16th Annual Banquet
JOSEPH DIMINCK III
They say there are lies, damn lies and statistics. And of course, many times statistics don’t tell the true story...especially in athletics. And in the case of Joey Diminck, even though the stats are mind-blowing, they don’t say how really good a football player he really was.
First the stats: He was the only player, ever, to start every single game for four years for the Tornadoes. During that period the Big Red was 39-6-1. With Joey quarterbacking, they were 35-1, and won two Eastern Conference Championships.
He ranks third in career total offense, and was second team All State defense with both UPI and Associated Press.
He holds MCA’s All-Time Record in the high hurdles with 14.6. He was undefeated in both high and low hurdles in 73 and 74, was District 4 Champion in 72, 73 and 74; and finished 6th in the State met in 74. He is the third leading track scorer in MCA history, trailing only his brothers Michael and John.
In the 1974 Big 33 Game, he was selected Outstanding Player in offense and defense...and was listed a Prep All American and ranked as one of the top 100 players nationally by that publication.
He became an outstanding defensive back at Penn State and played in three bowl games: the Gator against Notre Dame, Fiesta against Southern Cal and a National Championship Game in the Sugar against Alabama.
As a senior he defended against some of the nations best passers and receivers including Broomell of Temple, Buckey of North Carolina State and Slichter of Ohio State and never gave up a touchdown pass. He was a “Big Play” producer that moved coach Joe Paterno to say “We’ve got to have him on the field somewhere” when discussing the teams prospect for his final season at Penn State.
Joe works for Federal Express and lives in Winstom-Salem, North Carolina with his wife Sandy and children Tyler, 7, and Lauren, 5.
THE 1944 KULPMONT WILDCATS
Caoch Jerry Breslin’s favorite theory about high school athletics has to do with “Cycles”. He feels that every school goes through periods where there is a gathering of great athletes together at the same time...and of course the opposite is true.
There doesn’t seem to be any question that the ‘44 Kulpmont Wildcats were part of an up-cycle. It’s doubtful that a team anywhere has so thoroughly dominated its opponents as that ‘44 team. Consider this:
1. They scored 357 points, averaging 31.9 per game.
2. Their opponents scored a total of 21 points for the season. The first team was not scored upon at all.
3. 8 of their 11 opponents were shut out.
4. The team had a total of 29 players. 6 of the 29 received scholarships to major schools and did well.
The team was coached by Mike Terry, who was assisted by Al Ross. Further validation for the cycle theory is that of the 4 undefeated seasons racked up by Kulpmont High in it’s history, 3 were during that Terry era at Kulpmont.
It was a team that had everything: size, speed, power and strength. They could run and throw and catch and tackle with equal skill. What more ts there to say about a great football team.
Team Members: Bernard Barkowski, Alex Burak, Joe Dallabrida, Joe Diminick, Henry Duran, Rohland Evans, Oete Fusetti, Ronald Haas, Jack Fusetti, Eugene Yancoski, Matthew Lashendock, Joe Lech, Nick Mariano, Bernard Moleski, Len Makowski, Jack Moleski, Lou Murawski, Frank Nicola, Al Retalleck, Michael Siket, Henry Stewart, Robert Terry, Clem Thomas, Leonard Valania, Dominic Vitacco, Michael Wanzie, Bernard Washko, Len Yarish.
ROBERT L. VARANO
Varano graduated from Mount Carmel High School in 1951 where he lettered in football, basketball, and baseball. He was selected to play in the 1950 football dream game and also to play in the 1951 Keystone Basketball League All Star Game.
In 195 he enrolled at Dickinson College on a full basketball scholarship and had a great college career. He is the only Mount Carmel graduate in the last fifty years to start and letter for four years as a college basketball player. As a starting forward on the team he was the team’s top rebounder and was second in scoring and foul conversions. Dickinson’s coach A.C. Ransom said of Varano: “The record book will never tell the true story of Bob’s worth to the Dickinson squad for there are no statistics for hustle; you don’t get an extra point in the score book for the basket that is so desperately needed in a tight ballgame; there is no statistic that measures defensive skill; nevertheless it is these things that win ball games and that is just what Bob has done for Dickinson since his freshmen year. He is the mist dependable, hard working boy I ever coached; a superb rebounder and defensive player.”
He had several successful coaching years as Assistant football, basketball and track coach at Ashland High School, assistant football coach at Shamokin High School and as head basketball coach for five years at Mount Carmel Area High School.
He left coaching when he became an administrator at Mount Carmel and in 1976 was named Superintendent of Schools at Southern Columbia Area School District.
He owns and operates Varano Insurance Agency in Mount Carmel and Shamokin and he and his wife Jean live in Mount Carmel. They are the parents of a son Rob and a daughter Wendy.
