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Armstrong County Sports Hall of Fame welcomes 11-member class

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Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
The 2013 Armstrong County Sports Hall of Fame inductees include: Front row, left to right, George 'Butch' Aggen, Clint Holes, Lori Gamble, Natalie Schoonover (accpeting for her late son, Sgt. Joseph Garrison), and Bruce Shumaker. Back row, David Highfield, Doug Goodman, Randy Punchard, Dennis Yajko, Kevin Talmadge, and Tom Emminger on Sunday, April 28, 2013, at Laube Hall in Freeport.
By George Guido
Monday, April 29, 2013, 12:36 a.m.

Successful athletes derive inspiration from various places.

For Freeport native George ‘Butch' Aggen, it was working one summer with handicapped children while attending Indiana (Pa.) University.

Aggen was asked to participate in a summer camp and jumped at the idea, thinking it was a football camp.

It turned out to be a life-changing event for the football standout.

”My challenges in my life can't compare to the challenges they face every day,” Aggen said. “That helped me become a better and caring person.”

Aggen was one of 11 inductees Sunday night at the 41st annual Armstrong County Sports Hall of Fame banquet.

The 1972 Freeport graduate, who still holds the IUP record in career tackles with 429, was back in his hometown for the ceremony before a packed house at Laube Hall.

The loudest and most sustained applause of the night went to Natalie Schoonover, mother of military awardee Marine Sgt. Joseph Garrison.

Garrison, a 2002 Redbank Valley High School graduate, was killed while serving his fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan on June 6, 2011, when an improvised explosive device detonated.

“My son loved the sport of wrestling, and his coaches never forgot his contribution when they started the Sergeant Joe Garrison Memorial Wrestling Tournament,” Schoonover said.

Bruce Shumaker, wrestling standout from Redbank Valley and Edinboro University, said his inspiration was from his father, Willie, who “merely got up every day and went to work at Hetrick Burial Services in Distant.”Shumaker's Virginia high school teams compiled a 386-138 record.

Former U.S. Karate team member Lori Gamble, a Ford City graduate, thanked her mother for “working extra jobs to pay for my training and travel.”

Gamble cited coach Galen Cruse and her training partner, Gwenna Carson, for “pushing me past physical limits I thought I could never pass.”

Apollo-Ridge graduate Clint Holes recalled his time at Penn State playing for coach Joe Paterno, and how football has shaped his life.

Another Apollo-Ridge grad, Kevin Talmadge, asked county student-athletes honored at the banquet to “embrace the opportunity to play athletics and meet great people.”

Mike Goodman, the 1973 WPIAL javelin champion, recognized his coaches at Freeport and at Edinboro in helping him attain “an education, great memories and great friendships.”

Leechburg graduate Dennis Yajko joined his brothers, John and Eugene, as hall of fame members and caught up with his high school coach, the legendary Frank Cignetti.

Randall Puchard, graduate of the former Shannock Valley High School, cited learning basketball fundamentals as a grade schooler from another coaching legend, Tony Bernardi.

Kittanning's Tom Emminger, honored for 46 years of coaching various sports, showed he was also a fan by saying how much he enjoyed following high school honoree Sterling Henry and his basketball Wildcats the past several season.

The hall's builder award went to KDKA-TV reporter David Highfield, a Ford City graduate.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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