Marc Billett has a lot of fond memories of his days — and they were many — as a wrestling coach in the Greater Latrobe School District.
Try 40 years worth.
And that’s only part of it.
Sure, he’s received his share of accolades on the mat. There are many of those, too.
For all of his accomplishments, Billett was inducted into the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame in 2012, his last season as GL’s varsity head coach and only three years after retiring as a health and physical education instructor, and then the Southwestern Pennsylvania Hall of Fame in 2016.
Now, comes the pinnacle. On April 26 in Hershey, the site of many a state tournament match he also coached in, Billett will be included in the 27th class of the Pennsylvania Chapter or the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
“There are so many outstanding individuals who have been inducted into the Pa. Chapter of the national Hall of Fame who I’ve respected and admired over my career. And the class of guys who I’m going in with is just beyond words,” Billett expressed.
“The state Hall of Fame was a great honor, but this is going to one-up that one. This is, without a doubt, the biggest honor for me.
“First of all, you’re recognized for something you love to do. Teaching and coaching, I think, were my calling.”
He must have been doing something right. He lasted 37 years — as an instructor — in one, and 40 in the other.
After wrestling at South Williamsport High School and Lock Haven University (1972 graduate), Billett became a teacher and coach at Greater Latrobe, starting out in the latter at the junior high. And it didn’t take long for him to make an impact.
In 19 years, his teams went 177-21-1, including five undefeated seasons, and won 12 section championships. During that time, Billett was also named WPIAL Coach of the Year twice (1980, 1983).
Billett then took over — in 1991-92 — as varsity head coach, succeeding Tom Harbert, whom he was an assistant under.
In 21 seasons in that position, the Wildcats posted a 218-104-4 record (.674 winning percentage), captured four section titles and qualified for the WPIAL playoffs 12 times with six top-four finishes, one of which was runner-up (2011).
He was named Section 1-AAA Coach of the Year three times (2003, 2004, 2011) and led GL to back-to-back Westmoreland County Coaches Association team championships (2011-12). In addition, Billett coached the Pennsylvania team to its first national dual-meet championship in Battle Creek, Mich., in 1999.
“The most memorable moments for me are probably the team championships and the year we made the WPIAL finals. But I would have to say the biggest is having a state champion,” Billett indicated.
That was Ryan Goodman as a junior in 2006. It also happened to be the first state champion in Greater Latrobe history.
“I can still envision that match in my head,” Billett said of Goodman’s one-point victory in the finals. “He wrestled a lot of overtime matches during his career. He was winning this one by a point, and it seemed like it was taking forever for the clock to wind down.
“I can remember the last few seconds finally ticking down and then celebrating in the corner when Ryan came off the mat. That was special.”
Understand that five GL wrestlers reached the championship match before Goodman broke through. Billett also coached a total of 29 PIAA state qualifiers, 14 of them place-finishers, eight Southwest Regional/WPIAL champions and 40 section winners.
“We’ve had so many good kids,” Billett stated. “And we had kids who came so close to having a state champion before that.
“I think that laid the framework for the kids who followed him (Goodman)...that they realized that they could maybe do it, too. I think it led the way for a lot of other kids who came along.”
Yet that — a state champion — isn’t what sticks in Billett’s mind the most. It’s something altogether different. But if you know Billett, it doesn’t come as a surprise.
“One that I’m really proud of is being the longest-tenured coach in the school’s history,” he offered. “To coach 40 years in one sport...there’s not too many people who reach that milestone.
“The biggest takeaway that I’ve gotten from coaching is the reward from the wrestlers, and the fraternity that we have, when they come back to you and say that you’ve made a little bit of a difference in their lives. That’s my biggest reward...to have helped someone along the way.
“That’s the great benefit of coaching. You can have an influence on somebody and hopefully help them become a better person and not just a good athlete.
“This is a great honor for me. I’m really grateful and humbled by it.”
Billett, who just turned 70, will be inducted into the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for his Lifetime Service to Wrestling. He continues to contribute to the sport as a photographer for PA Wrestling Newsmagazine, PA Power Wrestling and the Latrobe Bulletin, and served as a commentator for WCNS-AM 1480 in Latrobe.
Eight others will be inducted along with Billett. They are Steve Capoferri (Elizabethtown), Roger Crebs (William Tennant), Robert Koffler (Philadelphia), John Little (Solanco) and Carl Poff (Bloomsburg) as coaches, Rich Vetock (Central Cambria) as a coach and contributor, and Ken Daws and Marty Strayer III as officials.
“I just want to thank everybody who helped me along the way...most of all, the kids who wrestled for us. And I’m blessed that the school district allowed be to be a coach.”
Maybe it’s the other way around.