Washington-Greene Chapter Announces 2022 Hall of Fame Class and Honorees

Monday, February 14, 2022

For Immediate Release (Bruce Wald, Biography Chairman, Wash-Greene Co. Chapter Sports HOF)

The Washington-Greene Co. Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame proudly announces its Class of 2022 inductees, special honorees, courage award recipients and Hall of Fame moment.

The 36th induction banquet will take place 4 p.m. Sunday, June 26 at the Hilton Garden Inn, Southpointe, Pa.

Tickets for the banquet will cost $45. Tables are rounds of ten (10) – table of 10 – $450.00. Please indicate who your inductee is, as an attempt is made to seat family and friends together. Tickets will be mailed within two weeks prior to the banquet. Ticket requests received after the mailing will be available for pick up the afternoon of the event. Any questions call: 724-678-4320.

Make checks payable to: PA SPORTS H.O.F. Wash-Greene
Mail completed order form and check to: PA SPORTS HOF
 10 Bayberry Lane, Cecil, PA 15321.

In alphabetical order, then followed by the Special Honorees, James C. “Jimmy” Montecalvo and Luke Blanock Memorial Courage Award, and Hall of Fame Moment, the 2022 inductees include:

Rick Bertagnolli, Coach, Softball—California University of PA—Has coached Cal U’s softball team since 1994 and has compiled a 900-332 (.731) cumulative record through 2021 and a 1,163-382 (.753) 35-year cumulative collegiate record. He has guided Cal U to 21 NCAA Division II post-season tournaments with consecutive NCAA national championships in 1997 and 1998 along with six NCAA regional championships, 19 PSAC-West titles, and 14 PSAC championship game appearances. Cal U won an NCAA record 88 straight conference games from 1994-99 with 25 consecutive PSAC post-season tourney appearances from 1994-2018. He was inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Hall of Fame in 2013.

1975 Beth-Center Bulldogs, Team of Yesteryear, Football—The Bulldogs capped a perfect 12-0 season by winning the WPIAL championship with a 13-0 title game victory over Kittanning. Beth-Center is one of just four Class AA teams in Washington County to win a WPIAL championship. Ten players earned all-conference honors, seven were All-WPIAL and five players were nominated to the Big 33 team. The Bulldogs outscored its 12 opponents by a 30.3-3.9 margin while recording eight shutouts and the first-team defense was unscored upon during the nine-game regular season. Beth-Center rushed for nearly 3,000 yards in 1975 with the defense making 19 interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries.

Chelsey Pryor Burk, Athlete, Golf—Bishop Canevin HS and Kansas University—A longtime resident of Washington, PA, she earned a scholarship to play golf at Kansas after being a three-time WPIAL championship qualifier (6th place twice, 10th as a sophomore) and two-time PIAA championship qualifier (11th and 14th) at Canevin. She won the PGA Junior Series tournament in 2000 and finished third in the PGA Junior Series Player of the Year standings and finished second in the PGA Junior Series in 2001. At Kansas, she was a three-time Academic, All-Big 12 Conference honoree and a three-time National Golf Coaches Association All-American Scholar with four top 10 finishes and won the ORU shootout. In high school and college Chelsea received numerous awards for her athletics, academics, and community service. She is currently the Deputy Athletic Director at William & Mary.

Ron Burke and Burke Racing Stable, Athlete of Distinction, Harness Racing—Fredericktown, PA—Was elected as a 2022 Harness Racing Hall of Fame inductee and three-time Dan Patch Award Trainer of the Year selection, Burke has led the sport in wins and purses each of the past 12 years. His $260 million in career purses and more than 11,800 wins are both records, and he has won at least 762 races a year since 2009 with three seasons of more than 1,000 victories. His horses won both the Little Brown Jugette and Little Brown Jug in 2021. He is the only trainer to reach $20 million in a season and along with his partners Burke Racing was named Owner of the Year in 2013 and 2018.

William Christy, Official, (Posthumous)—Beth-Center HS and California University of PA—Officiated high school and college basketball, softball and volleyball for more than 35 years, which included numerous high school state championships and NCAA and NAIA national championships in softball and volleyball. He also served as supervisor and assigned of officials for the PIAA, PSAC, WVIAC, ECAC and COA as well as an official technical adviser for several NCAA Division I, II, and III basketball and volleyball conferences. An award named in his honor is presented each year to deserving officials at the Tri-County Athletic Directors Association’s annual Coach of the Year Banquet. Bill passed away on Oct. 13, 2009.

Morgan “Bunny” Denson, Athlete, Football Basketball & Track and Field—Washington HS and Waynesburg University—Won three WPIAL track and field gold medals in the 330 intermediate hurdles and as part of the 880 and mile relay teams as Washington achieved 1974 and 1975 WPIAL runner-up team finishes. An All-WPIAL receiver in football, he helped the team reach the 1972 WPIAL semifinals in basketball and win the 1974 Century Conference co-championship. In basketball he was selected to the Colt Classic for top western PA seniors and led the second-place South team in scoring both games. He was a sophomore top reserve on the team that reached the WPIAL finals and PIAA semifinals. He helped Waynesburg football achieve three straight winning seasons.

