The twins are contributing 10,000 to an endowment for the wrestling program.
By ED RUNYAN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
HOWLAND -- As seventh graders in the Howland school system, twin brothers Carl and Joe Patrnchak met a man who would have a profound effect on them: David El'Hatton.
"He picked me and my brother out of a crowd," Joe said of a day in 1965 when the boys came out for the new junior high football program, and El'Hatton was its first coach.
"He told us he thought we had the talent to go places. He told us if we worked hard enough, we had the opportunity to get college scholarships," Joe said by telephone from his home in the Boston area.
El'Hatton was right. By the time the identical twins reached their senior year at Howland, they had both received a number of offers for full scholarships to Division I colleges.
Joe says one of the reasons was because of the amount of time El'Hatton invested in him and his brother and the values he instilled in them.
Because of El'Hatton, who died in 2001 of a pulmonary embolism, the two decided to create a wrestling award in their former coach's name. The two will be in town this weekend for Howland's second annual Hall of Fame ceremonies. They are members of the 2006 induction class.
Took them on trips
Throughout junior high school, while El'Hatton was coaching the boys in football and wrestling, he took them to Columbus to attend the state wrestling tournament. Afterwards, he took them to Ohio Stadium for a Buckeyes game.
"We asked why he kept taking us to the OSU football stadium, and he said it was because he thought we had the talent to play at a major university and he wanted us to see it so we wouldn't be intimidated," Joe said.
Years later, when Joe stepped onto the football field at the University of Michigan as a member of the Northwestern University football team, he remembered those trips to Ohio Stadium.
"We felt like we belonged playing in a place like that," Joe said.
A year or so before that, however, the boys did feel a bit overwhelmed, Joe said. They were completing their senior season at Howland and had led their team to conference championships in 1970 and 1971. Scholarship offers were rolling in.
"We had some questions. We were wondering if all this was real or not," Joe remembered.
That's when El'Hatton, who remained a loyal friend and adviser throughout their high school years as assistant coach on the wrestling and football teams, gave them advice that stuck throughout their adult life:
"He said make a decision and don't worry whether it's right or not. I know you guys will make it the right decision. Just work hard to make it the right decision."
Teammates at Northwestern
The brothers did just as their coach suggested and made the most of their opportunity at Northwestern, where they played side by side as linebackers. They were co-captains their senior year and were awarded team and national honors.
Joe is now senior vice president for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, and Carl developed and patented the artificial knee joint and is director of rehabilitation and sports medicine at OSF Health Care System in Illinois.
The brothers decided recently that they wanted to do something to honor El'Hatton, who was a 28-year veteran of the school system. They learned that the wrestling program could use some funds to help send wrestlers to summer wrestling camps that cost between 300 and 500 and are out of the price range of some kids.
The two are contributing 10,000 to start an endowment. They are hoping they and others will add to the endowment in the coming years. To be eligible, students must write an essay in which they demonstrate the values El'Hatton embodied: excellence in academics, athletics and community service. El'Hatton's widow, Mary, will choose the winners.
"His values were strong," Joe said of El'Hatton. "It's our way of saying thank you, Coach," Joe said.