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Winter coaches made their marks


Jim Savage (far left, standing) guided Judge to five Catholic League wrestling championships.

Miss the winter?

OK, so the hot weather hasn’t been great, but it sure beats snow and all the other gross stuff that comes in December, January and February.

But one thing we do have during the winter months is great high school sports. Last week we broke down the great boys basketball coaches, and today, we’re going to look at the other winter sports.

We were going to combine the other three winter sports – girls basketball, wrestling and swimming – but there are far too many great coaches to do that. So instead, we’re going to go top five in each of those sports.

It won’t be easy.

Girls basketball in Northeast Philly hasn’t produced a lot of championships, but we have had more than our fair share of great coaches on the benches.

Wrestling has been good to us.

There are two schools in our area – Frankford and North Catholic – that reign supreme in this sport, but schools like Judge and Northeast have become elite wrestling programs over the past few years.

And in swimming? Well Archbishop Ryan has been the best program in the area, but they’ve had strong contenders. 

Once again, doing these lists is a daunting task because we’ve had so many great coaches in all sports, and this group is no different.

Ground rules, coaches had to be a head coach at one of our traditional schools (Frankford, Northeast, Franklin Towne Charter, Lincoln, Fels, Washington, Nazareth, Ryan, Hubert’s, Judge, North, Little Flower and Dougherty).

Penn Charter is a great school. So is Central, Basil’s, La Salle, Holy Ghost, Prep and every other school that draws students from our area. But they’re not included. It’s not because we don’t like them, it’s not because we are elitists, it’s because we haven’t covered them, so it’s unfair to grade coaches we haven’t watched. 

Here are our top five coaches in those sports. 


Sue Sebold

St. Hubert

After being a star high school and college basketball player, Sebold became a very successful coach at her alma mater, sitting on the bench nine years, and most of those years were very good ones.

She guided the Bambies to eight playoff appearances, two trips to the Catholic League semifinals and brought home three Northern Division championships. 

And just as it is now, the Catholic League was very tough when she ran the team.

After stepping down to spend time with her daughter, she went back to coaching and this year was an assistant at Archbishop Wood. Next year, she’ll be an assistant at Chestnut Hill College.

Mary McDonald

Cardinal Dougherty

The final coach at Dougherty was one of the best. She spent more than 20 years at the helm, and built the Lady Cardinals into a formidable unit.

During those years, she won five Catholic League Northern Division championships and had the Cardinals in position for the postseason just about every year.

Even during the final days of the school, McDonald had Dougherty competing. And when she wasn’t coaching at Dougherty, she was helping out the basketball scene in Fox Chase.

Now a coach’s mom. Her son Mike is coaching at Archbishop Wood, where he has turned the Vikings into one of the top teams in the state. He’ll be the first to admit mom taught him a lot of what he knows! 

Kathy Costello

Nazareth Academy

Though she spent only six seasons at the school, she had the Pandas firing on all cylinders every year.

When Costello was on the bench, Nazareth wasn’t just competitive in the always tough Catholic Academies League, they were also one of the top teams in District One, and nearly always made it to the state tournament.

During her days as coach, she mentored current Nazareth coach Mary Kate Magagna, who won a Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year while playing. 

Also worked for St. Joe’s, and held clinics throughout the city, helping basketball players get better.

Rich Kirk


We said people get credit for everything they’ve done while coaching Northeast Philly schools, and Kirk has quite the resume.

Spent seven years coaching at Northeast in the early part of the century, and was quite successful, getting the Lady Vikings to the playoffs every year. His team snapped a 100-game winning streak by Central.

But his greatest success was when he coached Cardinal Dougherty, where he guided the team to two Catholic League championships, winning the crown in 1989 and 1990. Both years, his team won the unofficial city championship.

Jackie Hartzell

Archbishop Ryan

She went 78-49 while coaching the Ragdolls for five seasons, and it was arguably one of the best eras in Ryan girls hoops.

She twice led the Ragdolls to the state tournament, and in her final year, she helped Ryan reach the Catholic League semifinals. 

Hartzell didn’t last long at Ryan, despite her great record, because she took a job coaching University of the Sciences.

Another cool thing about Hartzell: She is actively involved in Athletes Helping Athletes, a club that Ryan athletes, both boys and girls, are extremely active in. 

Free throws

There were 18 names on the list when we started narrowing it down, and all made a good argument to be on the list. 

Many of the ones who had an argument to be included were the current crop of coaches. Dave Schafer, of St. Hubert, and Chris Reid, of Washington, could have easily been on the list, as could Frankford’s Jon Michels. Another underrated coach, who was on our softball list, was Brianna O’Donnell, of Franklin Towne. She recently parted ways with her school, but Rinky Klose-Buchter from Little Flower is someone you’d want to coach your kid. She would take neighborhood teams into games against powerhouses, and her teams always worked hard, got better and had fun. Can’t beat that.


Jim Savage

North Catholic/Father Judge

It’s hard to imagine a coach having as much success at any level.

Savage, a 1992 graduate of North Catholic, started coaching at his alma mater right after he graduated from college, and stayed there until the school closed. He then went to Judge and built a great program before taking over at St. Joe’s Prep last year.

And no matter what his role, be it coach, assistant or head man, he won. After winning a pair of titles during his final two years as a wrestler at North, he won two more as an assistant coach with the Falcons. He then won six as the head coach at North, then won five more at Judge. He coached Judge’s Joe Galasso to a state title in 2013.

