Mike Zele once said his biggest thrill of his four years with the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League was sacking the opposing quarterback to set up the winning field goal in a 1982 game against the New York Giants. It was a talent he honed in his four years at Kent State. Zele set career and a single season records for tackles behind the line of scrimmage for the Golden Flashes. He had 20 tackles for a loss in 1976 and 55 for his career. Both records still stand as does his career total of 227 yards in losses. The big defensive tackle lettered all four seasons at Kent, earning second-team All-Mid American Conference honors in 1976 and first team in '77 and '78. He was honorable mention All-America the last two years as well. Four times he was chosen as the MAC defensive player of the week. After his senior season, Zele was drafted in the fifth round by the Falcons. He played four years as a defensive tackle in Atlanta before a knee injury ended his pro career in 1984. He was inducted into the Kent State Sports Hall of Fame in 1988.
When Gordon Larson was named the new head football coach at The University of Akron in 1961, he had already decided on one athlete he planned to recruit. As an assistant at Ohio State the previous year, Larson had recruited this talent edindividual. When this young lad form Akron St. Vincent was named honorary captain of the Akron Beacon Journal's All-District team, Larson made this outstanding gridder his first recruit signed at Akron U. That player's name was Christopher Anthony Butowicz's decision worked out to their mutual benefit. Butowicz became a starter as a freshman and continued as a starter throughout his four years. Enroute to helping rejuvenate the UA football program, which produced a 25-10 record in four seasons, Butowicz accomplished a feat that had never been achieved by a UA athlete. He was named to the All-Ohio Conference all-star team all four years - the first season on the second team and the subsequent three years - the first season on the second team and the subsequent three years as a first team pick. Those accomplishments earned Butowicz a 1979 induction into his alma mater's sports hall of fame. Standing 6-0 and weighing 185 pounds one would have never suspected that Butowicz was a lineman - a quick pulling guard. Besides being a four-time All-OC pick, Butowicz was voted the most outstanding freshman player and again in his senior campaign. As a sophomore he was selected UA's most outstanding lineman.
Track & Field 1992
Athletes who establish world records are few and far between. Former Akron native and Garfield High School track star Daryl Curry rose to that world record plateau in 1983. While running for Eastern Michigan in the Western Michigan University Relay, Curry joined three other EMU runners to clip more than two seconds off the world record for the 1600 meter sprint medley relay. The EMU quartet covered the old mark of 3:20.8 held by a 1979 University of Michigan team. Curry sprinted the second 200 meter leg in 21.5 seconds. This was not the first time Curry had made an impact in the track world. Five years earlier, Curry, a junior at Garfield, captured the national 200 meter dash championship for boys 16 and 17 years of age. During his career at EMU he won three outdoor and four indoor Mid-American Conference titles. Curry's best two events were the 300 meter race in which he clocked 34.02 (Third best in EMU history), and the 300 yard run in the time of 30.51 (second best in EMU history). In addition, Curry helped EMU capture MAC Track Championships in 1982 and 1983. In 1984, Daryl won the MAC indoor 300 meter title, beating Kent State's Thomas Jefferson, who went on to win the bronze medal in the 200 meter run in Los Angeles Olympics that same year. An injury in early April side-lined Curry for most of his senior campaign.
Coach, Basketball, Administrator 1992
Percy Grenfell apparently never realized he was a little guy. At Cuyahoga Falls High School, he was 5-foot-1, but that didn't stop him from making the all-conference basketball team. At Kent State University, after he filled out to 5-9, 260-pound opponent. the little guard was a playmaking wizard for the Golden Flashes. He also led the team in scoring two of his three varsity season. As a senior, Grenfell became the first Kent player named to the All-Mid-American Conference basketball first team. He was also an honorable mention Little All-American selection in 1953, but that had nothing to do with his lack of size. In three seasons, he scored 993 points for the Flashes. After college, Grenfell played one season with the Goodyear Wingfoots. He then began a career in high school athletics - as a coach and athletic director at Green and Cuyahoga Falls - that lasted more than 30 years. Now retired, Grenfell was included into the Kent State Sports Hall of Fame in 1984.
