New Castle News


July 5, 2014

State title ties: Wampum, New Castle teams celebrate incredible success

NEW CASTLE — Their spectaular success stories are separated by more than a half century.

But they sat side-by-side Thursday morning, sharing more than just breakfast at Jata’s Diner, a familiar meeting spot for former Wampum High School players. 

Players and coaches from New Castle High School joined those from the defunct Wampum High in being honored as the only teams from Lawrence County to capture boys state basketball titles. Wampum reigned in 1955, 1958 and 1960 before the school closed its doors in 1961. New Castle ended a 54-year drought for county schools by claiming the 2014 crown in March.

Former Westminster College basketball coach Ron Galbreath, who played on the Wampum 1958 team, had T-shirts designed for the occasion. He wanted to link the two elite programs and their strikingly similar accomplishments.

“Making the connection for Lawrence County was my purpose,” said Galbreath, who introduced several former area coaches and players in attendance at the breakfast. Galbreath was thrilled with a turnout that numbered 51.

Don Hennon represented the 1955 Wampum team while Bill Melfi, Larry Haswell, Gary Guy, Frank Vrakovich and Galbreath were there from 1958. There from the 1960 club were Bill Hennon, Vrakovich and Guy.

Coach Ralph Blundo and point guard Drew Allen represented New Castle along with assistant coaches Dave Richards and Larry Kelly. Blundo and Richards played for Galbreath at Westminster.

Former coaches on hand included Connie Palumbo and Don Ross of New Castle, Mike Covelli of Union and John Samsa of Mohawk.

Despite being the youngest person attending, Allen said he felt a bond with the men who had been part of the Wampum dynasty. It also caused him to look ahead when he and his New Castle teammates of 2014 might gather to reflect on their own amazing achievements.

“I can imagine that one day we will sit down together for breakfast and look back at what we did,” Allen said.

Blundo was 8 when he first learned about Wampum’s athletic history. “I had a Dick Allen baseball card, and my dad told me about the Butler Hennon teams of Wampum and that Dick Allen played there.”

Dick Allen was a multisport standout at Wampum who later starred as a Major League baseball player.

As a third-grader, Blundo said he went to Wampum to play a basketball game. “I was proud to walk into that gym.”

Blundo shared some Wampum history with Drew on the drive there. “He (Drew) knew more about Wampum than I thought he would,” Blundo said. “He understands what they accomplished.”

Wampum won three WPIAL and state titles and 12 straight section crowns, including 82 consecutive section wins from 1953 to 1959. New Castle produced three straight undefeated WPIAL championships — a 78-0 run through regular season and WPIAL tournaments. The Red Hurricane has four straight section titles, 68 consecutive regular season wins and 35 home wins in a row.

After breakfast, the men headed north on Main Street to the old gym for a group photo.

Blundo said he has been influenced heavily by Wampum’s success. He learned much from Galbreath, who coached him at Westminster College. “He always talked about Butler Hennon and the way things should be done.”

L. Butler Hennon compiled a record of 521-146 in 28 years as Wampum basketball coach.

Don Hennon, son of the legendary coach and a college basketball All-American at Pitt in 1959, felt a connection to what New Castle’s team accomplished last March.

“Going 31-0 and winning the state title is almost inconceivable,” he said. “Not many teams can do it.”

He’s right. But Wampum and New Castle are on that exclusive list.

Galbreath took two basketballs to use as props for the picture. Before turning out the lights, he couldn’t resist old habits. “I had to shoot around for 10 or 15 minutes before I could leave.”

Some bonds last a lifetime.



Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • 3on3.jpg Law enforcement youth tournament set

    The second annual law enforcement 3-on-3 youth basketball tournament will be Aug. 9 at New Castle High School.


    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Taggart.jpg Arsonists damage New Castle’s football field

    With the New Castle football team just days away from the start of practice, vandals have hit Taggart Stadium. Someone set fire to artificial turf at the stadium and damaged a blocking sled the team uses in practice.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • pennstate.jpg Big 10 commission noncommittal on Penn State sanction cuts

    Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany took a non-committal stance on an effort by five Pennsylvania Congressmen to rescind sanctions against Penn State for its handling of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.


    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • SteelersSpence.jpg Steelers LB Spence caps lengthy comeback

    The whistle blew and Sean Spence sprinted forward, each cathartic step distancing the linebacker from the horrific knee injury that threatened to end his NFL career before it even really began.


    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wheaton.jpg Steelers' Wheaton eyeing chance after tough rookie year

    Markus Wheaton realizes the pressure is there, but he doesn’t mind.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Polanco.jpg Harrison’s four hits leads Pirates past Rockies, 7-5

    Josh Harrison had four hits, including a tiebreaking homer, to help the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Colorado Rockies 7-5 on Sunday. Gregory Polanco and Travis Snider also went deep for the Pirates, who avoided being swept in Colorado for the second straight season.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates Rockies Baseb_Fusc.jpg Anderson leads Rockies over Pirates 8-1

    Brett Anderson pitched effectively into the seventh inning for his first win in more than a year and the Colorado Rockies beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-1 on Friday night.


    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • MANGINO.jpg Mangino finding new home at Iowa State

     The first time Iowa State defensive end Cory Morrissey saw Mark Mangino, the former Kansas coach and current ISU offensive coordinator stopped him in his tracks.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates.jpg Pirates jump on Haren early, top Dodgers 6-1

    Josh Harrison had two hits with two RBIs and the Pittsburgh Pirates jumped on Dan Haren early in a 6-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Aloi.jpg Aloi's PIAA eligibility hearing postponed

    The wait continues for Nick Aloi. Aloi, who transferred from Ellwood City Lincoln High to Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School on Jan. 21, still does not know if he will get to play a full season for the Leopards’ basketball team

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

Shoot For 2
House Ads
Photo of the Day