Bethel Park honors Athletic Hall of Fame inductees

Saturday, September 25, 2021 | 11:01 AM

Five decades covering a span of 41 years were represented at this year’s Bethel Park Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

The 2020 Hall of Fame class was announced Sept. 17 before the Gateway-Bethel Park nonconference football game at Black Hawk Stadium.

The inductees consist of Alan Smith (1969), Doug Michalke (1971), Van Richardson (1982), Wes Richardson (1989), Danielle Gratton (2005) and Adam Lazenga (2010).

In normal circumstances, Bethel Park inducts members into the Athletic Hall of Fame annually in December.

“This class was originally slated for induction in December 2020, but covid restrictions caused us to delay to an outdoor event this fall,” HOF president Tony Fisher said.

Fisher has been in charge of the Athletic HOF since 2010, and works with a committee consisting of Bill Bonaccorsi, Jim Knapp, Steve Pokrajac, Vic DiPrampero, Matt Short, Gabe August, John Lorenzi and athletic director Dan Sloan.

To be eligible for HOF consideration, an athlete must be a Bethel Park High School graduate (at least five years ago), and played a scholastic or club sport at Bethel Park. Coaches must have coached at BP for at least 10 years.

Ron Evans, a 1960 Bethel Park graduate, is the founder of the Athletic Hall of Fame.

Plaques of all inductees line the display cases in the high school gymnasium, said Fisher, who acknowledged the career highlights of each of the inductees (see below) at the HOF ceremony at the stadium.

A reception with light refreshments was held in honor of all six honorees.

Adam Lazenga

Lazenga was a four-year starter in football and wrestling from 2006-10, and was one of the most decorated two-sport athletes in school history.

He was a three-time all-conference selection in football, earned All-WPIAL accolades, was named to the Tribune-Review Terrific 25, and was chosen team MVP and all-state in 2009.

Lazenga helped lead the Black Hawks to their only WPIAL football title, sparked the team to back-to-back conference titles as well as to a berth in the 2008 PIAA championship game.

In wrestling, Lazenga earned 135 career victories, setting records for wins (45) and pins (30) in a season. He won three section titles, was a WPIAL silver medalist, and in 2010 was the WPIAL heavyweight champion.

He led Bethel Park to its only WPIAL crown in 2009, and placed at the state tournament two times.

Lazenga continued his football career at Pitt and was named twice to the all-Big East Academic Team.

“It is humbling to be able to be recognized in the same Hall of Fame as the one I walked past and idolized growing up,” Lazenga said. ” Some of my fondest memories were obviously the championships, but also the time spent in between with teammates and friends. the bus rides, the locker room, etc. Those are the times we find ourselves reminiscing on the most.”

Van Richardson

Two of the inductees are brothers who starred on the gridiron.

Van Richardson played football at BP from 1979-81 and helped spark the Black Hawks to the WPIAL finals in 1980. He was a two-time all-conference selection at linebacker, an All-WPIAL honoree, and in 1981 was named second-team all-state.

Richardson served as a team captain at West Virginia in 1985, and helped lead the Mountaineers to two bowl wins.

Wes Richardson

Wes Richardson competed in football at Bethel Park between 1986-88, and was a two-time all-conference linebacker.

He continued his career at WVU, where was lauded as a second-team All-Big East selection and ended up 13th on the program’s all-time tackles list.

In 1993, Richardson and the Mountaineers won the school’s first-ever Big East Conference football title, earning a postseason trip to the Sugar Bowl.

Danielle Gratton

Gratton earned seven varsity letters — four in basketball and three in volleyball.

She finished her hoops career with 1,122 career points, earning first-team all-state, All-WPIAL and Tribune-Review Terrific 10 accolades. She led BP to back-to-back section crowns, and to the 2005 WPIAL championship game.

She played collegiately at both Illinois and Ball State, and was a third-team All-MAC selection as a senior.

Gratton collected various academic honors, including ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-District, Academic All-Big Ten and academic all-conference.

In volleyball, Gratton was a second-team All-WPIAL selection and sparked the Black Hawks to a section championship in 2004.

Alan Smith

Smith was a four-year letterman on the swim team from 1966-69, leading the Black Hawks to four consecutive WPIAL crowns.

He was a three-time PIAA silver medalist in the 200- and 400-yard freestyle events, and a three-time WPIAL titlist in both events. He also was a member of BP’s record-breaking PIAA gold medal 400 free relay team in 1969.

Smith set the school and pool record in three freestyle and two relay events, then swam collegiately at Kent State. As a prep coach, he guided St. Martin’s (La.) to 24 state championships.

“I was a product of a great recreational youth program,” Smith said. “I loved sports and played everything from youth football, basketball to competitive swimming. I’m glad the leaders and stars have a way of being recognized. The PIAA didn’t recognize a state championship at that time, but we were the best team and scored way more points than any other high school at the state meet in 1969. Individually, being a WPIAL champion was a reward knowing I was the best in Pittsburgh, and making High School All-American capped my career off.

“Bethel Park was a great place to grow up and pursue your dreams. We were very proud of our school and very lucky to have parents who gave us the opportunity they did. Bethel is someplace special and I benefited from the efforts of thousands of adults who made the community the success it still is today.

“My fondest moments were un-seeding Mt. Lebanon as the WPIAL champion and being undefeated in dual meet competitions since it involved others.

Doug Michalke

Michalke also was a four-year letterman in swimming, including 1968-69 when the Black Hawks won consecutive WPIAL titles. He was a four-time all-state and All-WPIAL selection, and captured a pair of PIAA gold medals in the 200 individual medley and 400 freestyle relay.

Michalke shattered school records in six different events. He and his teammates broke the WPIAL record in the 400 freestyle relay.

He continued his career at the U.S. Naval Academy, and was an NCAA qualifier in the 400 and 800 freestyle relays. He has coached high school swimming in Atlanta for 30 years.


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