The choice of Mike Hatch as the recipient of the James Horrigan Award as Athlete of the Year was not a difficult decision to make for The University of Akron coaching staff in 1972. No other senior was more deserving than Hatch, who, as a defensive back, helped the Zip gridders in 1968 through 1971 compile the best four-year record in the school's history, 31-8-1. You would expect a defensive back to be honored for his prowess as a tackler or pass defender. Indeed, Hatch had impressive statistics in these departments. During his career, this three-year letterman compiled 131 solo and 90 assisted tackles, including 65 solo and 52 assists - second on the 1970 squad. However, it was his performances as a punt returner in 1971 that he is remembered the most. In the season's opener, a 24-0 victory over Butler, Hatch returned a record breaking eight punts for 124 yards. One week later, he returned a punt 74 yards, breaking four tackles, before later calling the ball to teammate Pat Coughenour, who went the final yard for the game winning TD over Western Illinois with only 34 seconds remaining in the contest. As UA's team captain, Hatch led the Zips to four more wins and number two ranking in the college division before a bruised kidney sidelined him after the seventh game. Hatch was selected first team All-American by the American by the American Football Coaches Association. Hatch, who was inducted into UA's Sports Hall of Fame in 1983, is now the head football coach at Akron Kenmore High School
When Bob Huggins took the University of Cincinnati to the NCAA Final Four in 1992, it surprised a lot of basketball fans. It's not likely many of them lived in Akron. Before he moved on to Cincinnati in 1989, Huggins turned around a struggling University of Akron basketball program, leading the Zips to four consecutive 20-victory seasons, their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division 1 tournament and two appearances in the NIT. The team had won only eight games the season before Huggins took over. Overall, he won 97 games and lost 46 in five seasons at UA, twice earning Ohio Valley Conference Coach-of-the-Year honors. At Cincinnati, Huggins performed a similar turn around act after inheriting another losing program. The Bearcats had won NCAA titles in 1961 and '62, but hadn't been back to the Final Four since then. In his 'first two seasons, he took the team to the NIT. In 1991-92, the Bearcats were 29-4 before losing to Michigan in the NCAA semifinals. Huggins, previously coached at Walsh College, where his three teams won 71 games and lost 26. His 1982-83 club finished the regular season 30-0 and advanced to the NAIA tournament in Kansas City before losing. He also served as an assistant at Ohio State and West Virginia, his alma mater. Huggins was an outstanding student for the Mountaineers, twice being named to Academic All-American team.
Perhaps former Beacon Journal sports writer, Phil Dietrich, said it best in describing Felix Latona. Dietrich wrote, "For a man who has found neither fame nor fortune Felix Latona is one of the richest I've ever know. He's rich in friends, in his huge capacity for good fellowship, in his ability to make others laugh...frequently at his own expense." At the age of 44 and in the midst of his 16th year as head coach of the Central Wildcats, Latona was cut down by a heart attack that ended is fun-filled life on November 7, 1963. As dean of Akron public school coaches in point of continuous service, Latona made substantial contributions to City Series history. He took Central to a championship in 1948 his first season as head coach. Ironically, Latona had served as an assistant under Earl Wright at Garfield in 1946 when it took the title and under Ted Osborn in 1947 he helped guide Central to its first city grid championship in 19 years. However, there was a 14-year lapse between his second. In 1962 his Wildcats shared the title with South following a 6-6 tie in the Thanksgiving Day title game. During the interviewing years, though, Latona made his mark by developing a succession of fine varsities and individual performers. His greatest pupil probably was Don Clark, the swift halfback who went on to become an All-Big 10 gained stardom in Canadian professional football. Latona was a store-house of humorous anecdotes about coaches, games and situations, past and present. Like wine, Latona's stories improved with age and were rare vintage. A man who coached for the fun of it, Latona was paid final tribute by the Summit County coaches who voted him 1963 Coach of the Year.
Perhaps one of the highest compliments paid to Milo Lukity is that you hardly noticed when he was officiating. "He always kept the game under control in a very professional manner," said White Wall, a fellow member of the Summit County Sports Hall of Fame and also a former official. Before hanging up his striped shirt and whistle in 1985, Lukity's career encompassed the high school, collegiate and professional levels. In over 30 years of working in the high schools he had on 11 occasions worked the Thanksgiving Day City Series Championship at the Rubber Bowl. He is also proud of the fact that he had the distinction of officiating in the first Ohio Class A High School Football Championship game. For more than 20 years he worked college games, mostly in the Ohio Conference, and called games in two seasons Lukity officiated in the United Football League, including, the first championship game. While working in the Continental Football League he officiated in five playoffs and three championship contests. Although football was his first love, Lukity also officiated in basketball, softball and baseball. Surprisingly, the games that gave Lukity the most satisfaction were the Goodyear Wingfoot basketball contests. And he recalls with some remorse, officiating in the Wingfoots last game against Jerry's Restaurant.
