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Picking a few for the Hall of Fame
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Picking a few for the Hall of Fame

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During the past 14 years, dozens of athletes, coaches and contributors have received the highest honor with induction in the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame.

Yet even after more than a decade of honoring the state's finest, it still feels like we're playing catch up.

Here are a few area athletes/coaches that should be knocking on the Hall of Fame doors in the next few years.

I will preface this by saying it is by no means a complete list of those worthy of induction. Like every hall ballot, debate is expected. Send me an e-mail with your nominee or suggestion. (Note: For induction, athletes must have graduated 15 years ago, coaches must be retired or older than 60 with 20 years experience.)

On with the list:

€ Cory Schlesinger, Columbus High, 1990 graduate. Schlesinger had a dominating career as a Discoverer. He rushed for 1,514 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior. He also recorded 117 tackles and was named Nebraska's defensive player of the year. In the winter, Schlesinger, who recently signed with the Miami Dolphins after 12 years with the Detroit Lions, won back-to-back 189-pound wrestling state championships.

€ Jim Morrison, Howells basketball coach. Morrison hung up his whistle for good in February after 41 years. He led the Bobcats to five championships and one runner-up in 10 state appearances. Morrison finished with a record of 594-326, which puts him fourth on the all-time list for boys basketball victories.

€ Joe Blahak, Scotus Central Catholic, 1969 graduate. Blahak was an all-state football player and won three gold medals at the state and field meet. He later went on to play football for Nebraska, where he was an All-American, and played professionally for the Minnesota Vikings.

€ Clete Pillen, Lakeview. Pillen came from an athletic family and continued his prolific career at Nebraska. As a Viking, Pillen was an all-state player and established the tradition for the early Lakeview teams.

€ Norm Manstedt, Clarks/High Plains wrestling. Manstedt, who has coached wrestling for 38 years, has produced 30 state championships and coached the Blue Bombers to the 1972 state championship. In addition, he has worked to promote wrestling in the state as High Plains hosts several of the biggest meets in the state. Not bad for a Class D school.

€ The next round: Pat Engelbert, Scotus athlete; Lanny Neese, Columbus wrestling coach; Randy Glur, Columbus wrestling.

Unlike the big Hall of Fames in Canton, Springfield and Cooperstown, coaches are a more obvious to be nominated for induction. The main reason is longevity because a lot of professional athletes outlast their coaches. In high school, athletes have a narrow window to leave their mark, but some coaches guide and influence several generations.

With that in mind, a few coaches who should make it to Lincoln for ceremony: John Peterson, Scotus volleyball/basketball; Lee Schroeder, Howells wrestling; Dean Korus, Humphrey St. Francis volleyball. Put these athletes on the waiting list until their 15 years is up: Brad Vering, Howells; Kristie (Korth) Brezenski, Scotus; Laura Pilakowski, Columbus.

€ Finally, don't miss the first edition of the area track and field leaders in Thursday's Telegram.

Time to make the turn with The Items of the Week.

€ Mad Props: Stephanie Powell, Columbus High track. The Discoverer distance runner posted solid times in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs on Tuesday in cold, windy weather. Powell won both races in a dual against Norfolk and nearly matched her season-best performances from a year ago only a couple weeks into the season.

Honorable Mention: Stephanie Bright, Columbus; Kelly Zegar, Scotus Central Catholic; Jenny Frisch, Lindsay Holy Family; Garrett Birchem, Columbus High track; Edgar Marino, Schuyler soccer.

€ Circle the Calendar: Tuesday. Columbus residents could overdose on local sports on Tuesday. Just within city limits there will five soccer games featuring all three city high schools, a Scotus golf dual, a Columbus High girls tennis dual and the Knights of Columbus track meet, which features Scotus and Lakeview. The only downer? Rain is in the forecast.

Other games of Interest: Tuesday: Schuyler soccer at Lincoln Lutheran; Wednesday: David City Two-Man best ball tourney; Thursday: High Plains track Invite; Saturday: Columbus High soccer at North Platte.

€ Working Halftime: It has nothing to do with sporting events, but I high recommend a trip out to Carhenge. Truly breathtaking.

€ Question of the Week: What single-game Nebraska football record does Clete Pillen still hold?

Lincoln Arneal is the sports editor for the Columbus Telegram. Contact him at larneal@columbustelegram.com with questions, comments, story ideas and favorite state quarter design.

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