EAST SYRACUSE - This year the Upstate New York Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame is honoring three former Norwich Wrestlers and coaches. Coaches Sam Elia and Frank Giltner are receiving Lifetime Service Awards from the organization. Recent graduate Tristan Rifanburg is also being honored as the Outstanding Wrestler of the 2014-2015 season.
On September, 20 The Upstate New York Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame will honor nine exceptional athletes, three of them former Norwich Athletes. These men all achieved athletic greatness on the mat or coaching on the floor. Elia and Giltner started their careers as coaches when wrestling wasn’t a very popular sport.
Giltner’s athletic career started at Tamaqua High School in Pennsylvania where he established a great academic and athletic resume. After graduation, Giltner was offered an athletic scholarship to attend Muhlenberg College and was also offered a professional baseball contract with the Cleveland Indians. Giltner ultimately chose to attend Muhlenberg where he continued his athletic career, lettering in multiple sports.
After his graduation in 1932, Giltner moved to Norwich and began his teaching career at the Norwich Middle School. Frank’s son Phil tells the story that in 1935 Athletic Director Kurt Beyer walked into Giltner’s classroom and literally handed him an instruction manual on how to coach wrestling and told him to start a wrestling program. From there began the strong and decorated history of wrestling in Norwich. In his first season Giltner coached the Purple Tornado in four separate matches and competed in the Interscholastic State Tournament at Saint Lawrence University. As matches were hard to schedule in the 1930’s because of the scarcity of teams, Giltner and his team were often required to drive long distances to compete.