That was a message lost on nine individuals who were honored by the Wayne County Sports Hall of Fame (WCSHOF) June 30, who chose to thank everyone around them for allowing them to reach athletic excellence. It was a select group that was honored by the WCSHOF, which showcased its 19th biennial class at Wooster High School. And collectively they bypassed the individualism that each had to have to reach their goals and instead generously gave thanks to everyone who helped them along the way.
I was fortunate enough to have a part in this ceremony, introducing 1989 Wooster High graduate and football All-Ohioan Drew Gerber, who I coached in track and field four years and now coach with at WHS. Gerber would go on to earn NCAA All-America honors at Youngstown State University and play for a pair of National champions under then-YSU coach Jim Tressel. And while Gerber ran through the list of the coaches who had an impact on him, he recalled his YSU career might never have happened without a bang-up tape job on a horribly banged-up knee. That was courtesy of Bob Platt, the Generals equipment manager, who patched Gerber together.
“I had hurt my knee the week before, the day before the Jackson game, and I didn’t play in that game,” said Gerber. “Coach Platt taped my knee up so I could play against Perry a week later and I never could have played if not for him.
“That was a good thing because that’s the game that coach Tressel watched me play. He said if I was tough enough to play on that knee I was good enough to play at YSU.”
There was a strong Wooster contingent among the group. Joining Gerber was another All-Ohioan in Jill McCreary Dilyard, former volleyball coach Anita Jorney-Gifford, golfer Scott Nye and Erin Iceman-Wilson. Fellow Wayne County stars Scott Burnett, Jacob Frank, Julie Paolano and Dale Weygandt joined them on the stage of Wooster’s Performing Arts Center.
One of the most talented athletes to ever walk the halls at Wooster High, McCreary was All-Ohio in the discus as a senior, a Cardinal Conference first-teamer in basketball three times and a two-time, first-team All-Ohioan in volleyball. She was recruited by Division I schools in all three sports before accepting a scholarship to the University of Akron, where she earned All-America honors. She remains among the top-10 in NCAA Division I history for career kills 20 years after leaving Akron. None of that, she said, would have been possible without the support of a multitude of people who helped her every step of the way, including her family. Not surprising then was her choice to present her as she asked her father, John, to handle those honors.
Iceman, who was introduced by Jorney-Gifford, was a central figure for a pair of strong WHS programs as she backboned a pair of volleyball teams to the State tournament twice and helped the basketball team reach the Final Four as well. In all, she was part of teams that won eight Federal League titles and eight District crowns in those two sports. When a summer coach tried to squash her collegiate plans, she took the advice she shared with the HOF audience to “be a good listener, take advice … and work hard.” That was a message that served her well as she went on to earn not just All-America honors at Penn State University but help the Nittany Lions win the Division I National championship in volleyball in 1999.
Nye’s path to his current position as the golf pro at Merion Golf Course outside Philadelphia was in large part influenced “by all the role models” he had as coaches and teachers during his days at Wooster High. Nye had a powerful impact on both the WHS program, where he was a three-time State qualifier and helped the Generals win a state title in 1980, and then at The College of Wooster. Playing for his father, WCSHOF member Bob Nye (1980), Scott Nye helped Wooster win the North Coast crown by winning individual honors in 1985. Nye was also a four-time All-America at Wooster. Long-time friend and Wooster Country Club pro Gary Welshhans introduced him.
Jorney-Gifford said her path to the HOF started when then-athletic director Chuck Cooper took a chance on her, one that paid off handsomely as evidenced by her team’s 243-64 record during her dozen years at the helm. Her teams won eight Federal League and district titles, all 12 sectional crowns and advanced to State four times, including a runner-up spot in 1994. She, too, offered her thanks to everyone who helped her along the way, from parents to fellow coaches, as she noted she wouldn’t have been standing at the podium without help from “all the assistant coaches and athletes” along the way. Among them was former player and current WHS volleyball coach Jen (Maibach) Snowbarger, who was her presenter.
Burnett, who was introduced by his sister, Tamera, recalled the family support he had in earning back-to-back State shot put titles at Triway. He would go on to throw at Ashland University, where he earned berths in eight NCAA National championship meets and was a five-time All-American in the shot put.
Jake Frank, who was introduced by brother and former Northwestern High and COW teammate Josh, was an All-Ohio presence in both basketball and baseball for Northwestern. He was one of the top free-throw shooters in Ohio history, making .878 of his free throws (third-best for a career). He had an exceptional four years on the diamond, which he furthered at Wooster. A four-year starter at third base, he helped Wooster finish third in the 2005 Division III World Series and is among the top five in over a dozen categories in Scot history.
Julie Paolano Solis was one of the dominant athletes in Chippewa history. She was recognized by the WCSHOF as the school’s top senior athlete after an outstanding career in volleyball, softball and basketball in 1992. She excelled at basketball as she earned All-Ohio honors as a senior and helped the Chipps reach a pair of Regional tournaments. Introduced by long-time friend Erin Short, she is still making an impact in the sport. After guiding Solon to the Division I runner-up spot in 2006, she took Twinsburg to back-to-back Division I state crowns in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Dale Weygandt played for WCSHOF coach Roy Bates (1978) at Chester and Northwestern High Schools. He helped the Huskies to a 52-2 record and earned All-Ohio honors in basketball, while he also excelled in baseball. He was a critical figure not just for the Huskies, but The College of Wooster as well as he earned three letters in basketball and started every game but one as catcher in four years in baseball. He was an all-everything coach at Medina High School, spending 20 years as head baseball coach, a decade as girls basketball coach and even started the boys gymnastics program, taking that team to the State meet. Introduced by his son, Douglass, he called his father “a hero” for stepping in where he saw the need, such as maintaining the baseball field by himself or building a ticket booth for the football field. Weygandt was responsible for starting the first D.A.R.E. anti-drug program in Ohio, which culminated in him winning the top D.A.R.E. for Ohio. Weygandt later finished runner-up nationally the following year to the founder of the program.
The WCSHOF also recognized a pair of Wayne County State championship teams – Norwayne in football and Waynedale in football – as well as honoring Tom Montelione with its Youth Service Award for his 18-year involvement in Wooster Youth Baseball, Inc.
Published: July 5, 2012