Norwin athletes to join Hall of Fame

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Monday, September 18, 2017 | 5:48 PM


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The Norwin Athletic Hall of Fame will induct its ninth annual class this weekend. Tickets are available for $35 each by contacting the athletic office at 724-861-3006 or Amy Kerr at [email protected].

Shannon Abraham, Bob Montrose, Ryan Obeldobel, Holly Peters, Jennifer (Manik) Wright, Jay Tray, Bob Shrader and Robert Vaughn have been profiled the past two weeks. Bill Zollner, the 1959 wrestling team and the 1985 and '86 girls volleyball teams also will be inducted.

1959 wrestling team

Unbeaten in 10 dual wrestling meets by the recently created union of Irwin and North Huntingdon high schools, the 1959 Norwin Knights wrestling team ranks as one of the most successful in school history.

In coach Joe Kane's third season at Norwin, not only were the Knights undefeated as a team, but seven individual wrestlers were crowned Westmoreland County champions.

Norwin finished second at the county tournament, based on a unique scoring system that failed to take into account the huge number of champions.

Thirteen members of that 1959 team will be honored, including team spokesman Howard O'Neal (165-pound class) who, during the 1958 season, became the second North Huntingdon wrestler to advance to the WPIAL finals. O'Neal defeated Robert Eckley of Munhall in the semifinal match in overtime to reach the finals, where he was defeated. In 1954, Jim Minerva, at 185 pounds, was the first North Huntingdon wrestler to compete in the WPIAL finals.

Norwin's 1959 wrestling squad included Jerry Wright (88 pounds, 13-0), Ken Fontanesi (95, 2-9), John Leader (103, 6-2-1), Pat Menham (112, 12-0), Dave Creighton (120, 7-1-2), Chuck Beatty (127, 12-0-1), Louie Sensenick (133, 4-3), Ed Weeber (133), George “Skip” O'Rourke (138, 12-0), Ed Heinz (145), John Stevens (154, 9-4), Howard O'Neal (165, 12-0) and Floyd Moore (184, 0-5).

Included among those wrestlers were seven county champions: Wright, Menham, O'Rourke, O'Neal, Heinz, Beatty and Stevens. Section titles were claimed by Wright, Menham, Beatty, O'Rourke, Heinz and O'Neal.

“We had talented athletes who were committed to doing the best they could for the team,” O'Neal said. “We were dedicated, and practices were intense. Our record was a true indication of how committed we were.”

Bill Zollner

Add 1975 grad Bill Zollner to the list of WPIAL wrestling champions elected to Norwin's Athletic Hall of Fame.

Zollner, who won the 126-pound title in 1975, joins Tim Morgan and Jay Tray in 1965, Bill Hawley in 1976 and Dave Chomanics in 1977 and ‘78.

Zollner, who compiled a 28-1 record his final year on Norwin's mats, also captured the section title. Zollner captured a pair of Westmoreland County championships, at 112 as a sophomore and 126 as a senior. He was selected to participate in Pittsburgh's first Dapper Dan showcase as a senior, defeating the Maryland state champion.

He defeated four WPIAL and three state champions, a U.S. Wrestling National freestyle runner up and the national champion from Poland. He was crowned Pennsylvania freestyle champion in 1975.

In three seasons with the Knights, the one match that stands out in Zollner's mind is one that ended perhaps in a draw ... in Bob Garritano's POD (Problems of Democracy) class. Garritano invited a female judo champion to instruct the class in self-defense techniques, Zollner said. Needing a volunteer from his class to assist the instructor, Garritano pointed Zollner's way and said, “thanks for volunteering.” Needing encouragement, Garritano asked the class if Zollner should go “one-on-one” with the instructor, and his classmates voted unanimously in the affirmative.

A few weeks earlier Zollner had won the state title in freestyle wrestling — which, he explained, in many ways is similar to judo in that both employ various body throws.

“When the instructor went to throw me, it was no big deal to counter her move,” Zollner said, “and I put her softly to the mat. What a mistake! All I did was anger her, and what came next was very unexpected. She kneed me in the groin, put her thumb in my eye and bit me. It took all I had to fend her off. All I can say is, ‘I owe you, Bo.' ”

Following graduation from Norwin, Zollner received a bachelor's degree in technology education from Cal (Pa.). He has spent two years as assistant wrestling coach at Franklin Regional, eight years at Norwin and three seasons as head coach at Yough. When not coaching, he is a self-employed contractor.

“It is an honor to be inducted into the Norwin Hall of Fame, especially with my brother, Gary,” Zollner said of the 120-pound Westmoreland County champion, inducted in 2016 as a member of Norwin's 1971 wrestling team.

1985 and ‘86 girls volleyball teams

The 1985 and 1986 Norwin girls volleyball teams each captured WPIAL and PIAA titles. They were led by coach Sheron Watson, who was inducted in the inaugural class in 2009.

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