Friday, March 7, 2014
- by B.B. Branton
A long-haired teen-age punk, turned state champion, turned
hall of famer, a champion diver who has learned courage, commitment and
confidence, those who could throw strikes better than most and a tennis
champion and his wife who are battling a life-threatening disease together were
some of the stories told by the honorees at the Greater Chattanooga Sports Hall
of Fame banquet earlier this week at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
Nineteen highly qualified inductees plus seven award
winners comprised the Class of 2014
Here are few of the honorees and their comments
Danny Gilbert (Wrestling) … “I was a 15-year-old, long-haired
punk going nowhere when challenged by East Ridge wrestling coach Ed Woodham … I
was third in a weight class of three and threatened to quit, but coach Woodham convinced
me to stay out… Coach Woodham didn’t need
me, I needed him … I was standing at the cross roads of life with trouble just
down the road and Coach Woodham didn’t give up on me and he taught me to never give up on kids.
“I can never re-pay
Coach Woodham for what he did for me, but I have spent my life not giving up on
kids just like me.
“Wrestling teaches plenty of life lessons, including taking
pride in what you do, being mentally tough, responsible and having a strong work
Today, Danny is principle at Soddy Daisy HS, a former state wrestling
champion, coached a team to a state title and is a member of the Tenn. Chapter
of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Ellen Kovacevich Hanna (Diving) …. “In sports you learn
about committing to the task at hand, struggling to do your best, being calm in
the face of adversity. You learn that you can do more than you ever thought you
could do … and you become more confident and self-sufficient in the process.
When you’re a diver, you learn to be courageous when you’re
terrified, to block out distractions, to control your emotions. There’s nothing like sticking a dive. But, if you land flat on your back … or hit
the board … you know you have to get back up and try again.
Hanna seldom landed on her back, but did stick enough dives
to win two city and three state high school diving titles …
Tribute to Her Parents:
she also spoke of her parents … the late John Kovacevich who played football at
the University of Chattanooga in the late 1940s. “He led by example. He expected us to do our best.”
She also spoke of her mother who was at the dinner … “My
mother, Peggy Kovacevich, is the kindest, most thoughtful woman in the
world. She drove us to hundreds of
practices and knitted untold sweaters while waiting for us. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her
unselfish devotion as a mother.
The Lookout Mountain native also gave credit to two of her
former coaches – Ed Lewis and Dick Davenport.
Mark Wiedmer (Sports Media) … better known as “Weeds”, he has
won more than 50 awards for writing and noted that writing runs in the Wiedmer
famiy as his mother was a sports editor of her high school newspaper … and he
thanked a McCallie teacher who helped him in a creative writing class four
“I have had a life-long infatuation with the written word,”
Thanks to that teacher, plus former Chattanooga Free Press sports
editor Roy Exum for taking a chance on a young sports enthusiast, we have
enjoyed his columns for years.
Wesley Cash (Co-Male Athlete of the Year for Tennis) … “I am
standing here for you Elaine,” said Cash during his acceptance speech as he
told of the event where he was ready to leave for Turkey and the world
championships only to learn that his wife, Elaine, had been diagnosed with a
life-threatening disease requiring chemo and radiation treatments.
Questioning whether he should go to Turkey, she said, “I
want to go” and he did and brought home a team silver and doubles gold.
Dixie Youth Baseball Tribute: Former Chattanooga Central baseball great,
Robert Long told his start in organized baseball.
“Dixie Youth Baseball changed my life. We never had had an
organized league in Lookout Valley until Dixie Youth in the summer of 1967. We
won our district that summer (he was 12) and played in the state tournament.”
Long through three no-hitters at Central and played at
Carson-Newman and Shorter College before a pro career that took him to the
major leagues with Pittsburgh and Seattle.
He is also in the Chattanooga Central and Shorter College
Halls of Fame.
Dixie Youth was well represented at the banquet as DYB alums
Rick Honeycutt (Fred Gregg Award) and the late Larry Knight (inductee) were
Honeycutt won a game in the 1966 DYB World Series for Fort
Oglethorpe, while Long, Knight and many other excellent area pitchers,
including Bobby Edmondson (1969 DYB W.S. champ with Lakeside) and Harley Woody
were also DYB products in the 1960s and 70s.
