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Retired Cleveland wrestling writer Pat Galbincea dies

Pat Galbincea, wrestling writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper who earned numerous honors over his 45-year career, died Friday afternoon at his home in Rocky River, Ohio just outside Cleveland from a stroke. He was 72.

Pat Galbincea
Galbincea started covering wrestling for the Plain Dealer (as well as non-sports assignments) in 1969, retiring from the northeast Ohio paper in 2013 (though he came out of retirement to write a tribute for iconic Maple Heights high school wrestling coach Mike Milkovich in 2018).

Over the course of his career, Galbincea received a number of honors, In 2017, he was inducted into the Ohio chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame "Lifetime Service to Wrestling" Honor for his work in covering the sport of wrestling. He was to be inducted into the Ohio Prep Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame back in March, but the ceremony was postponed because of the current coronavirus pandemic.

In addition, Galbincea won the respect -- and two national writing honors -- from his fellow wrestling journalists. He received the Bob Dellinger award, presented by Amateur Wrestling News magazine to its choice of amateur wrestling writer of the year, as well as the Writer of the Year Award from the National Media Wrestling Association.

"His name is synonymous with the golden era of Cleveland wrestling," said Bob Preusse, the high school editor of Amateur Wrestling News, a national publication. "He was really something. He got his referee's license, but not to referee. He did it to help him better understand the sport, to be a better reporter. That's who he was."

Fred Feeney -- a retired wrestling referee in Ohio -- weighed with sentiments that tie into Preusse's comments.

"He was an easy guy to talk to and he always respected the job we referees had to do," Feeney told InterMat. "He and I sat one time after a St. Ed's dual and he always was in awe of how a ref could make those tough calls that he later would write about, but he never blamed a ref. For doing his job."

Galbincea came into wrestling writing in a somewhat surprising, almost accidental-yet-in-a-meant-to-be way, according to an interview he did with Pruesse for Amateur Wrestling News a decade ago.

He was a student-athlete at Cleveland John Marshall High School ... not as a wrestler, but as a basketball player. One season, he had an appendicitis attack and could not play. Galbincea approached the teacher who was the advisor to the school paper, seeking to cover the basketball team. The teacher said the job was taken. But the paper needed a wrestling writer.

When Galbincea pled ignorance about that sport, the teacher encouraged him to talk to the school's legendary wrestling coach, Gene Gibbons. The two formed a lasting bond ... and Galbincea launched a nearly half-century career of honors and respect that extended well beyond northeast Ohio.
"He was an icon," said Gary Abbott of USA Wrestling in Colorado Springs. "He set such a high standard for others to follow. Losing Pat Galbincea is a big loss to my sport and to life in general. He made such a difference to people."

Greg Urbas, long-time wrestling coach at nationally ranked prep powerhouse St. Edward High in suburban Lakewood, echoed those statements, describing Galbincea as being highly regarded as a reporter and as a person.

"He loved doing stories about kids who overcame adversity," Urbas said. "He loved the sport, knew the sport, enjoyed the sport and promoted the sport all over Northeast Ohio. He worked really hard. He would call at any time to get a story."

Pat Galbincea's wife of more than thirty years, Barbara -- who had worked as an editor at the Plain Dealer with her husband -- shared a story with the newspaper the couple called home for decades that illustrates her late husband's impact on those involved in wrestling, and those who loved the sport.

"We would be out somewhere, and people would walk up to us and say, 'Hi, Mr. Galbincea.' And nine times out of 10, Pat would know who they were, that they were state champs or talk about the moves they were known for. He really loved it."

"He was really honest and kind," Barbara Galbincea told the Plain Dealer. "I got an email from someone yesterday who said, 'Pat was a quality man.' That summed him up. He really enjoyed the chance to feature these young men in the sport that they loved.

In addition to Barbara, Pat Galbincea also leaves behind their daughter, Kristin Watkins, who lives north of Columbus.

Funeral services for Galbincea will be private; however, the family intends to have a memorial service open to the public at a later date.

