State champs in three sports among Norwin hall inductees
The Norwin Athletic Hall of Fame will host its fourth annual induction ceremony on Thursday at Stratigos Banquet Centre in North Huntingdon.
A total of 14 teams, players, coaches and contributors will enter the Hall of Fame this year. Last week, the Norwin Star profiled six of those inductees, and this week, the Star shares the achievements of the remaining eight before their enshrinement.
1973 Norwin boys cross country team
Norwin's cross country team finished as the WPIAL runner-up in 1973, but that second-place finish propelled it to something much bigger.
That year's cross country team remains the only Norwin boys team to win a PIAA state title, as the Knights put five runners among the state's top 35.
Mike Yarosik was the state bronze medalist that year, and behind him for Norwin were Jeff Findle (13th), Earl Kiser (20th), Denny Bierbower (30th) and Dan Thornburg (35th).
Mike McLaughlin (59th) rounded out Norwin's top six at states, while Rick Boehm, Keith Ference, John George, Russ Mikach, Keithley Mulvihill, William Sears and manager Ernie Gribshaw filled out the roster of the state-champion Knights.
Coach Ed Matko
Matko is a double honoree this year, as he enters the hall both as the coach of the 1973 cross country team and as an individual for his 13-year coaching career.
After leading the boys cross country team to a state title three years prior, Matko got the WPIAL title that eluded him with the 1976 team. From 1970 to 1980, Matko's teams won 11 consecutive Westmoreland County Championships.
Matko's teams were 104-17 during his tenure, and seven times during those 13 years, Norwin placed among the top 10 teams in the state.
Coach Dave Rider
Norwin's boys and girls swimming teams have never reached greater heights than they did under Rider from 1978 to 1986.
In 1982, the Norwin girls — led by the record-setting 200-yard medley relay of Tammi Ditter, Holly Peters, Susie Susin and Darci Bodner — won the PIAA title after a third-place WPIAL finish. Two years later, the Norwin boys took a runner-up finish at the PIAA championships.
During Rider's tenure at Norwin, the boys and girls teams were a combined 159-63-3 and produced 61 all-state and 16 All-American swimmers. After leaving the Knights, Rider went on to become a three-time Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Coach of the Year leading Bloomsburg University.
As a junior in 1981, Bailey paired with senior Dan Stewart to claim Norwin's only state tennis title of any kind in the PIAA doubles tournament.
After finishing as the WPIAL runners-up, Bailey and Stewart powered through the state tournament with a semifinal win over Upper St. Clair, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, and a final win over Harriton, 6-4, 6-4.
Bailey was the No. 1 singles player on Norwin's team that year, as he was in his sophomore and senior years, as well. He also was a gifted student and a basketball player at Norwin before graduating and continuing his career at Westminster College, where he went undefeated and won the NAIA District 18 singles title all four years while graduating summa cum laude in biology.
The other half of Norwin's state title double team, Stewart was a four-year singles player for the tennis team in addition to his other athletic achievements.
Stewart was a three-year starter at quarterback for the Knights football team and a four-year letter winner for the basketball team. Football ended up being his sport of choice after high school, as he attended Union College (N.Y.).
At Union, he was a four-year starter and quarterback and led his team to the Division III national championship game. A member of his college's hall of fame, Stewart twice was a second-team All-American and threw for a touchdown pass in 28 consecutive games for Union.
A three-sport star for Norwin, his biggest achievements came in the sport he picked up last, track and field.
Bilinsky was the WPIAL 110-meter hurdle champion as a senior in 1994, only one year after first joining the track team. He also was the 300-meter hurdle runner-up, and he still holds school records in both events.
Bilinsky also spent two and a half seasons as the starting quarterback for the football team and was a second-team all-conference pick as a senior. On the basketball court, he was a two-year starter at guard, a first-team all-section pick and the 3-point champion at the Westmoreland County/Fayette County All-Star Game.
He currently teaches in the Penn Hills School District and is an assistant on Norwin's football staff.
One of the most decorated baseball players in Norwin's long history, Leukhardt led the Knights to the 1977 WPIAL semifinals and 1978 WPIAL final as a star pitcher and hitter.
By the time Leukhardt graduated, he held school records for wins (17) and strikeouts (228), and he was second in school history with 43 RBI. He threw two no-hitters during his senior season and batted over .400 for his final two years.
Also an all-conference lineman for the football team, Leukhardt was an 18th-round pick of the Cleveland Indians, but he declined their selection to accept a baseball scholarship to Stanford.
Murray is being inducted 25 years after setting Norwin's single-season touchdown record with 19 as a senior running back.
The three-year starter helped lead the Knights to their first WPIAL Quad-A playoff game in school history, and he finished with a school-record 2,253 yards rushing.
Also a wrestling and track letterman for the Knights, Murray was selected to the Big 33 All-Star Football Game in 1987 and received a full scholarship to Pitt after his gradution from Norwin.
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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