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Shorty Stories: Stories of Floyd "Shorty" Hitchcock

Floyd "Shorty" Hitchcock. Some of you might have known him. Shorty was an NCAA champion at Bloomsburg University and the head wrestling coach at Millersville University. Shorty also coached Ricky and Rocky Bonomo at Lake Lehman High School. Shorty was an anomaly. He passed way too soon from pancreatic cancer in 2002 at the age of 50. Many people probably knew him better than me. My time with him was only a few short years. I wrestled for him from 1994-1997 at Millersville University. After finishing my eligibility, I was one of his assistant coaches during the 1998-99 season. I also worked at his wrestling camps and the pool he managed during the summer.

In my adult life, I wish I would have had the opportunity to know him longer. I was a young coach when he passed. My memories of him still make me smile when I think about him. Shorty was full of energy. A jokester who could make practically anyone laugh and feel at ease when you were around him. Honestly, he was one of the most enjoyable people I've ever met. He was a big burly guy who could almost literally lift a house. However, he had a soft side that when you needed someone to talk to, he was there. Shorty was a special and unique individual. Almost a character amongst himself. A mythical person even while he was alive.

We would refer to Shorty's antics as "Shorty Stories." And there were quite a few. I know from experience many that were true. Others were urban legends fabricated or embellished to make his stories more interesting. Thinking about it now, I do not believe I have met anyone like Shorty. I am confident in my lifetime that I will not meet anyone like him again. He had something about him that made him larger than life.

Floyd "Shorty" Hitchcock
I once watched Shorty lift a stack of weights on an old universal weight machine with one arm. To some, that may not seem impressive or extraordinary. But when you understand that our entire team of college wrestlers could not budge the stack with two arms, it was unworldly. He walked up with a look of comical disgust. Shorty couldn't understand why none of us -- including our bigger guys -- could lift the weights even an inch. To this day, I am not sure how much it was. It was the entire stack of weights pinned at the bottom on a chest-high military press. We were a bunch of young kids doing a needless challenge at the end of a workout. Shorty looked at the weights. Put one arm on the bar and pressed it straight up, not once, but three times. He then put the weights down as we looked on with amazement. He turned to us and giggled. The infamous Shorty Hitchcock giggle. The devious laugh that we all knew him for. Eyes squinted and the big grin on his face.

"Rambo" was the once a season conditioning activity where we would run in the woods for hours with the sole objective to not get caught by Shorty. It was the last man standing type of thing. How long could you make it without being found and taken out of the game? I laugh thinking about it now. Twenty-five or so 18-22-year-old young men trying to not be seen by a 40-something-year-old wrestling coach. The exercise was equally adrenaline-filled as it was entertaining. You never knew where he would surprise you. He had a knack for finding you when you least suspected. From a distance, you would hear, "Run, there he is," followed by leaves rustling and branches cracking and the sound of the infamous giggle. When Shorty found you, you were in trouble. He attacked you quickly in stealth fashion. You were out of the challenge before you had time to react. More funny, though, was after he caught you, he disappeared without a trace. Shorty wasn't a small guy in any respect. Teammates would ask where he went. We had no idea.

Forward rolls down the bleachers. Shorty found ways to make workouts, practice, or regular events unnormal and unique. It was more fun for him that way. It was more fun for us as well. You never knew what to expect. One preseason workout, we ran sprints and did bleacher running, and buddy carries, wheelbarrows, and jumping up and down the steps. After we finished our set, Shorty would tell us what to do next. I still remember vividly, "Forward rolls." I looked at my teammate Matt, and said, "What did he just say?" We did forward rolls down the bleachers. Shorty didn't tell you how. He told us to start at the top and make it down. We had to figure out the rest.

Jungle gym and pull-up bar competitions. Head-to-head singe pull-up bar tournaments and WWF battle royal free-for-alls on the jungle gym. Who could stay on the pull-up bar the longest? No rules. Do what you could to stay on and do what you needed to get your teammates off the bar. You can use your imagination.

The long runs on backcountry roads of Amish Country Pennsylvania. Eight to ten-mile runs. No time limit. Shorty would give hand-drawn maps and tell you to make it back to campus. Periodically, Shorty would drive by, stop, and ask us how we were doing. Then giggle, and drive away.

We would wait until everyone was back. Teammates would return back to the gym from all different directions laughing at the events from the run. The cows, wrong turns, and weird looks from people who drove by on the empty cornfield laced roads miles from campus.

Puke Hill. An overgrown steep uphill trail behind Pucillo Gymnasium. Up and down over and over again. You'd finish exhausted and dirty with cuts and scrapes all over you from the brush. To this day, one of the toughest things I have ever done. I remember laying on the ground on a crisp fall day, praying that we were done after tenth time up the hill.

Shorty Games. Full contact indoor soccer, a manhunt in the wrestling room, and any other creative ways to make our days less mundane. As I said, you never knew what to expect when you were with Shorty. Two on one wrestling matches against him. You and a teammate went live matches against him. If you were wondering, Shorty always won. Never-ending push-up workouts, close grip, wide grip, and whatever he could think of. Sandbag tossing workouts. If he could think about it, we did it.

