The region lost many well-known sports figures who died in 2020, including four Cambria County Sports Hall of Famers – Galen Head, Carlton Haselrig, Tommy Yewcic and Phil Albert.

Listed in chronological order, some of the most well-known names of the region’s sports scene died during 2020:

• Morgan Wootten, who coached 46 seasons of high school basketball while winning 1,274 games at DeMatha Catholic in Maryland, was a fixture with his teams in the former Cambria County War Memorial Invitational Tournament. He died on Jan. 21 at age 88.

• Galen Head, former Johnstown Jets star hockey player and Bishop McCort High School state championship-winning coach, died on March 4, at age 72.

• John Jedrzejek, one of the architects of the first Greater Johnstown High School hockey program who also was part of the local youth hockey scene, died on March 15 at age 79.

• Sam Kelly, the successful and well-respected former coach of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) hockey program, died on March 17 at age 60.

• Tom Link, a PIAA and college official in football and basketball who also coached at Ferndale Area and Cambria Heights, where he served as the school’s athletic director from 1977-97, died on March 23 at age 77.

• Henry Brabham, the first majority owner of the Johnstown Chiefs who brought the franchise here in 1988 and was one of the founders of the ECHL, died on March 30 at age 90.

• Al Kaline, the National Baseball Hall of Famer who spent 22 seasons with the Detroit Tigers and was a star with Maryland State in the 1952 AAABA Tournament in Johnstown, died on April 6 at age 85.

• Ed Matisik, the Johnstown Tomahawks head statistician since the North American Hockey League team’s arrival in the city in 2012-13, died unexpectedly on April 13 at age 57.

• Grace Head, the wife of Galen Head who had a role as a player’s wife in the movie “Slap Shot,” died on May 19, a little more than two months after her husband, at age 73.

• The Rev. Paul Claycomb, who led the Westmont Hilltop High School wrestling program from 1966-80 and was later inducted into the District 6 Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2017, died on June 15 at age 82.

• Brian Wincer, a prolific scorer on Greater Johnstown High School’s state runner-up squads in 1990 and 1992 who starred at Millersville University, where he also coached, died on July 12 at age 46.

• Carlton Haselrig, a six-time national champion heavyweight wrestler at Pitt-Johnstown and an All-Pro guard on the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, died on July 22 at age 54.

• Matt Wincer Sr., who helped start the Greater Johnstown High School hockey program and was an organizer of the former Thanksgiving weekend youth tournament that brought dozens of teams to the city each year, died at age 72 on Aug. 24, just over a month after his son Brian’s death.

• Kai Burkett, a Chestnut Ridge High School two-time state medal-winning wrestler who was entering his senior year, died in a vehicle accident on Aug. 28 at age 17.

• Joe Majer, an iconic high school basketball coach who won a Pennsylvania Catholic Interscholastic Athletic Association championship at Johnstown Catholic in 1951 and guided Conemaugh Township High School to a state runner-up finish on a Jeff Hostetler-led Indians squad in 1979 while amassing a career 607-300 record, died on Aug. 29 at age 99.

• Chuck Sponsky, a former Forest Hills and Bishop Carroll football coach and a founding father of the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association, died of coronavirus in Florida on Sept. 6 at age 80.

• Father Jack O’Malley, a St. Francis College men’s basketball standout in the Class of 1959 and a member of the university’s hall of fame, died on Sept. 11 at age 90.

• Artrell Hawkins Sr., the former Greater Johnstown High School record-setting running back who lettered three seasons at the University of Pittsburgh, died on Sept. 17 at age 63.

• Charles Mastervich, a two-time AAABA Tournament standout with Kiwanis Club and former minor league baseball player who coached and managed for decades in the AAABA League and Cambria County American Legion League, died on Oct. 12 at age 89.

• Tommy Yewcic, the Cambria County Sports Hall of Famer who quarterbacked Michigan State’s national championship team in 1952, played quarterback and punter for the American Football League Boston Patriots (now New England Patriots), and had a brief major league career with the Detroit Tigers, died on Oct. 21 at age 88.

• Glenn Wagner, who taught 33 years at Ferndale Area High School, where he was a long-time athletic director and basketball coach, died on Nov. 7 at age 76.

• George Pasierb, the successful former Shade High School football coach who led the Panthers to a 10-0 season in 1982 and was a veteran PIAA official, died on Nov. 9 at age 74. 

• AAABA Hall of Famer Len DiForte, the Chicago Metro AAABA Tournament franchise representative and former national tournament president, died on Nov. 26 at age 97.

• Richard “Dick” Fisher, who served as a football and baseball coach at Chestnut Ridge before serving as the school’s athletic director for 35 years and holding District 5 and PIAA roles, died on Nov. 27 at age 80.

• Phil Albert, a three-sport star at East Conemaugh High who played college football at University of Arizona and won 117 games while guiding Towson University from NCAA Division III to Division II and finally Division I-AA, died on Dec. 8 at age 76.

• John Revesz, Pitt-Johnstown’s first four-time NCAA Division II All-American who won 119 career matches and was one of five Revesz brothers to wrestle for the Mountain Cats, died on Dec. 11 at age 59. 

• Dennis Grenell, credited with luring and coming up with the Johnstown Chiefs nickname in 1987 as the War Memorial’s president and marketing director as well as promoting the AAABA Tournament, died on Dec. 22 at age 77. 

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.

Trending Video

Recommended for you