Akwasi Owusu-Ansah has made a name for himself on the national stage, and that’s quite a leap for a guy nobody had heard of four years ago.
Akwasi Owusu-Ansah goes up for catch
A standout defensive back on the football team, he became the latest IUP product to be picked in the National Football League draft, when he was chosen in the fourth round by the Dallas Cowboys in April. He was taken 126th overall in the three-day selection process. Owusu-Ansah wasn’t heavily recruited coming out of Whetstone High School, in Columbus, Ohio. Most NCAA Division I schools showed no interest in him, and only a handful of smaller ones did. One of the latter was Edinboro University and its head coach, Lou Tepper, who initially recruited Owusu-Ansah and stayed in touch in early 2006, when he was hired as IUP’s new head coach. When national signing day came a month later, Owusu-Ansah signed on with IUP, a school he had never heard of until Tepper recruited him.
With the Crimson Hawks, Owusu-Ansah was a three-year starter at cornerback and a dangerous return man on special teams. He ran back three punts and three kickoffs for scores during his career and added touchdowns on a fumble return and an interception return. He was picked for the American Football Coaches Association and Associated Press All-America teams and was invited to the annual NFL scouting combine in February, where the thirty-two teams had the chance to put him through various drills to evaluate his skill. The Cowboys were impressed from the get-go, and not far into the third day of the draft, Dallas owner Jerry Jones dialed Owusu-Ansah’s number and gave the small-school prospect his big break.“We like his size, we like his speed, and, more importantly if anything,” Jones said, “we like what we saw of his instincts.”
Senior shortstop Paul Bingham was chosen PSAC West Player of the Year to highlight the Crimson Hawks’ season on the diamond. Bingham batted .463 and stole forty-five bases, which broke a nearly two-decade-old conference record. His twelve triples also broke a PSAC mark that was set in 1977. In total, nine baseball players were named to the all-conference team. Bingham also was named a semifinalist for the Tino Martinez Division II Player of the Year Award and was joined by first baseman Kyle Stryker on the Daktronics All-Atlantic Region team.
It was quite a winter for freshman Sarah Pastorek, who earned a number of honors for the Crimson Hawks’ women. A native of Johnstown, Pastorek was named the PSAC West Rookie of the Year and was picked for the Women’s Division II Bulletin All-Freshman Team. In her first season on head coach Jeff Dow’s team, she averaged 10.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. The Crimson Hawks finished 17-10 and advanced to the PSAC playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. In the high school ranks, three Indiana-area coaches, all IUP alumni, took their teams on memorable seasons. Indiana High School girls coach Dave Woodall ’73, aided by his daughter Megan Woodall Mills ’01, led his team to heights it hadn’t reached in almost thirty years when the Indians played in the Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Athletic Association Class AAA title game on March 27. Although the Indians lost to Archbishop Wood in the state finals, they rolled up a 25-3 record and won the WPIAL Section 3-AAA title. The Northern Cambria Colts, coached by Eric Thomas ’96, M’02, advanced to the state championship game for the second time in three seasons when they played in the Class A girls’ final. Thomas’s squad also lost that day, but it didn’t spoil an otherwise outstanding season, in which the Colts finished with a 24-6 record. Former IUP men’s coach Kurt Kanaskie was inducted into the West Shore chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in May. Kanaskie, who rolled up a 152-75 record in eight seasons at IUP (1988–1996), is now an assistant coach at Penn State. He was head coach at Drake University from 1996 to 2003.
Bob Ligashesky ’85 was hired as the tight ends coach for the NFL’s Denver Broncos. A veteran assistant coach, Ligashesky was most recently the special teams coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2007 to 2009. As for the Steelers, Gibsonia native Brandon Hunt ’03, M’06 was named his hometown team’s pro scouting coordinator in February. After two years as a scout for the Houston Texans, Hunt joined the Steelers in the footsteps of IUP grads Tom Modrak ’65 and Tom Donahoe ’69 in the same position. Former Steelers assistant Jim Haslett ’91 was tabbed the defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins in January after serving as head coach of the fledgling United Football League’s Florida Tuskers. In his one season as the Tuskers’ boss, Haslett went 6-0 in the regular season and guided his team to a berth in the league’s inaugural championship game. That game, played in Las Vegas last November, featured another IUP alumnus. Offensive lineman Jason Capizzi started at left tackle for the Las Vegas Locos, who prevailed, 20-17, in overtime. Soon afterward, Capizzi signed a contract with the Cleveland Browns. While playing at IUP from 2004 to 2006, Capizzi was mentored by offensive line coach Chris Bache ’87. On March 1, Bache was named to the same position at Adrian (Mich.) College, following four seasons as an assistant at Youngstown State. Also on the coaching front, Chris Villarrial ’95, who played for the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills in an eleven-year NFL career, was hired as the head coach at St. Francis University after serving one year as the Red Flash’s offensive coordinator.
