John Craig entering wrestling HOF Sunday
When one thinks of Steubenville High School wrestling, one name immediately comes to mind: John Craig.
Craig, a Follansbee High School Class of 1967 graduate, enjoyed an illustrious 26-year career as a head wrestling coach, including 18 successful years at Big Red and five years at Indian Creek, before being becoming the principal of the school. He started his coaching career with two seasons at Hillsboro High School.
Due to his success, Craig will be inducted into the Ohio Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame on Sunday at the Embassy Suites in Dublin. The banquet begins at 1 p.m.
“I really had no idea,” Craig said. “I’ve been living in South Carolina on the beach for the past 10-11 years, so this kind of came out of the blue. Sometimes, though, those are the best kind of surprises.”
While at Big Red, his teams earned six overall championships in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference wrestling tournament. Steubenville also captured seven divisional titles and finished in the top three a total of 13 times. Thirty-one of his Big Red matmen earned individual OVAC titles.
He coached 87 qualifiers for the Ohio state tournament, five of whom earned individual championships and 23 who were state place-winners. His 1998 team finished second at state.
“It was a great fit for me,” Craig said of his days at Big Red. “We had some really good athletes back then. My biggest challenge was keeping them out for the sport. I think a lot of them found that wrestling got you ready for a lot of other sports, and for life.”
Craig was named OVAC Wrestling Coach of the Year on five occasions and was presented the Mr. Mat Award in 2002. He is a member of the Ohio Wrestling Coaches and the West Liberty State College Athletic Halls of Fame. In 1989, he was selected as the East-Southeast Wrestling Coach of the Year and the Ohio Division II Coach of the Year.
For 21 years, Craig served as a wrestling official on the youth, junior high, high school, college and open levels. As a principal at Indian Creek, he was one of the founders of the Buckeye 8 Athletic League that has enjoyed huge success.
In 1972, Craig was the runner-up in the NAIA national championships for the West Liberty State College “Hilltoppers,” where he earned All-American honors.
Craig wanted to thank some of the people that made his wrestling career possible.
“Ron Mauck was my high school coach at Follansbee,” Craig said. “He started the program my senior year. Up to that point, I had never been involved in any type of organized athletics. Jene Watkins and Dan Keenan were the two that essentially hired me at Steubenville. They supported me whenever I wanted to take teams to tournaments. They always made sure we had a competitive schedule, and they always made sure I had a good junior high coach.
“But, who do you owe?” he asked.
“The kids because they are the ones that went out and competed.”
Craig also wanted to thank Indian Creek for allowing him to serve as its head coach for five seasons.
“I had several state placers and OVAC champs there,” Craig said.
He said approximately 20 people have confirmed reservations for the banquet, including current Steubenville head coach Mike Blackburn and Indian Creek’s Brandon Pendleton, both of whom Craig coached in high school.
“It kind of humbles you,” he said.