MC Hall welcomes Class of 2022 | News, Sports, Jobs



By KENNY VARNER

Sentinel Correspondent

[email protected]

BURNHAM — It was a night of celebration Sunday as the 2022 class of inductees into the Mifflin County Hall of Fame were honored for their contributions to the landscape of Mifflin County sports.

To celebrate the current success of the local sporting scene, it was a look back at those who created the foundation with their awards on and off the pitch.

The night of Who’s Who among local athletes and teams began with sure-fire future Hall of Famer and five-time All-American (North Carolina State) and PIAA Champion wrestler Hayden Hidlay.

Hidlay opened up about the importance of building a successful career.

“Tonight is an important night. Sport has a way of giving us and showing us how strong we can be. A lot has been said about NCAA achievements and things like that.” said Hidlay. “But at the end of the day I think it makes you a stronger person. Nothing can give you something like sport.”

This was the case for all the people honored on Sunday.

The ceremony was introduced by one of the pioneers in girls’ basketball, Wendee Booher, a 1987 Chief Logan graduate.

Booher, a standout athlete in three sports (cross-country, basketball, and track) for the Mingoes, finished her high school career as a state champion and four-time medalist in cross-country skiing. In 1986, she led the Mingoes to the state championship with colleague Ron Sprecher.

On the track, she was a three-time District 6 champion and state medalist in the two-mile dash.

She surpassed the 2,000 point mark on the hardwood. She played college for Temple and played pro basketball abroad and has coached.

Booher was presented with the award by longtime friend John Pannizzo.

“It’s a great honor … when you leave a small town like ours, you never expect something like this to happen.” She said. “It was a big deal and my neighbors in Boiling Springs asked me what I was doing on Sunday. I get to go back to my hometown for the Hall of Fame. So it’s a big deal.”

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Next, the Hall of Fame honored longtime local sports star Dick Gingrich.

Gingrich was a four sports letter winner with Chief Logan. He is probably best remembered for quartering Chief Logan’s football teams to win 28 games out of 30, including two unbeaten seasons and a 22-game winning streak.

He was selected to both the UPI and AP All-State teams and was a Wigwam Wiseman High School All-American. He was also named a Big 33 Classic.

After graduating, he was a standout at Penn State under then-coach Rip Engle. He was named to the Nittany Lions 1960s All-Decade team.

He ended his playing career with two interceptions in the East-West Shrine game. He was also a research assistant to Joe Paterno.

His presenter was son Aaron Gingrich.

“I am honored to stand here tonight as the guest of honor of the Mifflin County Hall of Fame,” said the elder Gingrich.

Wrestling took to the big stage after Gingrich’s speech as the Hall of Fame honored one of the true icons in local wrestling history, Joseph Heller.

Heller, a 1979 graduate of Chief Logan, was Mifflin County’s first two-time state wrestling champion to win back-to-back titles, averaging a record of 55-1 over those two seasons. He was a three-time state qualifier. His career record was 70-10 in just three seasons on the mat.

He was a Northwest Regional Champion and a two-time District 6 Champion. As a junior, he received the district’s Outstanding Wrestling Award.

Amateur Wrestling News listed him as an honorable mention High School All-American. He wrestled at the collegiate level for the University of Virginia.

Heller’s award was presented by children Caitlin, Joseph and Ethan Heller.

“I want to start by thanking a few people. I would like to thank the Mifflin County Sports Hall of Fame. It’s members, it’s group members that tie it all together.” said Heller. “It means a lot to me. The older I get, the more it means.”

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Next, Harold joined the ranks “Junior” Powell from the Lewistown Panthers’ Maroon and Steel days.

Powell’s award was presented by his longtime friend Edgar Parks.

A 1959 graduate of Lewistown, Powell was a key member of the legendary Lewistown football teams that won 26-2 in three varsity seasons. Included in that run were two unbeaten seasons in 1957-58.

Powell was a member of the “Dream backfield.” He also played in defense, returning kicks. He was an All-State Honorable Mention in his senior year. He had an amazing stat, reaching the end zone on catch, carry or return, on average every fifth time he touched the ball.

He continued his playing career at Penn State, where he was named one of the best pound-for-pound players he’d ever coached by legendary Penn State coach Rip Engle, something Powell has only said in recent months had experienced.

“I only realized that back when I found out about two months ago.” said Powell. “It just blew my mind.”

The last person to be honored for the evening was Ronald Sprecher.

Sprecher has been a running coach in the Mifflin County area for more than half a century. He is synonymous with cross-country, track and field throughout Pennsylvania.

His award was presented by former runner Tona Williams.

He first coached at Rothrock High School in 1968, where his runners won a District 6 cross country title. Shortly thereafter, the legendary coach made the switch to Coach Chief Logan and transformed the Mingoes into a force to be reckoned with.

He then managed Indian Valley’s program after Chief Logan and Kish High Schools merged in 1988.

All told, Sprecher’s teams gathered 28 boys and girls from District 6 in cross country and track and field. Numerous individuals also won district titles. He has had a successful time coaching several state qualifiers and state champions.

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He coached the Chief Logan girls’ cross country team to a state title in 1986. Sprecher was very impressed with his nomination.

“I feel honored but humbled. It’s very difficult to accept that I’m part of this group.” he said and added “A group I respect a lot.”

In addition to the evening, a new award was presented, the Volunteer Recognition Award.

This year’s winners were longtime Babe Ruth historian and writer Ray Wilde and longtime Babe Ruth coach Bill Corbin, both of whom have spent more than 40 years with Mifflin County’s Babe Ruth program.

In 40 years as head coach, Corbin has anointed an impressive 764-413 win-loss record. He has won numerous state titles and a national runner-up.

Wilde started as an accountant for Belleville in 1970. He has participated in more than 2,000 games and provided sports coverage. He has also created media guides to keep fans up to date on the history of the organization and reported on it for The Sentinel during that time.

In a heartwarming final tribute to the evening, the county’s first team to win a state title was honored for its magical 1963 season.

The Rothrock High School basketball team won the state championship that year, defeating Jim Thorpe in buzzer-beater fashion 43-41. The team, then Class C, took the title in Bethlehem, setting the stage for future teams. The team was coached by Harold Wertz.

Wertz and eight members of his team were present at the presentation.

The Mifflin County Hall of Fame rounded out the night bigger and better, thanks to the dynamic athletes who paved the way for others—and most importantly, for adding Mifflin County’s legacy.




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