John Ratesic, President

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2005 Inductees

Top: Mike Larko, Bill Closson, Frank Marchlewski, Gary Sandala 
Bottom: Jennifer McDowell, Joe Naunchick, Willaim Rometo Sr., Steve Cassidy


Steve Cassidy, class of 1990
The first in so many ways, Steve Cassidy’s career became the template for greatness among Plum ’s wrestling elite.  He was the first Plum wrestler to win a PIAA Championship during his senior year in 1990, at 140 pounds.  He capped off his high school career by becoming Plum ’s first (and only) Sr. National Champion.   Steve was the first of four Plum state champions to choose to attend Lehigh University .  In 1993, he became the first Plum alumnus to become a NCAA Division I All-American in wrestling.  After missing the 1994 NCAAs due to injury, he repeated as an All-American in 1995.  He ranks 3rd all-time in Lehigh wins with 110.  As a testament to his character, Cassidy was chosen to be Team Captain for three years.  He graduated from Lehigh in 1995 with a degree in mechanical engineering and has worked as a mechanical engineer with Bihler of America for the past 10 years.  Steve has also spent the last nine seasons as an assistant wrestling coach at Rutgers University .   

  • High school record 85-14
  • Undefeated senior year 32-0
  • 3x Sectional Champion
  • Placed 1st, 3rd, 4th WPIAL Championships
  • Placed 1st, 6th PIAA Championships
  • 1990 National Champion – Sr. High School Nationals
  • Represented Team Pennsylvania in 1990 Dapper Dan Classic
  • College record 110-37-2
  • 3rd most wins in Lehigh history
  • Lehigh Team Captain for 3 years
  • Placed 1st, 2nd, 4th EIWA Championships
  • First ever 150 lbs. EIWA Champion in Lehigh history
  • 2x NCAA Division I All-American (7th-1993 & 6th-1995)


Bill Closson, class of 1993
As a heavyweight wrestler of tremendous stature, Bill Closson’s legacy is his agility.   Bill parlayed strength, speed and superior technique into a career of outstanding achievements.   His 117 career wins set an all-time Plum record, as did his 74 pins.  He was a three-time sectional champion and a three-time PIAA state qualifier.  Bill’s spotless 33-0 senior year was highlighted with a 0:48-second pin in the PIAA Championship.  As a year-round wrestler, he was a member of the Cadet World Team and became a Cadet National Freestyle Champion.  Closson’s success on the mat continued at Lehigh University where he amassed a career record of 104-37.   He became a NCAA Division I All-American as a junior and repeated the feat again as a senior by placing 4th.   Along the way, Bill was the Gold Medalist at the U.S. Olympic Festival in freestyle wrestling and placed 6th at the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials.   

  • High school record 117-21
  • Undefeated senior year 32-0
  • First freshman to wrestle on varsity team High
  • 3x Sectional Champion
  • Placed 1st, 3rd, 3rd,  WPIAL Championships
  • Placed 1st, 4th PIAA Championships
  • Cadet National Champion in Freestyle & Runner-up in Greco Roman
  • 3x All-American at Junior Nationals
  • Represented Team Pennsylvania in 1993 Dapper Dan Classic
  • College record 104-37
  • University National Freestyle Champion
  • Gold Medalist at the U.S. Olympic Festival in freestyle
  • 1st team Academic All-American
  • 2x Lehigh University Most Outstanding Male Athlete Award
  • 2x NCAA Division I All-American (8th-1997 & 4th-1998)


Mike Larko, coach 1973-1990
Coach Mike Larko’s tenure as both boys and girls volleyball coach marks one of the most successfully periods of any Plum sport.  Mike coached the girls from 1973 through 1983.  His girls won three section championships and qualified for the PIAA championships in both 1982 and 1983.  However, his greatest coaching achievements came while coaching the boys from 1973 through 1990.  Mike coached the Plum boys to three consecutive WPIAL Championships in 1980, 1981 and 1982.  Incredibly, he led the Plum boys to six straight PIAA championship appearances.  In 1981, his team was second in the state and his 1980 boys team became the first team in Plum ’s history to be crowned PIAA state champions.  Along the way, Mike coached 12 All-State players and has been inducted into the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame.  Coach Larko’s positive influence on his players is illustrated by the fact that nine of them have went on to become head volleyball coaches.  Mike is a retired Math teacher and is currently coaching the Pittsburgh Elite Volleyball Club.  He recently rejoined the Plum boys team as an assistant coach.

