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Etter, Rickrode, Strohecker, McLure, Brookin and Elhajj part of Hall of Fame class

Press & Journal Staff
Posted 3/23/17

Some of finest athletes and coaches in the history of Middletown, Lower Dauphin and Steel-High are part of the 51st annual class for the Capital Area Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of …

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Etter, Rickrode, Strohecker, McLure, Brookin and Elhajj part of Hall of Fame class

Irv Strohecker, then the Middletown Area School District athletic director, makes a point in the newly renovated wrestling room in this 1993 photo.
Irv Strohecker, then the Middletown Area School District athletic director, makes a point in the newly renovated wrestling room in this 1993 photo.
Posted

Some of finest athletes and coaches in the history of Middletown, Lower Dauphin and Steel-High are part of the 51st annual class for the Capital Area Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.

The 12-member class includes:

Charles “Chip” Etter, a two-way starter on Middletown’s Capital Area Conference co-championship football team in 1967 before starting on the Blue Raiders’ 1967-68 state championship basketball team. He was the sixth man for four seasons with Lebanon Valley College’s basketball team, scoring more than 800 points in that role. He was co-captain on LVC’s Middle Atlantic Conference championship team in 1971. He later coached basketball at Lower Dauphin High School.

Jerry Rickrode, a 1980 Middletown High School graduate who coached college basketball for 29 seasons with 22 of them coming at Wilkes University, where his record was 382-191. He posted 20 winning seasons with six Freedom Conference championships and four Sweet 16 appearances in the Division III basketball tournament. He retired in 2014. He holds the NCAA Division III record for being the fastest coach to win 200 games. The 1994-1995 men’s basketball team for Wilkes, of which Rickrode was the head coach, was inducted into the university’s sports hall of fame in 2008,. The team went 25-5, the season culminating in the NCAA tournament losing in the round of Elite Eight to Trinity.

 Growing up Lower Swatara Township and attending Middletown Area High School, Rickrode’s earliest basketball memories came at Hoffer Park where he met and played with and against kids that would be his future teammates in school. 

 Rickrode continues to work at Wilkes University, as the major gifts officer. He said he won’t rule out a return to coaching in the future. 

 “To be inducted with some of those people, I’m just humbled by it,” Rickrode said. “I’m not sure I’m worthy of that.”

Irv Strohecker, the longtime athletic director at Middletown Area High School in the 1980s and 1990s, who was a three-sport athlete at Trevorton High School in the Twin Valley League. He was a three-year letterman and two-way starter for Gettysburg College’s Lambert Trophy-winning football team in the mid-1960s. At Middletown, he helped establish the Blue-Gold athletic booster club and oversaw the renovation of War Memorial Field. 

Now retired for 15-plus years, he volunteers at his church and other places and says he was fortunate “to have some of the greatest coaches” and the people that supported us in his corner during his time as athletic director. 

During his time as athletic director, the football team was Eastern champions, the soccer team won state titles, and the basketball team had some great times as well, and Strohecker credits everyone, himself included, for working hard and doing what was expected of them. 

He said when he started as the athletic director, he told officials he was here to do the job and if they didn’t like what he was doing, they could get rid of him. 

Strohecker was inducted into Gettysburg College’s Hall of Athletic Honor in 2005.

Ben McLure, the “godfather of the Lower Dauphin High baseball program,” where he won 167 of 233 games and seven league championships from 1966-79. He began scouting in pro baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1972 and spent 44 years as a scout for five teams in the majors. He earned two World Series rings for his work with the Toronto Blue Jays during their championship seasons in 1992 and 1993.

Rod Brookin, the all-time leading scorer in boys basketball at Steel-High, where he scored 2,409 points before totaling another 1,047 points in Division I basketball at the University of Pittsburgh. He helped Pitt win the Big East Conference regular season title during the 1986-87 and 1987-88 seasons. He also was named to the Big East’s All-Rookie team in 1987 after averaging 10.2 points and four rebounds per game. He averaged 10 or more points per game during his career at Pitt. He played at Steel-High for coach Jack Hoerner, who was inducted into the Chapter’s Hall of Fame in 2015, the same year Brookin passed away at age 47.

Tony Elhajj, a three-sport athlete in football, wrestling and track at Steel-High and played for the Rollers’ 11-0 football team in 1978. He also went undefeated in wrestling during the 1978-79 season en route to winning the PIAA Class AA title. Overall, he had an 86-11-0 record in wrestling at Steel-High. He played three seasons on the offensive line for Millersville University’s football team in the early 1980s. He later coached high school football and wrestling at Harrisburg at Steel-High.

The other six inductees are:

Ricky Watters, the record-setting running back out of Bishop McDevitt High School before starring at the University of Notre Dame. He was a starter on Notre Dame’s 1988 national championship team. He played 10 seasons in the National Football League with San Francisco, Philadelphia and Seattle. He ran for 10,643 yards in the NFL and caught 467 passes for another 4,243 yards. He was a five-time Pro Bowl selection.

Chris Villarrial, the Hershey High School offensive lineman who played collegiately at Indiana University of Pennsylvania before starring for 11 seasons in the NFL with the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills. He was a five-time NFL Pro Bowl selection and two-time pick as an All-Pro.

Mitch Lamoureux, the longtime Hershey Bears center who spent half of his 14 seasons in the American Hockey League with the team, where he retired in 1999 as one of the league’s all- time scorers with 816 points.

Kellen Kulbacki, who went from Hershey High to James Madison University, where he became one of college baseball’s best hitters before being selected 40th overall in Major League Baseball’s 2007 amateur draft.

Randy Swanger spent the better part of a half- century as one of the Harrisburg area’s best bowlers with 61 perfect games, 26 games with a 299 score and 17 more at 298.

Gordon “Red” Goodson, of Harrisburg, was a three-time Public Links golf champion. He also won the National Negro Championship in 1948, 1952 and 1956. He passed away in 1994.

The ceremony on June 10 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.

Cost is $35 for adults, and $12 for children 12 and younger. For more information and reservations, call Chapter vice president Bob Swanger Sr. at 717- 545-8013.

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