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Middletown's Bright III, LD's Bitting, Martin and Umberger to enter sports Hall of Fame

Press & Journal Staff


Posted 3/8/18

Three people with strong ties to Lower Dauphin High School and Middletown wrestling legend Earl Bright III are among the 10 inductees into the 52nd annual Hall of Fame Class for the Capital Area …

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Middletown's Bright III, LD's Bitting, Martin and Umberger to enter sports Hall of Fame


Three people with strong ties to Lower Dauphin High School and Middletown wrestling legend Earl Bright III are among the 10 inductees into the 52nd annual Hall of Fame class for the Capital Area Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.

Lower Dauphin athletic director Dave Bitting; All-American field hockey player, Olympian and LD grad Laurel Hershey Martin; and Randy Umberger, a longtime coach, athletic director and administrator from Lower Dauphin High School, will be inducted.

The other six are former NFL head coach Dennis Green, longtime NFL assistant coach Jim Anderson, pro golfer Debbie Eckroth, Susquehanna Township basketball great Clarence Smith, former Patriot-News reporter Rod Frisco and Michael Horrocks, a former Hershey High School quarterback who piloted one of the planes in the 9/11 terror attacks.

The Class of 2018 will bring to 411 the total number of Hall of Famers the chapter has inducted since its inaugural Class of 1967.

The June 9 ceremony will be held at the Red Lion Hotel Harrisburg East, 4751 Lindle Road, Harrisburg. The program will begin at 3 p.m., followed by dinner at 4 and induction ceremony at 5. Tickets cost $35 for adults, and $12 for children 12 and younger.

For reservations, call Chapter vice president Bob Swanger Sr. at 717-545-8013.

Here is a rundown of the class, starting with Bright and the three LD representatives:

Earl Bright III, wrestling

Bright was a member of the first wrestling team at Middletown High School in 1961. He was a four-year varsity wrestler in the lower weight classes, compiling a record of 56-14-4. He later was a PIAA wrestling official for more than 10 years, while also coaching elementary wrestling. He is the founder of Middletown’s Pin & Win booster club and has been an off-mat official with Middletown wrestling for more than 30 years.

“It was a total shock,” he said of being voted in. “It’s such an honor. It’s a prestigious group of people.”

“I didn’t know what to say,” he added. “It’s something else when I see some of these names, and I’m going to be a part of that. I’m humbled by it.”

He was asked to try out by the first wrestling coach at Middletown, Duane Patterson.

“I was playing junior high football at that time. He came over to me and said, ‘We’re starting wrestling. We need someone to wrestle at 95 pounds. Will you give it a try?’ I tried it out. It just stuck with me since 1961.”

“I just can’t get it out of my system. It’s such a great sport. It’s an individual sport. You’re out there by yourself. If you mess up, you’re the one. You’re on a team, but you’re by yourself,” he added.

After graduating in 1965, Bright took a test to be a PIAA official. He did that for 15 years, mostly at the junior high school level, he said.

He and his wife, Bobby, also continued to attend matches after graduation.

His son, Earl IV, who graduated in 1986, wrestled. His daughter, Lynn, graduated in 1990 and was the manager on the wrestling team.

“So it’s sort of in our blood,” he said.

His wife, he said, is an avid wrestling fan and is “my biggest supporter, I think. She’s followed wrestling since we were freshmen in high school.” He also has received support from his children.

Eventually, the couple started keeping score for the high school team and keeping time clock. About 15 years ago, he got involved with the PIAA individual state championships, keeping score and time. He just finished up working at the state tournament at the Giant Center last weekend.

“I look forward to it as soon as it starts in late November. Now it’s just over, and it’s like, ‘What am I going to do the rest of the winter and summer?’ he said with a laugh.

A couple of things stick out in his mind from the decades of being around Middletown wrestling. The first is that even though the program was brand new when he started as a freshman in 1961, the Blue Raiders never had a losing season in his four years.

“We didn’t have a junior high program or an elementary program like they do now. We were just thrown out there. I think that’s pretty good,” he said.

