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Pueblo, CO 81002

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Pueblo, CO 81007

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Nine to be enshrined into GPSA hall of fame Nov. 17

Jeff Letofsky
The Pueblo Chieftain USA TODAY NETWORK
Nov. 3, 2021

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to the Greater Pueblo Sports Association Hall of Fame induction in 2020.

Fast forward to this fall and both the 2020 class and 2021 classes will be honored when the annual banquet resumes at 7 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Occhiato Center on the Colorado State University Pueblo campus.

Tickets are $40 and can be purchased at Roger's Enterprise Inc., 405 W. 8th St. Their contact number is 5437301. Deadline to purchase tickets is 5 p.m. Nov. 11.

The 2020 GPSA inductees include Christie (Zinanti) Koschke, Dr. Rekesh Khosia, Joseph Occhiato, Brian Pearson, Anthony Taibi and Darrel Vaughan.

The 2020 Brian Macartney Award winners are Jackson Dickerson (Pueblo South) and Allyson Sparks (Pueblo Centennial).

The 2020 Colorado State University Pueblo awards will go to football's Kyle Rosenbrock and volleyball's Page Heller. There are no CSU Pueblo awards for 2021. The 2021 GPSA inductees are Joe Taravella, Nadia Lopez, and Mario Severino (Marty Servo).

The 2021 Brian Macartney Award winners are Luke Guarienti (Pueblo South) and Allison Jones (Pueblo Centennial).

Three great moments in Pueblo sports also will be revealed during the banquet:

● The 1976 Centennial boys cross country team won its seventh bigschool team state championship under head coach Larry Pickering. Pueblo teams finished in the top three spots with East second and Central third.

●  Matt Garcia of Pueblo South won his second consecutive state wrestling title at two different weights. Garcia captured the Class 4A 140-pound title in 1998 and went back-to-back with a championship at 152 pounds (5A) in 1999.

● The East football program claimed its third-consecutive state championship in 2016 with a 35-6 victory over Discovery Canyon in the Class 3A title game. Here are details about each inductee:

Christie (Zinanti) Koschke
Considered one of Pueblo's finest female athletes, Koschke excelled in many sports but made her mark in softball. She led her Pueblo West team to back-to-back state titles and went on to have a distinguished career at Brigham Young University.

Koschke returned to Pueblo to become the head softball coach at CSU Pueblo where she retired last year.

She first made her mark as an outstanding athlete at 9 years old by winning the national Punt, Pass & Kick competition and representing Pueblo at a nationally televised NFL game.

Nadia Lopez
When the history of the South girls basketball is written, the name Nadia Lopez follows.

A hard-nosed, tough and talented player, Lopez was part of the Colts' three-peat in the mid-1990s when South girls basketball was a dominant force.

A selfless player, Lopez received all the plaudits of a great player with allleague and all-state honors. And she was resilient, coming back from an ACL knee operation to lead South to its third state title in 1994.

Lopez not only shined on the basketball court but also was a goalie on the South girls soccer team that won its first South-Central League championship with a 13-0-1 record.

Lopez owns and operates an auto body repair shop in Aurora.

Rakesh “Rocky” Khosla, M.D.

As a medical doctor, Khosla has made an impact in the Pueblo community since his arrival in 1984.

Working in the field of sports medicine, he was instrumental in bringing the youth head concussion protocol into the district prior to the state of Colorado making it law. He piloted the program in 2010 at South prior to it going districtwide in 2011.

Khosla also was impactful in getting full-time certified athletic trainers in the four Pueblo high schools.

He is an avid runner who has run numerous marathons including the Boston Marathon and Pikes Peak Marathon. Khosla also has been the sideline doctor for football games at Dutch Clark Stadium for more than two decades.

Joseph Occhiato

Despite not being able to participate in sports as a youngster because he worked for his family, Occhiato was one of Pueblo's top innovators in giving back to the youth of Pueblo.

He was instrumental in getting the Old Timers Baseball Association program off the ground, bringing a semipro hockey team (Pueblo Peps) to Pueblo and helping start the Olympia Brewers semipro baseball team.

His son, Michael Occhiato, wrote this in his letter of recommendation for his father: "Joe's passion was to help young boys grow in sports, giving them an opportunity to excel regardless of their ethnic background. Helping young boys excel was his joy in sports life."

Brian Pearson
One of Pueblo's best-ever swimmers, Pearson not only contributed as an athlete but also as a coach at CSU Pueblo.

A state champion in his youth, Pearson went on to have success at Central where he was a two-time state champion. He also was a two-time Junior National Champion and record holder in the 50- and 100-meter freestyles. He was named Colorado Male Swimmer of the year in 1983.

He went on to swim at the University of Missouri and University of Wyoming where he added more accolades. Pearson went on to coach at Colorado College and Colorado Mesa before heading up the CSU Pueblo program. He has received numerous coaching awards.

Mario (Marty) Severino (Servo)
An amateur and professional boxer, Severino made quite a splash during his time in the ring.

He won 94 bouts and lost only four. As a professional, he was the Welterweight champion of the world in 1946 when he knocked out Freddie (Red) Cochrane. He went on to record a record of 47 wins, four losses and two draws.

Two of his losses were to legendary Sugar (Ray) Robinson on a split decision and to Rocky Graziano in a middleweight non-title fight. It was in that bout Severino suffered a nose injury that eventually ended his career.

Severino moved back to Pueblo following that fight where he donated countless hours to young kids, working boxing benefits and charities in Pueblo, Denver, Schenectady (New York) and across the country.

Joe Taravella
A two-sport star at South, Travella scored the first touchdown in Colts' history in 1959. He was an all-city football and baseball player and also made multiple all-state teams.

He played on the summer Legion Post 203 team and was a standout before moving on to play baseball at Pueblo Junior College from 1961-65.

Taravella also was a football official and taught physical education for 31 years and coached football, basketball, baseball and softball.

He died on Jan. 2, 2021.

Anthony 'Tony' Taibi
Taibi's sports resume is long and distinguished. From a player to a coach to an admin- istrator, Taibi was successful in every avenue.

A football, baseball and track athlete, Taibi had success in all three sports. He began his career as a freshman in 1967 at Roncalli High School and became one of the premier running backs in the state. He was recognized with multiple awards including the John Powers Memorial Award, the Roncalli MVP in football and was chosen to the Colorado All-State game.

He also was the winning pitcher in the 1971 state baseball championship game for Roncalli Taibi received a scholarship to play football and the University of Colorado but suffered a season-ending injury as a sophomore. He went on to play for the Pueblo Crusaders football team and played for more than 10 years in the adult flag football and softball leagues.

He worked at now-Colorado State University Pueblo as an accountant and moved into the athletics department as athletics business manager, then was an assistant athletic director and eventually became the athletic director. He was a co-founding member of the Friends of Football.

He coached numerous youth teams in football and basketball

Darrell Vaughan
Nicknamed "Bigun", the Pueblo native was a three-sport standout at Central and went on to play at the University of Northern Colorado. He had a stint in the National Football League with the Houston Oilers and Jacksonville Sharks in the World Football League.

Vaughan, who died in 2016, played football, basketball and ran track at Central before achieving outstanding college and pro careers. His 1965 Wildcats' team won a state football title.

He went on to become a highly respected educator and coach in football and track in Pueblo School District 60. He was on the staff of Tom Brockman at Centennial and helped lead the Bulldogs to the 1987 state football championship.

Chieftain senior sports reporter Jeff Letofsky can be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on Twitter @jeffletofsky

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