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Chewin’ the Fat: Q & A With Chad Shirk (Saucon’s All-Time Winningest Wrestling Coach)

With his 250th win earned Friday night at Notre Dame, Saucon Valley High School wrestling coach Chad Shirk passed the father of Saucon wrestling, Charlie Bartolet, to become the winningest wrestling coach in Saucon Valley history. Saucon Source was able to catch up with Chad and ask him a few questions. Check out what he had to say.

Est. Read Time: 5 mins

Coach Shirk caught up in the moment at the 2016 District XI Championships

With his 250th win earned Friday night at Notre Dame, Saucon Valley High School wrestling coach Chad Shirk just passed the “father” of Saucon wrestling, Charlie Bartolet, to become the winningest wrestling coach in Saucon Valley history. Saucon Source was able to catch up with Chad and ask him a few questions. Check out what he had to say!

Q: Young coaches often set long-term goals for themselves to measure their own success. Prior to accepting the head coaching position at Saucon Valley, was 250 wins at all on your radar?

A: I never got into coaching for personal accolades. As a new coach, I had goals but they were team goals. 250 wins is a neat thing, but to be honest with you I never thought about my own, personal wins. My only goal as a coach is to develop every wrestler and have them reach their full potential.

Q: Back when you were hired in 2004, do you recall what WAS on your radar when you first took this job?

A: I interviewed for the head coaching position when I was 24 years old. At the time, I do not think people in the wrestling community knew who I was or believed in what I could do. I remember saying in the interview “Give me four years, if I can not improve this program in that amount of time, I will step down.” Four years later, we won our first district title in over 30 years. The next year, Brandon Palik won a PIAA state title.

Q: What is your measure of success? What are your long-term goals?

A: As a coach I always have team goals, but I never once set personal goals like career wins or anything like that. I believe that it is always about the kids, never about the coach. We (the staff) all focus on the kids and THEY deserve all of the credit for the things that they accomplish. Coaching should never be about yourself, it is always about the wrestlers and what you can do for them. 

Q: Can you tell us about your support system and others who contribute to your program’s success?

A: As anyone in coaching knows, your need to try and surround yourself with incredible people. The administration and school board supports the wrestling program and our vision. We have, in my opinion, one of the best athletic directors not only in District XI, but in the entire state. Bob Frey has been incredible during my time at Saucon.

Coach Shirk with the honors of rewarding his wrestlers for a great team effort in the 2016 PIAA Championships


Q: What can you say about your assistant coaches?

A: I have been blessed to have incredible talent and wrestling minds by my side throughout the years. Don and Tommy (Rohn) are so passionate about Saucon Valley wrestling and we would not be having the success that we do without them on our staff. Our middle school and elementary coaches believe in our system and are running programs all year long. Dave Spirk, our wrestling club president, is an amazing leader that works countless hours to provide our student-athletes with endless opportunities. I would also like to recognize the parents and community members. They are awesome and have given us so much support. Local businesses support our fundraising efforts and the Saucon Valley community is always present at matches and local tournaments. There are so many people that make us what we are today, and I cannot give enough thanks to everyone involved.

Q: If Don and Tommy Rohn were to compete against each other in an exhibition bout, what would be the outcome?

A: Yikes! In the interest of keeping them both healthy, we’d have to avoid that matchup!

Q: Friday night against Notre Dame you became the winningest wrestling coach in Saucon Valley history. What does it mean for you to pass Charlie Bartolet?

A: Coach Bartolet and Coach (Doug) Koch are the ones that made Saucon Valley wrestling what it is today. They put Saucon on the map and are the ones that created the pride and tradition here. It does not matter where I go within the state or country, when I talk about Saucon Valley wrestling, their names always come up. I am very grateful to be associated with such incredible coaches and I can only hope to build on the rich tradition of Saucon Valley wrestling.

Q: Has Coach Bartolet ever given you wrestling advice?

A: Coach Bartolet and I have spoken many times. I love listening to his stories and learning from his experiences. He is a great coach, but more importantly a great man. He had so many positive impacts on former wrestlers’ lives, something that I hope to accomplish during my time here.

Q: What is on your “wrestling” Christmas list?

A: A healthy, happy wrestling team!

After a fantastic journey Shirk’s Panthers were the 2016 PIAA State Championship Runner-ups


Courtesy of  Saucon Valley Athletic Director, Bob Frey:

Charlie E. Bartolet, Jr. was Saucon’s wrestling coach from 1960-1985. He was responsible for the introduction of wrestling to Hellertown High School in 1960. Mr. Bartolet was the driving force in what would put Saucon Valley wrestling in the record books. In the 1970s and beyond he accumulated 86 individual and team championships during his career.   

In addition to his coaching career, Mr. Barlotet served as a teacher, administrator and school board director, providing over 50 years of service to the Hellertown/Saucon Valley School District. Mr. Bartolet was inducted into the Saucon Valley Athletics “Hall of Fame” in 2012.


Charlie Bartolet and Chad Shirk: Two men cut from the same cloth!

Bartolet: Saucon Valley head wrestling coach (1960-1985)

Shirk: 2004-Present

Bartolet: 32 Individual District XI Champions

Shirk: 19 Individual District XI Champions

Bartolet: 30 Individual Southeast Regional Champions

Shirk: 7 Individual Regional Champions

Bartolet: 9 Individual PIAA State Champions

Shirk: 2 Individual PIAA State Champions

Bartolet: 12 League Team Championships: 1965, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1979 and 1980

Shirk: 4 League Team Championships: 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016

Bartolet: 2 District XI Team Championships: 1970 and 1972

Shirk: 4 District XI Team Championships:  2008, 2010 and *2016 (*dual and individual team champs)

Bartolet: 1976 PIAA State AAA Team Champions

Shirk: 2016 PIAA State AA Team Runner-Ups

Bartolet: 1972 Pennsylvania State Wrestling Coach of the Year and District XI Wrestling Hall of Fame

Shirk: Stay tuned for much, much more!

Saucon Source salutes Chad, Charlie and anybody else who has ever supported the Saucon Valley wrestling program. Saucon Valley wrestling has gifted us almost 60 years of great memories and milestones. We admire the past and anticipate the future!

Happy Holidays! The Source is with you!

Coach Shirk and 2016 Saucon Valley PIAA state medalist Devin Fontanez.


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About the author

Keith Riefenstahl

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