Asked to name the best wrestler in Penn Charter history, coach Peter Shaifer OPC ’82 didn’t hesitate.
“Billy Stuart,” he said. “No question.”
It is fitting, then, that the wrestling room in the new William A. Graham IV OPC ’58 Athletics & Wellness Center will be named in honor of William “Billy” Stuart OPC ’61. Stuart lost only one match during his five-year PC wrestling career, starting off in the 95 lb weight class as an eighth grader and eventually moving up to the 137 lb class. At Lehigh University, he won the national championship in 1965, his junior year, the only former Inter-Academic League wrestler to win a national wrestling title, and placed third as a senior. During that championship season, Stuart and his teammates, known as the “Terrific Trio,” were featured in Sports Illustrated and Newsweek. He finished at Lehigh with a career record of 50-6. In 2002, Stuart was inducted into the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Hall of Fame.
If that isn’t enough, Stuart was a multisport athlete who played football his senior year and started on the defensive line. It was the only year he was heavy enough to meet the minimum varsity weight limit.
In the classroom, Stuart did well enough to earn admission to Brown University (he transferred to Lehigh as a sophomore) but cheerfully described himself as “an instigator, a troublemaker.” History teacher Herbert McVey kicked him out of class so many times, Stuart chuckled, that at the first sign of mischief McVey would bark, “Billy ... the door.”
There were many people keeping an eye on Stuart at PC, most notably his father, Kenneth Stuart, a PC board member at the time, and Headmaster John F. Gummere. When Stuart decided he wanted to transfer from Brown to Lehigh, his father insisted that he first get Gummere’s approval.
Success continued for Stuart after he hung up his wrestling singlet. He earned a master’s at Penn State and a medical degree from the University of Maryland. Stuart spent his career as an emergency medicine doctor, first in Illinois and finally in Lowell, Mass. He continues to work as an expert witness in medical malpractice cases.
In Stuart’s day, the PC wrestling team practiced in the basement of the main building. Future wrestlers will enjoy more light-filled accommodations and up-to-date equipment, thanks to a lead gift by the best wrestler in the school’s history. Stuart said he is happy to give something back.
“It was a great education, a great experience,” he said of PC. “All these years later, I still have friends I stay in touch with.”