Class of 2013
LAKEWOOD – The six new inductees were honored at the 32nd annual Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame induction dinner on Monday night at the Lakewood Rod & Gun Club. It was the night to hear about the accomplishments of the inductees, but instead of accepting praise, most humbly praised those who led to their success.
The new inductees are Ron Blackmer, Cal Cederquist, the late Jim Foti, Dan Palmer, Walt Thurnau and Jim Young and their accomplishment were celebrated before the largest crowd ever for the event.
Each inductee received a ring and plaque from Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame president Randy Anderson.
Palmer has been a fixture at WDOE Radio in Dunkirk where he began his sports broadcasting career in 1975 and is still behind the mike. His coverage had incuded baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, basketball and football.
“My dad helped insure those games would be memories,” said his presenter and daughter, Jennifer Horton.
Palmer said his love of sports and later broadcasting began with listening to sports events on a transistor radio.
“Why am I up here tonight,” Palmer said were his thoughts after accepting his ring and plaque. “Tonight is all about those special people.”
He was referring to many in the audience and others who had success in sports which he was able to broadcast.
“I’m here to say thank you,” Palmer said. “You’re why I’m here – thank you.”
He added, “All these people were special in my life.”
From 1960 to 1978, Blackmer was the dominant force at both Stateline Speedway and Eriez Speedways. The Youngsville, Pa., native had133 feature wins in the Sportsman Division and also won four Sportsman championships at Stateline and six at Eriez, along with four S-E Circuit Sportsman championships. He also collected 62 second-place finishes and 26 thirds along the road.
Blackmer won 27 Late Model Division feature races at Stateline and Eriez.
He also collected more championships at other tracks .
That’s pretty impressive, but Blackmer said, “My racing career was up and down.”
That’s because his first four years of auto racing were very successful, but then came a lull. During that lull, Blackmer decided to have a crew chief.
“It wasn’t fair to call him a crew chief because we didn’t have a crew,” Blackmer said. “So we called him chief.”
With all his success, Blackmer quit driving race cars at the age of 37 and began driving a school bus.
“I feel bad that I didn’t race longer,” he admitted.
Cederquist didn’t cut his career as a high school track coach short because it lasted more than 30 years and he established himself as one of the area’s finest. It began at Chautauqua Central School in 1972 with a track team that hadn’t won a dual meet or a championship in 40 years. Without any real track facilities and a dozen or fewer athletes, Cederquist turned the program into a winner, claiming three consecutive championships and sent several of his athletes to Section 6 qualifiers from 1979-81.
Cederquist also produced the first girls state qualifier.
“When I first started coaching, all I wanted to do was win a track meet or two,” Cederquist said. That was because, “We had no track, very little equipment and about nine or 10 boys.”
It took four years for Chautauqua to get that first win with 11 boys against a squad with 20. After finally winning, Cederquist admitted, “I liked it.”
And the winning continued, despite the school superintendent having said, “You’re never going to win a championship here; we’re just two small.”
The final sports event held at Chautauqua before merging with Mayville Central School was a victory for the 1,600-meter relay at the state championships.
The merger produced Chautauqua Lake Central School in 1997 and Cederquist continued coaching there and the result was an individual state champion.
But Cederquist emphasize his best victory to celebrate was that of his wife, Sharon, over cancer 15 years ago.
Cederquist was presented by Tom O’Brien.
Foti, who passed away in 2004, was an outstanding athlete at Jamestown High School and began is coaching career in the Ohio Valley handling basketball and football at Wheeling (W. Va.) Central Catholic High School and Bellaire (Ohio) High School. His basketball teams at Wheeling Central won five Catholic state championships and compiled an overall mark of 117-28.
“When my dad left New York state, he always planned to return to Jamestown,” his daughter, Sally Reynolds, said. “Jamestown was always in his heart. We really wish he could be here tonight. He felt so close to this area.”
She also remembered every summer the family made a trip from Wheeling back to Jamestown, “And we always got lost somewhere in Pennsylvania.”
Reynolds was joined by her sisters, Judy Lothman and Mary Jo Ferda, in accepting their later father’s ring and plaque.
“He’s not remembered most for his victories,” Reynolds said. “He’s remembered for his heart.”
His niece and video presenter, Rosemary DiDominico echoed that with, “He was truely loved and admired by all.”
For 36 years, Thurnau was the coach of the Southwestern Trojans and his teams posted a 297-97 record and earned two Section 6 Division 1 championships and a Section 6 Class B-2 championship. Thurnau also coached 62 individual champions at the Southern Tier League tournament and hundreds of his wrestlers earned tournament titles. He coached 17 wrestlers to the state tournament, including two state champions. After retiring from Southwestern in 2002, he became head coach at Jamestown Community College for five years and 19 wrestlers earned a trip to the NJCAA National Tournament.
“This award is due to the hard work and dedication of so many athletes at Southwestern and Jamestown Community College,” Thurnau said. “I’ve tried to give back a tiny bit to wrestling that has been so good to my life.”
Thurnau has always given credit for his success to his predecessor at Southwestern, Clarence “Flash” Olson. He said he was planning to enter the military instead of going to college in the late 1960s despite the protests of Olson. Eventually Olson drove him all the way to Lock Haven State and said, “This is where you belong and this is where you’re going to stay.”
Thurnau said it was the best thing that happened to him But he noted, “When I graduated from Lock Haven I knew a little bit about wrestling and nothing about coaching.”
He not only learned from Olson, but also from his wife, Daphne, who coached the Southwestern girls volleyball and softball teams. She taught him, “Understanding an individual athlete comes first before technique.”