He also remembers 2007, when Middletown had its only wrestling state champion, Tyler Nauman, the AAA winner at 130 pounds.

“We were at the Giant Center and he became Middletown’s first state champion,” he said.

He went on to become a two-time All-American at the University of Pittsburgh.

“That’s an honor, coming from Middletown to do something like that, definitely,” he said.

He said he has met many great people through wrestling.

“It’s like a big family. You’re competing against each other but when that’s over, it’s like a family. Everybody looks out for the other person,” he said.

Dave Bitting, coaching, administration

Bitting was the longtime high school boys basketball coach at Cumberland Valley and Central Dauphin who also spent three seasons as an assistant coach at Lebanon Valley College. He coached baseball at Central Dauphin for four seasons before shifting full-time to administration, where he has spent the last 17 years as an athletic director, first at Cumberland Valley and now at Lower Dauphin High School. He also has served as a chairman or representative for every sport either with District 3 or the PIAA.

Bitting has been Lower Dauphin’s athletic director for the last 11 years.

“It’s quite flattering to see those names. There are some incredible individuals on that list,” he said of the Hall of Fame class.

He said he is proudest of the “great coaches and support staff and the support of the administration.”

He downplayed his accomplishments at LD, which include three field hockey state titles as well as one in girls soccer and two in boys soccer, as well as appearances in the state finals in baseball and softball.

“I schedule buses and gyms. That’s what I do. The great coaches I have make the programs what they are,” he said.

Four Lower Dauphin athletes have won the John Travers Award, which honors the top male and female student-athletes from central Pennsylvania.

“That’s what you want, the type of kids who represent your school in that manner,” he said.

While state titles are amazing accomplishments, he said, sometimes it is teams in sports that are on the rise that mean a great deal to him. He cited the 2013 boys cross country team that won a district championship.

“That’s one of those sports that’s been on the rise for us,” he said. “It was the culmination of watching a program build.”

Not ever year brings titles, he said, but that isn’t always the measure of success.

“One thing we can control is putting our kids in the best position possible to succeed,” he said.

Bitting also applauded the community, which is “extremely supportive” of the coaches, and the feeder programs for sports. The support of the coaches means there is very little turnover in the sports programs, he said.

“Lower Dauphin is made upon great families,” he said.

Laurel Hershey Martin, field hockey

She was an integral part of the pipeline of All-American field hockey players from Lower Dauphin High School, where she played for 2004 Chapter Hall of Fame inductee Linda Kreiser. Kreiser has more than 700 wins and six state titles at the school, and has been with the program since 1978. After graduating from Lower Dauphin in 1987, Martin became a three-time, All-American at the University of North Carolina, where she played on the Tar Heels’ 1989 national title team. She also played for the U.S. National Team in the 1994 World Cup, and later played in the 1995 Pan-American Games and the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. She was inducted into the United States Field Hockey Association’s Hall of Fame in 2004.

Martin was “extremely excited” to get the news and plans to attend the Hall of Fame banquet. Much of her family still lives in the area and she hopes some of them will attend, too.

She said she has many fond high school memories.

“It’s just an ongoing relationship with not only coach Kreiser but with the community in and of itself. So many different women are continuing to coach and give back to the sport,” she said.

She is entering her eighth season this fall as the head field hockey coach at Stevenson University in Owings Mills, Maryland. Prior to coming to Stevenson, Martin spent 10 seasons as the head coach at Lebanon Valley College.

“It’s just been one of the areas in my life that I’ve ultimately had success in with joy and fond memories,” she said of field hockey.

At Stevenson last fall, two daughters played for her.

“That was a unique experience and a beautiful thing to be able to say that both of my daughters continue to play the sport that I have a passion for,” she said.

Randy Umberger, coaching, administration

Umberger is a longtime coach, athletic director and administrator from Lower Dauphin High School, where he was a three-time letterman in football and wrestling before earning a wrestling scholarship to the University of Maryland. He won two ACC championships at Maryland before returning in the early 1970s to teach at Lower Dauphin, where he became a head coach in wrestling, soccer — boys and girls — lacrosse, golf, volleyball and swimming. He spent more than 20 years as the athletic director, a span over which he was named the 2005 Pennsylvania State Athletic Director of the Year for Region IV.

