Alumni Feature Archive


Fairmont State wins WVIAC Women's Basketball Title


Fairmont State secured an NCAA Tournament bid and won the school's first WVIAC Women's Basketball Tournament in 24 years by knocking off West Virginia Wesleyan 63-49.

Tournament MVP Danielle Cornish recorded 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Falcons, while Gabby Gattuso pumped in a team-high 20 points. Ashley Vavrek added 12 points as FSU improved to 25-6.

Wesleyan was paced by Brandi Wynn's 13 points. All-tournament pick Sarah Van Horn recorded a double-double of 10 points and as many rebounds.

WVWC led for much of the opening half before Fairmont State closed on a 7-2 run to tie the game at 24-all going into the break. FSU never trailed during the final twenty minutes, breaking the game open with a 10-2 run midway through the half. The lead would grow to as many as 16 as the Falcons coasted to the victory.

Fairmont controlled the interior with a 35-27 rebounding edge. The Falcons also outscored the Bobcats 28-14 in the paint. FSU shot 53.3% from the field, compared to Wesleyan's 32.7% showing.

Cornish was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Gattuso and Jaimie Merinar. Lucia Darling and Van Horn represented Wesleyan. Glenville State had tournament high scorer Donita Adams and Karina Kendrick on the squad. The ten-player team was rounded out by Randi Cary (WV State), Samm Nester (Concord), and Katie Warehime (Shepherd).

Merinar was presented the George Springer Individual Sportsmanship Award. Glenville State's Miranda Reed was selected as for the Commissioner's Heart & Hustle Award.

Fairmont State earns an automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA Division II East Regional. Fellow WVIAC members Shepherd and West Liberty State are also expected to be selected when bids are issued on Sunday, March 9.




Golden Years


She grew up in a small West Virginia mining town where tennis was as wide spread as a collection of clay courts in a coal mine.

She doesn’t recall setting eyes on a tennis court, holding a racquet in her hand or becoming aware the game even existed until she was a freshman in college.

Shortly after she hit the first shot of her life, she converted a historic break point in becoming the first woman to play on the men’s tennis team at Fairmont State College. Then the pioneer with a passion for tennis, but no formal training in the game she grew to love, put down her $9 worn, wooden Jack Kramer racquet with gauze serving as a grip for nearly the next quarter century to take on the responsibilities of a working mom on the rise: she raised three children and lived an active life as a physical education teacher.

The bouncing ball never left the back of her mind, but she wouldn’t step foot on a tennis court in a competitive capacity for nearly another 25 years.

Mary Boswell (wearing glasses in photo above) played her first career tennis tournament at the evergreen age of 59 — and promptly lost to the top seed in the first round.

It’s been said you’ve got to learn to lose to know how to win. If that’s the case, then Boswell is a very quick study.

Since that initial opening-round loss, she dropped down to the loser’s bracket and went on to win the consolation tournament title.

These days much of her consoling is confined to shaking opponents’ hands after another win.

Nineteen years after playing the first tournament match of her life, Boswell, who celebrates her 76th birthday on Thursday, is the World No. 1 in the International Tennis Federation’s Women’s 75 and Over rankings.

Three weeks before Christmas, Boswell traveled to Christchurch, New Zealand and did not drop a set on the grass courts of Wilding Park en route to the 27th ITF Super-Seniors World Individual Championships final in the 75s. Then she ran into Canada’s Muffie Grieve, who took a 4-1, 40-0 lead in the decisive set before Boswell dug down and rallied to win five consecutive games to claim her first individual world championship with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 victory that spanned two hours, 14 minutes.

“It will sound trite to say, but it was very exciting and wonderful and I feel like it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Boswell, who captained team USA and carried the flag for the opening ceremonies, an honor she calls “just as good as getting the gold ball [awarded to the champion]. “I just tried to play the way I would any match. I was down in the third set, but I don’t realize I’m that down when I’m actually playing. You get so focused on the point, I don’t always remember what happened before. If I played a match this morning and you asked me tonight about it, I wouldn’t be able to give you a lot of details. I just try to concentrate on every point and play every point as best I can.”

Though she confesses to short-term memory loss on court, Boswell has built an unforgettable history of championship achievement.

At a time when many of her contemporaries’ concept of keeping score is monitoring their 401K plans , the coal miner’s daughter from West Virginia has spent recent years striking gold as one of the world’s best player in her age group.

