STEVE HANLON: Hoosier Hysteria needs more wrestling bears

2013-01-01T19:00:00Z 2013-01-21T21:32:08Z STEVE HANLON: Hoosier Hysteria needs more wrestling bearsSteve Hanlon Prep Beat nwitimes.com
January 01, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

HAMMOND | The Region Roundball Rumble has a 14-year history of bringing the best available talent in Indiana to Northwest Indiana.

Sorry ladies and gents, but seldom have the stories been about the coaches. Until this year.

The fans who came to the Hammond Civic Center on Tuesday got a flavor of both.

Logansport coach Jerry Hoover and his star, junior Whitney Jennings, shared the spotlight in the Berries' game against E.C. Central.

Jennings is a 5-foot-5 junior guard who is going to Iowa.

Hoover is a 78-year-old coach who once held a stint at Lake Central. He brought in a 565-pound wrestling bear to fight Indians' grappling coach, Bob Komara.

Komara was pounding the wooded creature before nature took over and he was thrown to the ground and pummeled.

“I arrived at the fieldhouse at 6 p.m. and there wasn't a place to sit,” Hoover said. “You could see the line wrapped all around. People were standing on step-ladders so they could see better.”

Indiana, Hoosier Hysteria, needs people like Hoover. The days of flipping the gym lights on and the people filing in are over.

What about Dave Milausnic and Smokey going three rounds?

Hoover was teaching economics and supply and demand when he asked the students about how ticket sales could expand.

“Kids are smart,” Hoover remembered.

One said, “Bring in a dancing bear.”

Another said, “What about a wrestling bear?”

And a legendary region hoops story was chiseled into stone.

Hoover played at Monticello. He “played” at Purdue, as a walk-on. He tried farming like his family, but knew he was terrible at it.

So he was bit by the “bug” he first noticed when he was 10. He coached at DeMotte, Salem, North Judson, Lake Central, Ben Davis, Indiana State, Monrovia, Kankakee Valley, St. Joseph's College and now at Logansport.

He's turned eight different programs from losers to winners. His love of the Civic Center and this event was all over his face.

“I was at the first Rumble with (Dugger's) Brody Boyd,” Hoover said. “I love this gym. Make no bones about it. I told our girls there isn't a gym in Indiana whose had more talent play here other than Butler Fieldhouse.

“My kids are young. I'm old. They probably won't understand what an honor this is until they tell their grandchildren about it.”

Jennings played marvelously against the Cards, scoring a game-high 30 points and earning the MVP honor. She praised her coach, who has forgotten more about our game than most ever knew.

“He's funny, he's been around a long time,” Jennings said. “He's cool. He has so much knowledge. This (gym) is different, neat.”

Maybe the Berries could return next year to play Merrillville or West Side? And maybe Hoover could bring a bear.

Indiana needs people like Jerry Hoover. “Da Region” hasn't been the same since Hoover left.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at steve.hanlon@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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