Albert “Ab” Rush is a lifelong resident of Avella, Pennsylvania, which is located in Washington County. There is an old saying that behind every good man there is a good woman. That was certainly the case with “Ab” Rush, who married Jan Rohr on November 1,1954. She passed away on November 3, 2003. “She was always there to support me. She helped raise money for the program, and did whatever I needed. She was one of the guys."
He co-founded Athletics Inc. of Avella in 1954, where he coached football and baseball. “My dad played basketball in high school. He went to a wrestling match and really liked the individuality of it,” said Don Rush. “He thought it would be great for the kids and the community.” Thus, the Avella Youth Wrestling Program was established by Rush in 1960. He held the position for 25 years. “Ididn’t know much wrestling at the time, but we picked up various techniques from different people from here and surrounding school districts. Everybody worked together for the betterment of the sport."
Rush was employed at Weirton Steel for38 years and describes the majority of the athletes as “blue collar kids.” “Most kids were the product of mill workers, coal miners, and farmers. We always had a group of tough, hard-nosed athletes. The kids, community, and I worked together as a group. We were one big family."
In his tenure as Avella youth coach, he coached a number of Junior Olympic champs and approximately eight wrestlers who have participated in the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic. It would be no surprise that all three of Avella’s P.I.A.A. Champions were coached by Ab Rush.
Jeff Gordon, a 1978 P.I.A.A. champion and three time J.O. champ describes Rush as “truly the Father of Little League Wrestling in Avella. He was a very influential man in my life with simple principles. Work as hard as possible in the wrestling room and you will always have a chance to win. Be mentally, as well as, physically prepared, and give your all. He never described a winner by victory or defeat, but by giving your all. I did not realize until later that these basic principles have enabled me to overcome many obstacles in life."
He also had the opportunity to coach his three sons and grandsons in the youth program. “It was extra special to not only coach my sons but all the kids.” The three Rush boys went on to wrestle for Avella High School and feel blessed to have a dad that is so well-known and respected throughout the wrestling community. “Itis easy to be proud of our dad, not only for the influence that he has had on our lives, but also for countless individuals who have expressed the positive influence that he made in their lives."
One such individual, Ralph Cindrich, a former NFL football player and Avella graduate, contacted the Dapper Dan Committee when he learned of Ab’s recognition as this year’s community service recipient. “If I have had success in my life, it’s because of Abby, other coaches, and my immediately family. This is a most deserving award. His contributions have had a positive impact on the lives of those who came in contact with him. Most importantly he was always there."
At this year’s WPIAL tournament, Avella High School, the smallest participating school, with approximately only 95 boys in the top three grades, flexed their muscles and crowned two WPIAL champs. One can attribute this type of success to learning the basic fundamentals at the youth level. After 25 years of heading the youth program, he passed the torch to his oldest son, Don, who is now the head coach at Avella High School. It should be no surprise that the Avella youth program is now lead by Ab’s grandson, Chas. The Rush family has endured the joys and pitfalls of running the program for close to 50 years. We commend and applaud their efforts for a job well done.
You can still find Rush at the local matches, tournaments and annually at the NCAA tournament. He was awarded the Outstanding Service Award for youth wrestling and inducted into the Washington and Greene County Chapters of the PA Hall of Fame.
This award was created by UPMC Health Plan to memorialize Dr. Kurt Nellis for his community service and passion for amateur wrestling and the Wrestling Classic. The award recognizes an individual who has served their community through the sport of amateur wrestling from Western Pennsylvania.
“When I was contacted, it was a very emotional time. I am truly grateful for the nomination and selection for this award."
After 49 years, Albert Rush has proven his dedication to the sport of wrestling. The Avella resident has been named the 2009 recipient of the Dr. Kurt Nellis Memorial Community Service Award.
By Gary H. Havelka