Monday, March 19, 2018

      Three prep standouts in football, track and wrestling from the Decades of the 1950's and 1940's will be enshrined at the 15th annual Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Hall of Fame banquet on Saturday, August 18 at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling.
       Selected from the 1950's Decade are Robert Pritchard of Wheeling High School and Geno Sessi of St. Clairsville High School. The honoree from the 1940's is Bob Plotz of Martins Ferry High School.
       The OVAC Hall of Fame, sponsored by the Robinson Automotive Group, and the OVAC Sports Museum are located inside WesBanco Arena.
       Previously announced honorees include Zach Collaros of Steubenville and Adam Hoppel of Beaver Local for the 2000's Decade; Eric McGhee of Wheeling Central and Kelly Shields of Edison for the 1990's; Georgia Dawson of Bellaire and Ron Stephens of Linsly for the 1980's; Ron Lee of Bellaire and Keith Vrotsos of Martins Ferry for the 1970's; and Don Osby of Steubenville and Bill Tucker of Weir for the 1960's. Three more selections will be announced on April 1.
       Capsule summaries of the 1950's and 1940's honorees follow:
       ROBERT PRITCHARD (Wheeling, 1953 Class)--He is, historically, among the elite wrestlers in OVAC history. He not only led Wheeling High School to the first state (one-class) championship for an OVAC member, in 1953, but became the first wrestler from the Ohio Valley, and the state of West Virginia, to win three state championships.
       As a Wildcat sophomore in 1951, he captured the state one-class 103-pound state title and followed with two consecutive crowns in 1952 and 1953 in the 112-pound class.. In the three finals, he defeated grapplers from Grafton, Beckley Woodrow Wilson and host Parkersburg. 
       During that era, Wheeling High and other high school mat teams competed not only against other high schools but against YMCA wrestling teams. Pritchard, nicknamed "Bull", was unbeaten as a sophomore and senior with his only loss in 106 matches to a YMCA grappler from Columbus, who he later defeated twice. He was unbeaten vs. high school competitors.
       The Wildcats' state championship coach was Ed Murphy, assisted by OVAC Hall of Fame coach Bob Roe, the Wildcats head coach in football and track. Pritchard also credits Barnesville's Jim Bradfield, who wrestled at Ohio State and led the Wheeling YMCA wrestling program, in his development along with his older brother Bill, who also wrestled at West Virginia U.
       After graduation from high school, Bob Pritchard relocated to California and earned a degree from the University of California-Sacramento, which didn't sponsor a wrestling team,. However, Pritchard continued to compete on the YMCA level. 
       He is a retired school administrator and resides in Rancho Murietta, Calif.
       GENO SESSI (St. Clairsville, 1956 Class)--He is regarded as one of the Red Devils' best-ever multi-sport athletes while competing in football and track.
 In the spring sport, he was the leading scorer two straight years in the one-class OVAC Track Meet and led his team to three straight titles as part of six consecutive Red Devil crowns (1952-57) coached by Dave Porterfield. A sprinter, hurdler and relay member, Sessi led all scorers as a junior with 15 1/2 points and as a senior with 14 1/2 points. 
       In football, the 5-foot-8, 174-pound two-way back and kick returner not only set a school record with 148 points as a senior but led the Ohio Valley as well. That mark lasted one year when former teammate Jim Kerr scored one more point (149) before the OVAC Hall of Famer went on to start at Penn State and with the Washington Redskins.
       In football, Sessi was All-OVAC largest Class AA two years, All-Valley "Big School" co-captain as a senior, All-Eastern Ohio two years and All-Ohio largest Class AA 2nd Team Defensive Back as a senior. He was a two-time All-Valley Track co-captain.
       He earned a football scholarship to the University of Iowa where, after playing on the freshman team, made a smashing varsity debut as a sophomore by scoring three touchdowns on three plays (36-yard run and pass receptions of 80 and 15 yards) in a school-record 70-15 season-opening rout of Utah State. However, Sessi's career was cut short with a severe knee injury. In the remaining eight games, he gained only 33 yards and returned a kickoff 17 yards. The knee injury flared up again in spring drills to end his playing career.
       Sessi passed away in 2016 in St. Clairsville.
       BOB PLOTZ (Martins Ferry, 1946 Class)--A Purple Rider football and track standout, he was co-captain on both Ferry teams as a senior. He earned first team, one-class All-Ohio and first team All-OVAC largest Class AA as the Fred Thomas-coached Rider went 9-1 and captured the OVAC championship.
       The three-year letterman in both football and track played in the first Ohio North-South All-Star Game and continued his statewide performance in track when he placed third in the low hurdles in the largest class state meet.
       He earned a football scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh where he became a four-year regular. Starting as a 17-year-old freshman, Plotz was selected to the All-Opponent team of backyard rival West Virginia University and was selected to the All-East team. As a senior, he was an honorable mention All-America selection.
       Plotz was picked in the 11th Round of the National Football League Draft by the Cleveland Browns but was also "drafted" by the U.S. Army and served in the Korean War.
       An inductee into the Martins Ferry High Sports Hall of Fame, the 90-year-old resides in Martins Ferry.
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