Other honorees

Jim Anderson, football: Longtime NFL assistant coach who was a three-year varsity athlete at Harrisburg’s old John Harris High, where he played on three Central Penn Conference championship teams. He was a starting offensive guard on the Pioneers’ 1965 undefeated football team. Played collegiately at Taft Junior College before transferring to Cal Western University. Started coaching career in 1970 at Cal Western before joining the staffs at UNLV and Southern Methodist. Best known for his work in the NFL with Cincinnati, where he was the Bengals’ running backs coach for 29 seasons. His proteges included Pro Bowlers James Brooks, Harold Green, Corey Dillon, Lorenzo Neal and Rudi Johnson. His 29 seasons with the Bengals remain a franchise record for most seasons by a position coach with the team.

Debbie Eckroth, golf: Graduate of Central Dauphin High School in 1988 before playing No. 1 at the University of South Carolina’s women’s golf team from 1988-93. Among her first-place finishes were the 1988 Pennsylvania State Girls’ Championship, and the Pennsylvania Women’s Amateur championships in 1990 and 1991. She competed in four U.S. Women’s Opens in 1990, 1991, 2000 and 2001. She also competed in the European Women’s Pro Tour in 1995 and 1996, as well as the LPGA Tour in 2000. At the same time, she played in the Symetra Futures Tour from 1993-2007, a span that included wins in the 1994 Victoria Advocate Classic and the 1997 Red Cross Classic. She now is the golf pro at Manada Golf Course in Grantville.

Rod Frisco, sports writer: Spent 25 years of his award-winning sports writing career at The Patriot-News, where he was the newspaper’s No. 1 beat writer for high school football, wrestling and track. He has been inducted into the District 3 Wrestling Hall of Fame, as well as the Pennsylvania Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. He was one of the most prolific sportswriters at The Patriot-News, totaling more than 5,700 byline stories from his arrival there in 1985 until his retirement from the newspaper industry in 2010. He now is the communications director, webmaster and director of corporate sponsorships for District 3 of the PIAA.

Dennis Green, football: Longtime college and NFL coach who played at Harrisburg’s John Harris High School from 1964-67 before playing football at the University of Iowa. Coaching career began in 1972 as a graduate assistant at Iowa before becoming the running backs coach at Dayton, Iowa and Stanford universities. He was a special teams coach in the NFL with San Francisco in 1979 before returning to Stanford in 1980 as its offensive coordinator. Later became the head coach for five seasons at Northwestern University, where in 1982 he was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year, and then was the head coach for three years at Stanford. He returned to the NFL in 1992 as the head coach at Minnesota, where in 10 seasons he led the Vikings to a 97-62 record and two NFC championship games. He also coached the Arizona Cardinals for three seasons. He passed away in 2016.

Michael Horrocks, football: Former quarterback both at Hershey High School and West Chester University. He was the co-pilot of United Flight 175 that was hijacked by terrorists Sept. 11, 2001. His plane was the one used to crash into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. At Hershey High, he played for legendary football coach and 2008 Chapter Hall of Fame inductee Bob “Gump” May. During his collegiate career at West Chester, he completed 226 of 458 passes for 3,236 yards and 27 touchdowns. He also passed for at least 200 yards on five occasions at West Chester, including a career-high 377 yards and two touchdowns in a 29-15 victory over Shippensburg on Oct. 15, 1983. He passed away in 2001.

Clarence Smith, basketball: Attended Susquehanna Township High School, where he was a member of the Class of 1967. Played collegiately at Villanova University, where he was a starting forward on the Wildcats’ NCAA Final Four team in 1971. He was part of a five-man recruiting class that posted a 66-18 record at Villanova in three varsity seasons under legendary coach Jack Kraft. After college, the 6-foot-5 Smith played for the Harlem Globetrotters. Prior to joining the Globetrotters, he was invited to play for the Dallas Cowboys, who were intrigued by Smith’s athleticism and who previously had success in turning basketball players into football players.