by Jessyca Cardinell
The Gouverneur High School Athletic Wall of Fame Committee inducted two new members in its ceremony held Saturday, September 29 in the High School Auditorium.
The night was full of tenacity and Wildcat pride as William Tehonica from the Class of 1965 was inducted along with Nathan Slate from the Class of 2006.
Steven Besaw, Wall of Fame Committee Chairman, welcomed all those attending and gave a little background of the Wall of Fame Committee including some of its many dedicated members-Fred Easton, Robert Porter, Frank Bush, Laurie Roberts, Tim Knowlton, Mark Dailey, Shawn Cummings, Joel Baer, Sean Devlin, Cory Wood and Justin Young. He as well gave a big thank you to Mrs. Lauren French-Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Harold Simmons-Director of Facilities, Mrs. Bonnie Walker-Athletic Secretary and the Board of Education for the assistance and help in these activities and ceremonies.
“The Wall of Fame is in its eighth year of existence, we currently have fifty-four individuals and eighteen teams that have been previously inducted, we will be inducting two more tonight.” said Mr. Besaw, who stated originally the evening was to include another individual and team however due to circumstances, those will be inducted at next year's ceremony.
“Our two inductees this year come from very different Worlds of athletics. Our first nominee William Tehonica played in an area before technology including cellphones and computers, text messaging and social media dominated our lives. A time when playing athletics as a Wildcat in front of your family and hometown fans was more than just a diversion from school.
Considered by many to be one of the best all-around athletes to ever dominate, Bill Tehonica's name comes to mind when discussing the history of Gouverneur Wildcat athletics. A three sports star for Gouverneur from 1963 through 1965, Bill starred on the football field in the Fall where he quarterback the Wildcats to a 12-2 record over his junior and senior seasons and shared the 1964 Northern League Championship. In addition he would be selected as a Second Team All-Northern Selection Junior season and a First Team All-Northern Selection his Senior year.
As a basketball player, Bill would average 20.6 points per game, while garnering First Team All-Northern Selections in both his Junior and Senior seasons. In baseball, playing on the Varsity squad as a sophomore, Tehonica would be selected to the All-North League Second Team in 1963, while helping to lead the Wildcats to the Northern League's Western Division title, before garnering First Team All-North selections in his junior season of 1964 and his senior season of 1965.” said Mr. Besaw leading up to the introduction of Mr. William Tehonica.
Mr. Besaw then introduced guest speaker Billie Joe Strife, daughter of Mr. Tehonica to say a few words on behalf of her deserving father. She first congratulated the current Wildcat football team on their win that day.
“It's an honor to be here today. My dad grew up here in Gouverneur on Depot Street with a family of ten kids. He portrays himself to be a real tough guy, actually I think all the Tehonicas do. So what can I say about my dad? Well, I can tell you everything he doesn't want you to know. I can tell you he is quite the family man, best father, a very hard worker, loves to golf, he is very caring, an animal lover and has the biggest heart in the World. But don't tell anyone because he does not want anyone to know.” Mrs. Strife said of her father lovingly.
“He is the first to help any family member-loan them money, take them to work, take them to the hospital, but don't tell anybody because he doesn't want anyone to know.
My dad drives bus for three and four year olds and every school year, he will buy backpacks for kids and tell them it’s from Santa. He will also buy winter coats for kids that don't have one or they have holes in their jackets and he will tell them he is Santa's helper. But don't tell anyone because he doesn't want anyone to know that.
When my son was born, my dad came in at eleven o'clock at night all night long so I could sleep. Definitely a proud papa moment. My parents have been divorced for many years, but when my mom became ill, my dad was the first to always help. He would mow her lawn, snow plow her driveway, take her to get groceries and do anything she needed him to. I never asked him once, he just did it. But do not tell anyone because he doesn't want anyone to know that. Well I know what you do dad and so does God, so thank you,” said Mrs. Strife of the kindness her father has always expressed.
Mr. Tehonica then spoke on his behalf.
“I would like to thank Steve Besaw and everyone involved. It is a good honorable thing to do for athletics and good ol' GHS. I always enjoyed playing for GHS. No matter where I go when people talk about where they are from, I always mention Gouverneur. There is no “i” in team. It takes everyone on the team to win or lose. I thank all my teammates and all my family, my daughters and all those who have come out to support Gouverneur sports.” said Mr. Tehonica, who as well shared some advice to those athletes playing for Gouverneur today.
“Work hard, listen to your coaches, be respectful to your parents-these are the words I live by. Thank you for this induction, it's an honor,” said Mr. Tehonica in closing.
Nathan Slate, Class of 2006 was next to be honored for his dedication and hard work throughout his school years.