Tribute to Jim Frost: Former UTC softball coach Ralph Weekly said, "Jim Frost has done so much for softball in this town ... he gave us a place to play (Frost Stadium at Warner Park) which can stand up to any other facility in the nation and he has given more than 200 college scholarships ."
Class of 2014 (19) – Baseball (Larry Knight, Robert Long), Basketball
(Mack McCarthy, Hugh Walker) Football (Andy Kelly) Golf (Mark Guhne), Media
(Mark Wiedmer), Softball (Norman Hofferman, Ralph & Karen Weekly), Swimming/Diving (Ellen Kovacevich Hanna, Trei
Wild), Tennis (Gary McIntyre, Stewart Lawwill III), Track & Field (Tracy
Ryals), Wrestling (Reggie Gaddis, Danny Gilbert), Special Category (Tracy Bleil
– bowling) Coaching-Administration
Award Winners (7): Fred Gregg Award (Rick Honeycutt), Male
Athlete (Wesley Cash, Andy Morgan), Female Athlete (Ashlen Dewart), Betty
Probasco Lifetime Achievement Award (Carolyn Jackson), Walt Lauter Lifetime
Achievement Award (Warren Barger) and Jim Morgan/Allan Morris Award (Joe Smith)
Looking to Class of 2015
Here are a few who should be high on the committee’s short
Media – Paul Schulz … long time Chattanooga Free Press prep
sports editor who won amateur wrestling’s highest award for sports writing while
covering UTC and high school wrestling … was an intregal part of the success of
the state high school wrestling tournament while at Maclellan Gym in the 1980s
and 90s …
Baseball - Harley Woody (Lookout Valley) … outstanding prep
pitcher who led the Yellow Jackets to a state title in 1977 … also played for Columbia
(Tenn.) State CC and four years in the minors
Football – Charlie and David Hannah … (Baylor
School/Alabama) … would join older brother, John, in the local hall … both
played at Alabama in the 1970s and were All-SEC linemen ... Charlie has a Super
Bowl ring with Oakland
Wrestling: Luther Killian (McCallie/Auburn) … High School All-American,
national prep champ and Mid-South champ as a senior in 1968 … wrestled three
years at Auburn … started and has directed the weekly state prep coaches poll
for more than 20 years … director of the McCallie Invitational for 11 years …
member of the Tenn. Chapter, National Wrestling Hall of Fame … recipient of
McCallie’s highest award as a senior, The Grayson Medal.
Steve Gross (McCallie/UTC) … national prep champion …
two-time Mid-South champ for McCallie … and two time Southeastern champion while
For the class of 2016, Yogi Anderson and John Whitaker are
two that should be considered ...
Anderson was a state champ at Notre Dame and CAA champ at Sewanee … head
coach at Notre Dame in the 1970s and long-time official … member of the U. of
the South HOF...
Whitaker was a three-time Mid-South champ at McCallie,
placed third at national preps, twice …. SEC runner-up at UT … two time CAA
champ at U of the South
Special Category - Skeet Shooting - Carl Poston, Jr. … a world
and multi-time national champion … won Armed Forces championships; (2x; 1993, ’95
- 20 gauge champ, 100 score each time), (2001 - 28 gauge, 100 score) member of
Armed Forces Skeet Shooting Hall of Fame …
His father, Carl Poston Sr. is a member of the Chattanooga
HOF, National Skeet Shooting Assoc. HOF and Armed Forces Skeet Shooting HOF
Special Category – Coaching - Buck Stamps … served 40 years
as recreation director at Lookout Mountain School and at the Lookout Mountain
Playground … long time prep football official …
Played football at UC in the early 1950s ... member of the
Breman, Ga. and Lookout Mountain Sports Halls of Fame ... past recipient of the
Walt Lauter Award for lifetime service
Special Category – Administration ... Mike and Karen Parker … invaluable leaders
and organizers at local adult tennis tournaments for years … and key leaders at
the state wrestling tournament and directors of several in-season tournaments …
Mike also coached East Ridge to a state wrestling team title and he is in the Tenn. Chapter, National Wrestling HOF.
contact B.B Branton at firstname.lastname@example.org