BRUSHY PRAIRIE — Prairie Heights High School will have an Athletic Hall of Fame and will induct its first class on Jan. 10 at halftime of the Panthers’ varsity boys basketball game with Angola.
That game will be part of a varsity basketball doubleheader between Heights and the Hornets. The girls’ game will get it started around 6 p.m.
The idea of Prairie Heights having an athletic hall of fame has been in mind for athletic director Brent Byler since he started in that administrative role in June 2018. Many in the school community have shared similar sentiments of wanting to have a hall of fame in place, and have made many nominations throughout the summer.
“The idea pushed forward pretty quickly,” Byler said. “The community has been great providing nominations. The fun part of it is putting in tons of time doing research on the nominees. What was really neat for me is finding out stuff about coaches, players and contributors that I really didn’t know about them.”
Prairie Heights High School’s head coaches voted to determine the inductees. That hits home because a large majority of the school’s coaches are Prairie Heights graduates.
Nominees for the Prairie Heights Hall of Fame must be a former athlete, former coach or contributor to Prairie Heights High School, and be nominated by either a community member or a current coaching staff member. Athletes must have graduated at least 10 years ago in order to be considered for induction.
Criteria considered for athletes included distinguishing themselves in the field of athletics above and beyond normal standards while being a student at Prairie Heights High and participating in college athletics and gaining honors in or beyond college.
Criteria considered for coaches include distinguishing themselves throughout their careers at Prairie Heights above and beyond normal standards and having dedicated years of service beyond normal standards.
Contributors’ criteria include distinguishing themselves through years of service or going above and beyond normal standards of duty to Prairie Heights High athletics.
Byler, a 1996 Prairie Heights High graduate, feels the hall of fame will give current and future athletes motivation to achieve and a sense of pride to the greater Prairie Heights school community.
“This is a cool way of saying thank you for their desire and dedication to their sports at the highest level, whether they were coaching, playing or contributing,” Byler said.
The display for the hall of fame will be a effective use of space in the hallway outside of the west end of the school’s gymnasium across from the concession stand and the ticket window. There will be a small trophy case and two television screens that will scroll content on the hall of fame inductees. Byler will control the content that runs on those screens.
Byler calls the first Prairie Heights Hall of Fame class a group of pioneers and lifers. They included premier athletes and standout coaches from the school’s early years or people who served Prairie Heights well for a long time, and occasionally in various roles.
The first class includes the school’s winningest football coach Gordon Grabill, former football coach John Bremer, the school’s first wrestling coach John Roush, standout athletes and longtime coaches and teachers Kevin and Karen (Click) Frey, leading football player from the early years Terry Levitz, longtime wrestling coach Lee Fry, the Panthers’ lone state wrestling champion Aaron Ramey and multi-sports standouts Doug Booth and Connie (Everage) Mattix.
Bremer was Heights’ third football coach and had the Panthers’ most successful coaching run on the gridiron, going 34-11-1 in five seasons from 1968-72. He led the team to Northeast Corner Conference championships in his last four seasons.
Bremer was an industrial arts and building trades teacher from 1967 to 2001. He building trades class built 30 homes from 1970 to 2001.
Roush, the school’s first wrestling coach who also served as the athletic director and coached football and track, will be honored posthumously.
Roush coached the Panther grapplers in two stints, from 1970-75 and from 1982-88, and compiled a 67-55 dual record. He led the team to three straight NECC titles from 1983-85 and to two sectional champions. He coached four individual state qualifiers, one semi-state champion, six semi-state qualifiers, 35 regional qualifiers (including 3 regional champions), 30 individual sectional champions and 23 individual NECC champions.
Levitz, a 1971 graduate, was one of the greats in the early years of Prairie Heights football from 1967-70. He still holds four program records: the longest rush from scrimmage at 98 yards, the most all-purpose yards in a season at 1,795 in 1970, touchdowns in a season at 19 in 1970, and points scored in a season at 118 in 1970.
Levitz was picked an All-State honorable mention in his senior season after rushing for 1,100 yards during that special 1970 season. That rushing total is still second-best for a season in program history about a half century later.
Levitz was a two-time All-NECC selection in both football and track and field. He was a three-year letterwinner in both track and baseball, and lettered in all four years in basketball.
The Panthers’ winningest football coach will be honored posthumously.
Grabill was Prairie Heights’ football coach from 1973-91 and compiled a 92-93 record and led the team to NECC championships in 1973, 1976, 1977 and 1985.
The 1957 Orland High graduate was coaching middle school basketball at Prairie Heights well after his retirement from education in 1993. He was a school guidance counselor from 1967-93, and also served as an assistant high school basketball coach.
Grabill was a three-sport athlete at Orland and ran in a cross country state finals in 1956. The weight room at Prairie Heights High School bears his name.
Booth was the school’s first sectional champion, accomplishing that feat in golf in 1968, and scored 1,053 career points in basketball prior to the 3-point line. That is still fourth on the Panthers’ boys basketball career scoring list.
