At a recent Norwin School Board, Athletic Director Randy Rovesti and the Athletic Hall of Fame Committee announced the names of those individuals and/or teams who have been honored for induction into Norwin's initial HOF class. After a year of meetings, during which the committee sorted through number of nominees, six athletes who starred at Norwin following the merger of the North Huntingdon, Irwin, and North Irwin communities in 1958, five athletes from the pre-1958 era, two post- and one pre-merger teams, two coaches, and one contributor were selected. Inductees will be honored during Norwin's Homecoming festivities in September, and a plaque recognizing each individual and team will be displayed in the school's athletic wing.
Included among the inductees is a coach who set the standard for statewide athletic success, one athlete recognized merely by his nickname, and one athlete who would eventually have an NFL defense named in his honor.
Norwin's first athletic Hall of Fame class includes:
Talk about girl's volleyball in Pennsylvania and Norwin Coach Sheron Watson set a standard that in all likelihood will never be equaled. In 22 seasons, she led the Knights to 22 section, 15 WPIAL, and 12 PIAA titles. Thirteen of her WPIAL titles were in succession and, after being PIAA runner-up in 1974 and 1975, Watson's teams won eight consecutive state titles, and 12 in 14 seasons.
'Big John' Naponic
Mention 'Norwin' and 'basketball' in the same sentence and, regardless of era, one name - no, make that a nickname - immediately comes to mind. Throughout the state, "Big John" needed and needs little introduction. In 1963, "Big John," all size of him, led Norwin to the WPIAL championship in a thrilling 68-64 win over Aliquippa at Pittsburgh's Civic (now Mellon) Arena. In the PIAA title game, despite a 28-point effort from "Big John," the Knights fell to Plymouth-Whitemarsh. Naponic scored a school single-season record 724 points his senior year, earning All-WPIAL and All-State honors. He played football and basketball at the University of Virginia. Prior to becoming a physician, Naponic spent several years in the Canadian Football League. For the last 10 years, Naponic has been treating patients in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Doug Petras, a 1990 grad, was a three-time all-state soccer goalie, and earned high school All-American honors as a senior. He was a two-time All-American at Robert Morris, and played professional soccer with Hershey Wildcats and Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
Suzanne Flaherty-Karrs, a 1977 grad, earned three varsity letters in volleyball under Watson, leading the Knights to back-to-back WPIAL and PIAA titles from 1977-1978, and was the Knights' MVP both season. Additionally, she earned three letters in basketball, one in track. She was the recipient of Norwin's Kass Kovalcheck Award, the Westmoreland County Hall of Fame Award, and the YMCA of Pittsburgh award. She received a full scholarship to Indiana University, Bloomington.
Not many high school football players make it to the NFL and even fewer have a defense named in their honor, but 1971 grad Doug Plank can make that claim. A three-sport - football, basketball, baseball - star for the Knights, Plank batted .519 for the 1971 Knights' baseball team, a mark that that stood for over 30 years as Norwin's highest single-season average. Plank received all-state honors in football and was a recognized force under the boards in basketball. Plank played linebacker for Woody Hayes at Ohio State and spent a decade in the NFL with the Chicago Bears, where the Bears' "46" defense - his uniform number - was named in his honor.
Culminating with her award as Norwin Athlete of the Year in 1982, Darci Bodner set the standard for the school's swimming program. A four-year team Most Valuable Player, Bodner set records in the 200-freestyle, 500-freestyle, and 100-backstroke. She was a high school All-American from 1979-82, was named to the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, Westmoreland Chapter in 1982, and received the Pittsburgh's Dapper Dan High School Athlete of the Year Award in 1981. In 1980, she finished fourth in United States Olympic trials. She was a six-time WPIAL champion and seven-time PIAA champion.
A three-year starter in basketball, Steve Yaniga was a member of Norwin's 1986 and 1988 WPIAL basketball championship teams. He earned three letters in football, quarterbacking the Knights to their first Quad-A playoff appearance (in 1987), earning WPIAL and PIAA honors. He earned three letters in track, but his basketball resume is longer than the Route 30 passing though the township. Yaniga, Norwin's all-time leading scorer (1,488 points in here seasons), was a member of the WPIAL's Fabulous Five, started in the Dapper Dan Roundball Classic in 1988, and received All-State Honorable Mention honors. Yaniga continued his basketball career at Lehigh University.
Ronald E. Peduzzi
As Norwin High School Principal for 25 years (1971-96), Peduzzi was well-known for touting Norwin athletics - as well as academics, extracurricular activities and, in fact, all-things Norwin. Many community members believed Peduzzi, who graduated from Trafford High School, had Norwin's blue-and-gold colors running through his veins. Never needing a proverbial megaphone to boast of the school's accomplishments, Peduzzi epitomized the success Norwin has enjoyed. In 1960, Peduzzi, who taught at Norwin from year-to-year, was Joe McMunn's assistant baseball coach as the Knights copped the WPIAL championship. Peduzzi, who was a fixture at Norwin athletic events, is being honored as a 'Contributor' for his many years of faithful service to the athletic programs. "If anyone could be identified as Mr. Norwin, that would be Ron Peduzzi," Rovesti noted.
In 1960, Norwin's baseball team won the first WPIAL title in 'new' Norwin history, defeating Aliquippa, 1-0, at Forbes Field, behind the three-hit pitching of Fred Pollier, who later spent several seasons in the New York Yankees organization. Notable standouts on the team included Dick Ernest, Duff Brace, Buddy Moore, Ken Morrison, Fred Jones, Gary Decolati, Fred Bertani, Skip Bouldin, and Tom Shirley. Shirley would become Norwin's head baseball coach from 1970-77. Brace's fifth-inning single drove in Bertani with the game's only run.
1976 girl's volleyball state championship; first PIAA Norwin volleyball title;