PRE 1958 INDUCTEES
1950 Irwin High school Basketball Team
After winning back-to-back PIAA Class B basketball titles in 1947 and 1948, Irwin High School was primed to regain the title in 1950. With a 34-game winning streak, Irwin, led by coach Don Rose, traveled to Rockne Hall in Allentown on March 31 to face Kutztown
Undefeated as section and county champions, Irwin defeated Irwin beat Avalon, 39-37, for the WPIAL. But the Knights’ dream for an undefeated season and state title collapsed when Kutztown pulled out a nail-biting 48-47 win in front of 3,500 fans.
Trailing 38-30 after three quarters, Irwin, referred to as Knight Riders by the Reading Eagle, rallied to take a 45-44 lead on Nobi Ackerman’s field goal with just over two minutes remaining in the game. But Kutztown’s Ron Widenhammer scored on a 15-foot shot and was fouled on the play. Widenhammer’s free throw put Kutztown on top, 48-45. Carl Dean Davis scored for Irwin to cut the lead to one point. After Irwin regained possession, Rose ordered the Knights to freeze the ball, but lost possession. Irwin regained possession with 15 seconds remaining, but Al Viziola’s desperation half-court shot at buzzer was off target. Ackerman was the game’s leading scorer with 17 points, followed by Davis with 14, Viziola 8, Jack Clark 4, Nick Gellis 2, and Ed Jennings 2. Simpson, who also saw action for Irwin, was scoreless in the game.
Even though the team set an Irwin record with its 34-game winning streak, the team is often referred to as Irwin’s forgotten team…merely because the team fnished as PIAA runners-up.
The roster for the 1950 team: Nobi Ackerman, Jack Clarke, Carl Dean Davis, Nick Gelis, Ed Jennings, Maynard "Scotty" Kemerer, George Lewis, Paul Simpson, Albert Viziola, Art Youngstead; Team Managers: John Hunt, David Temple, Bob Wolf.
In leading Irwin High School to a WPIAL title, a second place finish in the PIAA championships, and a school-best record of 34-1 in 1950, junior Nobi Ackermann ran up an impressive individual resume. An all-section first-team selection and section most valuable Player, Ackermann was named to the Westmoreland county first team, the WPIAL first team, and PIAA third team. As a senior the following season, Ackermann won all-section and all-county first-team honors. Ackermann scored 859 points in his high school basketball career, placing him third on the school’s all-time list. Ackermann, incidentally, trailed only Lloyd “Simmie” Simpson (1,110 points) and Collin “Fish” Norberg (885 points) on Irwin High School’s career scoring list. In the PIAA Class B final game in 1950, a 48-47 loss to Kutztown, Ackermann was the game’s leading scorer with 17 points.
Carl Dean Davis
Along with Ackerman, Carl Dean Davis was a junior member of Irwin High School’s 1950 WPIAL champion and PIAA runner-up team. As a junior, Davis earned all-section and all-county first-team honors, to go along with a slot as a WPIAL second-team selection. As a senior, Davis was again named to the all-section and all-county first teams. Davis ranks ninth on the Irwin High School career scoring list with 549 points.
There is much more to Curt Gardner’s athletic resume than his achievements on the basketball court. Gardner, who ranks sixth in Irwin High School history with a career scoring mark of 757 points, earned three letters in basketball, three in baseball and three in tennis. From 1954-1956, Gardner held the number one position on the tennis team. In 1955, Gardner, who holds the Irwin High School single-game scoring record of 38 points, was a second-team all section selection in basketball. He followed that honor as a senior by earning all-section and all-county first team honors, as well as being named the Most Valuable Player of the Westmoreland County Tournament. He received all-state honorable mention honors in 1956. He was also Irwin High’s senior class president in 1956.
Glenn “Chick” Hensler
A three-sport – football, basketball, baseball – star at North Huntingdon High School, Hensler was a member of the 1948 Class-A Westmoreland County champion football team, as the Bulldogs compiled a 7-2 record for the season. In 1947, he was named Westmoreland County’s Most Valuable Basketball Player, in a vote conducted by county coaches. In 1948, as a senior, he was a basketball all-section first-team selection. Hensler was also Junior Chairman of the Lettermen’s Club and president his senior year.
