South/West Xtra: Montour grad gets call to state wrestling hall of fame

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It's been 14 years since Jim Horner officiated a wrestling match, but it's obvious that he's not forgotten the thrill of being involved in a big match.

Horner, a 1963 graduate of Montour High School who has ties to several other high schools around the WPIAL, was inducted into the Pennsylvania Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame last week in a ceremony condcuted at the State College Ramada Inn.

"I received a phone call from Norm Palovcsik at Christmas time informing me that I would be inducted," said Horner, who is considered to be one of the best wrestling officials in WPIAL history. "It was a huge surprise."

Horner actually thought about what it would be like to be inducted in the PWCA Hall of Fame when he retired in 2000.

"They used to hold the hall of fame ceremony at the state tournament prior to the finals," Horner said. "I remember watching those individuals receive their plaques and be recognized by the crowd. I kind of thought about what it would be like to be placed on a pedestal like that."

A few years ago, the PWCA Hall of Fame committee decided to conduct the induction ceremony on a separate date and honor the inductees with a banquet.

"There are so many incredible names on the list of [prior] inductees," Horner said. "I honor and respect what they accomplished. It's humbling to be added to that list."

After graduating from Montour, Horner obtained college degrees at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1967, Duquesne University in 1970 and 1979, and the University of Pittsburgh in 1992.

Horner is known best for his officiating, but actually started his career in the sport as a coach. He was the head coach at Churchill from 1967 to 1970 and at Bethel Park from 1970 until 1973. After giving up coaching, he began officiating high school matches in 1973 and college matches in 1985, with the Pittsburgh Chapter of wrestling officials and was its president for 15 years and vice president for five years.

Horner refereed more than 650 dual meets and 190 tournaments during his career. He served as an official at 25 WPIAL tournaments, eight PIAA tournaments, 11 National High School Championships and 17 years at the Dapper Dan Wrestling Classic.

"A couple of my calls must have been correct," Horner said. "Western Pennsylvania has been a hotbed for wrestling forever. The level of wrestling and coaching is top-notch. An official must know what he's doing. Being inducted into the state hall of fame shows me that my officiating was appreciated."

Horner was an educator for 37 years, serving at three high schools, mostly in an administrative role.

"I was the principal at South Park for 10 years," Horner said. "I was also a principal at Peters Township for five years and at Bethel Park for 13 years."

Horner was also a member of the WPIAL Board of Control and served as served as vice president and secretary.

"I served on the board of control for nine years," Horner said. "I was also on the PIAA Board of Directors for six years."

Horner retired in 2006 and moved south to Sun City, S.C., which is near Hilton Head.

"My wife and I also spend several months a year in Naples, Fla.," Horner said. "I try to get back to Pittsburgh when I can. I used to come back for the state tournament almost every year, but it's been four years since I've been to Hershey."

Horner may not get back to Pennsylvania as often as he would like, but he still follows WPIAL wrestling on the Internet.

"I can get district and state results on the Internet," Horner said. "It's obvious that the WPIAL still has the strongest district."

Horner was one of 13 PWCA inductees and one of four who have ties to the WPIAL.

The others are Tim Giel, who ranks 10th on the WPIAL coaches list with a 318-226 career record at Shady Side Academy and Avonworth High School, Ernie Yates, a Valley graduate who coached 25 years at Berwick High School in Columbia County, and Robert Parker, a Keystone Oaks graduate who coached 24 years at Commodore Perry High School in Mercer County.


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