Glenn Smith was an outstanding three sport athlete at Mount Carmel High School from 1934 through 1938. He lettered in football, wrestling, and track and was honored as the outstanding athlete of the class of 1938.
He left Mount Carmel for Wyoming Seminary, where he continued his excellent career. He topped off his fine performance there by becoming captain of the football team and winning the National Prep School Wrestling Championship in the 165 pound class.
After Wyoming Seminary, Glenn headed for Penn State where he became an Eastern Champion in the 155 pound wrestling class. He also captained the Nittany Lion team as a senior.
Glenn entered coaching at Bellefonte High School in 1946. He took that program from nowhere to a --position as one of the finest prep wrestling schools in the country. His record there was 57-7-1. He had three undefeated seasons, and two other seasons where his teams lost just once. He also developed 14 District Champions, 4 State Champions and 4 State Runnerups.
In 1952 he moved to Allentown High School and accomplished similar coaching miracles. His record there was 96-34-2. There he produced 31 District Champions, 18 Regional Champions, 5 State Champions, and 4 State Runnerups.
He was inducted into the Pennsylvania State Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame in 1973. He is an outstanding credit to Mt. Carmel and the entire Coal Region.
REVEREND PAUL BURAK
When Ed Romance dreamed of the Hall of Fame, which now bears his name, he always talked about what the Coal Regions’ great athletes had become after their playing days were over.
He felt the Hall of Fame’s greatest contribution, besides honoring the great athletes themselves, was that it served as an inspiration to a while new generation of athletes...who could use the accomplishments of the older guys as a benchmark, a standard, for their own performance.
Almost without exception, our great athletes have honored themselves and out communities, after they quit competing in athletics; but none more satisfyingly than Paul Burak.
He was just a sophomore on the great ‘44 Kulpmont team, a solid running back and defender among his older, more celebrated, teammates. But he grew into an outstanding two sport athlete by the time he graduated in 1947.
After graduation he attended Charlotte Hall Military Academy in Maryland, and was awarded an Athletic Scholarship to the University of Scranton. While at Scranton he was a member of the boxing team and was elected captain of the football team.
At a time in life where a lot of us were trying to figure it out, he had it figured. He decided to attend a Seminary and study for the Priesthood. He was ordained into the priesthood in 1957; and like all good athletes and team players he went where he could do the most good. He served at Holy Trinity in Youngstown, Ohio; Immaculate Conception in Hamtramack, Mich; St. Andrews in Philadelphia; Annunciation B.V.M., Philadelphia; St. Vladimirs, New Kensington; St. John the Baptist, McKeesport; and St. Mary’s Parsonage, McAdoo.
He died at the age of 57. But he was the kind of athlete and person the Hall of Fame is proud to have as a member.
JAMES A. ROVITO
Jim Riovito was big and quick and strong and tough. And if you think that combination adds up to an outstanding athlete you are right.
The Kulpmont native was the first athlete in Lourdes High School history to be named All State in both football and basketball. In his final year, 1980, he was named both Eastern Conference Class B Lineman of the Year and the MVP in the K of C Christmas Basketball tournament...a tribute to his versatility and athletic ability.
He still owns Lourdes highest rebound per game average.
After high school he attended Lehigh University, where he was a three-year letterman at defensive tackle. In both 84 and 85 he led the Lehigh team in quarterback sacks and was voted game MVP twice...against Delaware in 84 and Bucknell in 85.
He was also the College’s Intramural Heavyweight Boxing Champion in 1985. After graduation he signed a free-agent contract with the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL...and was one of the team’s final cuts.
The Mount Carmel Area is widely known as a hotbed of football talent; so it is not surprising that most of the nominees for our Hall of Fame were former gridders.
It’s nice, however, that two of this year’s class of honorees are former basketball players.
Al Klokis was a real, honest to goodness basketball star. Between Bob Varano in the 50’s and Al Klokis in the 70’s there were some pretty fair players. But these two were the goods, dominating players who had the ability to lift their teams.
Al Klokis was the first player in Mt. Carmel history to score 1000 points. He was the only player to score more than 500 points in a single saeson. He was the first Mt. Carmel player to have his jersey retired. For three varsity years he led the team in assists, steals and scoring.
In that three-year period he set 8 modern school recors in basketball: 1283 Career Points; Most Points in One Game 43, Against Mahanoy Area; Most Points in One Half, 28; Most Points in One Quarter, 16; Most Field Goals in One Game, 16, against Tamaqua; Most Foul Shots in One Game, 14 against St. Clair; and Most Points in One Season, 514.
In addition to his fine basketball career, he finished in second place in the District 4 Class A Cross Country meet as senior.
Al Pavis was ahead of his time. He was a versatile two-way football player; a good enough runner and defender to attract the attention of most of the big league college scouts. But on fourth down he was something special.
Kicking the football was what God had in mind for Al Pavis.
