How Wrestling Went Away From Quigley


by Albert Schorsch, III, QN'69, 5/3/99


published in Quigley Alumni Newsletter, 9(3):8-9, Spring, 1999.


Copyright, 1999, 2007 Albert Schorsch, III.   All Rights Reserved. 


Once upon a time, wrestling was compulsory for every student at Quigley, both South and North.  As the profs explained to us bleating bennies, this was to assist us young seminarians, given as we were to prayer and quietude at the age of fourteen, to learn to assert ourselves, and to avoid a lifestyle which was then politely called, "passivity."  Coach Bill Schaefer, given as he was to understatement, quietly assured us that is was so that we didn't become. . . . "Feminarians!"   Very Reverend and Dear Msgr. John P. O'Donnell was careful to explain that at Quigley we did not engage in wrestling of the "Greco-Roman" variety, and this somehow jibed with Fr. James "Pa" Voss's admonitions against the personal preferences of Horace.  Coach Tom Kleeman and later Bob Artman were to urge us not to emulate those loud fellows seen on Sunday mornings (when we should have been counting the collection in our parishes), the so-called Bruiser and his erstwhile friend, the Crusher, not to mention Black Jack Lanza, Moose Cholak, and the sleazy manager Bobby Heenan. 


The prospect of being mashed to a slimy gym mat was not particularly appealing to the young bennies of 1965, who crossed themselves as their morning buses passed churches and cemeteries and ambulances.   But by the end of the year, once the best of the bennies had been wiped across the floor by sophomores in front of the whole screaming school--as Fr. Bill Sheridan stood by calmly peeling oranges--the butterflies in our stomachs turned to ravenous pangs for the terrified blood of next years bennies, when we ourselves would be likewise wise and foolish.   As Ed Zotti would have said if only given the opportunity, "Who the heck would fardels bear, anyhow?"


Coach Schaefer, whom in later years we came to know as the world's nicest guy, led us into personal battle by example:  "OK, guys, let me show you a hold that is impossible to break.  Chmura, come over here.  Now, when I do this, there is no way Chmura can get out of this.  Go ahead, Chmura, try to--Ahhhhhhhh!   OK, Chmura, you can let go now.  OK, stop.  OK, please stop."


Now the death of compulsory wrestling came about in this way.  Bracken ("Take this quarter for the bus and go to the hospital") was then procurator of Niles, and Koziol ("If there is anything you will remember ten years from now, it is the answer to the question, What is a Mole?") was tetrarch of chemistry.  The census of seminarian-wrestlers had begun, and all were required by imperious edict to return to the gym of their birth. Like any pious Bible flick of the 60's, Quigley North was a quaint combination of Christianity and combat.  Schorsch was 6 foot 3 and 3/8 inches, 184 pounds, and Tom Anstett was 6 foot 7 inches, and weighed slightly more.  They were best of friends, but they had been transformed in the cavernous Quigley locker rooms into gladiators:  "Ave Schaefer, Morituri Te Salutamus!"  


For the week preceding the fateful match, Coach had been waiting for justice.  Schorsch had forsaken extramural basketball after a failed freshman try-out for the likes of Beethoven and Rachmaninoff, and had rebuffed the Coach's annual entreaties to join the team in favor of several more daily hours of study and scales.  Anstett was the heart of the team and was destined to become Quigley North's All State Athlete and all time scorer.  It seemed, if the Coach were to be understood, that this match was to be Art against Athlete, Chopin versus Chin-ups, Tocatta contra Take-down, Wagner against Wind sprints--you get the idea.  I saw it as the tragic conflict of renaissance youth compelled by cruel necessity into civil war, brother against brother.  The night before, I prayed the daily Quigley rosary, then played both the Appassionata and the Pathetique—then lifted weights.  That morning we rode the Addison bus down together, then shook hands at the door of the school.  We were not to speak again that day until we met once more in deadly contest.  


We next shook hands as we stood, in our white Quigley gym outfits and Converse All-Stars, upon the wrestling mats.  Coach's eyes gleamed.  He winked at Tom, he leered at me.  He held up is hand. He shouted, "Ready. . . . Wrestle!" 


It was over in a moment.  Tom began to take me down, then screamed, then lay motionless next to me as we both hit the mat hard.  "Oh my God," said the Coach.   "Oh, God, no," said I.  "Ouch!" said Tom.  I knelt next to him, praying and asking his forgiveness, as Fr. Koziol, despite, if memory serves, having sent Wayne Gogolewski to the hospital on the bus with a broken arm not long before--for what we thought the first time in Quigley's history--called an ambulance.  I thought I had paralyzed a dear friend.  I looked at my hands, and mused, like many a tragic rookie superhero in DC's Secret Origins comics, "Never again will I use these powers. . . for evil!" 


It was quite a nervous day.  Then the good news came back.  Tom had just pinched a nerve in his neck, and would be sore for a few weeks, but fine. The rest of the wrestling season was anticlimax, despite the excitement of actually having a chance to beat the senior class of 1968 in wrestling finals.  Bill Chmura handily beat his senior, but the killer instinct had left me, and I was downed by the broad and sturdy shoulders of Dale Dembski.  Tom Anstett, always a class act, cheered me on, but told me I gave up too soon.


Next year, it was announced that wrestling at Quigley, like many other things in the Church, was to be optional.  A few years later, when Archbishop Bernardin of Cincinnati gave his famous talk about "weak" seminarians now outnumbering "strong" seminarians, I knew why.  Seminarians no longer had to learn to wrestle!


Copyright, 1999, 2007 Albert Schorsch, III.   All Rights Reserved. Permission was given for Quigley Alumni Newsletter to publish this article in 1999.