George Heebner, long-time Pennsylvania high school wrestling coach and official who was welcomed into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame a decade ago, passed away Sunday, June 2 ... just three days after his wife Brenda.
Heebner launched his long-time relationship with wrestling at Shamokin Jr. High School in eastern Pennsylvania, continuing his on-the-mat career at Shamokin High. Heebner then went on to Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. where he earned his bachelor's degree in education, and wrestled for two seasons in the late 1950s. He then earned a Master's at Temple University.
Heebner spent 42 years at Octorara Area High School, where he taught chemistry and physics. He began coaching at Octorara in 1963, running up a record in the Southern Chester County League (SCCL) of 140-69-3 before retiring from coaching in 1988. In a quarter-century of coaching wrestling at Octorara, Heebner was named the SCCL Coach of the Year seven times, and saw eleven of his wrestlers reach the PIAA (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association) state tournament.
To put Heebner's coaching accomplishments in perspective, in his first fifteen years at Octorara, Heebner's wrestlers launched their wrestling careers as high school freshmen, as there was no junior-high feeder program.
After retiring from coaching, Heebner remained with the sport as an official, serving in that capacity for three decades, mostly at the high school level.
In 2008, George Heebner became a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, who received the Lifetime Service to Wrestling award from the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Hall of Fame.
"Surprised is not the word for how I felt when I got the first letter telling me of the honor," Heebner told the Southern Chester County Weeklies at the time of his induction in 2008. "I actually wondered if it was a joke. Then I got the second letter, and had to call Mike Clair, the president of the PA Chapter, to confirm that it was true."
"All of the other things -- officiating, the positions I've held in the league and in District 1, have all been very satisfying," Heebner said a decade ago. "It's satisfying to know that I've made a difference in District 1 wresting, and for Class AA wrestling. But coaching was the most fun.
"It was a lot of fun developing goals for Octorara wrestling, then watching them come to fruition. It's a lot of fun and very gratifying to watch as the kids begin to get what you are teaching, buy into it, and then achieve what they are capable of achieving."
George and Brenda Heebner will be honored at a memorial service on Saturday, June 15, 2019 at 11 a.m. at Highland Presbyterian Church, 500 E. Roseville Rd. in Lancaster, Pa. Friends may greet the family from 10 a.m. until the time of service.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Hospice & Community Care, 685 Good Drive, P.O. Box 4125, Lancaster, PA 17601 or to the Alzheimer's Association, 225 N. Michigan Ave., Fl. 17, Chicago, IL 60601. Condolences may be shared online at DeBordSnyder.com.