| A wrestling meet held in Sweeney Gym|
Thanks to the generosity and leadership of Walter C. Price, Jr. ’66 through his establishment of The Frank S. Bissell ’33 Wrestling Endowment, Sweeney Gymnasium has been named as the new additional space used for The Hill’s wrestling program. The Bissell Wrestling Endowment honors legendary wrestling coach Frank S. Bissell, a member of The Hill School’s class of 1933; the endowment provided the School with the necessary capital funds to renovate Sweeney Gymnasium as an appropriate venue for multi-school home matches and wrestling tournaments.
Team practices and smaller meets still will be held in the official home of Hill wrestling, the Bissell Wrestling Room, which is located above the Annan Strength Center. The walls of the Bissell Wrestling Room feature anecdotes regarding Coach Bissell's philosophy and plaques honoring national prep champions and Hill alumni who captained their college teams.
In addition, The Bissell Wrestling Endowment will provide annual budgetary and strategic support for Hill’s wrestling program. The fund will cover expenses such as wrestling clinics, wrestling-specific strength and conditioning support, team travel during the regular season, officials’ fees, recruiting costs, local and national tournament fees, and associated tournament travel costs.
As this fund’s income grows or additional gifts are made to this endowment, The Bissell Fund also may eventually support the promotion of local youth wrestling, wrestling coach salaries, assistance for School wrestlers with financial need, and additional capital and programmatic improvements and enhancements which will benefit the program.
“As a result of The Bissell Endowment we have been able to send our top wrestlers to some of the most competitive tournaments in the country,” says Head Wrestling Coach Jesse Young. “Additionally, worn and overused equipment has been replaced, improvements which otherwise would not have been available in today’s tight economy.
“With the renovation of Sweeney, which now features a new mat and storage system, we are thrilled to be able to showcase our team in a larger arena,” continues Coach Young.
| Frank Bissell '33, photo taken in 1949|
Coach Frank Bissell served on Hill’s faculty from 1947 to 1973, coaching wrestling throughout his tenure. He led his teams to 17 National Prep Tournament championships, shaped six National Prep Outstanding Wrestlers, and inspired 44 National Prep Champions to obtain a total of 62 titles. Mr. Bissell's coaching vision involved matching rookie wrestlers with older Hill athletes to strengthen team ties in this sport of individual competition. This beloved coach and mentor also led the football squads from 1953 to 1964, logging a 50-20-4 record. He served as assistant coach for the undefeated 1949 football team.
Coach Bissell’s former player Bevan Alvey ’66, father of two Hill graduates Bevan ’95 and Rudy ’96 and of current student Eugene ’13, credits Coach Bissell with helping to transform boys into men. Bevan says, “Frank was a remarkable wrestling coach but what he really excelled at was making men-- self-reliant, honorable,
highly- disciplined men who believed they could overcome anything -- physical, mental, and emotional-- if they just had the chance to work at it long enough. Wrestling was just the crucible. And, even though it has been nearly 50 years since I first wandered into the wrestling room and heard Frank’s voice boom, I still draw upon the lessons he taught me and I will be forever grateful,” Bevan says.
H. Clay McEldowney '65, former Hill wrestling champion and co-captain, Princeton University team captain, and father of Ryan McEldwoney '95, had this to share about his coach and mentor Frank Bissell:
Frank Bissell produced an unmatched record as wrestling coach over his 26 years at Hill in one of the toughest wrestling territories in the U.S.A., Eastern Pennsylvania. Frank made sure his teams wrestled their best and never had them duck a tough opponent. Instead of concentrating on prep schools, he scheduled the likes of Easton, Northampton, Springfield, Pennsbury, Dieruff, and Bethlehem high schools and college freshmen teams, and even took his team by train to Long Island to compete with Sprig Gardner’s nationally top-rated Mepham High School.Frank always had his eye on the National Prep School Championships held at Lehigh and knew his team would do its best there by wrestling the best during the dual meet season. Frank’s success as a coach didn’t depend on recruiting but on creating wrestlers, in many cases out of boys lacking any identifiable athletic talent. Some of those third former non-athletes became sixth former champions. Frank instilled in his boys a mindset that doing anything less than their best was not enough and created a championship culture. His boys understood that their work on and off the mat was beyond anything they had done before. The lessons we learned were indelible. We learned the values of preparation, hard work, dedication, sportsmanship and teamwork necessary for success, not only to wrestling but to just about everything in life. Frank taught us that you didn’t have to be a champion to be a winner. Frank’s coaching proved to be a life’s lesson, and I consider myself blessed to have had him as my wrestling coach for my four years at The Hill School.