Stoner committed to making youths physically active
Hunting and fishing are considered outdoor activities — but not to Scott Stoner.
“I do my hunting in the hallways of Butler Intermediate,” Butler’s longtime wrestling coach and physical education teacher said. “I’m always fishing for kids to get involved in wrestling or another physical activity. My eyes are always open that way.
“When COVID hit, kids were taken away from socializing and natural physical exercise. They became stagnant for a while. It’s important to reverse that trend. I just wanted to do my part.”
Stoner, 54, had the idea of starting a center where youths could get physical workouts as a group, at minimal cost, year-round. He got such a center started in March 2020 at the former Knights of Columbus Hall on North Street in Butler, a building owned by First United Methodist Church.
He credits Tom Holman, head of the church board, for helping to make the facility — known overall as Legacy Fitness — happen.
“He’s been my liaison,” Stoner said.
Stoner will embark upon his 30th season as Butler Area High School varsity wrestling coach this season. His career dual match record is 412 wins and 185 losses. The Golden Tornado were 3-20 in the wrestling program’s first two years of existence before he took over.
But he — and Legacy Fitness — aren’t just about wrestling.
Legacy Fitness has featured gymnastics, recreational fitness classes, yoga and cheerleading classes, among other activities.
“During the pandemic, kids have been sitting,” Stoner said. “It’s time to get them up. We’re just getting started. There’s so much potential here.
“Schools are closing; Highfield Park is gone. East Butler has had trouble getting kids involved ... I’m not in this to make money, and I’m not making any money. I’m looking to replace the floor in here, the windows, fix up the roof. I’ve always been a worker. I just want to give parents a place to bring their kids somewhere for physical fitness.”
Stoner said he gets “five kids in the facility some nights, 30 kids on others. It can come and go. We’ve had 40 kids in for a workout session. We just introduce them to stuff, show them what’s out there and available to them.”
Stoner’s wife, Randi, was Butler’s competitive cheerleading coach for 13 years. She described Stoner as being “all in” when he decides to do something.
“Scott has a pretty strong work ethic. He’s not a slacker,” she said. “He commits, big-time. Once he feels passionate about something, he sees it through ... and he’s extremely passionate about youth physical fitness.
“Part of that comes from being a phys ed teacher. A lot it is because he’s seen the effects of COVID on society, how people became sedentary, and he wants to get kids out there moving.”
Stoner said his wife had the same passion working with cheerleaders that he does working with wrestlers.
“She was so demanding of the girls, but so beloved by them,” he said. “There is personal satisfaction in this. We need adults to be dedicated to kids. Randi teaches fourth grade, suffered a broken foot and didn’t miss a day of school. She has a tremendous work ethic, something I want to instill in kids.”
Butler athletic director Bill Mylan has known Stoner for years. He said Stoner made himself into a quality wrestler through self-attitude and that his quest is for youths to become more physically fit through those means.
“As a high school athlete, Scott was very ordinary,” Mylan said. “He never quit on himself and his goal of becoming a quality collegiate wrestler. He never stopped working until that happened. Stoner wrestled at Slippery Rock University.
“That’s his attitude toward himself. That’s his attitude toward life. When he starts something, no matter how long the process, he’s going to see it through.”
Mylan is not surprised Stoner has Legacy Fitness up, running and growing.
“He’s a teacher, an educator, a coach,” he said. “Fitness is a big part of who he is. He values it and sees sports — all sports — as a way to get kids involved with it.”
Some of Stoner’s former wrestlers have come back to help him coach wrestling at all levels in Butler. Some are involved with his youth programs at Legacy Fitness.
While the participation numbers pile up at Legacy Fitness, Stoner continues to demonstrate pride in who he is and what he’s about.
“I don’t do this alone,” he said. “I don’t go anywhere without wearing a Butler wrestling or Legacy Fitness shirt. It’s part of my identity. When you’re proud of something, show it off.
“I had a sixth-grader come through these doors one time, said he heard about some of our programs, that we were looking for kids. I told him, ‘I’m not looking for you. If you know about me, I need you.’
“I need more kids to be like him,” he added.