The first ever Creston Wrestling Hall of Fame banquet took place at the Eagles Lodge Saturday, with hundreds in attendance.
Panther singlets and memorabilia plastered the walls and the smell of a large dinner filled the lounge as merry chatter and a a slideshow featuring pictures and newspaper clippings ran across a projected screen for several hours.
Panther greats Dylan Long, coach Jerome Hruska, and the 1972 Creston wrestling team received the distinction of the first to be enshrined within the Hall of Fame that was put together and is not affiliated with Creston Community High School itself.
“We have a great support group right now,” Dannie Stephens, the current middle school wrestling coach said. “You look at the decorations around the room...” Stephens pointed out the work put in to make give the lounge life.
The idea hatched several years ago with current Panther coach Darrell Frain, and was pushed forward thanks in part due to the six-person board/committee that included Chuck Hulett, Dennis Leith, Stephens, Randy Marlin and John Walters.
Put together on just several months notice, the banquet was a festive affair that took up both levels of the lounge as the honorees came back to have their day before friends and family.
Long, a 1999 graduate of Creston High School, was a two-time state champion and an All-American at the University of Northern Iowa among numerous other accomplishments, was introduced by his father Matt Long.
“I couldn’t be more honored to introduce this young man,” Long said. “All of our children are gifts from God. This one is one of them.”
Long was humbled by the honor, and seemed more inclined to speak of the heights the Panther program has reached now than ramble about his own exploits.
Hruska, coach of the Panthers from 1969 to 1979, posted a 100-13-2 record. He led Creston to its first state team appearance, doing so in its first year as a Class 2A program in 1972.
Rich Downing, one of Hruska’s wrestling assistant coaches for several years, spoke glowingly of Hruska and his time with the program as he introduced the inductee.
Several speakers noted the work of longtime CNA sports editor Max Sandeman and current senior feature writer Larry Peterson as having helped record the accomplishments of each of the inductees.
“When I came to Creston, I thought I pretty well knew it all,” Downing said. “I thought I knew a lot more than Hruska. For about every move I knew, Jerome knew all the technique ... way way way more technique.”
Hruska’s team had humble origins in Creston, a bit more humble than his background from his hometown of Cresco, where he now resides.
“They knew what wrestling was about in Cresco when I started, and I learned a lot,” Hruska said.
He brought that and helped instill these things that led to a winning, family-oriented culture while running the kids ragged around the old Jefferson School.
Hruska commanded the room, with the hundreds in attendance hanging on every word.
He recalled the impressive exploits of his athletes, with many moments still fresh in his head.
Finally, John Walters brought up nearly every detail he could muster about his teammates from the 1972 squad that won every meet it entered except for the state tournament.
He recalled memories ranging from the scores of matches that his teammates were in, to the practice habits of junior varsity kids who did not make varsity until later in their careers, and on and on.
Of the 46 members of the team, five are deceased. Nearly half showed up for the banquet and stood to be honored.
Members of that team honored were seniors Steve Harvey, Jamie Hayes, Kim Kirkman, Kim King, Mike King, Dave Tackett and Bill Shroyer. Juniors were Jim Baker, Craig Bolinger, Curtis Bolinger, Rick Conard, Ron Crigger, Chuck LaMasters, Ray Leonard, Lyndon Lininger, Vern Loudon, Steve Ray, Reggie Stephens and Randy Vicker. Sophomores were Mike Abel, Gary Bailey, Paul Baker, Dave Buck, Kevin Clemens, Dan Hayes, Mike Howard, Shaun Kelley, Mike Seddon, John Schmoll, Treigh Trysdal and Scott Wood. Freshmen were Jeff Abel, Carl McDowell, Ed Fry, Terry Fulton, Ed Hansen, Brian Kelley, Bruce Lang, Terry Latham, Bill Siefkas, Mike Stuart, Gary Veitz, Kenny White and Dick Winterstien. Managers were Dean Burkhalter, Tim Brown and Dana Vanderpluym.
Long and Hruska had custom-made jackets put on them by Frain as posed with plaques while receiving a standing ovation.