Few work their charges harder, but the harder he works his guys, the more he’s loved. 

Also a very good math teacher.

Bob Peffle


You’re not going to often see the best coach in Northeast Philadelphia history No. 2 on a list, and an argument could be made that Peffle is the best wrestling coach ever, but we’re going with Savage in a close race. 

Here’s why Peffle should be in the conversation: Not only did he start the program at Frankford, he made the Pioneers the greatest in the Public League. He taught himself wrestling by going to Temple and watching the Owls’ practice. He then brought what he learned to his alma mater, and led the Pioneers to 11 Public League championships.

He also was a great recruiter. We’re not talking about getting the best wrestlers to come to Frankford, but he would find athletes in the school and have them try the sport out. He got more than a few Public League individual champs that way.

Peffle isn’t just an incredible wrestling coach. He’s also a dynamic soccer coach, where he had La Salle as one of the top teams in the PCL, and was a great baseball coach at Frankford. 

Like Savage, he worked his guys to death, and they still loved him. I guess all wrestling coaches do that.

Jerry Garzone

North Catholic

The coach of the first man listed comes in at No. 3. Garzone guided the Falcons for nearly 20 years, and won five Catholic League championships during that time. 

The Falcons have always been one of the top wrestling teams in the area, but during Garzone’s run, North started building its dynasty, a dynasty that continued until the school closed in 2010.

He stuck around the program and left it in great hands, which was very important to the former Falcon wrestler.

Mike Siravo


When Siravo took over the program, Northeast had never won a Public League championship. Ever since, they’ve been one of the top teams in the Public League and hang a banner more often than not.

It took him two years, but Northeast won its first championship in 2009. Ever since, the top two teams in the Public League have been rivals Central and Northeast. 

The Vikings have now won two straight Public League championships and three of the past four.

He’s not only helped the program, but the Vikings are also one of the top teams, individually. Every year he produces multiple All-Publics and sends wrestlers to the District 12 tournament, where they’ve also enjoyed success.

Billy Hunter

North Catholic

It’s hard to do better than Hunter did. He coached two seasons at North Catholic, and both years produced Catholic League championships. 

He perfectly bridged Garzone’s stint through to Savage, who served as an assistant coach for Hunter.

And while Savage is North’s top coach, North wouldn’t have been what it was without Hunter. He had a huge hand training younger wrestlers, who ended up starring at North.

Helped start the wrestling program at McDevitt, where he coached for four years and led the Lancers to the PCL semifinals.

Back points

The Northeast is the mecca for high school wrestling in the city of Philadelphia. First North and Frankford had dynasties, then Northeast and Judge.

We did leave out some great coaches. John Swift could have easily been on the list for the great things he’s done at Ryan, and Mike McKinney worked wonders at Washington. While neither reached the levels of their coach, both Chris Vicente and Joe Farina did well while coaching at Frankford, where they won titles. Another guy who could have made the list was Dougherty’s Chuck Heybach. 



Ed Macko 

Archbishop Ryan

The best local swimming coach recently stepped down when Macko announced he was giving up the program at the end of the school year. 

A Cardinal Dougherty grad, Macko was the coach for 25 years, and took on the boys and girls teams in 2012. During his career, he went 141-24, won 13 Catholic League championships, nine District 12 championships and won one National Catholic Championship. 

The entire time he was at Ryan, the Ragdolls were competing for the top spot.

Taught English at Ryan for 42 years, and his top assistant at the end of his career was his daughter Sarah Hutchins. 

Sean Clothier

Little Flower

The Ragdolls were the top team for most of the past 25 years, but the only local team to knock them off during that time was Little Flower, which won the title in 2014 when the Sentinels went 10-0.

Clothier is great at turning novice swimmers into good swimmers, but during his career he has had some of the best talent, including Ally McHugh, who swam for Penn State and is still working hard at becoming an Olympian, her sister Kelley McHugh and Gina Cantoral.

A Judge grad, Clothier champions on behalf of the Catholic League. Nobody cares more about his team, and his sport, as much as Clothier.

Ed Roussel

Nazareth Academy

Started out coaching grade school successfully and then moved on to high school, where he has consistently produced state championship-qualifying swimmers for the last decade.

He’s also helped the Pandas compete in the Catholic Academies League, which isn’t an easy thing to do. But Roussel as well built a culture of well-liked and respected young ladies who are among the best at their craft.

Also helps at Holy Ghost Prep.

Jerry McCaffrey

Father Judge

With La Salle in the Catholic League, it’s almost impossible for another school to win a championship, but McCaffrey always put the Crusaders in position to be one of the top teams. 

During his 19 years on the deck, he won the Stroudsburg Winter Classic 10 years in a row, and every year he coached he had multiple All-Catholic selections.

He must have made the sport fun, too. Many of his former swimmers, including Clothier, went on to coach in the Catholic League. In fact, he produced 11 head or assistant swimming coaches.

Jeb Lynch 

Abraham Lincoln 

Most probably know him better as a football coach, but in addition to coaching the Railsplitters in the fall, he was a great swim coach.

Taught swimming from a basic level, too, teaching many Lincoln students to swim during physical education class.

Kept the Railsplitters competitive in the Public League, and had a lot of All-Public swimmers during his tenure.

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