The Central Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame has worked tirelessly for fifty-one years to honor the best and brightest individuals who have exhibited a high level of competitive skill or who have created opportunities within the community for others to challenge themselves in athletic endeavors. In 1963, Jim Thorpe became the first athlete enshrined by the Central Chapter. Over the years, an impressive list of area athletes have followed and in 2022, the committee determined six individuals who met the standard to forever be a part of this group.
At the Lebanon Valley Expo Center this past Monday, about 130 people attended the Central Chapter’s banquet that was used to officially induct this year’s class into the hall. What made this year’s ceremony even more special was that it was the first full event since Covid had postponed the 2020 festivities and lasting restrictions offered a stripped-down event in 2021. When Central Chapter President Dave Bentz was asked about this year’s occasion, he shared his excitement for being able to see fellowship back as a part of the event honoring the deserving Class of ’22.
With Don Scott as master of ceremonies, those honored as part of the Central Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame’s 2022 Induction Class were:
Matthew Bixler: ’93 graduate of Annville-Cleona. Bixler was an All-County Football Team selection before taking his talent to Dickinson College. While at Dickinson, Bixler was a two-time NCAA Division 3 All-American for his exceptional play at inside linebacker.
Augustus “Gus” Deraco: Player, coach, owner/general manager. Deraco spent over 60 years serving the community in setting up competitive teams in a variety of levels and sports. Although involved in many ventures, he may be best known for organizing the Lebanon Boro Rams, which played independent football from about 1940 through 1968 and produced at least seven future professional players, officials, or scouts. Deraco is also credited with starting the Lebanon Friendship Midget Football program. Honored posthumously, his daughter Traci Ginnona accepted this award on behalf of the family.
Susan Wolfe Felty: ’86 graduate of Annville-Cleona. Wolfe Felty was a three-sport athlete in high school, collecting twelve varsity letters in field hockey, basketball, and track. She had many too many individual accomplishments on the track to list, but the most impressive was winning gold at the 1985 PIAA State Championships in the 400m. She was also a major contributor to Annville taking the PIAA Team Track & Field Championship in 1986. She went on to serve her alma mater as a field hockey coach and is now the head coach of their track & field program.
Ray Granger: ’74 graduate of Lebanon. Granger was Lancaster Lebanon League Football All-Star and named to the Big 33 Honor role. He went onto play football at Albright, where he won several ECAC awards in helping his team to win three MAC Championships. After college, Granger played semi-pro football and rugby. He then went on to excel in two disciplines of martial arts, being inducted into two world-class halls of fame for his skill.
Ashley Kohl Harrison: ’00 graduate of Palmyra. Kohl Harrison started all four years for the Lady Cougars basketball team, hitting 233 three pointers while amassing 1,219 career points. During her senior year, she was name to the Patriot News Big 15 Team. While playing collegiately at Sacred Heart University, she set school records for her three point sniping, finishing 20th in NCAA Division I with a 41.5% three point percentage during the 2003-2004 season.
Ryan Neiswender: ’13 graduate of Cedar Crest. Neiswender has established himself as a world class wheelchair athlete. After high school, he went on to earn NCAA All-American honors all four seasons of playing at the University of Illinois. Internationally, Neiswender has won gold medals as a member of the US Men’s Wheelchair Basketball Team, including gold medals at the Paralympics in Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 (2021). He was unable to attend this event as he is currently a member of the national team that is competing in Dubai at the world championships. His father, Daryl, accepted the award for his son.
Additional individuals honored during the event were:
C.S. Pop Kelchner*
Anna Coulter: Three sport athlete at Hershey High School. Currently playing volleyball at East Stroudsburg University.
Luke Williams: Known mostly as an explosive linebacker at ELCO High School. Currently playing football for Bloomsburg University.
*Awarded to the area’s top high school senior athlete during the 2021-2022 school year
Kristine Progin: Has been a long-time competitor in the Special Olympics and has served as an ambassador for the efforts of the organization.
Daniel Russell: Has long served the Annville community in creating opportunities for children to become involved in organized sports.
If you are interested in finding out more about the work of the Central Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, visit centralchapter.wordpress.com.
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