LOGAN — Three more of Logan High School’s all-time greatest athletes are now officially members of the LHS Athletic Hall of Fame.
The LHS accomplishments of Coy Blair (Class of 2012), Jimmer Breining (1989) and Chris Tolliver (1973) more than hold their own among the 167 great athletes, coaches and contributors from LHS and former Hocking County high schools who make up the athletic shrine.
All were honored at Thursday night’s annual recognition dinner in the LHS cafeteria and received their plaques prior to last night’s Logan-Teays Valley football game in Logan Chieftain Stadium.
Tolliver was unable to attend the Thursday or Friday festivities and was represented at Friday night’s on-field induction ceremony by his son, Billy.
LHS Athletic Hall of Famer and longtime Logan athletic director and baseball coach Ron Janey, chairman of the HOF nominating committee, once again served as emcee.
Normally, in this space, this writer tries to tell the story of the inductees. This time, he will step aside and simply let the presenters (Greg Jones for Blair, Brian Breining for his older brother Jimmer and Kevin Dunigan for Tolliver) and the inductees themselves do most of the work with highlights from their speeches. Space and time constraints just don’t allow to quote everything word-for-word.
Greg Jones on Coy Blair: “I’m assuming (introducing Coy is) because I spent so much time with him that his dad still owes me child support that I get to speak,” he began with a laugh.
“(Longtime LHS track coach and Athletic Hall of Famer) Jim Robinson is the godfather of throwing. He worked with Coy as much as I did. Not that we really did a whole lot — we had a very talented athlete (to work with) — and we tried our best.
“The first thing I say to each one of my kids (Jones is LHS throws coach) is that my goal is to be your cheerleader. It is hoped that I can teach you to the point that you are so good that I don’t have to worry about a lot of the daily things that end up interfering in making you a better athlete.
“With Coy, we donned the cheerleading outfit pretty quick. He became very, very talented, he worked very hard. I did not have to say anything to him. He picked it up, starting watching film. He and I got into conversations that I never got into with any other thrower because he already knew more than most high school kids. What he brought to the table was a little different and our conversations were completely different and we could move forward a lot quicker with a lot of the things we did.
“When he was in school, I was so excited that I don’t think anybody else understood how much of a phenomenal athlete he was. His senior year, he was the number two (shot put) athlete in the country — not in the state, in the country — and the kid who was number one was a junior.
“Coy graduated young — he was a young senior — so to have that kind of a ranking, and then again with track, there’s no guessing. You have it or you don’t. There’s a tape measure or a clock telling you. That was one his biggest achievements… the second one was beating the Nelsonville stadium record in the shot put which I had for almost 30 years before he beat it. So that was his next thing.”
Jones listed Blair’s numerous Southeastern Ohio Athletic League, Division I district and DI regional championships and records.
“He was three times regional champion in shot put and owns the regional record. He was a six-time state qualifier, six times he was All-Ohio, two times he was a state champion, indoor and outdoor. His junior year he was runner-up (in the state). The kid who beat him on his last throw (Centerville High School’s Michael Bennett) is currently the defensive tackle for the Atlanta Falcons.”
After high school, Blair went to Purdue University, where he stayed for two years before transferring to Division II Tiffin University.
“At Purdue (Blair was a) two-time Big Ten bronze medalist in the shot, five times Big Ten finalist, one-time Big Ten Athlete of the Week, and in 2013 he was U.S. Junior National champion. In 2013 he participated in the Pan American Games, where he got a silver medal, (and in) 2013 he was NCAA qualifier at Purdue and a Division I All-American honorable mention.
“He transferred to Tiffin under the tutelage of Ray Robinson, who is Jim Robinson’s son. At Tiffin he was a four-time shot put champion, conference record holder, 2017 field athlete of the year — indoor and outdoor — 2017 national field athlete of the year and three-time national champion. He was the first person to ever win the shot put and the weight (throw) in the same event in NCAA history.
“In 2016, he made the Olympic trials and at Tiffin he was a five-time Division II All-American. As a pro he participated in the World University Games, where he placed eighth, (is) a four-time USA track and field qualifier — you have to hit certain distances and you get accepted to participate — in the national USA track and field championships, indoor and outdoor. He was a two-time U.S. track and field finalist and for the last three years has been ranked in the top 60 in the world.
“He’s probably one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen come through this school.”