Before ascending to the top spot in the world 75 rankings, she was the top-ranked American woman in both the 70 singles and doubles and in 2003 she swept the American Golden Slam winning all four USTA National titles staged on hard court, clay, grass and indoor surfaces. She repeated the Golden Slam last year in the 75s.

In addition to her singles success, Boswell and her daughter Jane captured the USTA National Mother/Daughter Championships in 1996 and 2004. The Maryland resident received the Mid-Atlantic Tennis Association’s Adult Sportsmanship Award and owns an extensive collection of gold balls awarded to USTA champions that she keeps in a box on a shelf at home.

Ask her what has been the most rewarding aspect of her success and she says it’s the experiences she’s had and the places she’s seen that gives her the greatest satisfaction.

“I taught physical education for years and what I’ve learned is you function better in life as you get older if you’re active,” Boswell said. “So I am very, very grateful that I’ve found tennis because it’s taken me to places around the world like New Zealand and South Africa and Austria and I’ve met so many fascinating people and had experiences I would not have had without tennis so it certainly has changed my life.”

Boswell’s first brush with tennis came at Fairmont State College in West Virginia, but before she could learn to play the game she had to learn the game existed.

“I didn’t know there was such a game as tennis. I came from a small coal-mining town where there were no tennis courts,” Boswell said. “In college, I took a class the men’s tennis coach was teaching and I liked the game immediately and started playing. He wanted me to play for the men’s team, but back in the 1950s that wasn’t very popular so he proposed that any boy who could beat me would automatically be on the tennis team. He didn’t have much material to work with and eventually he put me on the men’s team and I played on the men’s team my junior and senior year of college.”

When she launched her competitive career, Boswell largely relied on her legs, natural athleticism and fitness, but has since learned how to construct points and use the court.

“I played full-court basketball long before the women played full court so I could always run, I could always move pretty well and that’s how I competed,” Boswell says. “I could frustrate my opponent by running down a lot of balls. I don’t think I won a match for many years on hitting winners and I was just getting to a lot of balls and hitting them back. I know enough now where I try to set up the points and I’m working on hitting a good deep ball and trying to get to the net when I can. Every match you play, you learn.”

Rather than ruing the lost opportunity in all those years she wasn’t playing, the perpetually-positive late-bloomer views her long lapse from tennis as a blessing that’s brought her longevity in her later years.

“All that has happened is very exciting for me,” Boswell said. “And I often look back and wish I could have picked the game up earlier with my life — I just didn’t have the opportunity to even see the game let alone play it. And now to be able to play at this point in my life it really is special. One of my advantages, I think, is that I don’t have the injuries or body problems that a lot of players my age who start out earlier and have played so much longer have. So I feel fortunate in that way. I feel very healthy and energetic and eager to play.”

For all her success Boswell remains remarkably well grounded: you won’t see her scouring her results or scouting future opponents on the Internet — probably because she doesn’t use computers.

Boswell, who look so fit she could probably take Jack LaLane in an arm-wrestling match, works out every other day alternating light weight-lifting with the treadmill and the stair master.

She has long since retired the Jack Kramer wood racquet she wielded in college — and in her first tournament — and upgraded to a new oversize Babolat Drive Z 118, recalling she cradled the racquet as if it were a newborn the first time she hit with it.

“Last year at the first national we had I was getting ready to go out to play my semifinal doubles and I demoed the racquet right before the doubles match,” she recalls. “The first shot I hit it just felt so incredible that I started hugging the racquet and didn’t want to let it go. I went out and played the rest of my matches with that racquet and had very good results and haven’t put it down since. You don’t have to put as much effort into hitting the ball and the hits are much more forceful now so I’ve come a long way from the Jack Kramer racquet.”

Continuing to compete has been a stomach-soothing experience for the woman who once felt nauseous before big matches.

“When I first started playing tournaments I would just get so nervous I would almost have an upset stomach because I was so nervous,” Boswell said. “After a year or so of playing I just felt in my mind I knew was going to try my best and that’s all I can do — just try my best. So I don’t get nervous as much anymore because I know no matter what happens I am going to try my best and if you lose and you know you’ve done your best then to me that’s not a bad thing.”

The former phys-ed teacher says she’s learned lessons from her opponents.

