Bill Rometo, President
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2014 Inductees

   

Dave Blotzer, Class of 1977
 

As one of two children, and the only son in my family, it was necessary to participate in sports. My father was an avid athlete in high school and a boxer in the US Navy. I began my sports activities in the Monroeville midget football program, as Plum had not begun one yet. Playing little league baseball in the Plum Association, as well as wrestling in the brand new Plum Wrestling Program, I developed many great friendships and memories.
           As a sophomore in high school, I had to give one of the sports up, due to time limitations. After all, one did have to go to class, occasionally. At Plum Senior High School, I enjoyed success, in both wrestling and in football. It was during this time, the mid 70's, that Plum began to forge an identity in the WPIAL as a force to be reckoned with. Playing football for Coach Joe Naunchik and wrestling for Coach Lou Klaus, I was a starter, and believe that I played a large role in something quite distinctive. In 1975-76 the wrestling team was undefeated for the first time, and the following football season, we went undefeated for the one and only time in Plum history. We also won the school's first section team title in wrestling that same year.
       The individual accolades, in both sports was both wonderful and humbling, but I think it was the team accomplishments that I'm most proud of. In my senior seasons I garnered first team honors in the Keystone Conference, 1st Team WPIAL and 1st Team All State for football. In addition, I won the Section 8 Title, placed 3rd in the WPIAL and went to the PIAA state tournament in wrestling. This good fortune led me to the Big 33 game in Hershey and a nomination for the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic. I received several scholarship offers, which eventually led me to play football at the University of Maine, then at Kent State University. I won 2 letters at Maine, and after a redshirt year, won 2 letters as the starting center for the Golden Flashes. I still reside in Plum with my wonderful wife Ruthanne, and am extremely proud of my 3 children. My eldest son Justin, participated in football and wrestling at Kiski Area. My son Cory was a 3 year letterman and WPIAL qualifier in wrestling at Plum, and daughter Karli was a 3 year letter winner and WPIAL qualifier on the Plum Swim Team. I would like to thank both my father, Wayne and mother, Marian, for helping me to achieve this athletic resume; my sister Debbie for her support, and very much appreciate my induction into the Plum Sports Hall of Fame.



Craig Cooley, Class of 1992

Craig Cooley played volleyball, basketball, and football during his Plum High School career.  He was the first four-year letterman in basketball and volleyball in school history, having started all four years in both sports.  In volleyball, Craig was All-WPIAL three years, including 1st-Team All-WPIAL his junior and senior years.  He was also All-State his junior and senior years and offered a spot in the annual East-West All-State volleyball match.  He led the volleyball team to 3 section titles and 4 WPIAL playoff appearances.  In basketball, Craig was Plum’s all-time leading scorer (1065 pts) and rebounder (x) when he graduated.  He made the Pittsburgh Press and Post-Gazette’s All-Section and All-East teams his junior and senior years. After going 0-23 his sophomore year, he and his teammates changed the course of Plum basketball during his junior and senior years by nearly making the playoffs his senior year with a (15-10) record.  In 1992, he was elected to the East Boros Sports Hall of Fame Super Senior Team.
           
Craig played one year of college basketball at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown; several knee injuries forced him to leave the team and focus on his academics.  Craig graduated with a psychology degree from Pitt, a master’s degree in forensic science from the University of New Haven, and a law degree from Northwestern University.  Since 2001, Craig has used his forensic science and legal backgrounds to free wrongly convicted prisoners from death row and prison. In law school, Craig was a defense investigator for the Illinois Appellate Defender’s Office Death Penalty Trial Assistance Unit and helped free Leroy Orange and Ronald Kitchen from Illinois’s death.  After law school, Craig worked as a Federal Defender with the Federal Public Defender’s Office where he helped free Ronnie Milligan, after Mr. Milligan spent nearly 30 years on Nevada’s death row.  From 2007 to 2012, Craig worked with the Innocence Project in New York City where he teamed with famed civil rights and defense attorneys Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld to help exonerate 11 innocent men.  To date, he has helped exonerate 16 wrongly convicted inmates.  Craig’s innocence cases have been profiled on 60 Minutes, NBC Nighlty News, and Investigation Discovery.  While in New York City, he also served as an Adjunct Law Professor at St. John’s University, Hofstra University, and Cardozo Schools of Law where he taught several forensic science and criminal procedure courses. 
           
