The area lost one of its sporting greats this past week with the unexpected death of former Central Columbia baseball coach and athletic director, and longtime PIAA basketball official Don Engle.

Engle died Thursday at the age of 70 at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville. According to reports in the Bloomsburg Press-Enterprise, friends and colleagues said he never fully recovered from effects of an automobile accident last spring. He apparently had several illnesses in the months since and was hospitalized since undergoing surgery in November.

If there was one way to describe Engle, it was large. He was a physically imposing man - well over six feet tall and probably pushing, if not topping, 300 pounds for most of his adult life. Yet he was in good physical shape; he ran up and down basketball courts for years as if it were nothing.

As a high school baseball coach, he had few peers. His 29-year record at Central was 555-114, including 15 league championships, 10 District 4 titles and a state championship in 1991 (which I was priviliged to cover). Perhaps the best compliment to his coaching is what another longtime area coach often said of him - "That bugger's teams don't beat themselves."

As a basketball official, all it took was one look at Engle palming the ball with one of his ham-hock sized hands for players, and even hot-wired coaches, to know he was not a guy to be trifled with.

Engle and his fellow Central coaching legend from the Wilkes-Barre area, Duane Ford, epitomize the phrase, "old school."

They were disciplinarians and brooked little nonsense from players, on or off the field or court.

If either of them didn't like something or someone, they weren't shy about letting their thoughts be known.

But if they did like something or someone, you were good as gold. I consider both of them among the best people I've had the honor of covering over the years. It's been more than 12 years since I last worked at the Press-Enterprise, but any time I ran into either one of them in the time since, they've always made it a point to say hello and ask about what was going on in these parts.

Stories about both of them are legendary among coaches, sportswriters and broadcasters. One of them about Engle, may be a little apocryphal but it does say a lot about his style of disciplining and coaching, a style that likely would not fly well in today's you-can't-do-that-to-my-kid age.

Reportedly, at baseball practice one day, Engle asked one of his younger players to do some menial chore such as fetch a foul ball or a bat. The player, a bit of a wisenhimer, supposedly asked Engle who his batboy was last week. Without saying a word, Engle reportedly grabbed the player by the neck and stuck his head in a Gatorade bucket full

of ice water until the player was, how shall we say, thoroughly refreshed.

Engle is survived by his wife Judy, daughters Susan and Tracy, three grandchildren, and a host of great stories.

AA mat rankings

The latest Northeast Regional AA mat rankings from papowerwrestling.com, with the top three in each weight class plus other area wrestlers, with records as of Friday, Jan. 17:

106 - 1. Brian Friery, Lewisburg, 18-0; 2. Angelo Barberio, Muncy, 17-2; 3. Brock Horton, Athens, 18-5; 6. Collin Klinger, Line Mountain, 16-6; 9. Shane Casey, Southern Columbia, 11-2.

113 - 1. Cameron Newman, Line Mountain, 11-4; 2. Ethan Calkins, Troy, 17-3; 3. Eric Hunt, Warrior Run, 13-1.

120 - 1. Todd Lane, Southern Columbia, 13-0; 2. Tyrus Hamblin, Williamson, 18-2; 3. Mike Stuart, Benton, 15-7; 4. Brian Earlston, Line Mountain, 14-3.

126 - 1. Lewis Williams, Central Columbia, 20-1; 2. Zack LeBarron, Warrior Run, 12-1; 3. Anthony Vitale, 14-7; 7. Brett Shepard, Southern Columbia, 11-2.

132 - 1. Zach Fry, Hughesville, 16-2; 2. Collin Edsell, Wyalusing, 19-2; 3. Keith Batkowski, Montoursville, 16-1; 7. Blake Carl, Line Mountain, 13-5.

138 - 1. Austin Harry, Lake-Lehman, 10-0; 2. Kent Lane, Southern Columbia, 13-0; 3. Trevor McWhorter, Williamson, 21-0.

145 - 1. Billy Barnes, Williamson, 20-0; 2. Sam Miller, Bloomsburg, 19-2; 3. Zack Bennett, Milton, 14-5; 12. Kenny Boyer, Line Mountain, 7-0.

152 - 1. Cole Walter, Mifflinburg, 25-2; 2. Blake Marks, Southern Columbia, 13-0; 3. Dominic Vitale, Benton, 14-7; 9. Blake Panko, Mount Carmel, 13-5.

160 - 1. Jeric Kasunic, Benton, 19-5; 2. Max Reed, Lewisburg, 15-4; 3. Robert Wright, Lake-Lehman, 8-2; 8. Connor Houseknecht, Southern Columbia, 11-1.

170 - 1. Ryan Preisch, Milton, 19-2; 2. Garrett Hoffman, Montoursville, 17-2; 3. Branden Conrad, Bloomsburg, 18-2.

182 - 1. Matt Herr, Hughesville, 18-0; 2. Tyler Cole, Canton, 17-1; 3. Lucas Shaheen, Montoursville, 15-4; 10. Allen Yancoskie, Mount Carmel, 10-10.

195 - 1. Garrett Wesneski, Canton, 18-1; 2. Logan Womelsdorf, Benton, 19-6; 3. Tanner McCarty, Sullivan County, 18-3; 11. Rayce Boyer, Line Mountain, 9-5.

220 - 1. Dylan Otis, Wyalusing, 19-2; 2. Connor Route, Canton, 19-1; 3. Zack Faust, GAR, 13-0; 6. Zach Biddiscombe, Shamokin, 4-5.

285 - 1. Nazar Mironenko, Mifflinburg, 17-3; 2. Dalton Chilson, Wyalusing, 21-2; 3. Connor Bassett, Montoursville, 17-1.

(Souders is a sports writer for The News-Item)