During the 1950's and '60s Doris Roe was one of the dominant women bowlers in Summit and Portage counties. And she could hold her own against the men, too. She won a men's tournament in Sharon, PA, walking home, so to speak, with a new car. Not that she always defeated the guys. There was the night at Midway Lanes in Portage County when she rolled a 299 game - only to be bested by her husband, Bob Roe, who bowled a perfect 300. Neither game was sanctioned. In women's competition, 11 Portage County. Three times, she was named to the All-Beacon Journal team. Three times she was Akron's representative to the National All-Star tournament. Perhaps her biggest prize was the Ohio all-events title in 1962. Her top average was 193 and she had career highs of 289 (game) and 724 (series). In 1975, she was inducted into the Tri-County Hall of Fame and in 1991 she made in into the Portage County Sports Hall of Fame. The Summit County Bowling Hall of Fame is the fourth hall of fame that Roe has been inducted. She is a native of Pittsburgh, moving to Portage County in 1942. She subsequently moved to Tallmadge with her husband of 47 years, Bob
Basketball was his game and Sam Serves, a native of Canton who has resided in Akron of 68 years, played it well enough to earn him induction into four halls of fame. Serves' basketball career got started at Akron East highland School in 1936. In four seasons he had played his way into a 1971 induction into the Oriental's Hall of Fame. Two years of City Class A League ball followed high school graduation during which Serves, the Akron Spotless Spot team capture the son of Greek immigrants, helped the Akron Spotless Spot team capture the 1942 National Hellenic Championship in Chicago. His efforts in that tournament earned Serves a 1948 induction into the National Hellenic Basketball Association Hall of Fame. Russ Beichly, head basketball coach at The University of Akron, saw a need for Serves' talents and signed him to play for the Zips in 1942. However, after scoring 209 points, second on the team, and helping UA capture 18to 22 games, Serves was off to serve in the U.S. Army. Medically discharged one year later, Serves returned to help the Zip cagers compile a 21-2 record and win the 1944-45 Ohio Conference Championship. Serves was accorded first team honors on the All-OC and All-Ohio dream teams - honors he would repeat in both 1946 and '47. The scrappy guard finished his career with 1013 points, the second Zip cager in UA basketball history (Fritz Nagy was the first) to surpass 1000 points. As a result, Serves was installed into UA's Sports Hall of Fame in 1982.
Harry "Doc" Smith·
Literally thousands of Akron area athletes were administered to during the years of 1926 to 1953 by Harry A. Smith, better known as "Doc." He was a teacher, coach, trainer, philosopher and poet. A builder of men. A native of North Platte, Nebraska, Smith attended the American College for the purpose of becoming a physician. However, an attack of typhoid fever ended the effort but, his venture earned him the affectionate nickname of "Doc" which has endured the test of time. "Doc" came to The University of Akron in 1926 to help coach under Howard "Red" Blair and then joined the faculty in 1928. He served as a trainer under James Aiken in the late 1930's, coached track and after a respite due to World War II, was brought back into the training room by Athletic Director Kenneth "Red" Cochrane in 1948. Smith played no favorites in the training room, treating friend or foe and either college or high school athletes. In 1951 Kent State halfback Dick Pitts was among the lame who showed up at "Doc's" door. In the UA-KSU football game a couple weeks later, Smith's magic was put to the test and Pitts responded by gaining 190 yard and scored on a 74-yard dash while thumping the Zips, 48-7. "Doc" treated over 250 high school athletes. That kind of activity isn't permitted any longer by edit of the NCAA. "Doc" retired from UA in June 1953, because of ill health that eventually caused his death on October 3, the annual presentation of the Harry "Doc" Smith Awards, given to the outstanding Zip football player in each class. In 1991, Smith was inducted into the UA's Sports Hall of Fame.
Track & Field 1992
Phil Dietrich Senior Athlete Award Winner
In 1975, at the age of 68, Bryon Fike decided he needed a hobby. The Gladly, West Virginia native had retired from a car sales job but, was in pretty good shape through a fitness program that involved 20 years in baseball and athletic competition in the Silver League. He attended a seminar where they talked about running, he gave it a try and caught the running fever. Fike won the first competitive race he entered. "I found out I was competitive with my peers," said Fike. "I had a hidden talent there that I never knew I had." Since he has been accumulating "gold" as fast as Fort Knox. The octogenarian who resides in Tallmadge has earned over 1300 medals and a national reputation. He has run in everything from the 60 yard dash to the two mile run. In the very first National Senior Olympics in St. Louis in 1987, Fike captures five gold medals - winning the 100, 200, 400 and 800 meter runs as well as the 1500 meter race walk in the 75-79 age group. Another highlight was at the 1989 North American Masters track meter in Toronto, Canada where he won the 100, 200, 400 and 800 meter runs and 1500 meter runs and the five kilometer race walk in the 80-84 age group. Fike has set numerous world records in the 400 and 3000 meter runs for the 80-84 group and six American records covering four events in the 75-84 age groups