Craig currently runs his own law practice (Cooley Law Office) which has offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia (
www.pa-criminal-appeals.com).    He lives in Toronto with his wife Maria and their two children, Fotis and Penny. 


Joe Dello Stritto Sr.,       Coach 1966 -1985  

Joe was a multi-sport athlete at Swissvale High School earning letters in football, basketball and baseball.

These are some highlights of his high school career:

· Swissvale High School Athlete of the year finalists in 1960

· Member of S.H.S. noted “Go Team” for the school’s Sec. 7 basketball champs in 1959-60

· Recipient of football scholarship to North Carolina State University

· Had offer to play baseball as a catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies

After Joe graduated from N.C. State, he was hired by the Plum School District in 1965 where he instituted the district’s elementary physical education curriculum.  One year later, Joe transferred to Plum Jr. High for the next four years before finally transferring to O’block Jr. High. During his tenure at both Jr. Highs, he coached football, wrestling, track and volleyball for a total of 20 years before retiring from coaching in 1985 and teaching in 2001.

            Some other sporting activities that Joe was involved with:

· Jr. W.P.I.A.L. volleyball tournament director

· Coached and managed both of his sons in baseball for many years in the Plum Baseball Association.

· Faculty Manager (A.D.) at O’block Jr. High

 

Memorable Accomplishments during Coach Dello’s career are:

· Combined football record at both Jr. Highs with 21-17-2

· O’block’s Head Wrestling Coach for 14 years

· Undefeated wrestling teams from 1978-1982; were Section Champs

· Undefeated wrestling teams from 1984-1985; were Section Champs

· The undefeated teams from 1978-1982 won 46 straight matches

· Team record from 1978 to 1985 was 65-3 and an overall record of 80-28-2

· These teams won 5 JVL tournaments and 2 Jr. W.P.I.A.L. Section 9 Tournaments

· 48 undefeated wrestlers and 34 Section Champs

Coach Dello’s ultimate goal during his career was to help cultivate a winning attitude in all of his teams that would contribute to the development and success of the Plum High School Programs. Joe and his wife Carol have been married for 47 years and have resided in Plum for 45 years. They have 2 sons, Joe (wife Kathy), Mark (wife Jodie), and one granddaughter Anna.



Mike Kovalchick, Class of 1962 
  

Mike Kovalchick grew up in the small coal mining town of Renton, PA.  During this time, he honed his athletic skills by participating in non-organized sport activities, such as, dodgeball, barney ball, football, basketball, and baseball.  This experience was invaluable and helped him to be recognized as an outstanding  multi-sport athlete at Plum High School.  His involvement in organized sports started with Plum Creek little league baseball, where he played center field for the Yankees.  The Yankees went on to win the league championship his first year of organized baseball.

In his future years at Plum, Mike received nine letters;  four in football, four in basketball, and one letter in golf.  He was the last Plum High School athlete to receive letters in football and basketball all four years. Mike was elected as captain for both the football and basketball teams his senior year.

Some of the highlights of his career are: scoring three rushing touchdowns in one game against Leechburg High School as a junior, scored the first touchdown on the new Plum High School athletic field as a senior, and continued to score all but one of the team’s touchdowns that season.

Plum’s basketball team was in a rebuilding year his senior year, winning only two games.  However, Mike performed at a level that won him the Allegheny Kiski Valley Section 11-A scoring title and was also the Section’s foul shot leader.  He was named All Conference first team and named to the Allegheny Kiski Valley Jaycee All-Star Team.

Mike was a four year member of the Varsity Club and served as president his senior year.  He received the Varsity Club’s Most Valuable Athlete Award and was recognized by the Plum Crier (newspaper) as the Plum High School Athlete of the Year.

Mike retired after 35 years in manufacturing and had obtained the position of plant manager at various facilities.  Under his leadership, the plants were presented many quality and on-time shipment awards, which included recognition for achieving on-time shipments for an entire year and ISO Certification.

