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Haley heads back home to take over at Boyertown

Boyertown coaches John Cooley, left, Pete Ventresca, center, and Tony Haley were inducted into the Southeast Pa. Wrestling Hall of Fame during the AAA Southeast Regional on March 4, 201. (Nate Heckenberger - For Digital First Media)

Tony Haley is going back home.

Home to a wrestling venue where he resided for more than a decade, helping coach a program that developed into a hotbed of Pennsylvania mat excellence. Home to lead that program in its quest to regain that standard of high accomplishment.

Haley was recently named to become varsity head coach at Boyertown High, where he previously served 11 years as assistant coach. The personnel move was approved by the Boyertown School Board at Tuesday’s meeting.

He returns to Boyertown to fill the vacancy left by Nik Christine stepping away after one season.

“I lived here for 21 years in the community,” Haley noted. “It’s big being able to see the kids quick, and to have people helping me.”

During Haley’s previous tenure at Boyertown, he spent nine seasons (2008-16) under Pete Ventresca and two more (2017-18) under Dave Jones. The team had a 207-68 record in that span, winning multiple Pioneer Athletic Conference, District 1-AAA (individual and team) and South East AAA Regional titles while producing 2015 PIAA Class AAA 220-pound champion Jordan Wood and 2016 285-pound runner-up Tommy Killoran.

“When I found out the job was open, and after several people asked me about it, I wanted to find out who was willing to help,” Haley said.

Nick Palladino, Boyertown’s athletic director, welcomed Haley’s return to the school’s storied mat program.

“We are glad to have Tony back in the Boyertown wrestling family,” Palladino said. “His years of experience in the Boyertown community, with its youth organizations and with our student-athletes, are second to none.”

Haley’s staff will have a number of coaches well-known both to him and the Boyertown wrestling community.

John Cooley and Blaze Buckwalter, assistants to Christine this past winter, are on board. Jones will be returning, and Ventresca will also pitch in with his considerable expertise.

“When the opportunity comes up, having good people surround you makes life a lot easier,” he said.

Haley’s coaching bond with Ventresca and Cooley was further solidified in 2017, when the three were named to the Southeast Pa. Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Haley spent the past winter heading Methacton’s mat program, which he previously led in 2002 and 2003. He also was a two-year assistant at Methacton (2005-06, 2007-08), with a combined 20-20 record for his head-coaching tenure.

The Warriors had a down year on the mats in 2020, winless in the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Liberty Division and 3-12 overall. Their top performer was the graduated Kibwe McNair, the 138-pound champion of District 1-AAA North and South East AAA Region.

Those circumstances notwithstanding, Haley came away from his head-coaching return with a good feeling.

“I enjoyed the year at Methacton, the people,” he said of coaching in the district where he is a teacher. “Being around those guys. I wanted the kids to get better as wrestlers.

“It was very hard to leave Methacton. I knew where my heart was. The kids made big strides. They did everything they could in one year.”

Haley takes over a Boyertown program that had a greater measure of success this winter. The Bears (3-2 PAC Liberty, 8-8 overall) were the second-place team in District 1-North, led by champions Chance Babb (126) and Alan Alexander (170) — both sophomores — and junior Julien Maldonado (113), who also won his weight at the South East AAA Regional.

“I never lost touch with a majority of the kids,” he said. “There’s a culture established up here … a lot of people involved, and I wanted to be part of it. The kids deserve as much as they can possibly get.

“The combination of youth, junior high, high school and college … it’s like a family, covering all levels, connecting with all kids.”

With its trio of district champions complemented by four other underclassmen North medalists — Anthony Bauer, second at 220; Luke Heimbach, third at 106; Jimmy Sinclair, fourth at 182; and Robert Terra, fifth at 285 — Boyertown’s prospects for the 2020-21 season stand on solid ground.

“The junior high teams are solid,” Haley noted. “With good kids, parents and coaches, you can achieve lofty goals.”



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