Karen Wittrock

Induction Year : 2016

Sport: Basketball

A girls basketball coaching legend, Karen Wittrock, 71, compiled a record of 657 wins and 198 losses in 41 years as the girls basketball coach at Lutheran West High School in Rocky River. She ranks fourth in career victories on Ohio’s all-time girls coaches’ list.

Not only was she the first girls basketball coach at Lutheran West, she was the first coach in every girls sport there.

When Karen arrived at Lutheran West fresh out of Concordia Teachers College in Nebraska in 1967, Lutheran West had no girls sports teams. She must have felt like a fish out of water. In college at Concordia, she was the athlete of the year, earning letters in basketball, softball, field hockey and track. Her pioneer instincts immediately kicked in.

Karen started the entire girls sports program, starting with basketball. Nothing was easy. Her girls team was not permitted to practice in the main gym. They used the hallways to practice dribbling and passing but not shooting. They pretended to shoot layups at an imaginary basket. They bought their own uniforms, raising money through car washes and bake sales. They rented practice time at a nearby recreation center. Today the gym is named after her, referred to as the “Rock,” her college nickname.

Next she started field hockey, track and softball for girls. Soon she added volleyball and cross country. She coached them all. Later she coached the boys golf team.

She is forever identified with basketball, however. He teams won seven district tournament championships and 21 conference titles. Her teams experienced only two losing seasons. The Ohio High School Athletic Association honored her four times with its prestigious James Naismith Meritorious Service Award. She was the Ohio girls coach of the year four times and conference coach of the year 20 times.

Tonight marks her induction into her fourth hall of fame, including the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame which included her in its 2006 inaugural class.

She has twice fought off cancer but refuses to slow down. She still fills in regularly as a substitute teacher in math and phys ed at Lutheran West. She takes vacation trips in her motor home to Florida where she visits a brother and to her native Missouri to visit other family members. She enjoys those quiet moments when she drops a line in the river.

Harry Weltman

Induction Year : 2013

Sport: Basketball

Harry Weltman was many and most things.

The graduate of Glenville High (1950) and Baldwin-Wallace College (1954) earned playing honors in basketball, baseball and football. But that athletic prowess was just the prelude for a life in sports.

He will always be remembered in Cleveland for masterminding the turnaround of the Cavaliers after taking over as general manager of the downtrodden franchise in 1982. The Cavaliers reached the playoffs for the first time in seven years when Weltman’s moves paid off in 1985.
During that time he coined “Cavs” as the most-often used moniker for the team, citing it because he considered the nickname “punchy and strong.”

His reign in Cleveland ended after the 1985-86 season. He was general manager of the New Jersey Nets from 1987 to 1990.

Before returning to his hometown, Weltman guided the Spirits of St. Louis of the American Basketball Association from 1973 to 1976.
He was instrumental in sports television programming before that.

After a two-year tour in the Army, he honed his marketing skills in advertising positions in New York. He was on the ground floor in helping fledgling NFL Films establish itself from 1965 to 1970, lending expertise in creating the format for “This Week in Pro Football” and other NFL properties.

He went on to develop film projects for the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, network television and numerous advertising agencies.

After leaving professional basketball, he worked as an investment adviser and became president of Caliper Sports Inc., a psychological profiler for professional and college sports teams. Weltman and wife, Rosemary, live in Pepper Pike.

Vonda Ward

Induction Year : 2012

Sport: Basketball

Vonda Ward grew up in a sporting family. Both her parents trained racehorses at Northfield Park. Vonda, however, enjoyed spectacular success in two totally unrelated athletic careers before she was 30.

The six-foot, six-inch native of Macedonia, Ohio, was a two-time high school All-American in basketball at Trinity High School in Garfield Heights. She led her team to the state championship in 1990. She continued her basketball career at the University of Tennessee, where she played on legendary coach Pat Summitt’s national runnerup in 1995. In the late 1990s she played pro basketball briefly in Germany and later with the Denver Xplosion of the American Basketball League.

