By Josh Langenbacher
The next class to be inducted into the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame has a distinct basketball flavor.
Three members of the 2018 class, to be enshrined on Saturday, April 7, 2018 at the Blair County Convention Center, were outstanding basketball players. They’ll join a football and boxing standout and an unbeaten football team.
The enshrinees include:
• Tracey (Slogik) Biesecker, an AAHS graduate who led the Lady Lions to the 1986 PIAA title and then became a four-year starter and team captain at West Virginia;
• Bill Kagarise, a prolific scorer who filled the nets at Williamsburg High School and American University;
• Curtis Miller, who played professional basketball in England for five seasons and averaged as many as 33 points per game overseas;
• Vince Nedimyer, a standout athlete at Altoona High School who went on to become a three-year starter at Wake Forest as an offensive guard and tackle;
• Jim Restauri, a boxer who posted an 8-2-1 record as a professional heavyweight and was Penn State’s only three-time National Collegiate Boxing Association champion.
This year’s class brings the total number of inductees to 95 since the Hall’s inception in 1987.
It’s a tribute to the depth of outstanding athletes in Blair County history that nearly 100 inductees into the Hall of Fame, we still have athletes who achieved national recognition, professional status and performed at a high level of Division I athletics,” Hall of Fame president Neil Rudel said. “We believe this year’s class is very deserving and will be extremely well received.”
In addition to the individual inductees, the Hall will induct the 1962 Altoona High School football team, the last Mountain Lions squad to finish a season undefeated (10-0) and the only team since Altoona’s unbeaten squad of 1941 to achieve perfection.
“Altoona is known for its football history, and the 1962 team is a pillar in that history,” Rudel said. “It was coached by Earl Strohm, who’s in the Hall of Fame, and dominated a big-time schedule at a time when football was king throughout Pennsylvania communities and often played before full stadiums, including Mansion Park, packed with 10,000 fans.”
Altoona Area High School’s history with the Hall of Fame runs deep with 60 inductees and two team honorees. Nedimyer, Miller, Biesecker and Restauri all graduated from Blair County’s largest high school, giving Altoona four inductees in three different sports along with the 1962 football team.
Nedimyer’s collegiate career was capped by the Deacons’ Atlantic Coast Conference championship in 1970, his senior year at Wake Forest. The Deacons did not win another ACC title until 2005.
Biesecker’s WVU squad won the 1989 Atlantic 10 title and went 24-8 during her junior year to place West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament. She teamed with 2016 inductee Jennifer (Shingler) Hansberry to lead Altoona to its first unbeaten season and PIAA championship in 1986, and she ended her basketball career by playing professionally in Switzerland for one season.
Restauri, who racked up his boxing titles from 1977-79, became an All-American at Penn State, and he trained under two-time Olympic instructor Eddie Sulkowski. Away from the ring, Restauri won the Cohen Blanket at Altoona High School and lettered for the Penn State football team in 1978.
The 1962 Altoona High football team, meanwhile, featured senior Division I players such as Mel Frye and Gerry Sanker (both Penn State), Dan McKnight (Maryland), Bob Prindible (Virginia) and Milt Lantz (Wake Forest). Underclassmen Mike Reid (Penn State) and Dave Thompson (Rutgers) were also on the team, along with sophomore Buddy Geis.
“When we went to Easton, they hadn’t been beaten by a western Pennsylvania team in years,” McKnight said. “I mean, they watered down the field on us. It (weather) was dry as a bone. But the field was wet. They did everything to try to slow down our speed. And they didn’t do it. We rolled over them.”
The 10th and last win of that season also took on added significance: It was Strohm’s 100th win.
“Somewhere along the line, one of the captains came in and said if we could win them all, it would be Earl’s 100th win,” McKnight said. “Then we finished 10-0, and Earl Strohm had 100 wins. As a team, who thinks about that when you’re 18 years old?”
Miller, a third-team junior college All-American at Broome Community College in Binghamton, N.Y. before playing at Division II New Hampshire, participated in two NBA summer league camps with Cleveland and the Lakers. He graduated from AAHS in 1976.
Kagarise is no stranger to the Hall. In 2016, the 1966 Williamsburg boys basketball team was inducted, and Kagarise averaged 33.7 points per game for that Blue Pirates team that finished 25-0. Williamsburg’s squads had a record of 70-3 during Kagarise’s three years on the varsity squad, and he set a Blair County single-game scoring record with 62 points.
Pittsburgh’s Stan Savran will return as banquet emcee, and the featured speaker will be announced in the coming weeks.
Advance orders for tickets, priced at $75 ($750 for table of 10) before Dec. 31 and $85 ($850 for table) after that, are currently being accepted. Checks can be made payable to the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame, P.O. Box 162, Altoona, Pa. 16603.
For more ticket information, call Kathy Millward at 312-0151.
Inquiries can be directed to: [email protected].
Hall of Fame bios
TRACEY (SLOGIK) BIESECKER: Four-year starter (1986-90) at West Virginia who played one season of professional basketball in Switzerland. Averaged double figures as a senior, when she captained the team. Lady Mountaineers went 43-18 in her last two years, including 24-8 mark in 1989. After beating Penn State in the first round of the 1989 Atlantic 10 tournament, the Mountaineers upset St. Joseph’s in the semifinals and defeated Temple, 63-54, in the championship to secure their first-ever Atlantic 10 title and NCAA tourney berth. Invited to inaugural WNBA season tryout in 1995. Teamed with 2016 inductee and fellow co-captain Jennifer (Shingler) Hansberry to lead Altoona to its first unbeaten season and PIAA championship in 1986, when Lady Lions also finished No. 1 in USA Today poll.