Dennis Garrett, Athlete, Football & Basketball—Jefferson-Morgan HS and Waynesburg University—He was a flanker and safety on J-M’s 1973 and 1974 WPIAL Class B football championship teams and scored touchdowns in both title games, including an 85-yard fumble return. He also has a school-record 103-yard interception-touchdown which was part of a five-touchdown effort in a Homecoming victory. Garrett was all-state in basketball and scored a school-record 1,356 career points in just three seasons while also excelling in track and field. At Waynesburg, he was an all-conference receiver who led the Yellow Jackets in receptions his junior and senior seasons before a distinguished football coaching and basketball officiating career.

Chris Peters, Athlete of Distinction, Baseball—Peters Township HS and Indiana University—Compiled an 18-4 overall cumulative high school record and then won 19 games at Indiana (Bloomington) University with 224 strikeouts in 379 2/3 innings. He pitched six years in the Major Leagues, five with Pittsburgh, and compiled a 19-25 overall record, including a career-best 8-10 record in 1998. He made 21 starts in 39 appearances that season with a 3.47 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 148 innings pitched. He went 5-4 with the Pirates the following season. In nine minor league seasons Peters went 42-31 with a 3.62 ERA in 87 starts along with 556 strikeouts in 666-1/3 innings pitched, six saves, and a 1.405 WHIP.

Lester Peterson, Athlete, Wrestling—Canon-McMillan HS—Peterson became C-M’s first PIAA individual state champion when he won the 1969 championship at 120 pounds, defeating defending champion Dave Clark of Clearfield, 10-9, after overcoming 6-0 and 8-5 deficits. Also, a PIAA semifinalist in 1967 and 1968, he is one of 17 wrestlers to win three WPIAL championships, a feat Peterson accomplished from 1967-69. During his third WPIAL title run as a senior, Peterson triumphed through a bracket that had four regional champions and he defeated three-time WPIAL champion Gary McClure of Waynesburg in the finals, 9-6.

George Preisendorfer, Official & Athlete Baseball — Bentworth HS and Point Park University—After being a collegiate standout catcher, Preisendorfer was a PIAA basketball official from 1975 to 2015 and worked 15 consecutive WPIAL championships. He also worked three state title games in 1988, 1992 and 1998. He officiated the Roundball Classic and NCAA Divisions I, II and III from 1998-2010, working several regional and post-season tournaments. Three times he received the Washington-Greene County Basketball Officials Association Recognition Award and in 1999 Preisendorfer was the National Federation State of Pennsylvania Official of the Year.

Lanfer Simpson, Athlete, Football & Wrestling & Track—Waynesburg Central HS and West Virginia University—A two-time all-state selection and 1999 WPIAL Player of the Year, he rushed for 4,010 career yards and made 496 career tackles while helping Waynesburg win the WPIAL Class AA championship in 1999 and reach the 2000 finals. In 1999 he scored three touchdowns in the title game victory and gained 1,542 yards with 19 touchdowns and 115 tackles that season. He won the 2000 WPIAL heavyweight wrestling championship (runner-up in 2001) and was a 2001 WPIAL champion and PIAA runner-up in the shot put. Simpson lettered in both football and wrestling at WVU and was a member of the 2004 Eastern Wrestling League championship team.

Dennis Slagle, Athlete, Baseball—Beth-Center HS—He is believed to have thrown the lone no-hitter in school history and struck out a record 25 batters in an 11-inning victory in another game in 1969 while helping Beth-Center win the WPIAL (only one classification then) Section 16 championship. Slagle also led the football and basketball teams in scoring. Drafted by the Pirates, he compiled a 17-8 Minor League career record with a 3.82 ERA and 159 strikeouts in 98 innings pitched. This included a 7-1 record with a 2.60 ERA and 1.192 WHIP in 1969. He compiled 6-6 and 4-1 overall records in 1970 and 1971, respectively, and was invited to the Pittsburgh Pirates Minor League camp in 1970.

Lynne Unice Yater, Athlete, Basketball—Trinity HS and Washington & Jefferson College—She was a three-year scholastic starter and two-time all-section player who scored 855 points while averaging seven assists per game and was the MVP of the Washington County All Star Game and a Keystone Games bronze medalist. At W&J, she was a four-year starter and three-time All-PAC performer who scored 1,034 career points with a then school-record 446 assists. Helped the Presidents compile a 19-5 overall record her senior season, which culminated with PAC and ECAC Southern Regional titles, the first post-season championships in program history. She was inducted into the W&J Hall of Fame in 2010 and won the Paul Reardon Award for academic and athletic excellence.

