MEADOW LANDS — Before the Lampe twins helped ignite the current golden period in athletics at West Greene High School, there was Rodney Wilson and company in the 1990s.
Wilson was part of a strong group of athletes to pass through West Greene, elevating the level of competition, especially in football. He was a multisport athlete but it was in football that he excelled, helping the Pioneers reach the rarefied air of a WPIAL championship game.
That accomplishment played a key role in Wilson being inducted into the Washington-Greene Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
Wilson was part of a class that included Ron Dellapina (wrestling, Burgettstown and Findlay College), Craig Dellorso (wrestling, Canon-McMillan and U.S. Naval Academy), Lee Fritz (baseball and football, Waynesburg and West Virginia), Bob Grove (sports journalism), Nancy Merkle (volleyball, track and field, Washington and West Virginia), Morgan “Mike” Mosser (track and field, Washington and West Virginia), Kurt Schottenheimer (football, Fort Cherry, Coffeyville CC and University of Miami) and former PIAA wrestling champion and Olympic medalist Coleman Scott.
"I'm thrilled. It's an honor to be recognized," said Wilson. "A lot of great people have been here before me. I'm honored to share this moment with everyone else."
The softball team has thrived under head coach Bill Simms with such talented athletes as Madison and McKenna Lampe, Madison and Jade Renner, Kaitlyn Rizor, etc. The football team of the early 1990s under head coach Larry Piper's triple-option offense thrived with such talented athletes as Gary Whyte, Chet Tedrow, Chad Hill, Marty Halderman, etc.
"They're building a dynasty," said Wilson, 42, of the current softball team. "We hoped (for a state champion) for so long. Wrestling seemed to be the one that avoided us the most with individual state titles. It's a small school ... (the opportunity) comes around every five or 10 years, if you're lucky. What they're building with the softball team now is incredible. A lot of those girls are sticking to it, everyone is doing their part to provide a platform for them to succeed."
In 1992, West Greene made the Class A playoffs and won its opening-round game, 35-34 over Serra Catholic in double overtime. Clairton stopped the Pioneers in the semifinals, 14-7. The following season, West Greene won a thrilling, 7-6 game over Farrell in the semifinals at Trinity's Hiller Field before losing to Duquesne in the finals at Three Rivers Stadium.
"In my sophomore year, I think the community saw what might be," said Wilson. "In my junior year, they got a taste of the WPIAL playoffs. It opened a lot of eyes. In my senior year, businesses shut down (on game day), people packed the field, the crowds were as amazing as you could think. We had crowds of five, six thousand standing two, three deep around the field. They traveled far and long on the road. Great moments like that come so few and far between that you have to take a few moments and think about it."
Wilson left the school as the WPIAL's leading rusher with 6,304 career yards and scored 75 touchdowns.
Wilson was a two-time WPIAL wrestling champion and a PIAA regional champion in 1992. He finished with a 106-25-1 record and was a member of the WPIAL Class AA champion wrestling team in 1994.
In college, Wilson was a four-year letterman at Slippery Rock and two-time All-PSAC linebacker in 1996 and a defensive back in 1997.
Wilson followed business opportunities to the Northeast, Charlotte, N.C, the Dallas-Fort Worth area and other parts of Texas before moving back in 2006. He and his wife have three children and live in Cecil.
"When I look back on it, the opportunities (in sports) are not different but more challenging," he said. "In some small communities, you weren't within a mile of the facilities. You have longer distances. One of the things that was difficult for us was that there were a lot of farm families who had a lot of work in the summer time and those guys couldn't take an afternoon off to do 7-on-7s. ... It was special."