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Joe Geesey, passes away at age 82

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    Posted: Jul 10 2018 at 10:45pm

On the wrestling mat, Joe Geesey knew best, but shared his love of the sport

He knew the rules as if he had written them. But you could debate them with him, so long as you understood that ultimately, you would be wrong.

He was a private kind of guy who didnt do the job to be noticed. But everyone connected to his sport knew who he was.

And he loved not only the sport but also the athletes who committed themselves to it. Loved them enough, in fact, to help mentor them whenever the time was right.

These are just snapshots, of course. But they are very familiar to those who knew, worked with and now are missing Joe Geesey, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame official from Columbia who recently left us at age 82.

When they speak of Geesey, you can hear the respect and admiration for what he gave to a sport with a real sense of community, particularly in states like this one, where wrestlings history and tradition run deep.

"We spent time together doing other things, but the thing that connected us was love of the sport, love of refereeing and doing it well," said Bob Derr, another veteran Lancaster County official who joined Geesey in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Derr's history with Geesey dates to 1972, when Derr became a county official after graduating from West Chester University. He had wrestled at Warwick High and West Chester, but as an official, he soon gravitated to Geesey as his new mentor.

"I'd do the JV match, then stay and watch the officials work the varsity match," Derr said. "(Geesey) was a good role model that way. There was no monkey business. It was (about) sticking to the rules, the coaches were in their chairs, the fans behaved … and I liked that. I mimicked a lot from him."

Derr learned well enough that later, Geesey helped open doors for him to work college matches. Derr went on to work 13 NCAA tournaments, traveling around the country, and bonded with Geesey in their labor of love. He remembers Geesey's "absolute attention to detail" and the hours they spent discussing rules, especially in times of change for the sport. He also recalls holding his own in those discussions, but other colleagues can't quite say the same for themselves.

"He and I had a few arguments about the rules, and I always lost," said Howard "Hob" Kroesen of Elizabethtown, another National Wrestling Hall of Fame official whose Geesey connection dates to the early 1970s.

"He believed in himself," Kroesen said. "He focused on making the call. When he made the call, he sold the call and he just believed in his calls."

That belief was based on knowledge, and it was a mindset that Geesey imparted to Kroesen from the start of their working relationship. It also served Geesey well in his roles as rules interpreter for Lancaster County and later for PIAA District Three.

Valuable resource

Yet while he was all business on the mat, Geesey also found time to help young athletes grow in the sport.

"If he made a call...Joe was never wrong. In his own mind he was always right," said Mike Clair, the longtime director of the National Wrestling Hall. "But he'd come back, off the mat, and talk to the kids. He'd communicate when he came off, same as the coaches."

Clair, of Manheim, served as the Hall's national director for 21 years. During his tenure he often found Geesey to be a valuable resource in reviewing candidates.

"I vetted people from all states,"Clair said, "but even though I knew Pennsylvania, that didn't stop me from calling other people. And Joe was always one of the first calls. He always had an answer, not only for Pennsylvania but for other states, too."

Geesey also was well known for his lifetime career as a detective in Lancaster County. His mat brethren believe that the focus and eye for detail he showed in law enforcement were just as evident in the arena.

"I think he had a knack for staying with a case till he could find the answer," Clair said. "It was the same with wrestling. We see him as a hardnosed official, but a lot of us saw him as a lot more than just a hardnosed official."

Such are the kinds of memories that reach far beyond snapshots.

Edited by StogaPioneer - Jul 10 2018 at 10:55pm
"Youth wrestling is a very good thing because it keeps the parents off the streets."
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