2009 Hall of Fame class announced

Grammes, Hardman, Noble, Rothwell to be inducted

October 12, 2009

Jerry Grammes (’99), Bill Hardman (’81), Eric Noble (’96) and Nyhla Rothwell (’99) comprise the 2009 Class of the Wilmington College Athletics Hall of Fame. The group will be introduced at halftime of the Oct. 17 Homecoming football game with Otterbein, and officially welcomed to the Hall of Fame during an induction dinner that evening.

Jerry Grammes was introduced to Wilmington College in 1996. A Strongsville High School graduate, Grammes had followed up his prep wrestling career with two years at the junior college level, but was uncertain if the sport he loved had a place in his future.

“I came to Wilmington to visit a friend I wrestled with in junior college, Ken Keller. He was on the Wilmington team,” Grammes said. “Wilmington just seemed like a good place for me, a good place to finish my education and a good place to compete again.”

Wrestling for head coach Jim Marsh, Grammes hit the mat running and quickly established himself as the most dominant grappler to ever don the green and white. Competing in the 142-pound weight class, he compiled a 79-4 career record. He led the nation in takedowns in 1997 and 1998 en route to third-place and runner-up finishes at the NCAA Division III Championships.

“I wasn’t a pinner. I was strongest wrestling on my feet,” Grammes said. “Wrestling on the mat is something that I really worked at once I got to Wilmington  because you need to become better at that once you get to college.”

A criminal justice major, Grammes hit the books with the same ferocity he took to the mat. In 1998, he was named an Academic All-American.

“That is something that I really came away from Wilmington proud of,” Grammes said. “When I started looking at Wilmington, I was really more focused on  doing well in school and earning my degree. Being able to come to Wilmington and wrestle well and do well academically at the same time really meant a lot. It made my parents really proud, too.”

While completing his studies at Wilmington, Grammes was an assistant wrestling coach of the WC team during the 1998-99 season. Ten years later, he looks back with memories that lack regret.

“I’m very proud to be recognized as a wrestler. I am very proud. It’s been a big part of my life,” Grammes said. “More than the competition, I remember being able to spend time with my teammates and taking the trips. I will always remember Wilmington fondly. It was a very special time in my life.”

Grammes is a parole officer for the State of Ohio. He and his wife Shelly reside in Brunswick. They have two daughters, Maci and Reese.

Bill Hardman was at the heart of the renaissance of Wilmington College soccer in the late 1970s. For the Yellow Springs High School graduate, the decision to come to Wilmington to play for Bud Lewis was easy to make and provided some unexpected results.

“I really didn’t know what was about to happen,” Hardman said. “I knew that Bud had done a lot of recruiting from the Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati areas. We had a big freshman class, and the whole thing just turned around that first year. It was great.”

After nearly two decades of virtual anonymity, Wilmington College soccer found its way to the limelight in 1977 and went 13-3-0 as Hardman anchored a defense that made life miserable for opposing offenses.

“I played midfield in high school, but we needed a defender. It was just something that needed to be done, and I’d like to think that I’m a team player,” Hardman said. “I wasn’t really big on scoring a lot of goals, although I scored plenty of goals from back there, for that matter, from the defensive area. I just did what the coach needed me to do.”

With Hardman patrolling the defensive third and future hall of famers Steve Spirk and Imad El-Macharrafie pelting enemy goals, the Quakers became a national power.

In a four-year stretch, Wilmington posted a 52-15-3 record and ended the 1980 season with the team’s first appearance in the NAIA national tournament.

“All four years, I was just happy to be there,” Hardman said. “It was a great bunch of guys to work with and Bud is a great coach. From my point of view, every day was just great. We all worked together so well as a team. The chemistry that we had was great.”

While his teammates up front were scoring at breakneck pace, respect for Hardman’s defensive play was growing. In 1979 and 1980, he was named to the NAIA All-America Team.

The kid from tiny Yellow Springs High School had arrived on the national stage. It was a journey that could only find perfect closure with a stop at Wilmington’s hall of fame.

Hardman is a self-employed building contractor. He and his wife Lynn reside in Yellow Springs. They have three children, Nathan and Maya Hardman and Alexis Levesque.

Eric Noble’s arrival on the Wilmington College campus in the fall of 1992 was greeted more with skepticism than fanfare. At 5 feet 8 inches, the Bellbrook High School graduate was deemed by some to be too small to make a name for himself as a quarterback at the next level.

“I just wanted to work hard and see what I could do,” Noble said. “My height was always a challenge for me. I had to overcome a lot of criticism. People thought I was too small to be a collegiate quarterback. I wanted to prove those people wrong and show those people the abilities I had.”

Four years, 682 completions, 9,260 yards and 62 touchdowns later, and the skeptics had grown very, very quiet.

Noble’s career numbers were made for the Hall of Fame. Four incredible years of unparalleled success. And no year was more incredible than 1994, when Noble — playing for former WC head coach Mike Wallace — became the first Wilmington quarterback to pass for more than 3,000 yards in a season. Twice during the 1994 season Noble passed for more than 500 yards in a game. No WC quarterback — before or since — has eclipsed the 500-yard plateau in a game. Noble’s 341 total yards per game ranked No. 2 in NCAA Division III.

“I knew coming in my junior year that something special was starting to happen,” Noble said. “I worked harder and we had a lot of success, but I didn’t do it alone. I played with Jason Tincher in high school. It was wonderful to play with him, Chris Garrity, Jerrett Gordon, Dan Strong, Tony May. It was a great wide receiver crew. We had a great offensive line. They gave up just 13 sacks total my junior and senior years. They definitely took care of me.”

Noble is the small-business banking manager with National Bank and Trust Company in Wilmington. He and his wife Melissa (Ertel) Noble ’96 reside in Wilmington with their sons, Kyle and Blake.

Nyhla Rothwell can claim what no other Wilmington College athlete can claim. In Wilmington’s tradition of national champions, Rothwell was the first.

In 1997, Rothwell captured the high jump title at the NCAA Division III Indoor
Track and Field Championship. The climb to the top of the All-America podium is
a moment that Rothwell cherishes, but did not rehearse.

“I really had no idea what was in store for me when I went to college and was going to run track,” Rothwell said. “I never dreamed that I would end up being a national champion. I didn’t think of that. I’ve always been humble. By the time I was in junior high school, I knew I was kind of good and loved to jump, but I never carried a chip on my shoulder.”

The absence of the extra weight created by a shoulder chip may have helped Rothwell jump higher. The Hillsboro High School graduate was a six-time All-American. In addition to the national championship in 1997, she was the national indoor runner-up in 1998 and 1999. She placed third at the 1997 NCAA Outdoor Championship and was fourth at the 1996 indoor and 1998 outdoor meets.

Recruited by then WC track and field head coach Ronn Tillapaugh, Rothwell became the first woman to clear 6 feet in NCAA Division III competition. No other woman at the DIII level had done it before and no other woman at the DIII level has done it since.

“It was the 1999 Denison Big Red Invitational. It was around Valentine’s Day and it was cold outside, so I was very thankful to be inside,” Rothwell said. “I never paid attention to what I was jumping or never wanted to know ... it kind of psyched me out. My dad asked them not to announce what I was jumping until after the jump. I noticed that everybody was around, but I didn’t pay attention. After I jumped, everybody went crazy.”

Rothwell took lasting memories and friendships home to Highland County, where she is a kindergarten teacher at Bright Elementary.