“The best lesson I learned was when I met an opponent who was so good that getting the ball back in play, like I had been doing, wasn’t good enough anymore,” Boswell said. “I had to do more with the ball. So she taught me I needed to work on being able to place the ball exactly where I wanted it. The lesson I always try to remember when I’m playing is to just watch the ball closely, complete the swing and hit it right where you want to.”

Sounds simplistic? Other champions take the same approach. I once asked Andre Agassi how he coped with a case of nerves on court.

“I go back to the basics,” Agassi said. “Keep your eye on the ball, move your feet and finish your strokes. You go back to the fundamental foundation of your game.”

Boswell’s success is a reminder that it’s never too late in life to have the time of your life.



Mike Joseph selected as WVU S&C Coach


West Virginia University Director of Athletics Ed Pastilong has announced, today, that Michael Joseph is returning to his alma mater as the Director of Strength and Conditioning.

“I am very pleased with the selection of Michael Joseph as our Director of Strength & Conditioning,” said Russ Sharp, Associate Director of Athletics for Finance and Administration and the chair of the search committee. “We conducted a national search with many excellent candidates and tremendous interest. Michael brings knowledge of the program, exceptional credentials, a great attitude and tremendous recommendations to this position, and we are all looking forward to his getting started here at WVU.”

Joseph, who comes to WVU from Notre Dame, will administer, coordinate, develop, implement and teach strength and conditioning programs for all Mountaineer student athletes with a major emphasis on the football program.

“I grew up around West Virginia athletics and went to school there so I am extremely excited to be able to come back home for my dream job,” Joseph said. “West Virginia is one of the best in the nation, both academically or athletically and I am very impressed by the administration’s commitment to each. Especially over the past few years, the athletic program has become one of the elite programs in the nation. I am looking forward to working with each student-athlete and team to try and advance them to a higher level. I can’t wait to get started.”

Joseph served for five years as the assistant strength coach at Notre Dame (2003-present), working with football and is responsible for the strength and conditioning programs for baseball, volleyball, and softball.

“The Mountaineer family is thrilled to be able to attract and hire what we believe is the finest young strength coach in the country,” WVU Football Coach Bill Stewart said. “Having worked with Mike earlier in his career at WVU, he has proven he not only has the knowledge to be successful in the position but has the character and integrity that we want here at West Virginia. Not only will he be an outstanding coach for our football program, but the entire group of student athletes and coaches will benefit from his experience.”

At Notre Dame, he worked with the head strength coach with football, assisting with workouts, testing, conditioning, speed and agility training and in-season and off-season training schedules on a daily basis. He was responsible for developing and training the quarterbacks, tight ends, linebackers, fullbacks and injured players. He also had the same responsibilities with the sports of baseball, volleyball and softball. Also part of his duties included the supervision and maintenance of the facility and equipment and scheduling all student-athletes for the school’s 27 sports.

“The strength and conditioning regiments of each team on campus is vital to their success. I look forward to working with such a motivated and accomplished coach like Mike Joseph,” said WVU Women’s Soccer Coach Nikki Izzo-Brown, who served on the search committee. “I am confident he will continue to aid in the success of Mountaineer athletics.”

Prior to coming to Notre Dame, he spent two years as an assistant strength coach at Eastern Michigan (2001-03), where he was responsible for the strength and conditioning programs for men's and women's basketball, baseball, volleyball, wrestling, and handled football duties as well. He assisted in the supervision and maintenance of the facility and equipment, developed and organized nutrition meeting with the student athletes on a weekly basis and was responsible for monitoring the progress and testing of all athletes.

“When the hiring process began for the strength coach position, it was very important to all the coaches in the athletic department that we didn’t take a step backward,” said Craig Turnbull, WVU Wrestling Coach who also served on the search committee. “That position has become an integral part in the training and development of each of our teams. I was very impressed with Mike Joseph during his interview, his knowledge, ability to communicate and the way he carried himself.

“I remember recruiting him to wrestle while he was in high school. His high school coach gave him an excellent recommendation and said he was well-conditioned, had a lot of determination, hard working and was a very intense worker who did whatever he needed to do to get the job done. Those are the same attributes an outstanding strength coach needs to have to be successful.”