Vonda then turned her attention to women’s professional boxing, which was at the advent of its popularity. Vonda enjoyed a meteroric rise as a heavyweight. She knocked out her first 15 opponents, setting up a showdown for the women’s IBA world heavyweight championship which she won with a hard-fought 10-round decision over Monica McGowan on Aug. 16, 2002, in Canton, Ohio.

Vonda was still unbeaten, having won 20 fights in a row, when she lost her title to the dangerous Ann Wolfe, who knocked her out in the first round in a nationally televised fight on May 8, 2004, in Biloxi, Miss. Vonda celebrated her return to the ring seven months later in Cleveland with a fourth round knockout in what turned out to be her last fight. Her record stands at 22-1, with 17 wins by knockout. There have been several attempts to match her with Leila Ali, daughter of the all-time great heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, but Ali has rejected every proposal.

Although she has not had a fight for almost eight years, Vonda remains in fighting shape. At the age of 39 she is in the gym every day in her job as a personal trainer.

Bud Weiser

Induction Year : 1980

Sport: Softball

Coached and managed many of the city’s finest women’s fast pitch softball and basketball teams during the 1920s, including the Fleming Furniture Girls’ Team which was the national fast pitch champion from 1922 to 1927 and won the international championship in 1927. Among his players were such area greats as Stella Walsh, Whitey Doljack Primosch, Rose Boczek, Rose Nagy and Ann Smith.

Samuel Wellman

Induction Year : 1980

Sport: Sailing

In 1966 he capped a great racing career by winning the Transatlantic race to Travemunde, Germany, sailing his 47-foot, custom built yawl, Indigo IV. He celebrated his 77th birthday in mid-ocean in that race. The owner of a series of fine cruising sail yachts, all named Indigo, he was a perennial winner in area races, sailing from the Mentor Harbor Yachting Club.

Tommy Williams

Induction Year : 1980

Sport: Hockey

Joined the Cleveland Barons on Christmas night, 1948, and remained with the team for 7-1/2 seasons during which time the Barons won the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup three times. Traded to Rochester for the 1956-57 season, played with the club for two full seasons and part of a third. Returned to the Barons in 1961-62 after sitting out most of the previous two campaigns and played three more years, playing on another Calder Cup championship squad in 1963-64, his final season.

Gene Weiss

Induction Year : 1980

Sport: Wrestling

An Ohio high school wrestling champion at Shaker Heights High in 1953, he went on to win four Ohio AAU championships and gold medals (in free style) in the 1953 and 1957 Maccabiah Games in Israel. Coached the U.S. Maccabiah teams in 1961, 1965, and 1973, was named Ohio AAU Coach of the Year in 1965, served as a member of the National AAU Wrestling Committee for three years and as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1972-76. Inducted into the Ohio Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1977.

Tom Weiskopf

Induction Year : 1980

Sport: Golf

After starring for Ohio State University and twice winning the Ohio Publinks Championship (1961 and 1962) he embarked upon a professional golfing career which netted him over $1,500,000 in winnings. Finished third among top money winners on the pro tour in 1968, 1973 and 1975. Among his major victories are the 1973 British Open Championships and victories in the 1973 South African PGA Championship. Also played for the 1973 and 1975 Ryder Cup teams and the 1972 U.S. World Cup Team.

John Yonakor

Induction Year : 1980

Sport: Football

A product of Notre Dame University where he earned All-American honors as a pass receiver in 1943, he joined the Cleveland Browns in 1946 after a three-year stint with the U.S. Marines and was a star defensive end for four seasons. The Browns won the All-American Conference title in each of his four years with them and went undefeated in 1949. Went to the New York Yanks of the NFL in 1950, played the 1951 season with Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, then returned to the NFL to play with the Washington Redskins in 1952.

Pat Young

Induction Year : 1980

Sport: Swimming & Diving

Versatile athlete who won national recognition in several sports. Won a national diving championship in the early 1920s and qualified for the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. Unable to raise the money for the trip to France, he surrendered his place on the team.