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Small Towns and Big Dreams: 7 Questions with Centre County Sports Hall of Fame's Lloyd Rhoades

Cchof

ADDRESS
1138 N. Eagle Valley Road Howard, Pennsylvania 16841

CONTACT
Lloyd Rhodes - lar2@psu.edu

PHONE
814-355-1776

Visit website

By Serge Bielanko

The land where people paint their faces blue and white on a regular basis and post helmet-shaped signs with the uniform numbers of high school football players on their front lawns is finally honoring their own. The long-awaited Centre County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame will inaugurate 13 athletes with ties to the county at a ceremony on Sunday October 15th, 2017 at Ramada State College Hotel & Conference Center.

I talked with local wrestling coach and Hall of Fame Treasurer, Lloyd Rhoades, about why athletes matter and why our county is so invested in them.

 

Why do you think sports and athletes are such a vital, central part of everyday Centre County life?

I think a lot of it is because there are so many “small towns” in the county, and aside from State College High, the school districts are small. There is tremendous pride among the residents of “their athletes” and “their programs” and they follow them closely. And, many of our families in the county have been here for generations, so there are lots of C in the home school district, but in other county schools, so the teams get a great following and support. I remember when the BEA Wrestling dynasty existed in the 80’s, 90’s and into the new century, we ALWAYS had packed gyms for our meets, and often we had to supply video to overflow folks in the cafeteria. And, our fans traveled to away events in great numbers as well.

 

How do you come up with the nominees? And who votes?

Any member of the Centre County Chapter may nominate an individual, as long as they meet the criteria. The Nominating Committee then pares the overall list of nominees down to about 20 people that are then on the ballot. Ballots are then sent to all members of the Chapter to cast their votes for the inductees. As of today, we have 204 members in the Chapter. Annual (for a calendar year) memberships are available, as well as Lifetime memberships. The Lifetime membership is the best deal. We communicate to our members mostly via email bulletins.

 

In a world where professional ballplayers typically earn astronomical sums of money, do you feel it's important that the Centre County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame  honors local athletes who maybe didn't go on to be a star outfielder for the Pirates or win a bunch of gold medals at the summer Olympics? If so, why?

I think it is paramount that we honor these individuals and their accomplishments..they are a big part of the heritage of life in Centre County. We have intense pride in these individuals. As each generation comes and goes, the new one may not know much about one of our inductees other than “Oh yeah, he was a wrestler," or "Oh yeah, she played softball, but I can’t remember exactly when.” So we help refresh the memories and let the younger generations know what each inductee did. Seeing the accomplishments of the inductees often motivates young people to reach for stardom.

 

Once upon a time it would have seemed that former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno would be a no-brainer for this particular inaugural induction class. Yet so much has happened over the past few years. Was it a difficult decision for the people who voted not to include him?

I have my personal feelings about that whole situation, as do most people. I believe Sandusky was a monster and deserves more punishment than he has already gotten. But I think a lot of that did not pertain to the vote in the inaugural year. We only select two deceased inductees per year, and you cannot argue that Gene Wettstone’s record is unmatched. Similar with Coach Bill Luther – he was so very respected and revered at the high school level, so the selection of those two was not a surprise. Joe Paterno was already recognized at the State level of our organization two years ago, but the Centre County Chapter can still recognize him in our Chapter too. I am sure that will happen at the right time.

 

Joe Humphreys and Penn State wrestling are practically synonymous. He was once a star wrestler for the Nittany Lions and then went on to be a much-loved coach of the team. Yet as an avid fly fisherman (and a rather terrible one, I might add), I know of him because of his lifelong passion of fly fishing for trout, and for teaching so many others how to do the same. It's quite arguable that no one has done more to educate people all over the world about angling than him. That said, and because Centre County has so many renown trout streams, is fly fishing alone enough to get a person inducted into the Hall of Fame? And if not, do you think it ever could be...or should be?