His presenter, Tom Priester, recalled Thurnau actually wrestling with his team members during practice. When questioned about it, Thurnau’s response was, “I can’t ask them to do something I can’t do.”
Priester added, “Walt is the total package – a coach and an educator.”
Young’s presenter was his mother, Judy, who knew she had an athlete on her hands when he was a toddler.
“I realized our main toy would would be a ball and then many balls,” she said.
And the main one was a basketball
During the 1971-72 Jamestown, he helped the Red Raiders win a Section 6 championship. Young moved on to St. Lawrence University and in his sophomore season he led the squad to a pair of the college’s most successful seasons ever while setting four records. He averaged 12.8 points for his career with a high single-season average of 23.9 points per game as a senior. He set the record for points in a game with a 48 and had 241 career assists in addition to setting records for free throw percentage and free throws in a season.
He then played for Loughborough of the English Basketball Association and led the league in scoring with an average above 30 points per game and set a club record of 54 points in a single game .
Young now coaches high school basketball at Mendocino High School, which is ranked fourth in north California and is preparing for its for it first home playoff game in 31 years.
“My assistant is doing that (practice on Monday night) because I’m here,” Young said.
And he also wasn’t at the induction dinner.
“I had no idea about what was going on,” he said when his mother informed him of his selection as an inductee. “I just sort of went along (with her “suggestion” her should attend).”
While looking at the packed house, he admitted, “I still had no idea how big this really is.”
Young pointed to the key to his success.
“I was a basketball junkie and I’ve got an artificial hip to prove it,” he said.
Young recalled playing basketball for eight hours at day, sometimes in pouring rain or with a temperature below freezing. And he added, “The stories I tell are about the fun I had in basketball, the the successes.”
There have been plenty of successes for guest speaker Bruce Baumgrtner, who emcee Jeff Russo, the sports director of WKBW TV, called “the most decorated wrestler in American history”
Baumgartner, who is the athletic director at Edinboro University, is an two-time Olympic gold medal winner and has also capture several world titles. But his wrestling career got off to a slow start at the age of 14 in New Jersey.The highest he ever finished in the state tournament was third.
Then Baumgartner headed to Indiana State and a very “non-pep talk” from his father motivated him. His father had pointed out he had never finished higher than third in the state in wrestling and was never more than a C student.
At Indiana State, Baumgartner graduated with honors after making three trips to the NCAA Division I finals and winning a national title as a senior.
“The kid from New Jersey who couldn’t win states won nationals,” he recalled.
He said his next goal was, “I wanted to be an Olympic champion.”
That happened in 1984 and again in 1992, with a silver medal in between.
He said his Olympic highlight was carrying the flag to lead the United States team at the 1996 opening ceremonies.
“Don’t trip, don’t drop it; don’t trip, don’t drop it,” he said. “For 400 meters, that’s all I thought.”
He said a key to his success had been what some of the inductees had noted – “Surround yourself with good people.”
The evening began with McKenzie Cass of Frewsburg singing the national anthem. The invocation and benediction were given by Rev. Rick LaDue of Kidder Memorial Church.
The first honorees of the night were numerous athletes, coaches and team that won championships in 2012. They were:
Reilly Condidorio, Fredonia State: NCAA Division III All-American women’s soccer.
Tiffany Decker, Busti: American Trap Association first team All-American, New York State singles champion.
Zach Fancher, Pine Valley Central School: state Class D baseball first team.
Sarah Ficarro, Fredonia State: NCAA Division III All-American, 1M & 3M springboard.
Frewsburg Central School girls basketball team: state scholar-athlete team.
Frewsburg Central School golf team: state scholar-athlete team.
Frewsburg Central School softball team: state scholar-athlete team.
Lyle Howard, Pine Valley Central School: state Class D baseball first team.
Jamestown Community College swimming relay teams: NJCAA All-Americans (Kelsey Akin, Brittany Ihrig, Courtney Magera, Renee Massa, Morgan Molfino and Emily Windoft).
Jamestown Community College women’s swim team: NJCAA women’s swimming academic All-American team.
Thad Johnson, Frewsburg Central School: state Class C baseball first team.
Anna Jones, University of Mount Union: NCAA Division III track & field All-American.
Aubree Jones, University of Mount Union: NCAA Division III track & field All-American, Division III women’s track & field scholar-athlete, discus national champion.
Nick Lenart, Panama Central School: state Class D basketball first team.
Dan Lictus, Clymer Central School: state Class D football first team.
Erin McConnell, Maple Grove High School: state Class C cross country first team.
Maple Grove High School cross country team: state Class D champion.
Andrew Marsh, Jamestown High School: 100 butterfly state champion.
Megan Mietelski, Fredonia State: NCAA Division III lacrosse All-American.
Nick Nocek, Fredonia Central School: state Class C football first team.
Hope Pietrocarlo, Maple Grove High School: state Class C cross country first team.
Dr. Robert Rappole, Maple Grove High School: state Class D girls cross country coach of year.
Bronco Rollins, Fredonia State: NCAA Division III All-American indoor and outdoor pole vaulter.
Oliver Simpson, Maple Grove High School: state Class D football first team.
Jake Swan, Maple Grove High School: state Class D football first team.
Ben Swanson, Jamestown: NRA national rifle and pistol champion.
Trent Thompson, Fredonia Central School: state Class B baseball first team.
Christina Walter, Maple Grove High School: state 100 and 200 meters champion.
Corey Wefing, Maple Grove High School: state Class D cross country first team.
Zeddie Williams, Silver Creek Central School: state Class D football first team; and lacrosse All-American.