Two giants in wrestling journalism depart in one week

Last week was an especially tough one for the amateur wrestling community, with the deaths of two legendary, highly respected and much-honored journalists who covered the sport with knowledge, skill and passion. And they got to do it in places traditionally referred to as "wrestling hotbeds" where the quality of the coaching and competition are at their best ... and the fan base truly appreciates that level of reporting.

As reported above, Pat Galbincea passed away Friday, May 8, after an incredible career writing for the major daily newspaper in northeast Ohio, a part of the nation where wrestling -- especially at the high school level -- is an obsession.

Earlier that week -- Monday, May 4 -- yet another iconic wrestling writer, Dan McCool. died at age 60. He was a major figure at high school and college wrestling events in his native Iowa, a state that immediately comes to mind for wrestling fans across the nation for truly iconic names in the sport going back decades, all the way back to Frank Gotch and Farmer Burns of the early 1900s, and including other legends such as Dan Gable, Bill Koll, Terry McCann, Harold Nichols and championship programs at Cornell College, Iowa State Teachers College (University of Northern Iowa), Iowa State and University of Iowa, to name just a few.

InterMat featured a detailed, heartfelt tribute to Dan McCool, penned by Craig Sesker, another highly-respected wrestling writer who with deep Iowa roots.

Here's the opening to Sesker's tribute:

"He was one of a kind.

"And the sport of wrestling was lucky to have him.

"In 30-plus years of covering wrestling, I've never met a journalist more passionate about his craft than Dan McCool.

"It was a sad day in the wrestling world on Monday afternoon when the news broke that McCool had passed away. He was 60 years old.

"Dan made his mark during the many years he covered wrestling for the Des Moines Register. In a state that loves wrestling, he was the perfect fit."

A number of other sportswriters within the state of Iowa also paid tribute to McCool in the days after his passing. For starters, the Fort Dodge Messenger provided something of a more traditional obituary to honor McCool's memory and share his life story with the wrestling community.

Born in Clarion, Iowa in August 1959, Dan McCool's prolific sports journalism career was focused on the upper Midwest. He launched his journalism career as a reporter/photographer in North Dakota, then moved on to Knoxville, Iowa, and eventually to the Cedar Falls Record. Following that, he was able to truly make a name for himself during his 30 years as a reporter for the Des Moines Register, where he covered wrestling at the high school, college and international level. He also reported on baseball, football and boxing, among other sports.

McCool also wrote books that explored the rich history of the oldest and greatest sport in the state of Iowa. Those books were the focus of Justin Rust's column in the Sioux City Journal.

"It was back in November when I came into the office and had a package at my desk. With the way the package felt and the size of it, I knew it had to be one thing - a book.

"I was right. When I opened the package I pulled A History of Wrestling in Iowa: Growing Gold. I didn't need to even look at who the author was, I knew it immediately. It had to be written by Dan McCool.

"A glance at the bottom left corner proved what I already knew, McCool had written another book about wrestling in Iowa, ranging from the high school level to the collegiate.

"My face lit up. McCool was the premier Iowa wrestling historian. As K.J. Pilcher, the wrestling reporter for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, put it on Twitter, McCool forgot more about wrestling in the state of Iowa than any of us will ever know. I was excited to sit down and read the book and hopefully give McCool a call up to talk about the book at some point.

"However, I took too much time getting to that task this winter. It wasn't until this past month that I was able to get a couple of chapters in, meaning I missed my time to talk to McCool about the book.

"On Monday, McCool died at the age of 60 due to heart complications. On Monday, Iowa lost one of the greatest wrestling historians in the state's history."

McCool was survived by his wife Diane; four brothers ... a number of books ... and an incredible reputation within the wrestling world.

A memorial service was held late last week in Dan McCool's honor. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa or to the family for a scholarship fund to be established in his honor.

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Adrian Maldonado (1) about 2 weeks ago
Pat was truly a gentleman. He helped champion the return of wrestling to Cleveland's inner city schools in the 90s. He treated our small struggling programs like we were the St Eds of the Cleveland Public Schools. During our Senate Championships he always treated our young inexperienced wrestler as if they were Olympians
Such a good man.