Harrick enshrined in WVU history as school's only 16-letter athlete

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Joseph (Joe) V. Harrick (1895-1958), Punxsutawney native and former Punxsy coach, was recently inducted into the West Virginia University Sports Hall of Fame.

The WVU Sports Hall of Fame honors former athletes and others connected to Mountaineer athletics.

Harrick attended WVU from 1917-1921 and is the only known 16-time letterman in WVU history.

His greatest feat was earning four varsity letters each in football, baseball, wrestling and track and field — an accomplishment unheard of in the modern sports era.

In football, he played tackle, and in 1919, he was named to the Chicago Tribune Third-Team All-American squad.

He was also named an honorable mention on the all-century WVU team at lineman and was named a member of the 1919-1929 WVU all-time football team, according to the Mountaineers' Web site.

Harrick also earned his nickname "Leapin' Joe" during a football game when he blocked three punts against Maryland.

In track and field, he participated in the shot put, discus, javelin and 440-yard run.

In baseball, he was an outfielder and pitcher and captained the 1921 team.

As a wrestler one season, he finished runner-up to NCAA light heavyweight champion Jock Sutherland.

Following graduation, he signed with the Detroit Tigers' organization, but a knee injury ended his active athletic days.

It was then that he turned to high school teaching and coaching, focusing on football in a career that lasted 26 years.

He started in 1922 in Gary, W.Va. then coached at Jeannette and Johnstown before returning to Punxsy.

He coached the Chucks football team from 1936-1942 and 1946-1950.

He also coached baseball and track and was inducted into the Punxsutawney Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.

The 2011 WVU Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony was attended by his siblings Mary Ann (Harrick) Barilar, Joseph W. Harrick, Marjorie (Harrick) Shenk, William Hahn Harrick and several other close relatives.

Harrick's grandson, John Barilar, was an instrumental piece in his grandfather's induction, as he researched his grandfather's athletic history.

According to the Mountaineers' Web site, the WVU Sports Hall of Fame was created in 1991 to allow the opportunity to recognize athletes that have "helped pioneer WVU athletics into one of the most respected programs in the nation."

Harrick's brother, Steve Harrick — who coached a total of 29 seasons for the Mountaineers' baseball and wrestling programs — was inducted into the Hall in the 1991 inaugural class.

The initial class of inductees included athletes from six different time periods.

Former athletes, coaches and administrators are eligible for selection beginning 10 years after their association with WVU.

Since the initial class was inducted in 1991, more than 150 former Mountaineer athletes and administrators have been honored, but only one calls Punxsutawney home.

A plaque, presented to the family by the university, and other historic memorabilia from Harrick's life and career will soon be presented to be displayed and housed at the Punxsutawney Historical Museum.