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McGUFFEY — The new members of the Hardin County Sports Hall of Fame expressed a feeling of honor and gratitude as they reflected on their athletic endeavors during the second annual induction banquet on Saturday night at Upper Scioto Valley School.
Among those inducted were early 1990s Upper Scioto Valley basketball and track standout Gwen Hurley-Schwemley, former Kenton High School quarterback Ben Mauk; 1970s Ridgemont standout Tim Whetsel; longtime Versailles football coach Al Hetrick, the Ada Wilson Football factory, Negro League all-star and baseball hall of famer Ray Brown and the 2001 state-champion Kenton High School football team.
“It’s such an honor and last year being here with my team it really gave me a perspective of the caliber of athletes, coaches and individuals that were inducted,” Hurley-Schwemley said. “So it’s a great honor to be here this year.”
It means a lot, but I think the more the important thing is they’re putting the whole team into the Hall of Fame,” Mauk said of being included in the 2012 class of inductees. “To put one guy in doesn’t really show how good that team was. I was just one guy on that team and a lot of other guys on that team made a lot of plays and made me look good. My job was just to not to mess it up with all the guys we had playing on that team. Fortunately I did my job, they did their job and now we’re all in the Hall of Fame together.”
Whetsel said being elected to the local sports hall of fame has given him a chance to look back and reflect on his experiences growing up in Hardin County.
“It’s a very humbling experience and there are a lot of emotions that go with it,” Whetsel said. “It’s caused me to really slow down and take a look back. That was a long time ago … it was 35 or 40 years ago back when I played … and it’s allowed me to revisit that. When you revisit that it brings back a lot of great memories.
“The most important thing for me is the people and the relationships that you develop. The other thing I think about was all the people that I was able to compete with. We were competitive and we got after it, but I think we all had respect for each other… I remember the rivalries, but I also remember we had respect for each other.”
“Watching all these inductees there are some tremendous athletes and coaches and some tremendous accomplishments and I’m honored to be a small part of this program tonight,” Hetrick said.
Hurley-Schwemley thanked many people during her speech for helping her to accomplish the things she was able to with her USV teammates and as an individual. Included among those were her mother, her coaches basketball and track coaches Mike Risner and Charles Renner, her teammates, friends and family.
But she was especially grateful for her father, Mike’s encouragement, noting that as her seventh and eighth grade basketball coach, he was the one planted the seed that the Rams could attain big things if they stayed together and worked hard.
“I’m thankful that my dad was a man that dreams big; he put it in our hearts to dream big for ourselves and our team,” Hurley-Schwemley said.
She said that through athletics she learned the value of hard work and goal setting.
“As I look back I can see the things I learned through those experiences one of those things is that working hard matters,” she said. “I worked hard in athletics and I work hard now and try to make that point to my children in all areas of life.
“Goal-setting is a huge priority. It’s something I now get to pass on in my career as a teacher and really challenge others to set goals.”
She noted that in Shelby, where she currently resides with her husband Troy and three children, not many people know of her past athletic exploits.
“It really doesn’t matter to me if people know my past accomplishments or success. But I hope when they get to know me as a person they see me as a person who is hard-working, who sets goals and who dreams big. If I can teach my children to put the Lord Jesus Christ first, to work hard, set goals and dream big then I will be very proud of my accomplishments as a person.”
Wilson Football factory manager Dan Riegle said the Ada plant was honored to be included among the inductees.
He said that since 1955 more than 50 million footballs have been manufactured in Ada and that since 1941 every point in the NFL has been scored with a Wilson football.
However he noted, said the real heroes of the Ada operation are the employees, bringing each one in attendance at the banquet up individually to be recognized, while noting how many footballs they have worked on.
“Our people in Ada work hard and only accept the best.”
Whetsel expressed his appreciation for his family and the role they played in his development as an athlete and as person.
“My family set it up for me,” the former Gopher said. “They taught me about work ethic, they taught me about how important education is, they taught me about overcoming adversity and about how to take care of people and respect people, I couldn’t ask for better parents and grandparents and I hope that I can pass on what they’ve given me.”
Mauk also took time to thank his family, coaches and teammates.
“It truly is an honor to be here with so many qualified inductees and to see the people that were inducted last year, it’s a humbling honor for me to have my name inducted into the Hardin County Sports Hall of Fame,” Mauk said. “It may not be the most populated county in Ohio, but I’d take our athletes against any other county in the state of Ohio.”
Hetrick noted that his accomplishments, which included 334 career wins and six state championships as the head football coach at Versailles High School would not have been possible had he not been surrounded by good people.
“Woody Hayes always said you win with people,” Hetrick said. “I’ve always felt funny getting a football award because it’s the ultimate team sport and I wouldn’t be up here if it weren’t for my teams.
“I would like to have brought all my football players here tonight but it would have been impossible,” he said. “You win with people and I’ve been blessed through the years. I thank God for the coaches I had … We had a continuity with our program that carried over from junior high to varsity. The kids knew what to expect from us and we knew what to expect from the kids, too. I’m very thankful for that.”
Kenton High School football coach Mike Mauk said the route to the 2001 team’s state title was paved several years earlier when the Wildcats made the playoffs and were defeated by Coldwater in the opening round.
“In 2001 when Kenton’s football team was on its first state championship it was a long time in coming,” coach Mauk said. “ I would like to begin by thanking all those previous players that played before us. All the hard work, the community standing behind us.”
He noted that the biggest catalyst may have been the way his players bought in when he and his coaching staff decided to go to a five wide receiver, no-huddle offense.
“With those Wilson footballs, we tried to do something most teams hadn’t done and we became a passing football team,” the KHS coach said. “We threw those things around all over in the summer and in the spring and once the season started that’s what we wanted to do … We were going to do things a little different. We were going to pass the ball on every down and weren’t going to huddle. We were going to try and score as many points as we could.
“We knew we had a good team coming back. After that 1998 season we set new goals. We wanted to make the playoffs, but we also wanted to be state champions. Our guys had to believe in what we were doing and our players really did a tremendous job of believing in our coaches and believing that we could do it. … I think the opportunity to coach these young men and have the success we had has been a tremendous thing.”
Coach Mauk noted the point when he really started to believe it could be a special season was when the Wildcats went on 92-yard drive to score with less than two minutes left and made a two-point conversion to defeat St. Marys 22-21.
“From that point on I think our guys had a lot of confidence in what we were doing,” he said.
The KHS coach pointed out that the seniors on the 15-0 2001 team never won a game in junior high, going 0-12 over their seventh and eighth grade seasons.
“They didn’t win a game in seventh or eighth grade, but their work habits and their commitment to being the very best they could, working hard, taking coaching and believing in themselves allowed us to have one of the greatest football seasons we’ve ever had at Kenton High School.”
Ray Brown, who was born in Alger , died in 1965 at the age of 56. His only surviving son, who resides in Dayton was unable to attend due to health problems.
By KENDRICK JESIONOWSKI
Times sports editor