Ohio Valley Unsung Hero: Hinegardner receives OVAC webpage notice

MOUNDSVILLE – Bill Hinegardner has certainly carved out a stellar second act for himself.

It’s been 32 years since he stepped away – at the age of 39 – as the head coach of the John Marshall High School wrestling dynasty that all but dominated the sport area- and state-wide during his tenure.

Still, his imprint is felt today.

So much so, the OVAC recently dedicated its webpage to the man the late sportswriter Bill Van Horne called ”West Virginia Wrestling’s Man of Character.”

”It’s pretty nice,” Hinegardner, an OVAC Hall of Famer, said humbly. ”It was quite a surprise.”

Hinegardner has been afforded almost every award and accolade imaginable during his 50 years of working with youngsters as an educator and coach. But he’s never sought the limelight.

”I got a good start with good people,” he stated.

And, in turn, he returned the favor many times over.

”That’s what it’s all about as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

He closed his educational career in 2004 after spending five years as a guidance counselor at River High School.

And while most folks who retire might relax and see the world (Bill’s done some of that with his wife of 50 years, Shirley), Hinegardner believes he still has plenty to give.

”I don’t know what else I’d do,” he said smiling. ”It wouldn’t be any fun sitting around doing nothing. It’s something I’ve always done and always had fun with.

”These people (I work with) are lifelong friends.

”What would I do? Sit around and watch TV or something?”

When called upon, Hinegardner steps to the plate, no matter the sport or endeavor.

Most recently, he worked helping select scholarships for the OVAC Rudy Mumley All-Star Football Game.

Other sports are close to his heart, too. But wrestling is obviously at the top of the list.

A few years ago, the OVAC named its dual meet championships after Hinegardner in recognition of his years of service and success.

Ironically, though, he never wrestled competitively. When Hinegardner arrived at Moundsville High School in January 1965 he was fresh out of Concord College, where he’d played a little bit of basketball and baseball.

”Shirley and I were living in Charleston at the time and we came up,” Hinegardner recalled.

Upon accepting the position of math teacher, Hinegardner soon was introduced to the community’s sports programs.

He became an assistant in three sports – wrestling, under Paul Crago; and football and track, under OVAC Hall of Famer George Kovalick.

”We’ll teach you the way we want to do it,” Hinegardner remembered Kovalick telling him.

One year later, Kovalick became the head wrestling coach. Then, in 1968, when John Marshall opened, Hinegardner was handed the reins. He also became a guidance counselor at the school, a position he held for 31 years.

”It was a team thing,” Hinegardner recalled. ”I’m very proud. When John Marshall started the administration did an excellent job of setting the program up, not only athletically, but academically. Just the whole ball of wax.”

After a few years of guiding the program, Hinegardner realized he had something special in the making.

”Everyone worked together,” he said. ”We were all on the same page.”

That spirit of cooperation resulted in a quick filling of the Monarchs’ new trophy case.

During Hinegardner’s tenure JM earned four state championships, four runner-up finishes, four overall OVAC titles, five Class 4A crowns and five dual meet championships.

His teams posted a dual-meet mark of 133-29-1 and, from December 1971 to December 1976, won 41 straight dual meets, a record at the time.

In 1974, Hinegardner became the first wrestling coach to win OVAC Coach of the Year, sharing the honor with then Woodsfield football coach Jay Circosta.

Along the way, Hinegardner continued to assist in track, baseball and football, serving on Mike Linsky’s staff during JM’s 1996 state championship run.

Other honors included the OVAC’s Mr. Mat Award in 1984 and the 1977 Jim Edge Award presented by the Moundsville Area Junior Chamber of Commerce for outstanding work in religious and youth activities.

Hinegardner returned to the coaching ranks when he joined the staff at River, albeit as a volunteer assistant. He served on Bob Cain’s golf staff and Tom Tisher’s girls’ basketball staff. He was a part of OVAC championships with those teams, too.

All in all, Hinegardner believes he’s led a very fruitful life. From Meadow Bridge High School to Marshall County and with a family that includes a son, daughter and four grandchildren, he wouldn’t want it any other way.

And the best part, at least in his eyes, it’s far from being over.

”I’ve been lucky,” he said. ”I’ve been surrounded by good people is what I’ve been.”

If you know of someone involved in sports in the Ohio Valley whom I could feature as an Ohio Valley Unsung Hero, drop me a line at rthorp@timesleaderonline.com or via Twitter at RickThorp1