A dream in the making for decades, Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex opened to rave reviews in the spring, and its first major event for athletics came on September 10, when the Class of 2011 was inducted into the IUP Athletic Hall of Fame.
In previous years, the induction ceremony was held off campus, but, with the new Kovalchick Complex housing the Hall of Fame itself and offering plenty of space for events such as this, it has become the new home for the induction ceremony.
It was somewhat fitting that the event was held in the building that also houses IUP’s new basketball court. That’s because three of the twelve inductees spent their college athletic careers on the hardwood.
Class of 2011 inductees into the IUP Athletic Hall of Fame were honored during halftime of the football game against East Stroudsburg on September 10. From left: Weston Crawford, representing father Richard Crawford, George Glarner, Kurt Kanaskie, Joe Klinchock, Amy Peterson Lenosky, Edward Matko, Robert Misenko, Steve Murray, Bob Vranich, Bill Otto, Michelle Goodwin West, and Frank Wolk. Sam Scavo is missing from the photo. (Keith Boyer)
Leading the class was former IUP head coach Kurt Kanaskie, who was honored for his eight-year run from 1986 to 1994. In his tenure with IUP, Kanaskie molded the program into one of the nation’s best, and he led it to its first No. 1 national ranking, in the 1994-95 season. His 1995-96 team carried the No. 1 ranking for the entire regular season.
One of Kanaskie’s best players was forward Robert Misenko ’97, who in four seasons pieced together a sparkling career that ended with his holding the school’s all-time scoring mark. Between 1992 and 1996, Misenko was a key part of three teams that advanced to the NCAA tournament and won the 1995 PSAC championship.
Long before Misenko took the floor, Richard Crawford ’68 was one of the top basketball players at IUP. From 1964 through 1968, Crawford played for IUP, and he was named team captain his senior season. That year, he was also recognized with the Regis (Peck) McKnight Award as the university’s outstanding senior student-athlete.
The football program was represented with the induction of three former players: George Glarner ’56, Sam Scavo ’61, and Edward Matko ’51. Glarner was a two-way star for IUP teams from 1952 to 1955 that went 9-6 in PSAC play. A three-year starter, he anchored both lines for IUP. Scavo joined the program a few years later and was a four-year letter winner for IUP from 1957 to 1960.
Matko played only one year of football with IUP, in 1947, but was mainly honored for his golf career, from 1948 to 1951. He was the team’s number-one starter for three seasons and claimed the state title in 1949.
Another state champion golfer, Joe Klinchock ’86 was also inducted. Between 1983 and 1985, Klinchock won three events and was a two-time All-American. He was also the team captain in 1984, when IUP finished eleventh in the NCAA Division II team tournament.
Representing women’s soccer was Amy Peterson Lenosky ’95, a three-time letter winner from 1993 to 1995. She led IUP in scoring in 1994 with eighteen goals and five assists, when her forty-one points were more than double what anyone else on the team had.
One of the top baseball players in school history, Steve Murray ’99 was a four-year letter winner from 1995 to 1998 and graduated with a career batting average of .401. He was a first-team All-PSAC choice three times and was named the PSAC West Player of the Year in 1998.
One of the most accomplished throwers in IUP track and field history, Bob Vranich ’94 was a four-time All-American from 1990 to 1993 and placed in the top five in the javelin at the NCAA Division II championships before winning the title his senior season. He qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials in 1992.
In gymnastics, Michelle Goodwin West ’89 was a key member of IUP’s back-to-back 1988 and 1989 national championship teams and was a two-time individual national champion, having won crowns in the floor exercise in 1988 and the balance beam the following year.
A two-time All-American in soccer, Frank Wolk ’83 won four letters during his career at IUP, from 1979 to 1983. His forty-one career goals are the second-most in school history, and he helped lead IUP to the 1982 PSAC championship game.
In addition, IUP gave Bill Otto the Honorary Award for his work as the public address announcer for men’s basketball since 1979 and football since 1981.
The first athletic event at Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex was the women’s volleyball home opener September 16. The Crimson Hawks won the morning game against Cheyney, 3-0, but dropped their evening match to Kutztown, 3-2. Audience members received free T-shirts to be part of a blackout during the night game. (Anthony Shingler/IUP Athletics)
Former IUP standout pitcher Alex Gett ’07 spent his summer as an assistant coach with the Cotuit (Massachusetts) Kettleers, a team in the Cape Cod League.
IUP head coach Jeff Ditch in May spent eight days volunteering in Haiti as part of the “Hearts for the Hungry” program, which aims to help the impoverished nation.
Robbie Zinsmeister capped his sophomore season at IUP by playing his summer with the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks, of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. He batted .326, with nine home runs and twenty-six RBIs in forty-four games, and he was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. As a result, Zinsmeister was named one of the top pro prospects by Baseball America.
Two former IUP stars signed contracts over the summer to play professionally in Germany. Darryl Webb ’11, the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder and the 2010-11 NCAA Division II Player of the Year, agreed to terms with Crailsheim of the Pro A division, and Thomas Young, who guided the Crimson Hawks to the PSAC and Atlantic Region championships, as well as a berth in the NCAA Division II championship game, signed with VFL Stade of the Regionalliga Division.
At press time, Jahzinga Tracey ’09, the women’s all-time leading scorer at IUP, was beginning her third season in professional basketball as a member of the Eisvögel USC Freiburg team in Germany. Last season, she averaged twelve points and nine rebounds per game for Freiburg.
After spending most of last season on the injured reserve list, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah managed to stay healthy, but he did not make the final cut at training camp with the Dallas Cowboys. He did, however, secure a spot on the Cowboys’ practice roster, which will help Owusu-Ansah continue his dream of playing in the National Football League.
IUP fans might see a familiar name while surfing the ESPN website. Former IUP quarterback Kevin Weidl ’06 has been working the last few years as a scout for the media giant, watching for potential NFL talent and reporting on his finds through blogs and radio spots.
After a standout career as an offensive lineman at IUP, Beau Elliot has been a stalwart for the Chicago Rush, of the Arena Football League. Elliot recently completed his third season with the Rush, which went 13-5 and won the National Conference’s Central Division.
Zack Kempa, a member of the golf team, shot a seven-over par 291 to tie for thirty-seventh at the Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship in August at the Niakwa Country Club in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Kempa finished seventeen shots behind the winner. A native of Brantford, Ontario, Kempa fired rounds of 75-71-72-73.
Paul Spears ’49, chairman of the board of Hanover Shoe Farms and executive vice president of the Standardbred Horse Sales Company, was inducted September 22 as the twenty-seventh Little Brown Jug Wall of Fame honoree. A member of the IUP Athletic Hall of Fame for his exploits with the university’s football team, Spears has been a member of the Little Brown Jug Society since 1988, a director of the Hambletonian Society, a trustee of the Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y., and the Pennsylvania Standardbred Breeders Association, and former president of the Pennsylvania Live Horse Racing Council for Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds. He resides in Hanover.
Kurt Backstrom ’73 was hired recently as the boys’ varsity coach at Christian Academy in Knoxville, Tenn. Backstrom had previously been an assistant coach at Farragut High School. As a player at IUP, Backstrom earned regional All-American and all-conference honors in 1971.