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Cementing A 'Legacy'

Nick Savannah comes out of a roll in the ready position during a drill at Legacy Wrestling practice in Butler.

Build it and they will come?

The building was already there, but what Butler varsity wrestling coach Scott Stoner has put inside it is already attracting wrestlers from throughout the region.

Stoner has rented out the old Knights of Columbus Hall on North Street in Butler to establish a spring and summer wrestling camp called Legacy Wrestling. The building belongs to the Butler First United Methodist Church.

Alex Evanoff, one of Stoner's former wrestlers, is youth director and Director of County Ministries for that church.

“I had been looking around for a facility to get this started,” Stoner said. “Alex told me he didn't believe anyone was using this room and it's perfect for us, located right here in town.”

Stoner hoped to get the Legacy program up and running last spring, but the COVID-19 pandemic prevented that from happening.

Because the Butler Elementary wrestling program was unable to practice at the school this past season, it technically did not have a season. Stoner wound up running Butler Elementary practices at the Legacy site four days a week.

“We have around 85 kids in our elementary program,” Stoner said. “I couldn't stand around and watch their season get taken away entirely. This place has really come in handy.”

March 28 marked the first day Legacy hosted junior high and varsity practices. Forty kids from five different school districts showed up.

“There were kids here from Sharon, Slippery Rock, Knoch, Lakeview ... coaches have come in from all over the place,” Butler Junior High wrestling coach Donnie Geibel said.

The club is called Legacy because of the connection the coaches have with each other. Geibel, Evanoff, Blake Caudill and Trevor Gallo all wrestled for Stoner. Gallo wrestled for Stoner as a youth.

Butler assistant coach Fred Powell coached Stoner and Butler athletic director Bill Mylan at Slippery Rock University.

“We're all connected in some way,” Stoner said. “And we all want to grow the sport.”

Other coaches from the region have committed to help out at Legacy as well. They include Grove City High School coach and Penn State graduate Wes Phipps, NCAA champion Troy Letters, NCAA Big 12 referee Jason Rivera and Sharon coach Dave Ciafre.

“Most of the highly successful high school wrestling programs in Pennsylvania have wrestling clubs nearby,” Geibel said. “Seneca Valley has come on of late largely because of OMP (wrestling club in Evans City).

“Scott wanted to create a wrestling facility for kids from the northern schools to come and hone their skills.”

Stoner bought much of the equipment for the room himself and monetary donations have come in to buy equipment as well. After this week, Legacy will have workouts on Thursdays and Sundays.

“This is not a money-making thing for me,” Stoner said. “I want low-income families to be able to afford to send their kids here.

“Other programs will take place here, too. Alex will be doing cross-fit training, the BAMFL (midget football) will do a preseason thing here and other fitness programs will develop here.

“This is about giving back for me. I want to help wrestling. I want to help kids,” Stoner added.

Evanoff sees the facility as becoming a long-term venture.

“It's only going to grow,” he said.” Our community needs something like this. I know our church is thrilled about it.

“Even non-athletes, people who just want to get fit and in better shape, there's a place for them here.”

Stoner has 393 career wins in 28 years as Butler's wrestling coach. The Golden Tornado mat program was two years old — with two wins to its credit — when he took over.

“Life is a battle. Kids have to develop resiliency to be able to deal with adversity and failure,” Stoner said. “A big part of what we do is prepare kids for that battle.”

“Scott is a very passionate person,” Evanoff said.”When he decides to take something on, he totally commits to it. He is all in on this.”