time NCAA Champ and four-time All American Mark Perry is Illinois’ Associate Head Coach.
In addition, the following Blair multi-year NCAA All Americans are assistant coaches in the NCAA ranks today: Kurt Backes, Iowa; Zach Esposito, Oklahoma State; Sean Gray, Princeton; Hudson Taylor, Columbia.
An Olympic Gold Medal: Bobby Weaver (1984).
Three World Cup Gold Medals: Mark Lieberman (1978) and Bobby Weaver (1980 and 1984).
An “Ivan Yarygin” Grand Prix Gold Medal (in Russia): Steve Mocco (2009).
A “Cerro Pelado” International Championship (in Cuba): Steve Mocco (2010).
Four Pan American Games Gold Medals: Mark Lieberman (1978) and Steve Mocco (2009, 2010 and 2011).
Four Maccabiah Games Gold Medals: Max Meltzer two (2005 and 2009) and Evan Silver two (both in 2009).
13 US National Freestyle Championships: Mark Lieberman (1977, 1978 (OW), 1979 and 1980); Bobby Weaver (1978, 2 in 1979, 2 in 1980 and another in 1982); Rico Chiapparelli (1989); Steve Mocco (2009): and Kellen Russell (2013)
Tradition and Reaching National Prominence in the 20th Century
Blair Academy was founded in 1848 and its wrestling program traces its roots to 1919, with wrestling becoming an official team sport at Blair in 1924.
Blair’s first National Prep champions were Benny Fodera in 1937 and Ernest Tallman in 1938. Blair won its first National Prep team title in 1974 and had its first NCAA All American in 1975, when Lehigh’s Mike Lieberman won NCAAs at 177 lbs.
In the last three decades of the 20th century, Blair experienced sustained national prominence from the success its wrestlers had at Blair and after Blair, such as at NCAAs, where Blair wrestlers captured 23 All American places that included 7 NCAA championships, 4 seconds and 5 thirds.
The first Blair head coaches during this period of national prominence were Lehigh All American Tom Hutchison, who succeeded the “father of Blair wrestling” Bob Dalling in 1972, and Bob Latessa, who succeeded Hutchison in 1983.
Both Hutchison and Latessa went on to be head coaches at perennial NCAA wrestling power Lehigh University.
The next coach was legendary Blair Head Coach Jeff Buxton, who began coaching Blair wrestlers and teaching Blair math students in 1982. Jeff became co-head coach in 1984 and served as sole head coach from 1991-2012.
Blair began its current 33-year streak of National Prep team championships in 1981 and had its first USA #1 teams in the 1995-96 and 1996-97 seasons.
Becoming the Ultimate “Standard of Excellence” in the 21st Century
The 21st century has belonged to Blair Academy.
Blair’s teams have already been USA #1 nine times this century. Its individual wrestlers have won hundreds of national tournaments and have received awards as the #1 high school wrestlers in America five times this young century.
In the 21st century Blair wrestlers have already won 32 NCAA All American places including 9 NCAA championships, 5 seconds and 7 thirds.
In a major USA Wrestling Olympic fund-raiser dinner in early 2006, Blair Coach Jeff Buxton was honored by the US wrestling community with USA Wrestling’s “Lifetime Achievement Award.” Speakers included wrestling legend Dan Gable, USA Head Coach Steve Fraser and past Blair parent Alan Meltzer.
The documentary video featured at the dinner looked at what Blair wrestlers did at the NCAA tournament of 2005, the most recent NCAAs at the time. It showed Blair grads capturing two of the 10 NCAA crowns and taking a second and a third on the way to claiming five All American places and almost 100 team points.
At those NCAAs, Blair wrestlers won 30 matches and scored roughly 50% more team points than perennial NCAA powers Iowa and Iowa State. In fact, taking just the top Blair wrestler at each weight, Blair would have finished 2nd at those NCAAs, behind only Oklahoma State, which itself had two Blair NCAA champs (Zack Esposito and Steve Mocco) that year.
Most recently, Michigan’s Kellen Russell won NCAAs in 2011 and 2012 and Penn State’s Ed Ruth took 2012 and 2013 NCAA crown, each time helping Penn State to win the team title.
The Coaches Responsible for Blair’s Recent Great Teams
Every Blair USA #1 team and every Blair Ironman, Beast of the East and PowerAde champion team -- and every Blair individual champion at those events -- has been on Head Coach Jeff Buxton’ s watch. Moreover, Buxton-coached Blair teams have never failed to win National Preps and through the 2012 National Preps, had taken 160 individual National Prep crowns.
To date, Blair graduates who wrestled for Jeff Buxton have won 37 NCAA Division 1 All American places and have captured 9 individual NCAA crowns, 6 seconds and 7 thirds.
Over the years Coach Buxton has been blessed with many excellent assistants. From the past these included Solomon Fleckman, Ed Russell, Jody Guiricich, Patrick Andrens, Nate Burroughs and Grey Hawes. Blair’s current top-flight staff of assistant coaches includes Paul Clavel, John Grey, Charles Danhof and Jared Platt.