One of the great eras in the rich tradition of Washington High School sports occurred during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
- The football team, led by Guy Montecalvo, regularly competed for the WPIAL Class AA championship. The Prexies won WPIAL and PIAA titles in 2001 and played for the WPIAL championship in 1998 and 1999. Wash High produced a long line of college talent led by future WVU All-American Dan Mozes, Notre Dame special teams captain Travis Thomas and Old Dominion pitcher Justin Gregula.
- The baseball team, coached by Bob Peton, also found itself in the title hunt most seasons. Wash High won the 2002 WPIAL title. In 1998, the Prexies won WPIAL and PIAA titles and many still remember Diontae Walker pitching a perfect game in the WPIAL championship.
- The boys and girls track and field teams were usually among the best in the WPIAL and beyond.
- The boys basketball team, coached by Ron Faust, continued its consistent success. In 2001, the Prexies reached the PIAA quarterfinals.
- The girls basketball team enjoyed an influx of young talent in future Seton Hall starter Amber Harris as well as Tiara Bennett and Jaime Bush. These Prexies played for a WPIAL championship.
- The wrestling team filled its weight classes far more successfully in those days and won a WPIAL title.
One of the better multi-sport athletes at Wash High during its championship-filled era and one of its bigger overachievers was Tommy Sypula, an undersized, hard-nosed tough guy with Popeye arms and a desire to make the teams he played for great ones.
In other words, Sypula was the guy coaches talk about when they say, "If we only had 11 of him."
Sadly, Tommy Sypula died unexpectedly Friday, Nov. 19 in his home. He was 27.
Sypula's athletic credentials were top-notch, as was his work ethic. A member of the 1997 Pony baseball team that advanced to the championship game, Sypula graduated Wash High in 2002 with a slew of championships and more varsity letters than most athletes proud to be part of the Prexies family.
A team captain, on the 2001 state championship football team, Sypula was an undersized offensive lineman and linebacker. What he lacked in size, he made up for in determination and his play was all-state caliber. Sypula was also a key contributor on WPIAL championship teams in baseball and wrestling.
He played hard. He practiced hard. Always. Watching him compete was always enjoyable.
There's no doubting Sypula will be missed tremendously by the Wash High community, the countless friends he made and his family. I didn't get to see Tommy too often after high school but I often speak with his father Tom, a passionate, hard-working man for a local television station who donated his spare time to record football games for Washington and, when Montecalvo moved to Canon-McMillan, the Big Macs.
If you know Tom, it's easy to see where Tommy got his passion and work ethic.
I'd like to extend my deepest sympathies to the family during this tough time. Tommy will be in my thoughts and memories of his achievements remain vivid to this day.