Coy Blair: “It’s humbling to be selected. (There is) a very strong tradition of sports at this school and it’s because of everyone in the community past and present who keep moving things forward and building that tradition.”
Blair thanked his fiancé, Hannah Saunders, “who has seen my highest of highs and my lowest of lows. She is really good at bringing me back down when I feel like I’m invincible, and she’s taught me humility,” and expressed his gratitude to her family as well as his parents.
“And my grandma… if you haven’t seen her, you’ve probably heard her,” he said as those in the audience laughed.
“Thank you for all the running around to games, meets, camps, equipment, tools… everything I needed to be successful, you made sacrifices and gave me the chance to achieve my dream. Growing up with two older brothers and three younger siblings, many sacrifices had to be made. You made no exceptions and gave me every chance I had.
“My oldest brother, Colt Thompson, is also a fellow Hall of Fame member, teaching me to love the sport that I know today. I was fortunate to have him around at the peak of his athletic career before mine got started.
“That was a wonderful learning experience and I learned a lot just being able to watch and see how hard someone had to work to achieve something. I wanted to be just like you as a kid, and I did… I did it just a little better,” he teased. “I fell in love with the sport of track and field on a cold, rainy day in Athens where you set the school record your junior year. That day will forever be the day I realized I wanted to be a shot putter.
“Jim Robinson, I can’t say thank you enough for being a part of my athletic journey since the age of six. You taught me so much about the sport and aspects of competition I still carry with me today.
“I remember the first time I ever met you; you were a legend in my house. My dad told me I had to pull the tape for the discus at the middle school for a high school track meet. We started moseying down the hill. I was going at your pace, I looked up and I was just in awe because you were the legend in our house, and you just looked back and said ‘keep your eyes off my sandwich.’
“Greg Jones… starting with sophomore year you took me through every lift and practice for three years. Because of you I have everything today. You coached me to several accolades and much success, but you taught me more about life than I could ever know and I am forever indebted to you for all the time you sacrificed to make sure I got what I needed and trained the way I needed to.
“You did it all with me. You are one of the finest humans I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and I’m grateful to call you my friend.
“One of the best days of my athletic life was when I won the outdoor state title (in 2012). The week before that I broke Barry Walker’s record for the region gearing up for something special.
“Upon transferring to Tiffin it was a big change. Jeremy Croy and Ray Robinson gave me the opportunity to hit the ground running and further my career.
“Ray (an LHS graduate and Jim Robinson’s son) took it upon himself to make sure that my degree came first, and if wasn’t for him I probably never would have got one. Thanks to him pushing me I got my masters degree too. The dedication from you and the continued support has helped me achieve so much and I can’t say thank you enough.”
Brian Breining on Jimmer Breining: “Many grow up idolizing heroes — police officers, firemen, soldiers, Superman, whatever your thing was — but as a young man I had the luxury of living with mine. Having a brother who was 10 years older, there was rarely any competition, just admiration. Over the course of my life he’s been my guiding stick, moral compass, disciplinarian or cheerleader, whatever my life needed at the time.
“At the surface, as a seven-year-old boy I just watched my big brother play high school football. Watched him play for a pretty good football team. Watched him win, watched him lose — not often — watched him in the playoffs and watched him work in the front yard.
“This seven-year-old boy didn’t know the lessons being taught to him at the time. I was being indoctrinated into what Logan football was all about. I could tell you names and jersey numbers of his teammates. I could tell you how fast Paul Clark was. I could tell you how well Rodney Krannitz could catch the ball or how everyone feared Curtis Rose. I never knew how good Jimmer Breining was. I never knew how important he was to his team or maybe even more importantly, how important his team was to him.
“To this day he will say he does not deserve this entitlement (instead saying) how lucky he was to be on such good teams and how important his teammates were to his success. But I can tell you first-hand, his humility has never wavered. His natural ability and desire not to lose kept him on top of his game even to this day. Look at him. He’s 50 years old and could probably still play right now if (current Logan) coach (Mike) Eddy gave him pads.
“He casts a large shadow, one that I feared to compete with during my formative years. I carved my own path in the military, one that he would ironically follow later, and once back from training I ran into coach (Jim) Huntsberger and (coach) LeRoy Hermann deejaying a pool party. I asked coach Huntsberger if he had any coaching openings and he said no, but he introduced me to LeRoy.