  • 3x Girls Section Championships 1980,1982,1983
  • 10x Boys Section Championships
  • Boys WPIAL runner-up 1988
  • 3x Boys WPIAL Champions 1980,1981,1982
  • 2x Girls PIAA qualifier
  • 7x Boys PIAA qualifier
  • Boys PIAA runner-up 1981
  • Boys PIAA Champions 1980
  • Elected to Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame
  • Coached at Penn State Volleyball Camps from 1978-1985


Frank Marchlewski, class of 1960
While earning high school varsity letters in basketball, baseball and track, it was on the football field that Frank Marchlewski ascended to the professional ranks.   Frank lettered four times at Plum and received many honors including the WPIAL  MVP Lineman Award and High School All-American honors.   At the college level, he played in the Big Ten Conference for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers .   As the leader of the Minnesota offensive charge, Frank lettered three times.  He was named to the Big Ten All-Conference second team and was an honorable mention All-American (second only to Dick Butkus).   Coach Murray Warmath named Frank the Minnesota center of the decade.  In 1965, the Los Angeles Rams drafted Frank as a center in the 5th round.  His pro career spanned six seasons and 74 games.  In addition to the Rams, Frank also was the pivotman for the Atlanta Falcons and the Buffalo Bills.  Coached by George Allen, his 1969 Rams team won 12 straight games.   Frank is recently retired from the Genesee Brewing Company after 33 years of employment.  

  • Lettered 4 years high school basketball
  • Named to Jaycee All-Star in Basketball
  • Lettered in high school baseball and track
  • Lettered 4 years high school football
  • Plum High football Team Captain
  • Varsity Club MVP Award
  • All-WPIAL first team lineman
  • WPIAL Class A MVP lineman
  • Alle-Kiski Valley first team lineman
  • Lettered 3 years University of Minnesota football
  • Honorable Mention All-American center
  • Big Ten All-Conference second team center
  • Name Minnesota center of the decade
  • Drafted 5th round (60th overall) by L.A. Rams in 1965
  • Played six years in NFL/NFC
  • Inducted into the Alle-Kiski Sports Hall of Fame in 1977


Jennifer McDowell, class of 1984
Ten varsity letters in four different sports illustrates just how elite of an athlete Jenny was while at Plum high.  She was named an all-conference basketball player and an All-WPIAL volleyball player in each of her three years as a Mustang.  She also made the All-State volleyball team as a senior.   Her volleyball teams won conference championships three years straight and capture the PIAA Championship in her senior year.  McDowell received a volleyball scholarship to the University of Georgia where she earned numerous accolades including All-Conference honors all four years.  Jenny set the Southern Conference record for assists that held for 18 years.  The University of Georgia recognized Jenny’s prominence by retiring her jersey in 1987.  She served as an assistant coach at Georgia until 1996 when she was named Head Women’s Volleyball Coach at Emory University where her career record stands at 278-82.   Her winning percentage of .772 ranks her fourth among active collegiate coaches.   During her tenure, Emory has reached the NCAA Sweet Sixteen six times, Elite Eight once and the Final Four once.  She has coached nine All-Americans.  In addition to her coaching duties, Jenny serves as the University Associate Director of Athletics.

  • 10 Plum High Varsity letters (3 volleyball, 3 basketball, 2 track, 2 softball)
  • 3x All-Conference girls basketball
  • 3x All-WPIAL girls volleyball
  • PIAA All-State girls volleyball
  • Member 1984 PIAA Championship volleyball team
  • Member 1982, 1983, 1984 conference champion volleyball teams
  • 4x varsity letter winner University of Georgia women’s volleyball
  • 3x team captain
  • 4x All-Conference, Southeastern conference
  • 3x All-Collegiate, Southern Region
  • Selected for U.S. Olympic Festival in 1986
  • Southeastern conference assist record 1987-2005
  • First University of Georgia Athlete to have jersey retired (#16)
  • Coached 7 consecutive 30 win seasons
  • Current career coaching record of 278-82 (.772 win percentage)
  • 2x University Athletic Association Coach of the Year
  • Coached 9 All-Americans



Joe Naunchick, class of 1956
Known throughout western Pennsylvania as a football coach, Joe Naunchick’s athletic accomplishments are much further reaching.   This 1956 Plum graduate was the captain his football, basketball and baseball teams.   As Alle-Kiski Valley Back of the Year, he led the 1955 Mustangs to an undefeated season.  A standout on the baseball diamond as well, Joe set a WPIAL record by striking out 20 batters in a 7 inning game.   Naunchick accepted a football scholarship to Arizona State , however he left early to sign a baseball contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Joe played in the minor leagues for three years before returning to college and eventually becoming a teacher and a coach.   As Coach Naunchick, Joe spent 38 seasons as a high school football coach (25 as a head coach).  Nine of those years were spent as coach of the Mustangs where his teams won two conference championships & one co-championship.   Naunchick also spent four seasons as part of the University of Pittsburgh coaching staff.  Joe is a member of the Alle-Kiski Hall of Fame.

