WADSWORTH — For those who missed the Medina County Sports Hall of Fame Banquet at The Galaxy Restaurant on Thursday, well, they missed a lot.
The approximately 450 individuals who made the trip to Wadsworth saw Wilbur Etter, Nick Nutter, Kase (McCoy) Stiefvater, Jesse Leng, Jessica Toocheck, Bob Jenne and the 1977 Class AA state semifinal Buckeye baseball team get inducted.
They saw countless Gazette MVPs, coaches of the year and all-county selections honored. They got a chance to know Special Olympics athletes Denise Frencel and Joe Darmour and their outstanding accomplishments.
What the 450 people experienced, they’ll remember for a lifetime.
They found out Nutter was away on business in New York City on Thursday morning, disappointed in the fact he wouldn’t be able to attend.
Last-second changes allowed the former Buckeye wrestling champion to make the trip and he drove eight hours to be there. Along the way, the ex-mixed martial arts world champion wrote his speech on a 3-inch Santa Claus Post-It Note as he drove over rumble strips and stayed the course.
His speech brought down the house.
Attendees heard incredibly inspirational words from Leng, as the two-time state wrestling champion from Highland detailed how life and sports mirror each other and how you can learn from athletics. The speech was so good, Jenne joked he would pay Leng to give his as well.
Incidentally, Leng was in Urbana earlier in the day at a wrestling camp, but made the trek.
Jenne, who quoted everyone from Mr. Rogers, Dr. Seuss, Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen to Maya Angelou, had the crowd in stitches as well.
All but one regular showed up from the Buckeye baseball team, much to former coach Bob Kramer’s delight. Kramer joined Jenne’s son Paul as Cincinnati residents at the event.
Toocheck, who fretted about giving her speech more than someone about to take the bar exam, gave a riveting talk and then collapsed into her mother’s arms. By the way, the Toocheck contingent accounted for 31 people, as friends, family and current Medina softball players came out to support her.
The community atmosphere was really what the night was about as former inductees came back to honor those involved.
“When I got inducted, it was the greatest night of my life next to getting married,” 37-year Wadsworth basketball statistician and 2006 Al Thomas Award winner Craig Easterday said. “I would hope the inductees feel the same way I did, just blessed to be honored in that way.”
Kramer, who has a 1975 baseball team enshrined as well as being inducted himself in 2002, knew how important the banquet was.
“Right now, everything that has good news attached with it is good for Buckeye,” he said. “It’s great, and it’s great for the kids of the team to see Dad did something great. It’s inspiration where if you work really hard, there might be a place for you, too.”
That’s what Greg Kosc, a major league umpire from 1976-99 and 2008 inductee, hoped the student-athletes saw as well.
He was the emcee last year and was on hand Thursday to see the future in athletics honored. Medina resident and radio/TV personality Kenny Roda was master of ceremonies this year.
“It’s nice to support the local student-athletes,” Kosc said. “Their future is ahead of them. Maybe it’s nice to see someone like myself that made it to the big leagues. Last year, I remember one student-athlete that asked me a gang of questions. He was a ballplayer and we must have talked for over a half hour. It’s nice everyone is supporting it. The Kiwanis Club does a heck of a job. The Gazette does a heck of a job.”
Dick Anderson, a former Cloverleaf football player inducted in 1990, knew just what the banquet meant. The 6-foot-4 Anderson has been a mainstay at the event since being honored. That included when it was housed at the MedinaCountyCareerCenter and BuckeyeHigh School.
“I’m pleased the Kiwanis have maintained this,” he said. “It gives a sense of community for one night. We’re in different leagues with different sized schools, but we come together. It’s wonderful to see 450 people.
“It’s a touchstone. Everyone that goes in is 10, 20, 30, even 50 years older than these kids. The fact they have it here (at The Galaxy) is impressive. It’s not just in the newspaper. These kids see we think it’s a big deal. They see we take it seriously and are proud to be a member.”
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.