After a one-year hiatus, the West Central Tribune has brought back its Sports Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame was established in 1999 with Barry Wohler, Mike Kingery, Bob Bruggers and Brad Rheingans being the first four to be inducted. Since then, 17 more have been inducted. Last year, the sports department called a timeout on the Hall of Fame to determine whether or not to continue inducting athletes, coaches, officials and others involved in sports from the area. After several discussions, it was determined we would go forward with the process.
After considering many names, we named our 10 finalists for 2010.
Each of the 25 voters (one voter from each of the 20 school districts in our coverage area, plus five voters from the Tribune) were sent summaries of each finalist's career. Each voter chooses five finalists in ranking order with a first-place vote worth 10 points, second is worth seven points, third worth five points, fourth worth three points and a fifth-place vote worth one point. Anyone averaging six-or-more points per ballot cast will be inducted. The winner will be announced Jan. 4.
There are three newcomers named among the 10 finalists; Tom Beyer, Deryl Ramey and Stan Skjei. The others, who have all been a finalist at least once before, include Rick Meyer, Becky Moen, Cindy Haugejorde, Norm Sixta, Jeff Gallagher, Jon Lilleberg and Traci Grussing.
Beyer, a Morris native, was a NCAA national wrestling champion at UM-Morris. He was the head wrestling coach at Willmar High School for 26 years and has been the Ridgewater College wrestling coach the past four seasons.
Ramey, an Atwater native, played football for the Minnesota Gophers as a kicker, center and linebacker. He later coached high school football at Atwater, Sauk Centre and Willmar and is currently a volunteer assistant at Brainerd. He also coached collegiately at UM-Crookston and North Dakota State.
Skjei was the Tribune's first Hengstler-Ranweiler Award winner (then the Herb Hengstler Award) for outstanding high school athlete in the area. The Appleton native played three seasons for the Minnesota Gophers football team as a punter and cornerback. He coached football and girls basketball at Bloomington Jefferson for several years. One of the football players he coached was current USC coach Lane Kiffin.
Meyer, a 1988 graduate of Granite Falls High School, had an illustrious prep football career, helping the Kilowatts win a state title in 1987. He led the area in rushing three times before being recruited to play running back for the Gophers. He also was a standout in track at weights, holding the area record in the shot put and discus for many years.
Moen, who graduated from Morris High School in 1999 and won the Tribune's H-R Award, finished her basketball career with 1,748 points and also had 800 kills in volleyball. She went on to a standout collegiate basketball career with 1,762 points, and was named the North Dakota Woman Athlete of the Year in 2003.
Haugejorde, a 1976 graduate of New London-Spicer High School, missed out on several years of playing basketball until her senior year with the advent of Title IX. Still, she averaged 25 points and 18 rebounds per game her senior year, then went on to play for the University of Iowa and holds nine all-time records there, including points and rebounds in a season. She also played professionally with the San Francisco Pioneers, as well as two years in Italy.
Sixta, a 1954 Willmar graduate, was an All-State football player as a two-way lineman. He also was a state wrestler and a state participant in track and field. He went on to play three years of football for the Minnesota Gophers as a two-way tackle and was a second team All-American his junior year and was all-Big Ten as a senior. He was drafted by the New York Giants, but unable to play professionally be-cause of knee problems.
Gallagher, a graduate of Benson High School, is the only area coach to win 300-or-more games in two sports. He did it in high school baseball (333-224) and wrestling (320-254) at Montevideo, while also amassing 325 wins as an American Legion baseball coach at Montevideo. He coached over 50 state participants in wrestling, including two state champions.
Lilleberg, a 1980 graduate of Atwater, was an All-State offensive lineman in football and also All-State in basketball. He went on to play four years with the Minnesota Gophers and lettered three times. He was the Gophers captain in 1985 as a guard and helped the team win the Independence Bowl. He was selected to play in the East-West Shrine Game and also the Senior Bowl.
Grussing is the area's all-time leader in winning percentage among volleyball coaches; a .758 clip. She won 391 and lost only 125 while garnering three state titles, two runner-up finishes and two third-place awards and two consolation championships in nine state trips. She coached 17 All-State players and four of her players went on to play Division I volleyball.