The Northwestern Athletic Hall of Fame inducted the Class of 2018 on Friday night.   Jenn Goad/Kokomo Herald
The Northwestern Athletic Hall of Fame inducted the Class of 2018 on Friday night. Jenn Goad/Kokomo Herald

Last Friday night, twelve individuals and one couple were inducted into the fifth Northwestern Athletics Hall of Fame class. 

The Northwestern Hall of Fame is broken down into three wings, the Brent Graber/Brian Hemmerly Athlete Wing, Gerald Hood Coaches Wing, and the Gerald Sullivan Contributors Wing. Each inductee falls into one of the categories that are named for individuals from Northwestern who have been influential in the “Tiger Tradition” of excellence.

In the Graber/Hemmerly Athlete Wing, Ben-Marvin Egel, Susie Klein Fulp, Leo Helmuth, Marci Norris Martin, Roger Nylen, Kathy Klein Smith, Kim Tussinger, and Vic Varnau were recognized for their athlete achievements during their time at the school. In the Hood Coaches Wing, Wayne Allen, Jeff Hoover, and Delbert Kistler were honored. For the Sullivan Contributor Wing, Glenn “Fritz” and Jeanie Miller were the first couple inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The overall theme of the night was humility. Each speaker that approached the podium for their recognition thanked their families and supporters of the programs for their successes. 

Egel played golf and tennis during his career at Northwestern, including being a State Qualifier golf in 2008, 2009, and 2011. In tennis, he and his doubles partner, Brandon Beachy, were Sectional Champions and Regional Champions in 2010. He went on to play golf at Purdue University where he was named Academic All-Big Ten Conference in 2013 and 2015. He still holds the Northwestern 18-hole low score and 9-hole low score record. 

“This is something that is unique at the high school level,” he said. “I thought about all of the individuals that helped make this possible. To all the teachers that are here tonight, the impact you have on students every day is amazing and I can’t thank you all enough.”

Egel thanked the supporters and coaches for all of their support.

Fulp and her sister, Kathy Klein Smith, were inducted into the Hall of Fame on the same night. The women were both accomplished golfers. They joined sisters Crissy Klein and Mary Klein Tuck. Susie was a Regional Champion and State Qualifier and played golf for Purdue University while Kathy was also a State Qualifier and qualified for the U.S. Girl’s Junior Championships and played golf for Indiana University. 

“We were always playing golf. We were always together,” said Fulp. “Golf taught me honesty and kept me busy. I was organized. It made me a strong student. It became part of my life. Now being a teacher and having kids of my own, I try to follow that and lead by example.”

For Kathy, her career at Indiana netted two Big Ten Championships, and qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

“When I was preparing for tonight, I was asked if I held any records,” she said, “but no matter what record I held, I know my sisters broke them!”

Helmuth played an integral role in Northwestern’s first IHSAA Boys Sectional Basketball Championship title. As a junior, he missed a shot at the end of regulation that would have put the Tigers over the top. The following year, he wasn’t going to miss again.

So as the overtime seconds ticked away, Helmuth shot and scored the winning goal that shocked Wildkat nation at Memorial Gym and sent the Tigers onto the next round of the tournament.

Helmuth was inducted to the Hall posthumously, but his son, Matt, and former teammate Dayton Merrell shared stories about the first Northwestern athlete to play for a school in the Big Ten. 

“Leo was a magnificent athlete,” Merrell said. “Leo was different. His ability to pick up skills was tremendous. It’s only fitting that he hit the shot that put Northwestern on the map. All of this began with Leo. It was a thrill and an honor to play with him.”

Martin earned varsity letters in four sports and her name is still etched in the school’s record book in basketball and volleyball with one of her records, single season basketball point total (421) was broken this year by Madison Layden. She went on to play volleyball at Grace College where she ranks third overall in single season kills with 719, fifth in single season digs with 701, second in career kills with 1895 and eighth in career digs with 1633.

She was named to the NCCAA All American Team, All Tournament team, National Tournment MVP, and the Hellings Award for outstanding Christian character during the team’s deep run in the 1994 NCCAA National Volleyball Tournament where the team finished as runners-up.

