WHEELING - Pete Chacalos distinctly remembers the uneasy feeling he got in the pit of his stomach.
The Wheeling Park boys' basketball team had just outlasted Beckley Woodrow Wilson in a three-overtime thriller to capture the 1995 West Virginia Class AAA state championship, when Larry Waldrum began climbing the ladder for the ceremonial net cutting.
"Usually each kid goes up and takes a snip, but he cut the whole thing down,'' Chacalos recalled. "He had some injuries that year and we got him through it and he only missed about a game and a half.
THEN: (left) Park trainer Pete Chacalos applies a dressing to Robert Davidson’s forearm following an injury.
NOW: (below) Chacalos stands with his last two student trainers for boys’ hoops, Lexi Chacalos (left) and McKenna Coyne (right) prior to the last home game last season.
"He came to me (with the net) and said 'here, this is for you.' "
It's memories like those that make Chacalos realize he made the right choice in taking the head trainer's job at Park 28 years ago, even if it wasn't his first choice.
"I wanted to get into baseball because I liked it so much,'' said Chacalos, who spent Tuesday night watching the Red Sox play in Boston with his wife, Lynnette. "I had gotten some experience at Oak Hill High School in Ohio, but the job opened up at Park the same time a science job opened.
"I applied and got them. I figured I would be there a few years, but I never left.''
Until now, that is. Chacalos has officially retired from his alma mater, though he'll still be around the program quite a bit.
A career that included working as an undergrad for Don Nehlen's first team at West Virginia University and as the top trainer for Ohio Valley legend Jim Thomas' final Park team, is now giving way to family.
The 53-year-old Chacalos said he and his wife talked at great length about wanting to live their life together as best they could while they were still young enough to do so.
Chacalos' work with Park isn't quite finished, though. He's working on a book that hopefully will be published in the next "five or six years" detailing the athletic history of the school, and perhaps nobody is more qualified on the subject.
"I was figuring out that I have worked with 25 state champion teams and have been involved with 145 OVAC championships,'' Chacalos said. "I've attended over 300 consecutive football games and I plan on keeping that streak alive at least until it gets to 400.
"I'll help out a little bit when Michael (Jebbia) needs it, to keep the (score) book when he needs somebody.''
In addition, Chacalos is working on putting together a website (www.wppatriots.net) and has started a grass-roots photography business (Pete Chacalos Photography).
Perhaps the pinnacle of a career that included more than 78,000 miles traveled - in excess of three times around the earth at the equator - was being named Athletic Trainer of the Year in the state of W.Va.
"I was dumfounded considering that's something that comes from your peers and from colleges to high schools and pro teams, that's all the West Virginia Athletic Trainers Association."
The recognition is nice, but Chacalos said the life-long relationships he formed with coaches, athletics directors and students who have no grown into adults with families of their own, is what he's most proud of.
"One of the neatest things about the job was that I was able to see kids grow into young men and women. I took care of Chris Daugherty (Park football coach), Michael Jebbia, and Mike McLeod (baseball) when they were athletes, and now they are head coaches,'' Chacalos said.
"I've worked with kids that were great athletes and kids that were OK athletes - all-staters to a kid that gets in sparingly. I treasure the relationship with each one of them.
"I wouldn't trade those for all the gold in Fort Knox."