BILL KAGARISE: Averaged double-figures as two-year starter at American University in 1969-70 with notable performances against Notre Dame (22 points) and Old Dominion (30 points). Played two years at Brevard Junior College, setting a two-year scoring record of 1,134 points. Graduated Williamsburg High School as second-leading scorer in school and Blair County history (1,748) behind Don Appleman’s Blair County record 2100 points. Averaged 33.7 points as a senior and his 843 points were second in state on 25-0 PIAA champions. Team had three-year varsity record of 70-3. Set a Blair County single-game scoring record of 62 points. Spent three years on American staff under Tom Young and Dr. Tom Davis. Later coached 25 years at scholastic level in Virginia.
CURTIS MILLER: Played five seasons of professional basketball in England, averaging as high as 33 points per game and was named to several European All-Star teams. Was a third-team junior college All-American after scoring more than 1,000 points at Broome Community College in Binghamton, N.Y. before going on to Division II University of New Hampshire, where he averaged 17.3 points per game in two seasons. Contributed to a pair of Northeast Regional titles (1979-81) at New Hampshire. The 1981 team advanced to the national Division II quarterfinals, losing to Virginia Union, and was inducted into New Hampshire’s Hall of Fame in 2012. Participated in two NBA Summer League camps with Cleveland and the Lakers (1981-82).
VINCE NEDIMYER: Three-year starter as offensive guard and tackle at Wake Forest (1968-70), highlighted by the Deacons’ Atlantic Coast Conference championship during his senior year. Wake won six of its last eight games in 1970 to finish 6-5 overall and 5-1 in the ACC. It took Wake 35 years, until 2005, to win another one. Was Wake’s game captain twice. Standout athlete at Altoona High School was part of the Mountain Lions’ legendary victory at Massillon in 1966. Set AHS record for most points kicked in season (34) and game (10). As a coach, spent one season as a grad assistant at Wake, another as an assistant at Gardner Webb and one year at Saint Francis. Later become Mountain Lions’ head football coach and athletic director.
JIM RESTAURI: Recorded 8-2-1 record as professional heavyweight boxer, including as a main event in Scranton. Was Penn State’s only three-time National Collegiate Boxing Association champion, winning his titles from 1977-79, which accorded him All-American status. Posted collegiate record of 23-2, including six knockouts. Trained under Penn State boxing coach and two-time U.S. Olympic instructor Eddie Sulkowski. In addition to his boxing prowess, Restauri won the Cohen Blanket at Altoona High School and was a walk-on to the PSU football team, lettering in 1978. Trained early in his career under Johnny Robertson. Retired from law enforcement in Florida but remained active in boxing, serving as a coach and president of the Penn State Boxing Alumni Club.
1962 ALTOONA HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM: Finished with a 10-0 record — the last Mountain Lion football team to post an unbeaten season and the only team since Altoona’s unbeaten squad of 1941 to achieve perfection. Coached by Earl Strohm, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame with its second class in 1988, the Lions were loaded with talent and featured a number of players who gained Division I scholarships, including Mel Frye and Gerry Sanker (both Penn State), Dan McKnight (Maryland), Milt Lantz (Wake Forest), Bob Prindible (Virginia) and Dave Thompson (Rutgers). Mike Reid (PSU) and Buddy Geis — both Hall of Fame enshrinees (Reid for playing, Geis for coaching) — were sophomores on the squad. The team competed against a statewide schedule and regularly performed in front of crowds of 10,000-plus. Its most significant victories came against McKeesport, which was a WPIAL power, rival Johnstown, Indiana, Chambersburg, Williamsport and Eastern power Easton. The Lions outscored their opponents 311-68 and outgained them 3414-1644.
The 1962 Altoona High School football team posted a perfect 10-0 record, the school’s last unbeaten football team. Team members were, from left, First row — Buddy Geis, Mel Frye, Bob Fogle, Dan McKnight, Joe Nicodemus, Bob Black, Bill Shawley, John Kerns, Milt Lantz, Jerry Sanker, Jeff Miller, Bob Prindible. Second row — Bill Books, Mike Auker, Ted Werner, Dave McNickol, Jim Nardella, Ed Trexler, Chuck Brenner, Tim Murtiff, Steve Flanagan, Bill Mills, Jim Yingling, Steve Howe, Jim Miller, John Phillips. Third row — Mgr. Kraft, Mgr. Mcginnis, Tim Hudson, Frank Magaracci, Carl Bennett, Sam Ianuzzi, Paul Springman, Tom Sanker, Dick Jones, Gary Sacks, Dave Thompson, Dennis Rossman, John Trion, Mgr. Lindsey, Mgr. Varner. Fourth row — Dick Johnson, Frank Barry, Jim Graham, Tom Bussman, Bob Johnston, Mike Reid, John Harris, Dennis Blackburn, Ed Smith, Rick Noonan, Tom Creighton, Tony Glasson, Tony Muro.
18th induction banquet
When: Saturday, April 7, 2018
Where: Blair County Convention Center
Tickets: $75 each or $750 for table of 10 before Dec. 31; $85 each and $850 for table of 10 afterward.
Call Kathy Millward at 312-0151.