College wrestling was just beginning in Philadelphia.
Unbeknown to those initial college grapplers, thousands of miles away a teenager in Scotland was winning wrestling championships throughout the land. This young man – then known as Willie Sheridan – would come to have a major impact on college wrestling and the development of high school wrestling in the Lehigh Valley.
Sheridan, a native of Dumbarton, Scotland, was born in 1885 and started his wrestling career in 1903; his brother also wrestled. He won the 9 stone 7- pound amateur wrestling championship of Scotland from 1903 through 1908. He wrestled “all the best men in Scotland 10 stone and under and never met defeat.” Overall, he won dozens of titles.
Around this time, he was working for Singer Sewing Machine in Glasgow. He wanted to go to Canada where his sister lived, and Singer transferred him there. He set sail in April 1908. Two years later, not favoring the cold weather of Canada, Sheridan requested a transfer to a new Singer plant opening in Philadelphia, PA. Upon starting his new job as he walked to and from his work, he passed the University of Pennsylvania gymnasium each day.
Billy would stop in and show the wrestlers holds and at some point ended up on the mat, pinned half of the University of Penn team and was immediately hired as coach. One year later, Sheridan was hired as the head wrestling coach at Lehigh University, a post he would hold for an incredible forty-one years. During his tenure as head coach at Lehigh, Billy Sheridan won 223 duals, thirteen EIWA team championships, and he coached five national championships.
He established a wrestling tradition at Lehigh University that still burns brightly over 107 years after he first coached. Many Lehigh Valley adults and young future wrestlers (and future coaches) got their first exposure to wrestling due to Coach Sheridan’s and Lehigh’s success in those early years when wrestling was not well known.
According to his son, Larry, Billy was “the pied piper of wrestling” right from the start.