Ab Dettorre said he was honored, Clarence Dixson said he was privileged, and John Caruso gave it two thumbs up.
But no matter how they put it, each of eight inductees was grateful when they were welcomed into the Indiana County Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday evening.
“It’s really a thrill to be here,” said Marty Bolo, who was inducted for his standout play on the basketball court at Elders Ridge. “I really didn’t know what was going on until a got a phone call last November. I was a little shocked to be considered. It’s truly an honor.”
More than 300 people packed into the Groveside Room at the Rustic Lodge for the 30th annual induction banquet to recognize the inductees, 22 honorees and 18 student-athletes for their success in athletics and in life.
Click through to view event photos by James J. Nestor of the Gazette staff:
THE CLASS OF 2013: First row, from left, Clarence Dixson, Ab Dettorre and Mark Hess; and second row, Brad McPherson, Marty Bolo, John Caruso and Dave Fairman. McPherson accepted for his late father, Bert. Joli Zbur, who is not pictured, accepted for her uncle, Charley, who lives in Wyoming and could not attend.
SCHOLAR-ATHLETES: First row, from left, Ariana Coleman, Apollo-Ridge; Jessica Harper, Blairsville; Maggie McLoughlin, Homer-Center; and Haley Stapleton, Indiana; and second row, Julia Snickles, Marion Center; Dannielle Thornton, Purchase Line; Lisa Prenni, Saltsburg; and Kylie Wolfe, United. Absent from photo: Emma Myers, Penns Manor.
SCHOLAR-ATHLETES: First row, from left, Evan Davis, Apollo-Ridge; Alex Tripodis, Blairsville; Matthew Nymick, Homer-Center; and Christopher Caroff, Indiana; and second row, Dalton Mack, Marion Center; Joshua Pierce, Purchase Line; Mitchel Yard, Saltsburg; and David Patterson, United. Absent from photo: Danny Ferens, Penns Manor.
HONOREES: First row, from left, Abbey O’Neal, Anna Paccapaniccia, Eliza O’Neal and Krista Gibbon, Indiana High School swimming; Lucy Bujdos, Indiana High tennis; and Rachel Zilinskas, USA swimming; and second row, Andrew Doak, Noah Tarr and Scott Thompson, Blairsville High School wrestling; Stefan Moreau, United High School track and field; and Jon Haycock, Daniel Peng, Logan Hess and Grant Hess, Indiana High swimming. Absent from photo: Danny Ferens, Penns Manor High School football; Angel Piccirillo, Homer-Center High School cross country and track and field and Villanova University track and field; and Evan Henderson, University of North Carolina wrestling.
HONOREES: First row, from left, Erika Talmadge, Penns Manor girls’ volleyball coach; and Fred Mitchell, Penns Manor girls’ track and field coach; and second row, Kevin Anderson, Penns Manor girls’ track and field coach; and Art Grguric, Blacklegs Creek restoration project.
The Class of 2013 is well-rounded and consists of former football, basketball and baseball players, a golfer, a horseshoe pitcher, a football coach and a swim coach.
“Looking all over this room, I didn’t know I had this many friends,” said Dixson, a world champion horseshoe pitcher. “It’s a privilege to be here tonight. It came as a complete surprise to hear I was nominated for this award. I’ve had the good fortune to remain active in sports until the ripe old age of 82. Giving up my baseball spikes was the hardest thing for me to do, but pitching horseshoes has allowed me to travel all over the United States and have a wonderful time.”
Joining Bolo and Dixson in the induction class were Caruso, a longtime golfer; Dettorre, Blairsville High School’s football coach; Dave Fairman, a former baseball player; Mark Hess, Indiana’s swimming coach; and Charley Zbur, a former Indiana football star. Bert McPherson, a former baseball player, was inducted posthumously. Zbur’s niece, Joli, accepted his award in his honor, and McPherson’s son, Brad, accepted his father’s.
The six inductees in attendance gave a short speech, and each had a common theme — gratitude.
“I just want to congratulate all the guys up here,” Fairman said. “I really feel like this is more of a community award for all of us than an individual award, and I just want to thank everyone for all the help and thank everyone for coming tonight.”
Bolo scored 61 points against Elderton on Jan. 25, 1966, well before the three-point line was established. He also starred in baseball, golf and bowling. His big scoring night was a WPIAL single-game record until 2011 and remains the second-most points scored in Indiana County history.
Caruso won the Chestnut Ridge championship six times, with his first title in 1965 and his most recent in 2012. He won a qualifier for the U.S. Senior Open and played in the tournament in 1988.
Dettorre has been the head coach at his alma mater for 26 years and sports a 147-99-4 record. His teams won six conference titles, including four straight in the Heritage Conference from 2002-05.
Dixson is a five-time champion in world and state horseshoe competitions. He also played and coached baseball, and in 1974, his team came within one game of reaching the Little League World Series.
Fairman led his Senior Legion baseball team to the state tournament in 1973 and ’74 and excelled in sandlot baseball in the Indiana County League. He is also known for building Fairman’s Gym outside Creekside, a facility for youth players.
Hess, who has coached at Indiana for 29 years, has a 546-131-6 record. His boys’ team has won the WPIAL title three straight years and the section title for nine. The Indiana boys’ and girls’ teams have combined for 24 section titles with Hess at the helm.
“My parents are really the ones behind all this,” Hess said. “My dad gave me my competitive nature, while my mom was nurturing and positive. … People sometimes ask me why I’m so successful, and I’ve had so many assistant coaches and they’ve devoted countless hours to make our teams successful. This is for everyone.”
McPherson was a star baseball player in the R&P League, the Indiana County League and at IUP. He later served as the ICL commissioner.
Zbur helped lead Indiana to a 16-1-1 record during his junior and senior football seasons, and he is considered one of the best running backs to come out of the area. He still ranks in the top 10 in multiple categories at Indiana.
The eight inductees were recognized for different reasons, but all have experienced much success in their athletic careers.
“There are a lot of people who have helped me out over the years,” Dettorre said. “My assistant coaches make sure the players are ready and make sure I don’t make any dumb mistakes. The merchants of Blairsville, the people of Blairsville, the alumni, the fans, the many administrators over the years and the school boards, the fire department, the faculty and of course my family … I couldn’t have done it without my family. … This isn’t just for me, I’m up here because of Blairsville. And I love it.”