In today’s age of specialization, everyone who has seen him kick agrees, Al Pavis would be earning a living as an NFL punter.
Susquehanna assistant Coach Bob Pittello, a high school teammate of Pavis, remembers the summer afternoons at Reichwein’s pool in Mowery. He and his teammates would take turns shagging Pavis’s kicks. “He’d kick with bare feet”, Pittello remembers, “Higher and farther than you could possibly imagine”.
Pressed for comparisons, Pittello doesn’t even pause to think about it: “He was the finest kicker I have ever seen, anywhere”.
During Pavis’ three-year starting career for the Tornadoes they were 25-3-4. And he was right in the middle of it all. He has the fourth longest run ever recorded by a Tornado ballcarrier, a 90-yarder against Lewistown in 1940.
He played for one year at Temple after leaving Mt. Carmel; and was good enough to be named Second Team All State by the Old Philadelphia record. Like many kids in that era, however, he was drafted in the service. He never did resume a football career afterwards. But he is remembered for that special gift...the finest punter most people have ever seen.
ELIZABETH C. KATONA
Betty Katona has spent a good part of her life in the water. She comes from a family which loved swimming and water sports, and as a result became very good at it at a very early age. Her brother, John Marcinek, built a solid reputation as a diver on a national basis...and together they gave swimming and diving exhibitions at the Shamokin Valley Counrty Club and Philadelphia Country Club.
In the early 60’s, Pete Knoebel asked Betty to take over their “Learn to Swim Porgram” at the Elysburg pool. When she begins her 30th year this summer, she will have taught more than 3500 kids to swim and trained more than 500 lifeguards.
In the late 60’s she was hired by Mt. Carmel Area School District to be a Physical Ed Aide and to start a water safety program. She developed enough interest in swimming among the student body to start a Varsity Swim Team, and she was head coach for 10 years. During her tenure as coach, three of her divers qualified for state championships and two other swimmers got partial scholarships to swim in college.
She retired from the school district two years ago; but has stayed active in swimming. She is a swim official and still gives private lessons at Knoebels. Her son, Tim Katona, was a state champion burdler and is also a member of the Hall of Fame.
STEPHEN “PEP” JEPKO
Steve Jepko was of a rare breed. He was a dreamer. A visionary who could look at things and figure out how they were going to turn out in the future. But more importantly, he was also a doer. Being able to stamp your dreams onto a blueprint and make them a reality makes a man special and distinct. Steve Jepko sure was.
Back in the middle 50’s Steve Jepko somehow figured out that television and golf were going to be important someday. His vision for television brought cable TV to the Coal Regions; he was one of the pioneers in that industry.
He had the same feeling about golf. At the time golf was a game for the idle rich. You played at a country club or you didn’t play, which right away eliminated 95% of us.
Professional Golf then was played by migrants. Guys who scuffled from tour stop to tour stop, practically running tournaments on their own.
Somehow, among all that, Steve Jepko figured that he wanted to build a golf course where the 95% could play. He had the energy to make the dream come true; and in 1956 he bought two small farms in Elysburg and immediately began working.
By 1959 he opened the first nine. In the meantime, a charismatic youg guy from Latrobe named Arnold Palmer, a working man’s son, began dominating the Pro Golf Tour and the country began to take notice. The popularity of Palmer and President Eisenhower, himself a devoted Golfer, made the game takeoff. Pretty soon the country couldn’t get enough golf. And the final art of the success story, ironically enough, was that seeing tournaments on television was the most important factor in making the game popular.
In 1963 the final nine holes were added. The golf course was his passion until his death in 1973. After he died, the course was taken over by his son, Steve Jr., who has continued to make improvements and changes each year.
Three Ponds is now one of the finest public courses in the state. It is a stern test of golf for even the best players; and is finely conditioned as even the most exclusive private clubs. Steve Jepko’s dream of a golf course for the working man has been realized.
OUTSTANDING STUDENT ATHLETE
Paula Varano is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Varano of Kulpmont. She was selected Mount Carmel Student Athlete of the Month for November by the Ed Romance Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. Varano was also selected Rotary Student of the Month for November by the high school faculty.
The senior is a four-year letter winner on the Mount Carmel girl’s cross country team. The team co-captain was named to the Schuylkill League all-star team for three years. She was awarded the MOST DEDICATED TEAM MEMBER during the ‘92 season and was named the MOST VALUABLE RUNNER during her final season. In 1993, her 19th place finish at the District XI meet allowed her to qualify for the state meet at Lehigh University.
Varano’s other athletic activities include spring track and field, where she is a three-year letterman. In the spring of 1993, she was named to the Schuylkill League all-star team as a member of the 3,200-meter relay team.
She is a member of the Mount Carmel Area High School Band and serves as the band librarian. Varano is a sergeant at arms of both SADD and French Club. She belongs to the National Honor Society, Biology Club, Stand Tall, Big Sisters, and the peer tutor program.