POST 1958 INDUCTEES
Team: 1996 Norwin Lady Knights Soccer
In charging to the WPIAL and PIAA titles, the Lady Knights compiled a record of 22-1-3. Led by goalkeeper Sarah Morrison, Norwin recorded 19 shutouts en route to the titles, and surrendered only 11 goals on the season. In the WPIAL final, Norwin defeated Mt. Lebanon, 3-2, in overtime, on a goal by Christy Peer. Norwin’s 19th shutout of the season came in the PIAA final, as the Knights defeated West Chester Henderson, 1-0, for the school’s first and only girls’ state soccer title. Michele Snyder scored the decisive goal in the title game.
Members of the team included Seniors Kristy Fairchok, Kelly Ference, Jen Manik, Alicia Nalevanko, and Kelly Vinkler; juniors Stephanie Bair, Sarah Morrison, Stephanie Protz, Jody Schuchert, and Michele Snyder; sophomores Danielle Albee, Amie Behun, Kim Flaitz, Melanie Komar, Becky Pottinger, and Kate Wayman; freshmen Nikki Brugnoli, Jen Clugsten, Tia Hernandez, Trisha Hineman, Diane Metzger, Christy Peer, Stefanie Turner, and Niki Zafaras. Norwin’s coaching included Ron Schuchert, head coach, Dana Ferry, assistant coach , Sherrill Petrosky, assistant coach, and Brian Mesich, trainer.
Coach: William “Rip” Scherer
In seven seasons as Norwin’s head football coach, from 1959-1965, Scherer compiled a record of xx-xx-x, including an 8-1 record in 1959. Despite a 5-4 record in 1960, 11 seniors received Division-1 scholarships. Testimonials from some of Scherer’s players:
Gary Decolati: “…the significant impact he had on the lives of his players, especially me…My success and the success of all his former players was a direct result of Coach Scherer’s efforts…”
Duff Brace: “Coach Scherer’s arrival (at Norwin) was the key to our success…He knew how to get the most out of an athlete and have those athletes play as a team…”
Larry Sullivan: “Coach Scherer is, and was, a person of integrity, a very knowledgeable teacher, coach, and motivator…”
Richard Earnest: “Rip Scherer was the initial catalyst that transformed Norwin’s athletic program into the successful program it is today…we were encouraged to reach for it all…he manifested a professional, no nonsense attitude toward every aspect of winning football…he instilled an attitude throughout the team that we were responsible, not only for our assignments, but for each other…”
Fred Bertani: “They say ‘imitation is the highest form of flattery.’ I can truly say I found myself as a head football coach following what I had been taught by Coach Scherer…”
Larry Judge: “Rip Scherer taught his players to believe in themselves…”
Bud Moore: “Coach Scherer instilled a level of confidence in his players that had not been seen at the school for years…(he) cared more about his players, their well-being and their education, that about their playing skills…”
Contributor: Tom Shrump
If it were not for his keen sense of nostalgia, much of the information and many of the records of Irwin, North Huntingdon, and Norwin basketball teams would be forever lost. In compiling information and writing the bios for the Norwin Athletic Hall of Fame inductees, I often call Tom Shrump. If he doesn’t know the answer, he will find it.
A 1960 Norwin grad, Shrumpie played two seasons at Irwin High School – at what eventually became Irwin Junior High and Sixth Street Elementary School - prior to the merger, and two seasons at Norwin. In his junior year, the Knights were 25-4, with a pair of section losses to then arch-rival Uniontown keeping the team out of the playoffs. A year later, Uniontown again was the culprit in denying the Knights a playoff berth (only section winners advanced to the playoff in those days).
An Industrial Arts instructor at Norwin, Tom coached for 31 seasons, on every level: 7-8 grade, ninth grade, junior varsity, assistant varsity, and eventually varsity head coach, from 1992-1997. Three times his teams were in the WPIAL playoffs, twice in the PIAA playoffs.
As the school district changed and the former Irwin High School on Sixth Street was boarded up and scheduled for demolition, Tom often drove by the school and recalled the memories and traditions, especially those on the basketball court.
“I would drive by the school and the memories would come back,” he said. “There was so much tradition that I couldn’t let it go by way of the wrecking ball. I thought about retrieving the old center court and putting it somewhere in the high school, as a memento of and tribute to Irwin basketball and what basketball meant to the community.”
Along with his brother, Jim, who passed away several years ago, and several other basketball “old-timers” and friends, he removed that aged center court from the old floor. Incidentally, Jim Shrump was a member of Irwin’s 1954 state championship basketball team.