“Nate Slate was a much talked about presence in Gouverneur High School athletics, though small in stature, Nate was a force on both the football field and the wrestling mat. As a running back in football, Nate possessed both the ability to make opponents miss and the power to take them head on. Selected as a First Team All-North selection in both his Junior season of 2004 and his senior season of 2005, Nate would rush over 2,000 yards in his career and be named Section X Back of the Year in 2005. In addition, he would be named a Watertown Times Honorable Mention All-North Selection in 2004 and be named the Times All-North Section X MVP in 2005, when he led Section X in rushing yards(1,049), points scored(90) and break the Section X single game rushing record, held by Brian Leonard, by running 361 yards versus Seton Catholic. On the wrestling mat, Nate would continue the long line of success by great Gouverneur wrestlers, as he would post a career record of 159-57, while winning Section X Championships at 152lbs in 2004, 2005 and 2006. He would then go on to place in the NYS Wrestling Tournament all three seasons, finishing 3rd in 2004, 5th in 2005 and 2006. In addition, Nate is a member of the single-season 40 win club and the 100 career takedowns club with 104.
Coach Mark Dailey presented the induction of Nathan Slate.
“We logged many hours together in the weight room and training, and throughout all that time, he did not say one word. I've got about 1,007 stories wrote down that I could talk about, but they would be more 'me' stories than presenting for Nathan.” said Mr. Dailey, who expressed his background with the Slate family, who to him are all great men.
“I always admired Nathan, he was more mature than I was when he was a ninth grader and I was a grown man. He is now a loving husband to his wife Emma and loving father as he loves his children more than anything. He is devoted in many ways and to people. He has grown into a fine young man. His coworkers speak highly of him, it's hard to find anyone to say a crass word about Nate Slate. He always had a close circle of friends and was able to make friends from other towns. He's a fine young man to be around and I consider myself fortunate. As I look back at some of the memories as there is many, I'd say football as a JV player, he's the greatest I've ever coached. He also has the highest winning percentage of any kid I've ever coached. Many times he's made me look like a gosh darn good coach. I don't know if that was always the case, the best coaches have the best players. As they read through all his accolades, but more that than I think just the person that he was and the person that he is. I can read his stats over and over again and continually be impressed but it never impressed me as much as the person that he is. I would say had he been my son, they would have been the proudest moments of my life. There really are very few people I admire more than Nathan. In retrospect, I'm glad he turned out to be the man that he is. If I was any part of that then fantastic.” said Coach Dailey of Nathan Slate's abilities and character.
Nathan Slate was then introduced to speak on his behalf.
“I have a lot of people to thank today, including my wrestling coaches, Coach Baer, Coach Cummings and Coach Morrison. What can I say? Besides thank you very much. You guys sacrificed so much time away from your families and I appreciate it. You still do and that's something that words cannot even describe. I am so happy to see that you are still making a great impact on kid's lives. I started wrestling in seventh grade for the Varsity team in the year 2000, so I was on that team for six years. What you guys did in the wrestling room was a lot more than just learning, you guys built a culture. It radiated not only in the wrestling room or the school but in the community as well. It was just an attitude that everyone should live with and deal with. It was sacrifice, hard work and being respectful. In those six years I barely ever even remember you guys yelling at us because that was the atmosphere. It was also a very rare thing to not see you guys show up, it was all three of you and all the time.
I love football, I am thankful to Coach Besaw, Coach Dailey, Coach Wahl and Coach Devlin. I was always a wrestler that played football. Football was my outlet to just let loose. It is more than just a game, it's a lot of hard work.
I was part of a wrestling team that was inducted in 2004. I am so proud of being a part of that. That was a time when I actually had to speak up because I had just won in States. Remember Coach Morrison told me, now that you are a leader, you need to step up and talk.
Mr. Dailey, you said just a minute ago that you spent 3,000 hours with me. I think you underestimate that time because there isn't a memory in that six years that I don't have with you in it. I'd like to thank you for introducing me here.” said Mr. Slate, who in closing congratulated Peyton Schmitt on breaking one of his impressive records that previously Mr. Slate broke from Brian Leonard.
Congratulations to these two athletic individuals who have shown great sportsmanship, attitude and the true meaning of being a Gouverneur Wildcat!
After the ceremony, the inductees were able to place their GHS Athletic Wall of Fame plaques in the case outside of the gymnasium. It was then time to head to the Casablanca Restaurant, a local favorite, to reminisce and relive the many memories these two Wildcat players enjoyed on the field, mat and with their teams and coaches.
When it comes to being inducted into the Wall of Fame, there is a criteria standard that has been in place. Those who would like to make a nomination of a Gouverneur student athlete, Gouverneur School coach or made a significant contribution to Gouverneur High School athletics, must have detailed information.
“Athletes must have graduated at least ten years prior to being inducted, athletes that have been named All-League Selections, MVP, All State selections, Sectional Champions or NYS Champions. Coaches we look at wins and championships won in a span of coaches career here at Gouverneur but also how did they contribute to the overall success of their athletes and the school sports they coached. Contributors are people who have helped promote Gouverneur athletics and helped in the success of sports programs from behind the scenes. In team nominees we look for sectional, regional and hopefully NYS championships,” said Mr. Besaw, who stated that nominations can be submitted by anyone.
The committee simply asks that if you are to nominate someone, please do throughout background work to include concrete truth as to why this person deserves to be inducted such as facts and statistics. As of now the Committee looks to induct approximately five individuals or teams each year.