Mike presently resides in Brown Summit, NC with his wife of 47 years (Sherry), who was also a Plum graduate and four-year cheerleader.  They have two children. Their son, Michael, is a Chemical Engineer and lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, Chelsey, and their three children, Lassen, Scarlet and Logan.  Their daughter, Natalie, is an Account Executive for an apparel company and lives in New York City.


 


Joe Manganello, Class of 1998

Joe Manganello is a 1998 graduate of Plum High School, where he earned a combined eight varsity letters in football, basketball and track & field.  It was on the football field where Joe excelled, starting three years at offensive tackle from 1995-1997.  In his three seasons playing for Coach Bill Rometo, the Mustangs compiled a 25-8 record and reached the playoffs each year, advancing to the WPIAL Semifinals in 1997.  Following his junior and senior seasons, Joe was named First Team All-Quad East as voted on by the conference coaches, and was also named to the Valley News Dispatch and Gateway Press Eastern 20 All-Star Teams.  Following his senior season, Joe was named to the Associated Press All-State Third Team Offense (Big Schools), the Tribune Review Terrific 25 team, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Eastern Fabulous 22.  Additionally, he was selected to play for Pennsylvania in the 1998 Big 33 Football Classic.  A standout student, Joe graduated fifth in his class and received the 1998 PHS Outstanding Senior Award.

Following his career at Plum, Joe accepted a full football scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh, where he lettered as an offensive lineman for three seasons from 1999-2001.  He participated in two post-season bowl games for the Panthers, the 2000 Insight.com Bowl and the 2001 Tangerine Bowl.  He was also named to the Big East All-Academic Team following the 1999 and 2000 football seasons.  He graduated from Pitt with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Civil & Environmental Engineering.

Joe is currently employed by Mascaro Construction Company in Pittsburgh, where he has managed commercial construction projects in Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia.  Joe is a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Pennsylvania, and is a LEED Accredited Professional by the Green Building Certification Institute.

Joe resides in Murrysville with his wife Jennifer and two sons Luke and Nicholas.




Lisa Poeschl Vavrek,  Class of 1997  

Lisa Poeschl Vavrek is a 1997 Plum High School graduate and 4-time letter winner in volleyball as a setter.  While at Plum, Lisa was a two-time All-State selection and three-time All-WPIAL selection, and was also named to several all-tournament teams.  She was also named female athlete of the year in 1996.  She was a member of the 1993 PIAA runner up team.  She also played for the Pitt Elite Junior Olympic volleyball club for three years.  

Lisa received an athletic scholarship to Edinboro University.  While at Edinboro, she was a four year starter in volleyball.  She led the team to three PSAC West titles, two PSAC postseason titles, one Atlantic Regional championship, and four consecutive NCAA playoff bids.  In her freshman year, Lisa led her team to the conference championship, and was named PSAC West Rookie of the Year and PSAC Tournament MVP.  Lisa was named to the All-PSAC West team three times and the All-Atlantic Region team two times and held several setting assist records.  In her senior year, Lisa was named captain of the volleyball team and ranked second in the country in Division II in assists per game with 14.19.  She was also named 2001 Edinboro University Female Athlete of the Year.     

Lisa graduated from Edinboro University with a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics and minor in Chemistry.  She was a member of the National Honor Society and University Honors Program.  She is currently employed as a Software Quality Assurance Manager at Creehan & Company.  Lisa and her husband, Mike, reside in Moon Township, PA.


Mark Pupilli,  Class of 1976

I was blessed to be born into a family of teachers and football fanatics.  My uncles, Bill and Ed Slosky, both played college football.  My mother taught in Penn Hills and my father was Churchill HS’s  band director so I was a Charger football fan for the first ten years of my life.  In junior high Coaches German and Gregory heavily influenced a winning attitude and coached us to two undefeated seasons.  Coach Mettrick led us to the Seneca Valley Championship in 9th grade.  We learned that teamwork and hard work were a winning combination.  Winning continued in high school with more great coaching.  In football there was Coach Naunchik and Coaches John and Pat Ratesic;  in basketball Coach Terlinsky; in Track Coach John Ratesic, and in Volleyball Coach Larko, the winningest Plum coach of all time.  I will always cherish the memories and friendships developed through sports at Plum.  I also want to thank Coach Rometo, Coach Sacco, and Coach Kachurik for letting me coach football and basketball in Plum. 

