By Steve King
It’s OK to cry. Guys included. Even big guys.
So no one said a word when inductee Mike Kudla broke down –— again and again and again –— during his acceptance speech at the Medina County Sports Hall of Fame Banquet on Thursday night at The Galaxy Restaurant in Wadsworth.
“Very rarely do you see a guy who bench-presses 600 pounds, cry,” said the former Highland High School and Ohio State defensive end who reduced many quarterbacks to tears with a fierce pass rush.
His coach on the 2002 national champion Buckeyes, new Medina County resident Jim Tressel, who was in attendance, probably was so impressed by Kudla’s unabashed display of passion that he would have stuck a buckeye leaf on his helmet.
The crowd of more than 400 smiled understanding smiles when another member of the Class of 2012, Dan Mihecevich, stopped to gather himself several times as he held his award. When he was excelling in wrestling, soccer and volleyball for the Brunswick Blue Devils, and then volleyball for Ohio State, he could touch a spot 11 feet, 5 inches high from a standing position.
“I couldn’t do that even on a ladder,” master of ceremonies Joe Tait quipped.
Mihacevich didn’t need any help at all to do so back in the day.
Ben Roberts is hardly a big guy, but his late father, Laurence, cast a huge shadow in boys basketball while playing for Chatham High School in the years immediately after World War II. However, the emotion was clearly evident as he talked about the fact his father, also an inductee never discussed his scoring prowess with his family.
What Ben Roberts, who is the spitting image physically and facially of his 5-foot-11 father, came to realize is that the elite players don’t need to tell anyone how good they are. You just know.
Yes, tears have become OK for everyone in these parts ever since five Medina County high school students, including four from Brunswick just before graduation ceremonies, were killed in two vehicle crashes in one horrible 36-hour span just a week and a half ago.
The HOF Banquet has been held for 27 years, always putting a pleasant and satisfying end to the school and sports year and sending everyone off into summer vacation on a high note. Never was that needed more than it was this year.
“Brunswick is a small community,” a resident of that city said. “Everybody knows everybody. We’re all connected in some way. So when something like this happens, we all suffer.”
A lot. The empty feeling isn’t going away anytime soon, But getting together as a big group certainly helps in the grieving process.
The tragedies were a stark and harsh reminder to all the high school all-star athletes that the games they play are merely that. They’re hardly the end, rather simply a means to it.
That’s exactly what inductee Scott Gasper, the former Cloverleaf quarterback, meant when he said to the athletes, “There will be a lot of people telling you what you should do. Do what you want, Have fun. Live life.”
Added Mihacevich, “I’m a live-for-the-day kind of guy.”
The Al Thomas Award winner, Medina’s Sam Gorfido, whose family seemed to fill up half of the large room, embodies all that with his positive nature. At 80 years young, the Bees’ No. 1 fan makes the day special for everyone he meets.
Special? You want special? Here’s introducing the 1988 Brunswick baseball team that was honored Thursday. After finishing just fifth in the Pioneer Conference, the Devils made it all the way to Class AAA (big-school) state semifinals.
The coach of that squad, Linn Oring, was smiling as he accepted the HOF award. Wonder if he has stopped smiling since that miracle run 24 years ago.
Inductee Drew Saylor, coaching in the Colorado Rockies minor league chain, could not attend the banquet. But his father read a letter the former Wadsworth star wrote, which stated, in part, “After seeing the bios of the other inductees, I realized I was in good company.”
Everyone at The Galaxy was in good company, really.
That was such a blessing at a time like this, when an entire county realized tears aren’t a sign of weakness, but one of strength.
And there is definitely strength in numbers.
Contact Steve King at firstname.lastname@example.org.