“After a couple seasons with LeRoy, we moved up to the eighth grade and I finally talked my brother into coming out and helping. And for the next decade, we got to learn, work and grow with LeRoy’s guidance and the mentorship of Coach (Dale) Amyx’s staff.
“Starting with the football season of 1999, there were only four years in 18 that I didn’t walk onto the football field as a coach without my brother… my hero. Coaching with my brother rekindled a relationship that was years in the making. Since then we’ve been closer than ever: friends, best friends, and, more importantly, forever teammates.”
Jimmer Breining: “I grew up bleeding purple and white, so I would like to thank (head football coaches) Dale Amyx, Kelly Wolfe and Billy Burke for allowing me, for 15 years, to be a part of a program that I enjoyed so much and that we were so successful. I appreciate all three of you guys for allowing (me) to influence some young adults that I’ve gotten to know, I still talk to (and are) still friends forever.
“Same as Coy, my parents gave me whatever I needed — cleats, balls, whatever, it didn’t matter — and I’d like to thank my wife for those 15 years she put up with, especially (with) my work schedule, because I wasn’t a teacher. She did one hell of a job raising my son (Tommy) and my daughter (Sydnee) and I really appreciate you doing what you did. Both (children) turned out to be wonderful, wonderful people.
“For me, as a football player, running through the ‘L’ (formed by the Marching Chieftains) at the beginning of a game, there’s no better rush. If you’ve never done it, then you might not understand it. The excitement when the band starts playing that fight song, and you hear 3,000 people start screaming, there’s no better feeling.”
His daughter is this year’s head majorette.
“Be proud of what you did, girl. She worked her butt off to be the head majorette, so when you’re out there Friday night watching, give her an amen.
“I had the privilege of being on the sideline, in the press box, in the locker room, in the meeting room with (Tommy), so not only did I wear the purple and white, but I got to be with him when he wore it.
“My teammate, Pat Walsh, I could say we probably hurt each other’s hands when (Pat’s son) Brady Walsh — the roles are just opposite now, Brady’s the quarterback — throws the ball to my boy. My favorite pattern in the world, the fly pattern, (Walsh) throws the ball down the sideline and my son catches it and we score to beat a team (Athens) I absolutely hate.
“Not only did I get to coach my son, but for 15 years I got influenced by other players. Either they touched me or made me work harder as a coach. Relationships you build for 15 years are priceless. I can talk to any players that I’ve had that were in my little group — as coaches you get little groups, you’re a running back coach, a receivers coach — those guys have affected me. You have no idea the impact they have on me.”
Breining cited the impact Hermann had on the relationship with his brother Brian and with the players.
“I think (Hermann) realized about the third week he had us together the enthusiasm we had for the purple and white, the enthusiasm we had for the kids (and) the discipline we wanted to ensure.
“We had an acronym called Leadership — loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage — (to get) the kids to realize there are bigger things than just them. It’s us. From the bottom of my heart LeRoy Hermann will always have a place.”
He also cited youth coaches Jim Myers and Ike Mellinger as early influences.
After breaking his leg sliding into home plate during a summer baseball game as a youngster, “four months later, East School gym, Comets (youth basketball was) the first time I met Jim Myers. I didn’t realize how much better one could be just by shooting a basketball against a wall.
“The influence is the way he would explain it, the way he would sit and talk to you about what you are doing. There was no yelling. Just talking. You don’t need to scream at somebody to get your point across, and the way he did what he did, the way he conducted himself, I’ll never forget him.”
The next summer, Mellinger was his youth baseball coach and “the first practice we had with him he walked us out to the outfield and on the way out grabbed second base and takes it with him. For the next hour-and-a-half, I learned four different ways to slide. Whether he was doing it for me I don’t know, maybe our team just needed it, but it felt like he was doing it for me. Not only did I learn those four ways how to slide, but I learned how to use my coach and taught me to read a defender.
“Ike Mellinger probably changed my mentality on there’s more than one way to do something. You can avoid getting hurt, there are ways around it. I refer to it as your toolbox. Even when I was coaching, we would put tools in your toolbox. For running backs was it a stiff-arm, was it a spin move, was it a jump-cut? There were tools in your toolbox where you could avoid contact.”
