By Tyler Trumbauer, Staff Writer
For the last two decades it was impossible to utter the words “Northern Lehigh Wrestling” without including the name Todd Herzog in the same breath.
The Bulldog faithful won’t be discussing Todd Herzog anymore. Now they will be talking about Steve Hluschak Jr.
Shortly after the conclusion of the 2012-13 wrestling season head coach Todd Herzog announced his retirement from coaching. Todd had been coaching in the program for 23 years, his first five years as an assistant under Bob Kern and his last 18 as the head coach.
At Northern Lehigh’s school board meeting, on Monday, April 8 the school board approved Hluschak for the position of head wrestling coach.
During his tenure in Slatington, Todd accumulated an impressive 284-82 record. He had 17 consecutive winning seasons, won five Colonial League championships, five District 11 tournament championships, five District 11 Dual Meet championships, and one PIAA state Dual Meet championship.
Those striking accolades are just an excerpt from his full resume that includes a plethora of achievements. He has coached 18 wrestlers that have accumulated 100 career wins at NL. He has coached four PIAA state champions and five wrestlers who eventually became NCAA All-Americans. He left some big shoes to fill, but Hluschak is prepared for the task.
Hluschak, 31, is a 2000 graduate of Northern Lehigh. During his time as a student at NL he excelled on the mats posting 147 career wins before he graduated. He wrestled under Todd Herzog during his entire varsity career as his freshman year was Herzog’s first as a head coach.
His coaching experience crosses many different leagues and spectrums. He spent three years as an assistant at Bangor High School, one year at Lehighton and four years at Stroudsburg from the Mountain Valley Conference.
He plans to gather everything he learned from Herzog and his three stops as an assistant and find the best mix, “I’m going to be my own coach. I’m going to be a different coach from Herzog and the others I have learned from.”
NL’s wrestling program has seen a lot of success and a lot of great wrestlers come through during the majority of the Herzog era. However, in recent years there has been a slight decline in participation and subsequently success. According to Hluschak, there were only eight wrestlers on the junior high team last season. He knows that reviving this program is his main priority.
“Early on I want to be competitive…we want to win matches. We know that will be difficult from time to time, but we need to build on what we have.” Hluschak said. He continued, “I need to get in to the middle school and the lower levels [of the wrestling program] and get our numbers up. Overall, I need to make sure that all three levels-varsity, junior varsity and middle school-are on the same page.”
Hluschak loves the NL wrestling program as it has brought him so many memories during his life. Seeing it in its’ current state didn’t sit well with him and that motivated him to pursue the job.
He told me in a phone interview on Wednesday, “Location is big I can easily drive to practice. Also, timing was important. I could have been a head coach at other places. But I bleed blue and white, so why not Northern Lehigh? Lastly, I just want to rejuvenate this program.”
Hluschak is well aware of what he is inheriting at NL. He knows it will be a challenge to get this team back on track, but he is willing to take it on. The former Bulldog is thrilled to be back as he thinks that everything has, “come full circle” for him.
When that circle started Hluschak left NLHS a victorious wrestler, Northern Lehigh hopes he comes back a victorious coach.