  • Plum High team captain in football, basketball & baseball
  • Alle-Kiski Valley News Dispatch “Back of the Year”
  • Plum High “Most Valuable Athlete”
  • WPIAL  record – 20 strikeouts in 7 innings
  • Awarded football scholarship to Arizona State University
  • Contracted by Pittsburgh Pirates
  • Led league in stolen bases for 3 years
  • Coach high school football for 38 years (25 as head coach)
  • Coached Plum to 2 conference championships & 1 co-championship
  • Coached 4 different schools to WPIAL playoffs
  • Part of University of Pittsburgh coaching staff for 4 seasons (42-7record)
  • Coach in Fiesta, Gator, Sugar and Cotton bowls
  • Inducted into A-K Valley Hall of Fame



William B. Rometo, coach/teacher/principal 1947-78 William Rometo was a quarterback and halfback during his football playing days.  He first competed for Tarentum High School in 1932 and later for several semi-pro teams including the Creighton Tigers and the Swissvale Floridians.  Rometo then played football for Slippery Rock State College until an injury ended his playing career just before the 1942 season.  In 1947, he was hired by Plum High School to be head coach of the football, basketball and baseball teams.  However, football was where Coach Rometo had his greatest triumphs.   His teams won 14 straight games throughout the 1951 and 1952 season including an Alle-Kiski conference championship.  He remained the head football coach until 1960 when he became principal of Plum Jr. High.  William Rometo worked in the Plum Borough School District for 31 years before retiring in 1978.  Throughout his career at Plum , he was active and supportive of athletics in many ways. He served as the first president of the Plum Borough Baseball Association and officiated football, basketball and baseball.  Rometo was inducted into the Alle-Kiski Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.  

  • Played halfback and tailback for Tarentum High School
  • Played semi-pro football for Creighton, New Kensington and Swissvale
  • Played halfback for Slippery Rock State College
  • Plum High School head coach of football, basketball and baseball
  • Career football coaching record of 54 wins 53 loses and 11 ties
  • Coached Allegheny-Kiski conference champions in 1951
  • Coached undefeated 1955 Class A team
  • Selected to coach Shriners All Star Football Game in 1952
  • First president of Plum Borough Baseball Association
  • A-K official for football, basketball and baseball
  • Inducted into A-K Valley Hall of Fame


Gary Sandala, class of 1978
As a member of the Plum High School ’s wrestling, cross country and physical fitness teams, Gary was named the 1978 Co-Male Athlete of the Year.  A well rounded athlete, Sandala’s most notable achievements were in wrestling.   His career record at Plum was an impressive 64-8-2.  He never lost a dual meet match through all of junior high and high school.  As a junior, Gary became the first Plum wrestler to qualify for the PIAA Championship.  He qualified again as a senior by placing second at the WPIAL Championship.  As a three-year letterman and a two-year captain, Gary led the Mustangs to an overall 40-4 record including two WPIAL Section Championships.   While attending the U.S. Naval Academy, Sandala lettered in wrestling and in sprint football.  He was a member Navy’s 1982 EIWA Team Championship wrestling team and the 1981 Eastern Intercollegiate Sprint Football Championship team.   Captain Gary Sandala has received numerous campaign and service awards throughout his illustrious career as a Naval Flight Officer.  He flew operations in support of Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Provide Comfort.  Captain Sandala is currently serving as the Deputy Director for Character Development at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis where he is in charge of the moral development of 4,200 midshipmen.  

  • 3 sport high school letter winner
  • High school wrestling record 64-8-2
  • Sectional Champion 1977
  • 2x Keystone Conference Champion
  • 2x member of Sectional Champion wresting team
  • 2x member of Keystone Conference Champion wrestling team
  • Placed 2nd and  4th WPIAL Championships
  • First Plum Wrestler to qualify for PIAA Championship
  • Represented WPIAL in 1978 Dapper Dan Classic
  • U.S. Kids Pennsylvania State Wrestling Champion
  • U.S. Kids Region II National Wrestling Champion
  • Lettered in wrestling at U.S. Naval Academy
  • Lettered in sprint football at U.S. Naval Academy

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