Frank Vulcano, Sr., one of the most revered, respected and decorated wrestling icons in Washington County and throughout Pennsylvania, died Tuesday afternoon on his 89th birthday.
Vulcano was the greatest wrestling coach in California University history, was a championship wrestler at Lock Haven State College, recognized wrestling official for 32 years and the founder of the California University Christmas Wrestling Tournament, which evolved into the renowned Powerade Wrestling Tournament.
David Cook, former outstanding wrestler, coach and referee, wrestled under Vulcano at both Chartiers-Houston High School and Cal. He left an indelible impression on Cook that has lasted his lifetime.
“I was scared to death of him,” said Cook. “He was so intimidating. Here I was a sophomore coming off Houston Hill and being thrown into the Chartiers-Houston lineup. Frank didn’t hold back.
“He taught everyone so much wrestling and so much toughness. When it came time to go to college, he came to my house and talked to my grandmother, who raised me. He told her I was going to college at California. She said, ‘No, no, that’s too far from home and too far for me to drive and pick him up.’ He explained this California wasn’t that far away. It was OK.
“He took care of me,” Cook contuinued. “He was truly the first male figure in my life. The first male disciplinarian in my life. I loved the guy.”
Vulcano coached at Scott Township High School from 1953-55 and became head coach at Chartiers-Houston, from 1959-65, compiling a career scholastic coaching record of 61-37-1.
Vulcano served as the Vulcans’ assistant coach for two years under Paul Ross and then became the college’s head coach in 1968.
He compiled a 181-95-4 record through the 1984 season. He coached four PSAC champions, 10 All-Americans and a national champion, Bill DePaoli, also of Chartiers-Houston, in 1977 and 1979. His best season at Cal was 1982-83 when the Vulcans went 16-1.
As a wrestler, Vulcano was 53-7-1 overall and a three-time PSAC champion.
He is a member of seven Hall of Fames including:
- The Lock Haven University Wrestling Hall of Fame (1987)
- Washington-Greene County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame (1991).
- The PSAC Hall of Fame.
- The Southwestern Pennsylvania Wrestling Hall of Fame (1992).
- The Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame (1994).
- • The National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Pennsylvania Chapter (2005).
The California University Athletic Hall of Fame (2005).
Vulcano is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, and four children, Gerald, Deborah, Frank, Jr., James and Patsy.
He graduated from Lock Haven in 1951 with bachelor of science degree in Physical Education and earned a Master’s in Health and Physical Education from Pitt in 1955. He also served two years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
In addition to the California Christmas Tournament, Vulcano introduced an all-star match between classifications and held the first exchange match between Pennsylvania and Illinois. Those events spurred the formation of the Wrestling Classic that continues today.
Vulcano is the third area wrestling icon to die this year, along with Gene Bowman and Stanley Mousetis.
“Those three guys are my wrestling mentors,” Cook said. “Along (with the late) Don Clendaniel, they are the guys who taught me what I know about coaching. They all were different but had a lot of things in common, they were hard, demanding and fair. And you always knew they cared about you. I know Frank always cared about me.”
Ray Dallatore, a state champion from Trinity and the president of the Washington-Greene Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, said it is difficult to see an era of wrestling legends pass.
“All of those guys I knew growing up,” he said. “They either officiated my matches or was the opposing coach.
“Frank officiated my last dual meet in high school. The (Trinity) crowd was throwing pennies at him, trying to get him to call stalling on my opponent from North Allegheny. It ended in a 1-1 tie. Frank told me there was no way he was calling the kid for stalling that late in the match.
“He and those other guys are great wrestling legends and great guys. It’s sad to see that era pass.”