Joseph was a graduate assistant at WVU for two years (1999-2001), where he worked with football, men's and women's basketball, volleyball, and baseball. He supervised the group of interns and volunteers and prepared and monitored nutritional meetings for athletes on a weekly basis. He assisted with the coordinating and testing of all teams with emphasis on football, men’s basketball and baseball.

While working at Healthworks Fitness and Rehabilitation in Morgantown during the 2001 summer, Joseph developed programs for athletes for strength, speed, agility and explosive development. He worked with athletes on an individual and group basis for sport enhancement training. He also assisted and coordinated preseason physical and sport performance evaluations for local area athletes and worked with physical therapists and athletic trainers in rehabilitation techniques and development for therapy programs.

Joseph also served as a camp instructor at the Mountain State Speed and Strength Camp hosted by WVU from May 2000 until April 2001. He assisted in instruction and implementation of conditioning, strength, speed, agility and flexibility training of young athletes in the area. He demonstrated and instructed athletes on proper exercise techniques and nutrition.

From Aug. 1998 until May 1999, he was the strength and conditioning coach at Fairmont State. He designed and implemented the training programs for football, men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball. He coordinated strength, conditioning, speed, agility and flexibility for all student-athletes. He also coached the running backs for the football program.

He has served as a guest speaker and instructor at many camps and clinics, has been a classroom instructor and was the state director for the National Association of Speed and Explosion. He coached 10 Strength & Conditioning All-Americans, 10 football players who earned All-America honors and more than 100 athletes who were either drafted or signed free agent contracts in the NFL.

He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in biology and received his master’s degree from West Virginia in physical education with an emphasis in sport movement and development.

While at Fairmont State, Joseph was a four-year letterman and three-year captain on the football team from 1994-97. He was a three-time first-team all-WVIAC selection and was named the WVIAC Offensive Player of the Year in 1996. He was a 1997 regional All-American, a Burger King Scholar Athlete and a WVIAC Scholar Athlete. He was selected the vice president of the student-athlete advisory committee and to the Fairmont State Student Council.

He is certified by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCa) and the National Strength Coaches Association (NSCA).



Bill Stewart selected as WVU Head Coach



CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Bill Stewart was promoted to head coach of West Virginia on Thursday, hours after leading the Mountaineers to a stunning victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Stewart was introduced in the morning as he and his team were preparing to return home.

He was appointed interim coach in mid-December after Rich Rodriguez bolted for Michigan. Stewart's five-year contract will pay $800,000 a year with incentives. Rodriguez signed a seven-year deal in August worth almost $2 million a year. "We saw all the characteristics of a head football coach -- leadership, loyalty, courage," athletic director Ed Pastilong said less than 12 hours after the 48-28 victory by the No. 11 Mountaineers. Pastilong, who has known Stewart for 39 years, said "there isn't a mother or father watching today who wouldn't be proud to have their son play for this man." West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin was among the crowd of boosters and staff packing the hotel ballroom for Stewart. "I'm West Virginia born, West Virginia bred, a West Virginian all my life, really," Stewart said when introduced.

Stewart never had a formal session with the search committee when Pastilong called him to his room after midnight to offer him the job. "I think I've been interviewing for the last 21/2 weeks," he said. "It's been the longest interview in America." Stewart has not signed a contract but agreed to terms with a handshake. "I don't have a lot of experience in these negotiations and things. That's my agent right down there," he said, pointing to his wife, Karen. Stewart had the backing of the team, including Pat White. The quarterback began stumping for Stewart on the field after running for 150 yards and throwing for 176 and two touchdowns in the victory over the No. 3 Sooners.

"He deserves it," White said. "A great man. A great coach. All the players respect him and all the players love him. You couldn't ask for a better man to lead us to victory today." Stewart said he wanted the entire staff to return. Pastilong said "a large number" of candidates were interviewed, but he declined to identify them. He said Stewart was among those considered from the start. "He obtained this position the old fashioned way -- he earned it," Pastilong said. "Billy led us to our biggest football victory in the school's history against Oklahoma. And he, his coaching staff and his support staff are outstanding Mountaineers, leading us through a tough time. Our future is bright, and we look forward to even more success under Coach Stewart's leadership."

WVU president Mike Garrison said Stewart fully appreciates the school. "At this university, loyalty and trust are important," Garrison said. "We know we now have a coach who truly values the opportunity to work as the head football coach at West Virginia University." Fullback Owen Schmitt, who scored on a 57-yard run, called Stewart the "glue" that kept the No. 11 Mountaineers together during a rocky month. "We're a family," Schmitt said. "That's why we prevailed."

