Stewart ready to take spot in Armstrong hall
According to the list of inductees for the Armstrong County Sports Hall of Fame, Dennis Stewart is being honored as a wrestling coach. That one title only scratches the surface of his longtime work for the Armstrong School District, however.
Stewart, the current athletic director at Ford City, is part of the Armstrong Hall's 42nd induction class this year to honor his 39 years of service as a coach and administrator at Kittanning and Ford City.
Highlighting Stewart's coaching career, which began at the junior high level in wrestling and football, is his tenure as Kittanning/Armstrong Central's varsity wrestling coach from 1986-1998. During that time, the program produced 20 section champions, eight state qualifiers and Kittanning's first state champion in 1995, 140-pounder Chamie Hooks.
“I worked with so many great wrestlers and so many great wrestling families at Kittanning,” Stewart said. “When I got to the varsity level, we had guys like the Williams brothers, Chamie Hooks of course, and Frank Brewer, who later became my assistant. There were really some first-class people in the program.”
It's working with the student-athletes and their families that has made Stewart enjoy the many roles he has filled in the school district.
Apart from his wrestling accomplishments, Stewart helped establish the girls golf program at Kittanning in 1992. In 1997, he took over as the athletic director at Ford City. Many Ford City programs have seen success under his tenure, including the girls basketball program that was a PIAA semifinalist in 1998 and a WPIAL runner-up in 2007.
Perhaps fittingly, it was Ford City girls basketball coach Al Davis who was the first to inform Stewart that he was to be inducted into the hall of fame.
“Being an AD, I nominate students each year for the hall, and I have several friends who are already hall of famers,” Stewart said. “I'm familiar with the hall and what it stands for, and it was quite an honor to find out they were even considering inducting me.”
Stewart intends to retire after the 2014-15 school year when Ford City and Kittanning are scheduled to merge into the new Armstrong High School.
His involvement with athletics in the district, however, is something that he hopes to be able to continue when the new era for the Armstrong School District officially begins.
“I really do have mixed emotions about (retirement), but I'm not ready to go out to pasture, yet,” Stewart said. “Thirty-nine years in the district, going on 40, is a long time, but I've talked to some people and hope there's a spot for me in the future. “I'd like to see the Riverhawks programs get off on the right foot.”