The 1970 graduate earned All-NECC honors in golf three times, in basketball twice and in baseball in 1970 when he led the team with a .509 batting average. He was a two-time individual sectional champion on the links, also winning a sectional in 1969, and had 325 career assists on the hardwood.
Booth had 33 points in one game and 14 assists in another in basketball. He shot 31 in a nine-hole golf round and a 67 in holes during his Panther golf career.
Frey was a teacher, administrator and coach during a 40-year career in the Prairie Heights Community School Corporation after being a three-sport athlete for the Panthers from 1969-73.
Frey was a four-year letterwinner and three-time All-NECC selection in baseball. PH won NECC titles all in all four of his years with the program. He was a three-year letterwinner in basketball, and the Panthers were a sectional runner-up in his senior season.
Football was where Frey excelled the most as a prep student-athlete. He lettered three times and led the PH gridders to a 31-7 record and four NECC titles in his four seasons. His 2,239 career passing yards was first all-time for over 46 years until senior Ethan Hoover took the lead this past fall.
Frey’s 21 career touchdown passes, 241 career interception return yards and 10 interceptions for 221 return yards in a season in 1972 are still school records. He completed 150 of 373 passes, ran for 1,153 yards, scored 26 touchdowns and 172 points and had 13 interceptions in his Prairie Heights football career.
Frey was Prairie Heights’ girls basketball coach for eight seasons, leading the team to sectional and NECC titles for five times each from 1989-93. He was the Panthers’ baseball coach for seven seasons from 1978-84 and led the team to a sectional title in 1984. He was an assistant football coach for 22 seasons.
Frey also coached middle school boys and girls basketball and Sandy Koufax and Babe Ruth baseball and youth softball in the area. He was a physical education teacher at Prairie Heights Elementary, Middle School and High School and received an honorary degree from the Indiana Future Farmers of America.
Karen (Click) Frey
Frey was a pioneer in girls sports at PH and served her school community well long after her high school years just like her husband Kevin did.
Karen Frey played volleyball, basketball and track and field around the time interscholastic sports began for girls in Indiana. The 1975 graduate was the most valuable senior in all three sports. She participated in track and field and volleyball all four years and led the Panther spikers to a sectional championship in 1973. She was a three-year letterwinner in girls basketball.
Frey coached volleyball for 10 seasons, including eight at the high school, and coached track for five seasons, including leading the Panther girls from 1983-86 and also being the boys head coach in 1983. She was a boys assistant coach when they won the NECC Meet in 1982. She led the Heights girls to NECC Meet titles in 1983 and 1985. She also coached youth league softball and ragball in the area.
In volleyball, Frey led the varsity Panthers to six sectional titles, six straight NECC regular season titles, five straight NECC Tournament championships, three straight Steuben County Tournament titles and a regional final. Prairie Heights was ranked in the top 20 in the state at one point.
Frey taught physical education, health, English and First Aid/CPR over a 35-year career at Prairie Heights and received an honorary state degree from the FFA. She was the PEERS Project coordinator from 1999 to 2017, and was the middle school academic team coach from 2002-17. She also was assistant athletic director at Prairie Heights High from 1983-86.
This Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer led the Panthers to a 142-18 dual record from 1988-2001, coached Aaron Ramey to a state title in 1999, and is currently in his second stint as an assistant wrestling coach at his alma mater.
Fry coached Heights to seven sectional championships, five NECC regular season titles and four NECC tournament titles. Individually, he coached 59 sectional champions, 29 NECC champions, seven regional champions. 33 semi-state qualifiers, five state qualifiers and six state placers.
As a Panther wrestler, Fry was a sectional heavyweight champion and regional qualifier in his senior season in 1981. He was also a freshman and junior varsity football coach at PH from 1985-88.
Connie (Everage) Mattix
Mattix excelled in cross country, track and field, and basketball for the Panthers in the early 1980s and ran cross country collegiately at Purdue. She lettered for the Boilermakers in her freshman season and was one of the top freshmen in the Big Ten that season.
In prep cross country, Mattix finished in the top 10 in the state and won sectional titles in 1982 and 1983. She was ninth in 1983 and placed sixth in 1982 with a 3-kilometer time of 10 minutes, 32 seconds.
Mattix earned All-State honors in both cross country and track in 1982. In track, she won sectional titles in the 1,600-meter run in 1982 and 1983. She placed fifth at state in the 1,600 in 1982.
Mattix was a four-year letterwinner in track and basketball and she was a two-year letterwinner in cross country. She scored 1,002 career points in basketball, and returned to the program as an assistant coach from 1986-88.
Mattix attended Tri-State University and now lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. She has ran in four marathons.
On Feb., 20, 1999, in Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Ramey ended his high school wrestling career by defeating Lawrence North senior Kevin Kemper 5-2 in the 215-pound state finals. That completed a 35-2 season that included 30 pins.
Ramey won 97 matches in his Panther career and also placed third at state at 215 in 1998. He had 25 pins and 52 takedowns in that 1997-98 junior season.