The 55-year-old Stewart earned $139,000 this year in his position that also included coaching tight ends and fullbacks and being the special teams coordinator. He came to West Virginia as quarterbacks coach in January 2000 after two seasons as offensive coordinator in the Canadian Football League. Don Nehlen, the retired Mountaineers coach who hired Stewart, was glad his former assistant had landed the job. "He's just such a good person and the kids love him," Nehlen said. "It's such a good fit with the program."

A message left for Rodriguez early Thursday was not immediately returned. Stewart was head coach at VMI from 1994-96, compiling an 8-25 record. He also had stints as an assistant at Salem College, North Carolina, Marshall, William & Mary, Navy, Arizona State and Air Force. Stewart was a captain for Fairmont State, which won the West Virginia Conference championship in 1974. He began his coaching career at Fairmont as a student assistant coach.

Source: Associated Press

Tuffy Knight


Tuffy Knight's long road to the hall of fame



After years of fighting the establishment, Dave (Tuffy) Knight has finally become part of the ruling class. In honour of his storied five-decade coaching career, the 71-year-old Kitchener resident will be enshrined in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in Hamilton tomorrow. The American-born Knight is one of only a handful of university builders to be honoured in the hall's history.Through the years, Knight has accumulated six Yates Cup (Ontario) championships and has been named Canadian university football's coach of the year an unprecedented three times.

Knight, one of the founding fathers of university football at both Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo, will see his name in the hall alongside the heavyweights of the game, Western's J.P. Metras and Queen's University's Frank Tindall. "And so he should be right there," said Laurier's athletic director Peter Baxter. "Tuffy certainly left his mark. That grit is still part of our program today. Our guys don't think they are a small school playing football. They think they can compete with anybody."

The Little Guy That Could isn't only Knight's personal mantra, but it also became the mission statement of his teams. "Sometimes you had to cause controversy to get things changed," Knight said yesterday. Never one to back down from an on-field skirmish or from a boardroom debate, Knight's efforts helped transform the old Big Four central Canada football league (Western, Toronto, Queen's and McGill) into one that included the second-tier schools like Laurier, then known as Waterloo Lutheran.

The feisty little guy from Clarksburg W.Va., who was given his nickname by an old high school coach, has a heart of gold, said one of Knight's many proteges, current Laurier Hawks head coach Gary Jeffries. ''His outward toughness shields a caring human being. He's a wonderful guy. He got this whole thing started for us.'' Current UW assistant coach Marshall Bingeman said Knight's legacy isn't only his winning record, but also the many coaching careers he helped launch. "Tuffy's always been a great mentor. He always had time for us," said Bingeman, who played for and coached with Knight. "He stressed the fundamentals, organization, practice planning, commitment, team building and loyalty. That's what he's left to our program."

Knight came to Lutheran's campus in 1965 to become the school's athletic director, head basketball coach and assistant football coach. He was lured by the $6,800 annual salary offered by his former fraternity brother at Fairmont State University in West Virginia, then WLU's dean of students Fred Nichols. After Nichols and Knight, fellow Fairmont State Falcons Rich Newbrough and Don Smith followed as assistant coaches at Lutheran.

The foursome is still honoured at Hawks games with the playing of John Denver's long-ago hit, Take Me Home, Country Roads. Following nearly two decades in purple and gold, Knight left the Hawks to become the director of player personnel for the CFL's Toronto Argos.

He then accepted a coaching job at UW (1988-97). In his first season, his Warriors posted their first winning record in a decade. He led UW to its first Yates Cup in 1997, Knight's final year before retirement. Following a brief stint as an assistant coach at Laurier, Knight now serves as a volunteer coach for Kitchener's Resurrection Catholic Secondary School. "I'd like to think people will remember me for my integrity, loyalty and perseverance. I've always tried to teach kids to hang in there. If you couldn't do something, I always liked to think that there was another way to skin a cat," he said.

One of the only accolades to have eluded him over the years was a Vanier Cup ring, though his teams did appear in three national finals. Knight, along with his former assistant, Rich Newbrough, will also be honoured by Laurier when the university dedicates it's new turf, the Knight-Newbrough Field, in a ceremony at University Stadium on Oct. 13.