In Football ’74 we were co-champions Keystone Conference and in ’75 we were Conference Champions.  Football honors included Associated Press All Star Team, All conference Team, Outstanding Offensive player, ’75 scoring title, Times Express Big Four All Star Team, Keystone Conference AAA All Star Team,  Conference MVP, Plum’s First 1,300 yard rushing season.  In Track:   WPIAL Champions in the 880 and 440 relays, YMCA All WPIAL Relay Team.    In school, Honor Roll Society Vice President.

I completed my football career and education at WVU where I played for more great coaches like Frank Cignetti Sr. and my defensive back coach, Nick Saban.  I started on special teams for 4 years and 2 years starting defensive back.  I graduated in four years with a B.S. in Mining Engineering and started my first career in the oil fields of Texas.  

In  2007 I came back to Plum with my wife of 19 years,  Carol,  and our two sons, Luke and Collin.  Over the years we have worked together in several businesses, including Custom Modular Homes, Inc. and Designer Jewelry Outlet.  My oldest son, Kris, works in Raleigh NC  where I started an  inner city  youth ministry and traveled to Cambodia and El Salvador working with orphanages through SEAPC located in Oakmont, PA.  



Jack Savage,  Class of 1985

Jack wrestled and played football at Plum high school where he served as captain of both teams . Was a 1st team All-Conference defensive tackle and center on the 1983 WPIAL Championship team.   He was twice selected to the Post Gazette Fabulous 22.

On the wrestling mat he was  WPIAL and PIAA runner up at 185lbs in 1985.  He wrestled in the Pittsburgh Press Wrestling Classic vs Iowa.

Jack went on to attend Franklin and Marshall College where he played both sports as a freshmen. In 1986 he was selected Division I freshmen All-American by the Amateur Wrestling News.  He defeated the Division II National Champ 9-3.

He focused on football after freshmen year and started 33 straight games, serving as team captain during his senior season. He went on to become a 2 time Division lll All-American and All-East selection.

After his senior season he was selected as F&M's team Defensive MVP. Also chosen as the Centennial Conference Most Outstanding Player (not just defense).  He accomplished this all while playing nose guard at under 200 lbs.

After college he coached the Plum High defensive line for 1 season and later the Franklin and Marshall defensive line for 2 seasons.

Jack, along with his wife Robin and son Cole, resides in Greensburg.  Owner/ Operator of ShiftRight Transmission in Jeannette, PA.


Diane Sujansky Taylor,  Class of 2003

Diane Taylor is a 2003 graduate, and was a multi-sport athlete, participating in cross country, swimming, and track.   As a freshman on the cross country team, Diane qualified for the PIAA Championship.  Additionally, she helped the Lady Mustangs win two section titles and an eighth place finish in the WPIAL championship in 2002.  In swimming, she finished as high as third in the WPIAL in the 100 yd. breaststroke as a senior, and qualified for the PIAA championship in 2002 and 2003.  Diane currently holds the school record in the 100 yd. breaststroke, and also holds three school records in track events: 400m, 4x400m relay, and 4x800m relay.  In 2000, she qualified for the Track and Field PIAA championship, and in 2001, she and three teammates qualified for the PIAA championships in the 4x800m relay.  In 2003, Diane received one of ten scholar-athlete awards given out by the WPIAL, and is believed to be the only female athletes in Plum history to individually qualify for the PIAA Championships in three different sports.

Diane received an athletic scholarship to Lock Haven University where she continued her swimming and track careers.  In swimming, Diane was a PSAC qualifier all four years, finishing as high as third at the PSAC championships.  Additionally, Diane set several university swimming records, and achieved an NCAA B time standard in the 50 yd. freestyle in 2006 and 2007.  As a member of the track team, she qualified for the PSAC Championships in the 400m and 4x400m relay in 2004, 2005, and 2006.  She graduated from Lock Haven University with a B.S. in Secondary Education/Social Studies.

After graduating from LHU with honors, Diane took a teaching position in Gloucester Country, Virginia.  Since then, she has earned her M.Ed. in Higher Education Management and currently works at Carnegie Mellon University as an Assistant Director with the Career and Professional Development Center.  Diane resides in Lawrenceville with her handsome husband, Josh, and two Siberian huskies, Max and Stella.

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