“We took it apart, piece by piece and numbered each board to put it back together,” he said. “I kept it in the wood shop at Norwin and I would hear it creak because of the years and layers of varnish they added to redo the floor every year. Irwin teams went 119-13 on that floor. And there are a lot of memories for a lot of people associated with that center court.”
Several years ago, Tom and his basketball buddies reassembled that old center court. Today it is on display above the trophy case near the athletic director’s office.
Besides having become a master record finder, Shrump laughs at another role he has undertaken, albeit not intentionally.
“Now I settle bets,” he laughed. “People call and ask about Irwin/Norwin basketball and I search for the answers. I often call other old-timers and someone remembers the score, game, player, exactly what happened.”
Shrump paused, and added, “All of a sudden I became one of those old-timers,” and his contributions to Irwin/North Huntingdon/Norwin basketball and the Hall of Fame are sincerely appreciated.
Her middle name on the tennis court could have been “First.” In addition to earning four letters in girls’ tennis at Norwin from 1976-80, Burdell led her Lady Knights to the school’s first section championship and WPIAL playoff berth, as a freshman. She followed that auspicious showing by claiming the section singles crown in her sophomore, junior, and senior seasons. As a senior, she represented Norwin at the PIAA finals. As a senior she won the section doubles title (with Kim Keisler), advancing to the PIAA tournament, the school’s first girls’ doubles team to achieve that feat. After her stellar career at Norwin, Burdell received a tennis scholarship to West Virginia University, the first Norwin tennis player to receive a scholarship to a Division-1 program. She co-captained the Lady Mountaineers in her junior and senior seasons. She is ranked seventh in school history for wins (107), holds the school’s all-time record in singles, and is ranked seventh in doubles.
Bill “Horrible” Hawley
Excuse any triteness, but Bill Hawley certainly epitomized the “Big Things in Small Packages” concept. A three-year wrestling standout, Hawley was a three-time section champion; two-time Westmoreland County champion; WPIAL champion as a senior, to go along with third- and fifth-place finishes as a sophomore and junior, respectively; PIAA runner-up as a junior and fourth-place finisher as a senior: all the while competing at 91, 98, and 105 pounds as a sophomore, junior, and senior, respectively. Hawley’s career record was 72-11, with 44 pins. He was a Pittsburgh Press Newsbpy Classic champion and received the Norwin Boosters Wrestling Most Valuable Player award, and is a member of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, Westmoreland County chapter. Academically, Hawley was a National Merit Scholarship finalist and received Norwin’s prestigious Rodgers Scholarship. Hawley graduated from Princeton in 1980, during which time he compiled a career wrestling record of 78-22.
There were the first track 35 seasons before Mike Kendro, and 11 seasons have passed since he became Norwin’s first and only male PIAA track-and-field champion in 2000, achieving that honor with a state-best high jump of 6-feet-9-inches. Kendro’s performance earned him PIAA first-team track-and-field honors. During Kendro’s 2000 senior season, he was Westmoreland County champion, the Butler Invitational High Jump champion, and the high jump silver medalist in the WPIAL championship meet. As a junior, Kendro was the WPIAL bronze medalist, Westmoreland County champion, Butler Invitational silver medalist, and he finished thirteenth at the PIAA championships. He was also undefeated in section and county meets as a junior. As a sophomore, he won silver medalist honors in the Westmoreland County and Butler Invitational meets, and placed ninth in the PIAA finals.
In scrutinizing Norwin’s girls soccer records from 1997-2000, there is no record that Ashley Weimer pumped air into the soccer balls prior to practice and games. She did everything else. A four-year starter and three-time section all-star, Weimer was a member of three section championship teams, with the fourth a runner-up. She holds the school record with 71 career goals, with 25 and 27 coming in her junior and senior seasons, respectively, when she was named to both the WPIAL and PIAA all-star teams. As a junior, she was named to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette All-Star team, and topped that honor as a senior when she was honored as a member of the All-East and National All-American teams. She also recorded 45 career assists. As a senior, Weimer secured nearly as many honors as she did goals: she was named to the Tribune-Review’s Trib Elite 11 and Trib-East All Star Team and was the Tribune-Review and Post-Gazette player of the year. She was also the recipient of a KDKA Television Extra Effort Award and YMCA Sports Teen of the Year Award, in addition to receiving the YMCA Scholar-Athlete Award and Judge Driscoll Westmoreland County scholar-athlete award winner. Graduating sixth in her senior class, Weimer was honored as Norwin’s top scholar athlete.