You are right about Hump’s wrestling background. In fact, he was my high school coach, and he and I were both inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in the same year, 2012. But Joe was an excellent boxer at Penn State too.  He is one of two athletes that lettered in boxing and wrestling in the same year – and the seasons were the same for both sports. He would attend wrestling practice, then leave for boxing practice! But he is a STELLAR fly fisherman. He has taken American Presidents, Vice-Presidents, and internationally famous actors fishing in central PA. Fly fishing is certainly a lifetime sport, in fact in high school, Hump taught us how to cast in gym classes! He used to say that someday we would be too old to wrestle or play football, but we could fish for life. He was right. And, there are a couple other fly fishermen that might be nominated in the future. Again, Joe Humphreys is part of the fiber of Centre County and I am sure that is why he garnered so much support.

 

Okay, so I'm going to shoot from the hip here Lloyd. I'm interviewing you about the very first group of athletes to be inducted into the newly-founded Centre County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, but what some people might not know is that you're a county wrestling legend yourself. You're a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, so wrestling has obviously played a massive role in your life. And this year's honorees include no less than five wrestlers. Why do you think wrestling is such a beloved sport here in Centre County?

I am hardly a legend. But Hump was my coach, and along with my father, Lloyd Sr. and my brother Dick, was one of the three most influential men in my life as I was growing up. I started coaching youth wrestling in 10th grade for Joe, and have about 50 years in the sport as a coach. Wrestling IS a massive part of my life – from my days as an athlete, and especially in my coaching years. I emulated Hump and my brother in all I did as a coach, and followed the lessons my father (a D-Day first wave vet) taught me. I think they were good mentors.

I have so many great memories and relationships with the wrestlers I coached, and then whose children I coached later. I have a HUGE wrestling family. My background is why I am active with planning the Honors Banquet for the PA Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, and the Centre County Sports Hall of Fame Ceremony, and as the Chief business person for Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling – I just want to see the people who excelled and helped others find great lives in sports be recognized for what they did. 

One of the reasons there were so many wrestlers nominated, and then inducted, is that about two thirds of our Chapter membership have wrestling backgrounds. They are the ones that made the nominations and voted, so it is logical that a lot of wrestlers were recognized in this inaugural ceremony. Plus, you cannot deny the great wrestling heritage and supreme performances by Centre County wrestlers through the years.

 

Recognizing our own past is central to any county's moving forward. Do you think honoring athletes that have come from or played in Centre County serves a greater purpose than simply highlighting remarkable stats and careers? Do you think it helps to tell the story of our towns and valleys and the people who came before us?

Athletics teaches much more than winning sports events. It teaches discipline, self-control, mental toughness, teamwork, and stresses self-motivation. It teaches us to overcome problems and it is up to us to make that happen. I will take an athlete ANY DAY as a member of a business effort in which I have been involved. You know an athlete will dig down and do what it takes to succeed. Greater purpose than just competing? You bet! I alluded to the fact that athletics are part of the founding fiber of our small towns, and school districts, and yes, sports does that. Athletes become legends, usually for the right reasons.  Any athlete must remember that someone is always watching them and listening to what they say and do, wanting to be just like their sports idols. I am certainly honored to help perpetuate those memories of our athletes.

 

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2017 inductees to the Centre County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame include:

Dave Adams, two-time PIAA wrestling champion from Bellefonte; Joe Hammaker, Penns Valley wrestling coach; Joe Humphreys, noted fly fisherman, Penn State wrestler and BEA and Penns Valley coach; Denny Leathers, Bellefonte baseball coach and player; Rich Lorenzo, Penn State wrestling coach; Doug McDonald, editor and sportswriter from the Centre Daily Times; Bruce Parkhill, State College basketball player and Penn State head coach; Thad Turner, Philipsburg-Osceola wrestler and Lehigh All-American and coach; and Ward Whitehill, Bellefonte County Baseball League pitcher; Myles Thomas, State College baseball player; John Montgomery Ward, Bellefonte baseball player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964; Gene Wettstone, Penn State and U.S. Olympic gymnastics coach; Bill Luther, Bellefonte football coach

When: Sunday October 15th, 2017
Where: Ramada State College Hotel & Conference Center.

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