First-year head coach Bill Graham wrapped up his rookie season in style with the Crimson Hawks, earning a berth in the NCAA tournament for the first time in five years. Seven players earned all-conference honors, and Stefanie Poates was chosen as the PSAC Central Freshman of the Year. Graham, who joined the program in August 2009, led the Crimson Hawks to their best record in school history, 38-12.
Swimming and Diving
Versatile sophomore Jackie Hynson took third in the 200 butterfly and 200 backstroke to earn All-America honors at the NCAA Division II championships. Hynson set school records in both events. Also making waves recently was John Wingfield ’85, M’88, who was honored as the U.S. Olympic Committee’s 2009 Developmental Coach of the Year, an award that spans all of the committee’s sports. Wingfield is director and head coach of the USA Diving National Training Center. In 2009, his divers won eight junior national titles in the 12-and-13 and under-11 age group, as well as nine Junior Pan-Am championship medals.
Track and Field
Over the winter, Nafee Harris backed up his outdoor NCAA crown by winning the indoor national championship in the long jump with a leap of 25 feet, 7¼ inches. The jump established a school record and beat the nearest competitor by a foot. Harris is one of twelve IUP athletes to win a national championship in track and field, and the only one to do so in a jumping event. Also at the indoor championships, Brianna Liebold took third in the women’s long jump, and Leander Toney (high jump) and Laurie Ajavon (long jump) earned all-America honors. The miles keep piling up for Kerry Green ’78, who completed the Boston Marathon in April in two hours, 58 minutes and 18 seconds. His finish made him only the seventh runner to record a time under three hours in the 26.2-mile race in five consecutive decades. Student Maddy Outman continued to dazzle the competition when she was named Most Outstanding Athlete at the PSAC Meet in May. Outman won the 100-meter hurdles, 400-meter dash, and heptathlon and placed second in the long jump. Her times in the hurdles and 400 were conference records, breaking ones she set the day before in qualifying races. And who was the only woman to jump farther than Outman? Her own teammate: Laurie Ajavon. In a 1-2-3 sweep of the event, Ajavon won with a leap of 19 feet, 8¼ inches. Outman (18-9) was second, followed by Tamika Taylor (18-1¾). For the IUP men, Toney won the high jump, with a leap of 6-10¾. Yoann Goadet was second, at 6-6¾.
Head coach Fred Joseph’s squad wrapped up its best finish ever at the NCAA Division II championships in May when it placed tenth in the team standings following four grueling days at Sagamore Golf Club in Noblesville, Ind. The program’s best previous finish was twelfth in 1993 and 2009. As an NAIA school, IUP won the national championship in 1968. The Crimson Hawks had a score of 1,236, led by Brad Boyle’s four-round total of 304, which placed him eighteenth overall. Ryan Kennedy tied for twenty-sixth at 307, followed by Leo Acklin (fifty-second, 315), Gavin Smith (fifty-eighth, 318), and Nic Milito (seventy-sixth, 330).
Baseball player Jake Rougeaux and soccer player Sarah Romasco were introduced as the university’s Scholar-Athletes of the Year at the All-American Dinner in April. Rougeaux, an Indiana High School graduate, entered the Spring semester with a 3.97 cumulative grade-point average as a GIS and Cartography major. He also was an IUP Provost Scholar and won the Burchfield Academic Scholarship. Romasco, a native of Ambridge, graduated in May with honors and a degree in Mathematics Education. She was on the Dean’s List all eight semesters at IUP and entered Spring with a 3.77 cumulative GPA. She was also the recipient of the Mildred Reigh and Arthur G. Morrell math scholarships.
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More from the Summer 2010 Issue of IUP Magazine
The 2009–2010 men’s basketball team won more games than any other and competed on nationwide television for the Division II crown.
In six decades, the ROTC program at IUP has produced nearly two thousand U.S. Army second lieutenants, not to mention eight generals.
Legacy Gala, Ruddock Hall, who’s in that photo, and more
Highlights about IUP faculty members, past and present
The latest IUP player to be picked in the NFL draft, plus other newsworthy IUP athletes
IUP Magazine Web Exclusives
June 30, 2010
What distinguishes our Western Pennsylvania dialect?
May 12, 2010
Promoting Native American awareness at IUP.
April 21, 2010
Explore the 270 acres of the Co-op Recreational Park and the IUP Sailing Base at Yellow Creek State Park.