There are many more stories I could tell about Shorty on bus trips, or during wrestling camps. It was always an adventure. Shorty was a different person. He did things how he wanted to do them. Many loved him, but some others didn't. He was a controversial figure. I loved him and recognized the extreme workouts, and off-the-wall, games were ways to make us more hardened and calloused to prepare us for a demanding wrestling season. To me, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to know him. I think about the stuff we did and the things he used to say. I remember the times when he would duck in mid-conversation like something was falling from above. Only to see your worried reaction. Or when he would ask if you ever saw a "dog jaw? "Dog jaw?" you questioned back. "Yes," he would say "like cauliflower ear but on your jaw." Then as you reached for his chin to see what he meant, he would abruptly bark like he was going to bite your hand. You nervously would pull your hand away. Then, he would giggle. The infamous Shorty Hitchcock giggle.

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bearcat (1) about 6 months ago
An amazing individual
UsedToBe103 (1) about 6 months ago
These are great stories. Thanks for sharing.
MU1996-2001 (1) about 6 months ago
This is an amazing article. I couldn’t have said it better. Shorty was bigger than life. I remember Distler and a couple others trying to press that stack of weights, only to have Shorty donut without challenge. Rolls down the stadium bleachers. Rambo. The half court shot on the basketball court while setting up mats. Larger than life. Controversial, but I had much love for him. Meant much to my life. Also, Jon, you were/are a badass! Cheers. Al Grasso
MU1996-2001 (1) about 6 months ago
This is an amazing article. I couldn’t have said it better. Shorty was bigger than life. I remember Distler and a couple others trying to press that stack of weights, only to have Shorty do it without challenge. Rolls down the stadium bleachers. Rambo. The half court shot on the basketball court while setting up mats. Larger than life. Occasionally he could be outspoken, but I had much love for him. Meant much to my life. Also, Jon, you were/are a badass! Cheers. Al Grasso
andym (1) about 6 months ago
I remember when Millersville hosted the Mid Atlantic Nationals for kids . I was there because my kids were wrestling. Shorty was there and this father from Ohio was yelling at his kid because he had just lost . They were at the end of the gym against closed bleachers. Shorty went over and grabbed this Dad and lifted him up against the bleachers and told him in no uncertain words to never yell at his son like that again. RIGHT ON SHORTY!!
MU 1990 - 1995 (1) about 6 months ago
Wig, thanks for the great article. I remember these stories very well. Wonderful memories, incredible teammates, amazing coach and man was Shorty! He definitely taught us mental as well as physical toughness. I enjoyed his invisible stopwatch that he used on top of puke hill. You would get to the top and he would pretend to push the button and then say, "ahh, you just missed it, back down and do it again." haha what a sick puppy - i loved it! And he would give you that snarky grin. He truly was one of a kind, a legend, a freak of nature. He would beat you in any game you played him in whether it was punchbug, ping pong, or darts. I sucked a lot of weight and would often partner up with him when I was fighting to get the last couple pounds off with no water left in my body! oh yeah, remember when he would lay on his back and swing that plastic beaded jump rope around while we were jogging around the room? We would have to jump over it and he would randomly swing it up leaving nice welts on your back - lol.
District4wrestle (1) about 6 months ago
I met Shorty in either 72 or 73, I was 9 or 10. He was wrestling at Bloomsburg and he was helping out the youth wrestling program in Shamokin. If you think he was larger than life when you met him as an adult, you can only image what he was like for a 9 year old. When he took the head Coaching job at Shamokin I was so happy because I knew he would return Shamokin to it's former glory. Unfortunatley we only had Shorty for a few years before he left to pursue his masters degree and start coaching at Lake Lehman. I continued to attend his wrestling camps he held in Catawissa PA, where I was lucky enough to meet Wade Schalles. Talk about a powerhouse pair, Shorty and Wade, if you can't get excited about wrestling after meeting those guys you don't have a pulse.

I still think about Shorty a lot. His enthusiasm for life, his humor and his drive left his marks on me. I was one of those kids that needed to be driven and I needed someone who I respected to do the driving. I was a different wrestler at his camp, mostly because I didn't want to disappoint him. If Shorty had remained at Shamokin he would have changed the lives of a lot of kids, instead the kids at Lake Lehman benefited. He impacted my life and I'm the better for it.
Jgarfinkel (1) about 6 months ago
Thanks John. I miss Shorty a lot. He was a great person, coach, and friend. When I went to kick the ball in indoor soccer, he popped me off his shoulder - literally across the room - giggles as it took me close to 5 minutes to regain my breathe and composure. I could say so much more - like if he was pulling his leg hair and about to wrestle you, you were in trouble. I miss you coach.
Cowboy Tim (1) about 6 months ago
John, Great article about an amazing man who made life better for all around him.
From the time I was ten (1974) I was a wrestling fanatic & read everything i could about all the great wrestlers in college & high school. I knew about Shorty but never met him until almost 2 decades later when I was a young assistant at a Virginia university. I was an absolute dog shit young assistant & Shorty treated me great in the few interactions we had together whether in the Millersville Gym (Christmas tournament), qualifying tournament...Eastern Regionals I believe it was called back then or at local establishment in say Iowa City where the national were one time. He was a real gentleman & good guy to be around. RIP Shorty