Jeff Paxton made a major
contribution to amateur wrestling in Southwestern Pennsylvania, but preferred
to stay out of the spotlight during his 30 years of service.
Paxton was born in 1947 in St. Louis, but his family moved to Western Pennsylvania when he was three years old.
"I've lived in Houston almost my entire life," said Paxton, who graduated from Chartiers-Houston High School in 1965. "I started for three years on the varsity team and would have been a four-year starter, but freshmen weren't allowed to wrestle varsity at that time."
Paxton won two WPIAL titles and was a two-time PIAA runner-up during his high school career at ChartiersHouston. He competed at 127 pounds as a junior and at 133 as a senior. "I lost to [Allentown Dieruff's] Dave Halulko in the 1964 title match," Paxton recalled of his high school career. "I made it back to the finals my senior year and lost to [DuBois's] Dan Kohlhepp." After graduating from Chartiers Houston, Paxton attended the University of Maryland. "I wrestled for 2 years," said Paxton. "I was undefeated on the freshman team my first year. As a sophomore, I won the Atlantic Coast Conference title at 137 pounds, which earned me a berth in the NCAA tournament at Kent State. Unfortunately I didn't do very well. I lost in the first round."
Paxton graduated from Maryland with a degree in health and physical education. "I moved back home in 1970 and got a job as an iron worker," said Paxton. "At that time, my brother, Patrick, was involved with the Chartiers-Houston midget program. He asked if I wanted to help." That began a 30-year association with the Chartiers Houston Midgets. "We had as many as 100 kids in the wrestling room working out with us a few times a week in the early '70s," said Paxton. "I coached the Marys, the Vulcanos, the Suttons, the 0lszewskis, just to name a few. We had a lot of talented kids come through our program. "It's humbling to look back and see how well those kids did in high school and college, and now in the game of life." Paxton spent 30 years with the Chartiers-Houston Midgets, but not consecutively.
"I did take a couple years off," said Paxton. "I had a chance in the early years to coach the varsity team, but turned it down. I feel the coach should be a teacher at the high school. It's more beneficial to the kids to have their coach teaching at the high school."
Another reason Paxton turned down the opportunity to be a head varsity coach is that he prefers to stay in the background. "I loved what I was doing and had no desire to be in the spotlight," said Paxton. Paxton's impact on the Chartiers-Houston wrestling program can be determined by counting WPIAL champions. The Buccaneers had 25 WPIAL champions from 1973 until 2000.
Jeff Paxton was the main reason that Chartiers-Houston had such a successful run in Class AAA in the late '70s and early '80s," said Canon-McMillan assistant coach Phil Mary. "Jeff not only taught me lessons about wrestling, he taught me lessons in life. I'm glad to see The Classic is honoring Jeff for his contributions to scholastic wrestling. It's well deserved: "For his dedication to the sport of wrestling, Paxton has been named the 2005 Dr. Kurt J. Nellis Award Winner. "I'm humbled by this award," said Paxton. "The Nellis family has done so much for the sport of wrestling in Southwestern Pennsylvania. It's an honor to be recognized at such a prestigious event as The Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic. It's greatly appreciated."
Paxton retired from coaching in 2000, but still makes occasional appearances at Midget practice to roll around with the kids. "I gracefully bowed out in 2000 to follow my son, Grady," said Paxton. "I also coached softball for my daughters, Melissa and Rebecca." Grady Paxton advanced to the WPIAL Class AA title match at 135 pounds this year as a sophomore, but dropped a tough 1-0 decision to Fort Cherry's Bryan Pleskovich. He then made a quick exit from the Class AA Southwest Regional, losing two of three bouts. "It's a love/hate relationship when my wife [Linda] and I watch Grady," said Paxton. "It's a pleasure watching him, but my wife and I get pretty nervous watching him. I sort of feel like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs:"
Paxton has two more years to watch Grady wrestle for the Buccaneers, because he's only a sophomore.