Varano plans to attend Bloomsburg University in the fall of 1994 to major in nursing.
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
In the words of his coach, John McKay, John Christian is a “Gym Rat”. But the way McKay says it, you know he means it in its most positive sense. Christian is a kid who loves being in the gym, loves practicing, loves being there...even when he’s mostly there alone.
Christian is only the eighth Tornado player to score more than 1000 points in a career. Yet according to McKay the people around him made more of a fuss over the impending moment than Christian himself. “He was and is a completely unselfish player”, according to McKay, “Many times he’d follow up a twenty point game with a game where he’d take only two or three shots”.
Christian was one of the very few players whe have started for four years for the Tornadoes. As a freshman, he scored 262 points, the most ever for a freshman player. And while starting every game that year he led the Tornadoes to its first ever District Championship.
John is also a solid baseball player who started as a catcher for three years. He will continue his athletic career in college, though he has not made a final choice of where he’ll go at this point.
His father, John Sr, is Mount Carmel Area’s Freshman Coach.
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Joel Gonzalo, a junior at Mount Carmel Area High School, recently became only the 5th underclassman in MCA history to be named an all-state football player. He was named to the second team Big School All-State team chosen by the Associated Press as a wide receiver. During the 1993 season, Gonzalo established a new season record with 51 receptions good for 721 yards and 7 touchdowns. His three TD’s vs Montoursville and 8 receptions vs Danville tied single game records at MCA.
For the last 2 years, Joel has been the starting point guard on the Tornado basketball team, leading the team in assists and steals both years. This season, he has added 13 points per game to his role as floor leader. During the Holiday River Tournament at Selinsgrove, Gonzalo was named tourney MVP with 31 points and 15 assists as MCA won the championship.
Last spring, Joel was a member of MCA’s 4x400 meter District II AA Championship Relay team running a 51.9 split.
An honor student, Gonzalo has been a member of the cast for MCA’s productions of The Music Man and South Pacific and this year’s Oklahoma. He is a member of the Key Club, Biology Club, Spanish Club, SADD, Stand Tall and is a Big Brother. He is the son of Rose and Jose Gonzalo, Shady Acres.
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Jake Cole is a member of that very exclusive fraternity comprised of terrific high school athletes who become even better as college players.
Former Tornado assistant coach, Carm DeFrancesco, remembers Jake as “The consummate team player and leader” a kid who even then outworked everybody else. He was a dedicated weight trainer, especially in the off-season.
He was known for his solid, consistent play; but occasionally he’d demonstrate flashes of brilliance which were an indication that his best was yet to come. In a game against Marian he had a 95 yard TD run that is one of the longest ever for a Tornado back. Against Pottsville, he returned an interception for 101 yards to score, the longest in MCA history.
Nobody considered him especially fast; yet he ended up as the leading sprinter on the Tornado track team as a senior.
He continued to grow after high school, and became a solid 200 pounder at Wilkes. Last year he led the Colonels to a 10-0 record, the MAC Championship and a spot in the Division III National Playoffs. He was the defensive star od a team that was nationally ranked in every defensive category.
Big players play their best in big games, and in the National Playoff Game he had 10 tackles and 2 sacks. Afterward, he was named 1st Team MAC, all East Coast, and most impressively First Team All American, Division III.
Still a leader, he has been elected team captain by his teammates, as Wilkes attempts to use last season as a springboard for the National Championship this year.
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
MIKE GARCIA, JR
Mike Garcia, Jr. is flat out the finest wrestler ever produced in our area. No one, ever has produced at such a high level of performance for as long a period of time. And Mike has done it not only on a state-wide basis, but nationally and internationally as well.
When the 145 pound Senior beat defending champion Scott Kurtz of Shamokin, 8-3, to win the Schuylkill League Championship and become it’s outstanding wrestler, he also seemed to pave the way for his third consecutive State Championship as well.
Mike’s overall record is 30-9. That record is at every level of competition, nationally and internationally. The mind boggles in consideration of what he has accomplished.
As a Sophomore he was 35-0 and swept through Districts and Regionals as the outstanding wrestler on his way to becoming State Champion.
As a Junior he was 35-1, and avenged his only loss in the finals of the Regional Tournament in winning his second successive State Championship.
As this report went to press, he was 25-0 and had beaten Kurtz, who was considered his most serious roadblock in his drive for the third straight State Championship. Barring injury or illness, he should win this championship later this evening.
Competing in the tough USA Wrestling Circuit, Mike has been a four time State Champion and All American in both Greco Roman and Freestyle Events. The highlight of his career was the defeat of the Russian Champion in an international meet two summers ago.
Mike will be attending college at Bucknell University, where he will be continuing his wrestling career.