South Xtra: Western Pennsylvania 'Hall' to honor Jeff Jelic, Lebo, Pitt standout

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Until recently, Dr. Jeffrey Jelic hadn't reflected a lot on his past as a championship wrestler.

A 1980 graduate of Mt. Lebanon High School, Jelic helped the Blue Devils win a WPIAL wrestling title during his senior year and went on to become an All-American at the University of Pittsburgh.

"I moved on to the other challenges in my life," he said. "Although my time as an athlete was a very fundamental part of my life, I really hadn't thought much about it."

That's because as soon as his wrestling career ended, Jelic began grappling with his professional career in oral and maxillofacial surgery, which treats diseases, injuries and defects in the neck, face and jaw as well as the hard and soft tissues of the mouth, jaw and face region.

He graduated from Pitt's School of Dental Medicine in 1988 and later went on to earn his medical degree from the University of Virginia in 1996.

Jelic now lives in North Carolina and has his own practice in Durham.

"People make the analogy all the time that because you were a successful athlete means you're going to be successful in life," said Jelic, 52, who lives in Chapel Hill along with his wife, Kelly, and their children, Lauren and Jason. "Just because you're disciplined in athletics doesn't mean you're disciplined in life.

"My sports career was only a small slice of who I am."

Jelic, however, will get a chance to reminisce about his wrestling days this weekend when he is among 11 former athletes, coaches and sports personalities to be inducted into Western Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.

A ceremony and dinner will take place at 6 p.m. Saturday at Four Points by Sheraton Pittsburgh North in Marshall.

A few other inductees with ties to the Post-Gazette's South Xtra coverage area include Charlie Batch, Adam Walker, Ron Wabby, George Radosevich and Paul Hindes.

Batch, a graduate of Steel Valley, played quarterback for 15 seasons in the NFL, playing for the Detroit Lions and Steelers.

Walker also was a star football player at Steel Valley in the 1980s and played at Pitt before spending seven years in the NFL.

Wabby was Brashear's longtime football coach for 26 seasons, while Radosevich was a three-sport star at Brentwood in the 1940s and played football at Pitt and during his time in the Marines. Radosevich also spent three years in the NFL, including a season with the Steelers, before becoming a high school football coach for the next 43 years.

Hindes is a graduate of Bethel Park and Duquesne University. He went on to coach girls basketball, volleyball and softball at Baldwin and won a total of 16 WPIAL titles in those sports.

Jelic's athletic accomplishments certainly fit in with that group.

"It's very nice the people from my hometown remember me and how I competed during that time in my life," Jelic said. "It's nice to be recognized, but it's not why I competed in sports."

After graduating high school, Jelic wrestled at 167 pounds at Pitt and became an All-American and three-time Eastern League champion. He was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the 1984 Eastern Wrestling League tournament and was voted into the EWL Hall of Fame in 1989.

"Wrestling is very personal," Jelic said. "When you lose, it doesn't hurt any less if there are 100 people or 16,000 people watching. It hurts because the person staring back at you from the mirror is the only person who truly matters.

"Wrestling is a very personal obsession. Wrestlers work out when no one is watching. They don't care if anyone is watching because it's all about themselves. When you are pushing yourself in practice, you are pushing yourself to push back that boundary where you want to quit."

Jelic also grew up in a household surrounded by athletes.

His father, Ralph, is a former Pitt football player and played in the 1955 Sugar Bowl and 1956 Gator Bowl. He also coached football at Lehigh, Boston University, Harvard and Pitt.

Jelic's mother, Cynthia, was Pitt's Woman Athlete of the Year in 1959.

Jelic's younger brother, Chris, played quarterback and special teams at Pitt in the 1980s before playing professional baseball with the New York Mets. Their sister, Jane, was a two-time letter winner in volleyball at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

"Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, we grew up in an era with a lot of good athletes," Jelic said. "We didn't know it at the time, but we competed against some very talented athletes in our little neighborhood. You had to be really, really good to play pickup games in our area.

"You had to be talented and tough. That pushed you to become better."


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