In 1985, at the then-refurbished Bill Sauer Field, there’s “this short, stocky, Tom Selleck-looking mustache guy, deep voice, attitude, who shows up to Logan High School. Who’s this my-way-or-the-highway guy?”
It was new LHS football coach Clarence Perry.
“At the time I was a freshman and working the gate down by the flag pole… D.J. Conrad catches a slant pass from Keith Myers (in a game against Miami Trace) and he runs straight to me. I see the sweat on D.J. Conrad’s face to this day, and I hear 3,000 people start screaming like crazy. That convinced me that I was going to be a football player.”
Breining cited a line from the movie G.I. Jane — “however a brief a time you are on this island, there are two words that you will learn to put together: ‘team’ ‘mate’ ” — to sum up his feelings.
“With that said, I would not be here without Eric Graham… I would not be here without Scott Bunthoff… I would not be here without Mike Walsh… I would not be here without Jeff Witt… I would not be here without John Godfrey… I would not be here without Arnie Fisk… I would not be here without Matt Shaw… I would not be here without Eric McDonald… I would not be here without Craig Wolfe… I would not be here without big Curtis Rose… I would not be here without Jose Medina… I would not be here without Brice Frasure… I would not be here without Nick Maniskas… I would not be here without Pat Walsh… I would not be here without Ryan Wilson… I would not be here without Paul Clark. You can’t imagine how honored I am.”
Kevin Dunigan on Chris Tolliver: “In 1969, my dad, George Dunigan, came to Logan High School and was able to become a track and cross country coach, winning the first league title for Logan in 1973 in cross country. He coached with George Stump and also with a gentleman named Dave Eberts.
“For the last 40 years of my life, anytime my dad asks about track, he brings up Chris Tolliver. He talks about Chris Tolliver immensely, he talks about the things that he did, and he speaks very highly of Chris 40 years later.”
George, who is in Michigan recovering from a heart attack three weeks ago, was unable to attend Thursday night’s dinner but sent an email to his son about Tolliver, widely regarded as the school’s all-time greatest track and field and cross country athlete, to read.
“In the early 1970s I was fortunate to be a track and cross country coach at Logan High School. During my tenure we were very fortunate to have Chris Tolliver on our track team. He was the finest high school track athlete I have ever had the privilege to be associated with.
“I can still see those long legs stride past every opponent he faced. I can still remember coach George Stump (an LHS Athletic Hall of Famer) and I looking at our stopwatches in amazement at the times Chris would put up.
“Before each track meet in those days, we as coaches would find ourselves drinking pots of coffee at the old Blosser’s Restaurant downtown while strategizing over where to position our players for the meet. We always knew Chris would get two first places for us in the mile and half mile.
“I know coach Stump knew at some point Chris would shatter the records coach Stump had set here at Logan High School, and of course Chris went ahead and did that.”
Kevin Dunigan noted that Tolliver has two records that still stand at LHS that are over 45 years old — in the mile and two-mile — and until 1988 Tolliver also held the record in the 800 before it was eventually broken by Chris Morton.
“While breaking those records,” Kevin Dunigan continued, quoting from his father’s email, “Chris qualified in his junior and senior years for the Ohio state track meet. During his senior year Chris ran a number of events just to see how well he could do. If my memory serves me, he ran the 440, 880, the mile and two-mile all in one meet.
“In one race Chris was so far ahead with 20 yards or so left he turned around and finished running backward across the finish line. Coach Stump and I went ballistic! But looking back on it, I have to laugh!
“Chris and a gentleman named Tom Byers (from Columbus North High School) were the two premier distance runners in Ohio at that time. Each week we would check to see how Chris was doing against Tom. They were always very close in their times throughout the season. Tom went on to run at Ohio State and later qualified for the 1980 Olympic team.
“Following the season, Tom contacted Chris encouraging him to become teammates with him at OSU. In addition to Tom, Dave Wottle — an Olympic gold medal winner in the 880 — wanted Chris to join him at Bowling Green. Kent State had three Olympic track stars who also recruited Chris. There were a number of schools that were interested in Chris and all wanted them to join their program because of the talents he had.
“In my experience as a coach, Chris has to be the finest track athlete I have ever coached or seen. Chris certainly belongs in the Hall of Fame. I know if coach Stump were with us, he would enthusiastically support the decision to have Chris take his place beside the other outstanding (LHS) athletes.”