Terrance Wilkins, Athlete, Basketball—Washington HS and Washington & Jefferson College—A two-time President’s Athletic Conference MVP and three-time all-conference selection, Wilkins scored 1,410 career points and 804 rebounds, which still rank eighth and third, respectively, in school history. He ranked in the top 10 of NCAA Division II rebounders one season while helping W&J win three straight PAC titles, which included a program-best 22-3 overall record and NCAA Elite Eight Appearance in 1993-94. He scored 500 points that season, which is fourth-most at W&J. In high school he helped the 1989-90 Little Prexies win their fourth WPIAL title in seven years and advance to the PIAA semifinals.

The Special Honorees are:

Erman Hartmann, Official – Brownsville HS and California University of PA—Enjoyed a distinguished more than 30-year football officiating career and officiated several WPIAL and PIAA championship games. He also officiated baseball, basketball, and volleyball, and in 2010 received the Tri-County Athletic Director’s Bill Christy Memorial Excellence in Officiating Award. A longtime rules interpreter and evaluator, he helped found the Iron City Official’s Chapter. At Cal U he was a standout in basketball and the starting shortstop on the Vulcans’ 1962 and 1963 NAIA Northeast Regional title teams and was Upper St. Clair’s baseball coach from 1967-70.

Richard P. Novak, Coach (Posthumous)—Mapletown HS and West Virginia University – He served as Avella High School’s head football coach for 10 years and led the 1966 Eagles to an undefeated regular season and WPIAL championship game appearance. Novak then coached Avella’s girls’ basketball team for 13 seasons, when he won 105 games with four playoff appearances and the program’s first section title in 24 years in 1993-94. He also coached the boys’ basketball team. He was a multi-sport star at Mapletown, where he was the starting quarterback and received the basketball team’s Most Outstanding Player Award. At WVU he played football as a freshman and was a four-year quarter-miler in track. He passed away on Nov. 7, 2020.

Joseph Taffoni, Football (Posthumous)—Cumberland (Carmichaels) HS and WVU and Tennessee-Martin University – He was a scholastic star fullback and defensive tackle who was also a standout in baseball (catcher) and track and field. He earned all-county and all-state football honors and played in the 1963 Big 33 Classic. He was an all-conference and second-team All-American and part of WVU’s 1964 Liberty Bowl team and played one year at Tennessee-Martin before playing six years in the NFL. He played four seasons with Cleveland and two with the New York Giants before retiring in 1974 after 78 career games and 38 starts. Taffoni passed away on July 26, 2021.

Don Yenko, Racecar driver, entrepreneur and innovator (Posthumous)—Bentworth HS and Penn State– He gained international acclaim in the 1950s and 1960s for racing Corvettes in regional races and prestigious endurance contests, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Yenko was a four-time Sports Club of America national driving champion. He setup a performance shop for Chevrolet vehicles and others at his Canonsburg-based family dealership where he is best known for `creating the Yenko Camaro, a high-performance version of the Chevrolet Camaro. He and three other passengers passed away on March 5, 1987, when his Cessna 210 crashed while landing near Charleston, WV.

The James C. “Jimmy” Montecalvo and Luke Blanock Memorial Courage Award

Parker Muhleman (Posthumous)–Washington High School– In his short life, Parker battled an incurable congenital heart defect, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Despite enduring multiple surgeries at a young age for the condition, which prevented blood from flowing normally through his heart, Parker remained upbeat, always giving 100-percent on the baseball diamond, golf course and in the classroom. He was an all-star selection in the Washington Youth Baseball League and part of the Southwest Pennsylvania Junior Golf Tour. Parker courageously told his story and inspired many, including the Washington and Jefferson College baseball team, which made him an honorary member in 2019. The son of Stephanie and Dave Muhleman, Parker passed away on May 10, 2021.

Colby Simkovic (Posthumous)–Jefferson‐Morgan High School–Colby Simkovic was an athlete who was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor in 2010. A 2020 graduate of Jefferson-Morgan High School where he was an all-state and all-county standout on the Rockets’ WPIAL champion rifle team, Colby endured a decade-long battle with cancer. He inspired many by actively speaking of hope and perseverance at various fundraising events during his illness, supporting others struggling with serious illness. His family has established Colby’s Stars Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit organization created to help children who are fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. The son of Carrie and Jerry Simkovic, Colby passed away on March 7, 2021.

Hall of Fame Moment

Patsy Vulcano won the 132-pound PIAA Class AAA wrestling championship in 1984 at Hersheypark Arena. It was the only tournament Vulcano won in his career at Chartiers-Houston High School. He defeated four consecutive wrestlers who were all district champions, including Tom Haught of Trinity in the semifinals, who had beaten Vulcano four previous times. Trailing 4-2 in the finals, he turned Shikellamy’s Mike Balestrini for two back points in the second period. He gained an escape and late takedown in the third period to win the gold medal.

For more information and questions, please contact John Sacco, 412.559.9343 or [email protected]

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