Peckinpaugh leaves WJU for his family

WHEELING — He took over a program under some of the toughest circumstances imaginable. To his credit, his team exhibited exceptional progress as the season played out.

And now, John Peckinpaugh is on the move again.

Peckinpaugh resigned his post as Wheeling Jesuit University men’s basketball coach last week. The Indiana native is headed back to the Hoosier State, taking the head boys’ hoop job at Noblesville High School.

The move, while quite surprising to some, is not linked to Jesuit’s financial plight. Rather, it is a family-oriented move.

“I didn’t expect to be leaving Jesuit after one year. But it is a situation where I needed to be closer to my family,” Peckinpaugh said. “Both my parents have medical issues. So I needed to be closer to them. My family is very important to me.

“I love Wheeling Jesuit. I love Rudy (WJU athletic director Yovich),” he added. “I thank Jesuit for giving me a great opportunity. I had no issues with staying. It is just simply a matter my family needs me.”

Peckinpaugh assumed the WJU post last summer. He did so on the heels of the shocking termination of highly successful and popular Danny Sancomb. With Sancomb’s exit and eventual landing at Cal U. (Pa.), Peckinpaugh was greeted with a depleted roster and a Cardinal alumni base in an uproar.

Peckinpaugh persevered through it all.

He did a remarkable job of finding some nice talent late in the recruiting game while also righting the Redbird ship after a 2-17 start. WJU finished the season surging, winning seven of its last 11 games, being eliminated by West Liberty in the MEC Tournament at WesBanco Arena.

Noblesville High is located just north of Indianapolis. It is one of the 10th or 11th largest high schools in a basketball-crazed state.

“It (Noblesville) has a really strong basketball tradition and great facilities. I always had a desire to coach high school basketball. I just didn’t expect it so soon,” he added. “I am excited about this opportunity so close to home. I will also have a teaching position at the school.”

Peckinpaugh came to Jesuit after spending the 2017-18 season as an assistant at NCAA Division I Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne. The Mastodons posted an 18-15 record, which included a win over Indiana, 92-72, in his second stint at the program.

Prior to that, he was head coach at NAIA Division II Indiana Tech from 2013-17. He turned a team with 10 wins his first year into a 23-win program that earned an NAIA Tournament berth. He was named the 2015-16 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference Coach of the Year.

Peckinpaugh played collegiately at Purdue Fort Wayne from the 2008-12 seasons. He helped the Mastodons finish over .500 during his sophomore and junior years, which were the first two winning seasons as a Division I school. He was a standout performer at Muncie Central High School, helping the team to a pair of state runner-up finishes.

“I feel that I am leaving the Wheeling Jesuit program with a solid foundation. I am grateful to my players for sticking together through some tough times early on and finishing the season strong. It is by far my favorite team I have coached,” Peckinpaugh said. “I believe whoever takes over will be inheriting a program on the rise. I also believe that Wheeling Jesuit, as an institution, will be fine going forward.”

YOUNG GOLF STAR

REED LIBERATORE continues to script a sparkling golfing resume at a young age. Last weekend, he carded a 1-over-par 37 to best a field of 28 golfers to win the tournament at Fox Den Golf Club in Stow, Oh.

The win earned him an invitation to the U.S. Kids National Championships at the historic Pinehurst layout in North Carolina on June 29-30.

Liberatore has also earned an invite to play in the Canadian Open in Niagara Falls this August. Moreover, he has qualified for the Ohio State Championships at Warren Country Club this June.

Reed’s father, Ty, was a three-sport standout at St. John Central.

They live in Green. Reed’s grandparents, Dr. Jerry and Cheryl Liberatore, still reside in Bellaire.

STATE CHAMPION SISTERS

Scott Boehm was a quality runner during his track days at St. John Central. Boehm graduated St. John’s in 1982 as the school’s valedictorian after a solid track career. The Notre Dame grad now works for the U.S. Department of Defense.

His running achievements pale in comparison to his twin daughters — Alli and Claire. They are student-athletes at The Episcopal School in Alexandria, Va. Both are also newly-minted state champions.

Last Saturday, Claire won the Virginia Independent Schools State Championship in the 1600 meters. She ran a 5:10, setting a new PR and breaking her own Episcopal High School record by six seconds. This is the first year Claire has run the 1600.

Alli, meanwhile, competed in the 800 meters. She also won a state championship, winning with a 2:17 clocking. She was also named Alexandria Female Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

Alli is coming off an impressive indoors season, named to The Washington Post’s Winter 2019 All-Met team for girls’ indoor track.

She blitzed the 800 meters at the Eastern States Indoor Championships this winter in 2:17.62. That was the best mark in the state this season.

Claire, meanwhile, has distinguished herself quite nicely in the 1600 meters. The rising junior turned in a sharp 5:18.47 reading during the indoor season.

Both have starred on the soccer field as well. Claire excelled so much so she was tabbed the Alexandria Sportsman’s Club Athlete of the Month this past fall.

BUBBA’S BITS

SPEAKING OF golf, there will never be another Tiger Woods when he was in his prime. Brooks Koepka, however, may come close. His physical talents combined with his mental toughness make him a cut above anyone else swinging a club today.

THE OVAC contingent turned in a superb collective effort at last week’s West Virginia state track championships. Weir’s Sebastian Spencer, however, stole the show with his four sprinting gold medals, capped by a legendary anchor leg in the 4X100 relay.

KUDOS to the Wheeling Central lacrosse team for winning the WVSLA Division I state championship. Coach Kevin Maloney’s charges should be a force again next spring as the Maroon Knights featured a roster with just four seniors this season.

OHIO UNIVERSITY Eastern is accepting applications for the positions of head men’s basketball coach and head women’s volleyball coach. Those interested should contact OUE Director of Athletics E.J. Schodzinski for more information at schodzin@ohio.edu or 740-699-2503. Applications will be accepted until June 7.

INDIAN CREEK is the latest OVAC school to install artificial turf. The project has commenced at Bob Kettlewell Stadium and should be completed in 6-8 weeks.

CONGRATS TO the Wheeling Park and Wheeling Central baseball teams for punching their respective tickets to this week’s state tournament in Charleston.

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