September 20, 2014

Elyria
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High school: EC’s Joe Fitch honored with Lou Rotunda Award

Awards are given to seniors all over the country this time of year — plaudits for athletics, academics, service — all given as final honors before the students head off to start the rest of their lives.
Joe Fitch received such an award at Friday’s senior ceremony at Elyria Catholic. But this one is different … this award not only honored the 18-year-old’s outstanding achievements, but also will serve as inspiration for his future.
The Lou Rotunda Award has been given to the top male student-athlete at Elyria Catholic since 1960, when it was created by basketball coach Rotunda to recognize a special player for his character and perseverance during a 19-loss season. It has remained true to its core the last 49 years, annually recognizing a deserving senior — successful men who have gone on to do it proud as doctors, educators, accountants, authors, professors and coaches.
Fitch is aware of the award’s history, and plans on running with it.
“Winning this award means a lot to me,” said Fitch, son of Lori and Bill Fitch. “There have been a lot of great student-athletes who have won it. They have set a standard and winning this will inspire me to work hard to keep that standard going.”
Hard work will be nothing new for Fitch, who starred in three sports throughout his high school career, earning 11 varsity letters while excelling academically and serving his school and community through a host of extracurricular activities.
A 3.166 gpa honor-roll student, Fitch has been a youth basketball and football camp volunteer and has helped out with Special Olympics, Christmas on Campus and special needs children’s camp. He has also been a St. Mary Parish Stations of the Cross and 200 Club volunteer and a Mass server.
But it was sports that Fitch relished, especially football, in which he helped lead the Panthers to the playoffs and an 8-3 record as a defensive end last fall.
“Going to the playoffs in football,” he answered quickly when asked his favorite high school memory. “Those were great moments I will always remember. There were so many people behind us. It was an exciting time.”
Fitch earned spots on the all-county and all-conference first teams and was named Lorain County’s Defensive Line Player of the Year. He was also honorable mention all-district.
“Joe is an outstanding athlete, a strong leader and a good teammate,” said football coach Ben Malbasa. “Whether playing while sick against Norwalk St. Paul or making critical plays to defeat Villa Angela-St. Joe’s, Joe was an essential part of our football team’s success.
“More importantly, Joe’s success in the classroom and his dedication to three varsity sports epitomizes a commitment to the ideals of excellence and loyalty that Coach Rotunda instilled in generations of student-athletes at Elyria Catholic.”
Fitch will continue his football career at Baldwin-Wallace, where he will pursue a business degree.
In baseball, Fitch went 6-0 season on the mound, helping the Panthers to a 17-8 record
“Joe is a real competitor on the field,” said coach Tom Kubuski. “A rare three-sport athlete, he has played to his potential and continued to grow and improve in his four years here.”
On the basketball court, Fitch drew second-team all-conference and all-county honors, played in the Lorain County All-Star Game and participated in the dunk contest.
“Joe’s work ethic on the court and his humble attitude off the court make him a well-deserving recipient of this valued award,” coach Al Januzzi said. “There is no question that Joe will treasure the meaning behind this award well into his future because his life was touched directly by Coach Rotunda over this past year.”
Rotunda is recovering from a recent hospital stay and could not attend Friday’s ceremony. But he was definitely on Fitch’s mind.
“I want to wish Mr. Rotunda a quick recovery,” he said. “He’s not only helped me with my basketball skills, but we’ve had many conversations, and he has helped me with life’s lessons.”
Past winners
1960 — Jon J. Mitro
1961 — Thomas E. Mahl
1962 — Gary J. Basinski
1963 — Robert F. Monchein
1964 — Dennis A. Crozier
1965 — James S. Polen
1966 — Robert J. Fitzpatrick
1967 — William V. Toth
1968 — Timothy J. Wagner
1969 — Patrick J. Mulholland
1970 — Mark A. Straka
1971 — Douglas W. Gerber
1972 — David C. Weitzel
1973 — Paul J. Zemanek
1974 — Bruce D. Yeager
1975 — William C. Stetson
1976 — David J. Diederich
1977 — Eric J. Essenmacher
1978 — Thomas J. Smelko
1979 — Scott L. Miller
1980 — John J. Walker
1981 — James S. Bainbridge
1982 — Chris D. Sito
1983 — Daniel Basinski
1984 — Brian Wolbers
1985 — Alan D. McKinney
1986 — Mark A. Kirsch
1987 — Jeffrey C. Hoagland
1988 — Cory Hodge
1989 — Benjamin P. Basinski, Gary L. Hoagland
1990 — Adam Reichard
1991 — Michael Gandolfo
1992 — David McCoy
1993 — Joseph V. Desimone
1994 — Terrel Dixon, Joel Stuart
1995 — Roopen R. Patel
1996 — Kevin Fritz
1997 — Joseph Conroy
1998 — Mike Jonesco
1999 — Gerald L. Conroy Jr.
2000 — Kenneth Brown
2001 — James Patton IV
2002 — Ross Rybarczyk
2003 — Michael Clapham
2004 — Corey Shepard
2005 — John Grega
2006 — Jock Taylor
2007 — Andrew Kirsch
2008 — Joe Fitch