National Wrestling Hall of Fame Welcomes West Shore Greats

The National Wrestling Hall of Fame Ohio Chapter welcomed a class of seven at its annual induction ceremonies at the Embassy Suites in Dublin, Ohio the afternoon of Sun., Oct. 6.

The 2019 class was headlined by four well-known names in West Shore wrestling: former Bay High head coach Joe Scaletta, former Fairview High head coach Clay Burkhard, three-time Bay High state champ Mike DeAnna and Westshore Wrestling Club coach Guy Sako.

The National Wrestling Hall of Fame Ohio Chapter Class of 2019 (from left) John Craig, Mike DeAnna, Eric Toukonen, Joe Scaletta, Jeff Simons, Clay Burkhard, Joel Greenlee, Guy Sako and host Matt Ghaffari.

In accepting their Lifetime Service Awards, Burkhard, DeAnna and Sako all shared the credit with fellow coaches, former athletes and, of course, supportive families.

Fairview High head coach Clay Burkhard

Clay Burkhard led the highly successful Fairview High program from 1970-97, earning 203 victories and state dual meet championships in 1994 and 1995. He won six Southwestern Conference titles and earned ten top-10 OHSAA team finishes. He coached 10 state champs, 19 state finalists and 69 conference champs. Burkhard recalled the days of SWC dominance in high school wrestling and the excitement of an era when dual meets would play out in packed gyms filled with screaming fans. It was a golden era for West Shore wrestling.

Three-time Bay High state champ Mike DeAnna

Mike DeAnna won three state titles under Coach Scaletta and went on to further success at Iowa, where he won four Big Ten Championships and earned All-America honors four times.

“The reason I’m receiving this award is pure luck,” said DeAnna. “My dad (Lino DeAnna) was a great wrestler at West Tech, a state champ. My first YWMC coach was Howard Ferguson – young, aggressive, very successful. My high school coach at Bay, Joe Scaletta – young, aggressive, great organizer, a great motivator….He and Howard were great organizers and great motivators…

“My college coach, a young coach, his first year at Iowa – Dan Gable. Yes, he was a pretty good wrestler…young, aggressive, a great motivator…How lucky can one kid get?

“I think, for me, I wrestled in the Golden Era of wrestling, at least for me growing up!” said DeAnna.

Charlie Agozzino, Jeff Leonard, Guy Sako and Greg Urbas of the St. Edward wrestling family.

Guy Sako wrestled for Cleveland State from 1985-89 and was an NCAA qualifier. He has led the Westshore Wrestling Club since 1996. A Cleveland Police officer for 25 years, Sako worked the night shift to free up time to coach. His success has filtered down through his athletes in countless lives influenced, including 35 wrestlers who have gone on to wrestle at the NCAA Div. l level. The group includes 10 all-Americans and two NCAA champs. The lesson Sako wants all to take from his life of coach: “Never give up on a kid.”. Sako is also the creator of Defense Soap, a business he runs today with his family.

Former Bay High head coach Joe Scaletta

Joe Scaletta was honored with the Outstanding American from the State of Ohio award. Joe took the Rockets to the school’s first state team championship in 1972. The team went on to take state runner-up honors in 1976. Joe then joined St. Edward High wrestling coach and developer Howard Ferguson in the company that eventually became the Scaletta Development Corp. It has won several ‘Community of the Year’ awards for his developments like Avon’s Avenbury Lakes.

In 2009, Joe was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer. He and his wife Leslie founded the Ohio Chapter of Reel Recovery in 2014, a national nonprofit that hosts fly-fishing retreats for men battling cancer.

“When I wrestled at Ohio University, I was the guy who couldn’t get into the line-up unless someone got sick or didn’t make weight,” said Scaletta.

Joe Scaletta, Mike DeAnna, Howard Berguson and Dan Gable: The Golden Era of wrestling.

“I’ve had stage 4 kidney cancer for 10 years. The doctor has said, ‘Are you taking some kind of supplement I don’t know about?’ I said, ‘No, just crank up whatever you want to give me, I’ll handle it. If I can handle somebody trying to rip my head off, I can handle whatever you’re giving me. So I’ve been on a clinical trial for the last six years and, worldwide, after six years, I am the last guy standing. So I finally became king of the mat!”

Today, thanks to his commitment to difficult trial medication regimens, the research Joe has made possible will save countless lives.

The Class of 2019 also includes John Craig (Steubenville), Joel Greenlee (Head Coach Ohio University), Jeff Simons (24 year Ohio official), and Eric Toukonen (Claymont).

Ceremony video (courtesy Jeff Woo):

Click here to view entire gallery.

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