“After college I coached for a short time, with the emphasis on short,” she said. “I realized immediately that just because you play a sport doesn’t mean you can coach it. It takes special people to have the time, patience, compassion, and knowledge to do what coaches do. I’m so thankful my coaches at Northwestern poured into me.”

Nylen earned nine varsity letters in football, swimming, and baseball during his time at the school. He is sixth all-time in career batting average and tied for second all-time in career home runs (15). He was named MIC All-Conference in baseball for three years. He also broke five school records in swimming, the 50 free, 100 free, 100 yard butterfly, and 400 free relay. His records as part of the 200 and 400 free races still stand.

He played baseball at Huntington University before transferring to Gulf Coast Community College where he set more records. He played his junior and senior years at Georgia where he earned a scholarship to play for the Bulldogs.

“This is truly a great honor,” he said. “Tremendous athletes have come through this school. A lot of the teachers, I can’t thank them enough. I’m obviously not here for an academic award, but every one of my teachers tried.”

Tussinger earned ten varsity letters in five sports at Northwestern. She was a State qualifier in swimming twice and a member of the 1990 Girls Basketball Sectional Championship team. She held six school records in swimming and one stands today in the 200 free relay. She is the all-time leading scorer for girls basketball with 1,331 points. 
“Athletics was something I was always around,” she said. “I was always playing with the older kids. That is where my athletic ability came from. If I wasn’t playing with them at home, it was at the park.”

Varnau was inducted to the Hall posthumously after passing from brain cancer in 2011. He was a 12 varsity letter winner in three sports and the second athlete to ever earn a blanket award at Northwestern. 

His wife, Janny accepted the award on his behalf.

“I wish he could be here to see this,” Janny said. “He would be so honored. He believed fundamentally that success didn’t happen in a vacuum. It was the sum of everything that got you to the place of success you were at. He was actually uncomfortable talking about his success. The one story he shared with me was that he tried out for the baseball team and didn’t make it. I think I started to fall in love with him that day due to his humility.“

Allen served as the school’s basketball coach who brought the school’s second and third overall and first back-to-back boys Sectional Basketball Championship titles in 1981 and 1982. He holds a career 295 wins and 148 losses, including 11 Sectional titles, three Regionals, one Semi-State, and one State Championship.

“You have to have great players and we did. In the 73 wins we had here, in the four years we played, we had some great players. In our first two years, we won 31 games, but zero in the Sectional. We fixed that.”

Hoover was a multiple sport coach during his 21 career at Northwestern. As head girls basketball coach, he compiled a 136-94 win-loss record over 11 seasons and currently holds the record as the winningest girls basketball coach in school history. He led the girls to the school’s first Sectional Championship and served as the 2000 Indiana Junior Basketball All-Star Coach.

“It’s an honor. Four of the inductees tonight, I had the honor of working with, either coaching or teaching. I have the privilege to say that I got to work with some of the finest student athletes (here).”

Kistler coached three sports during his time at Northwestern – wrestling, football, and baseball. He was the head football coach from 1964-1968 where he amassed a career 22-12-2 record. From 1966-1973 he coached wrestling and tallied 47 dual victories, which was third all-time at the school. He also lead the 1968 baseball team to a Sectional Championship. He coached the first winning season, ever, in football. 

“Not many people know that Eastern was 36-0 and had never been beaten by a county school and we did it,” said J.C. Breisch, who accepted the award on behalf of the Kistler family. “He always looked out for all of us.”

The Millers have been a staple in Northwestern Athletics for many years. The couple have been involved with the team sports since Fritz was an athlete at the school. He was a seven varsity letter and still actively playing basketball. Jeanie is a former teacher and famous for the cinnamon rolls she makes for the teams. They have attended over 2,000 Northwestern sporting events. 

“We couldn’t split them up because they are always here, together,” said Northwestern Athletic Director Dan Armstrong. “Fritz and Jeanie attended middle and high school events faithfully over the last 50 years.”