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Lives of promise lost in plane crash that killed four Case Western students

Case Western students who perished in plane crash. From left: John Hill, Abraham Pishevar, William Felten, Lucas Marcelli
Case Western students who perished in plane crash. From left: John Hill, Abraham Pishevar, William Felten, Lucas Marcelli
Photo from Facebook, used with permission

Four Case Western Reserve University students – three of them wrestlers at the school – who were killed in a plane crash late Monday night outside Cleveland came from diverse backgrounds, yet shared many positive attributes and seemingly bright futures, according to various media reports Wednesday.

The three wrestlers were identified as 20-year-old Lucas Marcelli of Massillon, Ohio, 18-year-old Abraham Pishevar of Rockville, Md., and 18-year-old John Hill of St. Simons, Ga. The 19-year-old pilot, William Felten of Saginaw, Mich. also was killed. The four had rented the Cessna 172R for a nighttime sightseeing trip over Cleveland after their first day of classes at Case Western, but the plane crashed not long after takeoff, about 50 yards from the Cuyahoga County Airport east of the city.

CWRU wrestling coach Mark Hawald lauded the wrestlers during a Tuesday news conference held on campus.

"They were all great kids," Hawald said. "We are mourning and trying to figure out how we can move on after losing three of our brothers."

Lucas Marcelli

Marcelli, a wrestler at Jackson High School, was a two-time Ohio state tournament qualifier. He also was an Academic All-Ohioan while with the Polar Bears.

Marcelli was about to start his second year at Case Western. Last year as a freshman, Marcelli wrestled at 149 pounds for the Spartans, Marcelli posted the team’s best win total with 30 wins, and was twice named University Athletic Association (UAA) Wrestler of the Week. Marcelli also earned Scholar All-America honors from the National Wrestling Coaches Association, having maintained a 3.5 GPA, studying biochemistry and pre-medicine, dreaming of becoming an orthopedic surgeon.

Marcelli’s high school paid tribute to the 2013 graduate with a moment of silence Tuesday.

“Lucas was a tremendous student-athlete,” District Superintendent Chris DiLoreto told the “Canton Repository”. “He had an exceptional work ethic. He was a role model for all students. He’s the type of student that all students would emulate. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his friends.”

“He was just fun to be around,” said his father Bryan Macelli, who is an assistant wrestling coach at Jackson High School. “He was responsible. He was a mature kid. He will be missed — a lot.”

Abraham Pishevar

Pishevar had just left his suburban Washington, D.C. home last week to start his college career as a freshman at Case Western, where he planned to major in engineering and wrestle for the Spartans.

“He was impossible not to like,” Mike Kubik, Pishevar’s wrestling coach at Georgetown Preparatory School, told the “Washington Post” Tuesday. “He was on his way to being a spectacular human being.”

“He was beautiful to watch,” Kubik added. “Just by dint of hard work, he made a very large contribution.”

A two-sport star at Georgetown Prep, Pishevar blew out his knee playing football last season, but quickly rebounded by focusing on getting ready for wrestling season. “He always seemed to be in a good mood,” said his classmate, Michael Sprague.

“He had the kindest, most gentle heart you could imagine,” said his father, A.P. Pishevar. “My heart is shattered.”

John Hill

Although listed as being from St. Simons Island in Georgia, John Brewster Hill most recently made his mark at The Hill School, a boarding school in Pottstown, Pa., where he spent three years on the wrestling team and as a leader in other campus activities.

“He was a guy who came in here with a little experience’’ having spent a year on the wrestling team at Glynn Academy in Brunswick, Ga.,, Mark Pearson, his coach and faculty advisor at The Hill School, told the “Florida Times-Union”.

Pearson, who wrestled for the University of Michigan, told the Jacksonville paper that Hill made impressive progress. In his first year at The Hill School, Hill may have won six matches all year and lost as many as 15, but, according to Pearson, he put in a lot of work and in his junior year reversed his record. By his senior year, Hill won at least 35 matches, placed sixth in the Pennsylvania prep school rankings for independent schools and qualified for the national tournament where he finished eighth, Pearson said.

“He was a kid who kept getting better and growing in all aspects of his life,’’ Pearson said, pointing out that Hill was a resident dorm advisor as a senior.

“He was a great counselor for the younger kids and his peers. I was impressed at the way he became a young man here. People respected what he did here. Everyone here is so sad,’’ Pearson said.

William Felten

Although not a member of the Case Western wrestling team, Felten had links to the others. The Michigan sophomore who was piloting the plane was a member of the of Zeta Beta Tau fraternity, along with Lucas Marcelli. All four students lived on campus.

A 2013 graduate of Valley Lutheran High School in Saginaw County, Felton was just two weeks away from his 20th birthday. Felton was in his second year in the pre-med program at Case Western, majoring in economics and biochemistry. He was a member of the Saginaw Wesleyan Church.

According to the “Saginaw Times”, Felten was passionate about flying and was a member of a Cleveland flying club. He had earned his pilot’s license in August 2013. In addition, he had his diving certificate. He was musically talented, able to play the bassoon and violin, and run his own DJ business. Felten was passionate about sports, especially all Chicago teams.

Visitation for Felten will be held Friday, August 29 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Central at the W.L. Case and Company Funeral Chapel, 4480 Mackinaw in Saginaw. There will also be visitation one hour before the memorial service Saturday at 11 a.m. at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 808 Weiss in Saginaw.