Voorhees High School Wrestling

The “pin pot” was collected before the varsity wrestling match.  Every wrestler in the varsity lineup would contribute a dollar and the wrestler with the fastest fall that evening would win the money.  Once in a while, a fan would throw in a dollar or two to make it more interesting for the kids, and then there was Don Beam, who would smile, reach into his pocket, and throw in a ten dollar bill.  This was just one example of generosity from a man who dedicated years of his life to the wrestling and football programs of Voorhees High School.

It was not easy getting the athletic programs going when Voorhees opened its doors in 1975; everything had to be started from scratch.  Coach Pat Pinto had the challenging task of starting a football program.  In addition to trying to field a team, hire a coaching staff, and get the necessary equipment, he needed to start a booster club, and there at the very first meeting of the Voorhees Football booster club was Don Beam.  From that moment on, Don “Punch” Beam became the unselfish supporter for the football team.  As Coach Pinto remembers, “He would help us out with anything he could; the little things that weren’t covered in our budget like decals for our helmets or oranges at halftime.  Guys like him are such an asset to a program.  This wasn’t just a four-year pledge you would get from a parent with a child in the program; it was an extended commitment from a person who sincerely cared about the school.”

When asked when and why Don Beam started hanging around the wrestling program, former assistant coach Tom Heilman replied, “Good question…I don’t know, he just appeared.”  While the appearance of Don may have been a mystery, there was no ambiguity about the kind of person he was.  He became close friends with wrestling and football coaches, and as Coach Heilman remembers, Don loved hanging out with the boys, “When we would get together after matches or down at the state tournament, it seemed like it was the adventure of Punch’s life.  He loved having a good time and he insisted on picking up the tab despite our protests.  He was just a great friend to us and the program.”  Former assistant wrestling coach Dave Miers has similar memories of his old friend, “Punch Beam was the ‘Godfather’ of the wrestling team and he kept the team (and especially the coaches) well supplied with snacks.  Punch was always ‘around.’  He was an ardent fan and generous supporter.  He would show up before or after practice with bags of snacks.  Lockers in our coaches room were designated as ‘snack lockers,’ and in spite of the constant nibbling, the lockers were never empty.

Don Beam’s unselfishness and sentimentality for Voorhees could best be described in a story of him performing one of his favorite pastimes: being part of the “chain gang” for a football game at Voorhees.  While holding the down marker on the sidelines Don found himself having trouble getting out of the way of a play that was hastily coming toward him.  Rather than drop the marker and take cover, Don “went down like a rock” but managed to keep the marker upright.  When later asked why he didn’t drop it and run out of the way, “Punch” Beam stated, “I didn’t want Voorhees to risk losing any yardage because of me.”