By JAMIE BAKER
RAWSON — Friday at Cory-Rawson was Bob Abbey’s night.
The old gym at Cory-Rawson was officially dedicated as Bob Abbey Gymnasium Friday night during the Hornets’ home triangular wrestling match with Van Buren and Arcadia.
Former Cory-Rawson wrestlers, coaches and community members were all on hand for the dedication ceremony to rename the gym in Abbey’s honor.
Memories spanning a generation and more live in the gym that was Abbey’s classroom and the Hornets’ home venue for matches during his 36-year career in education and as wrestling coach.
“It there was any way for them to honor me I guess this would be it,” Abbey said.
“I love that gym. It was my classroom until the day I retired and we held all of our home matches there. You could get about 300 people in there, it was loud, it was hot, the perfect place for a wrestling match.
“There were a lot of wonderful memories in that gym.”
When Abbey retired from teaching in the spring of 2003, he was Ohio’s longest tenured high school wrestling coach. He stayed on as a varsity football assistant through the 2010 season, before moving on to Allen East as an assistant football coach for his son Mike
After graduating from Findlay College and landing a teaching gig at Cory-Rawson, Abbey started the wrestling program at the school in 1967.
At that time, Cory-Rawson football coach Jim ‘Spike’ Berry saw the benefits of wrestling for his players who weren’t involved in basketball.
Berry and Abbey teamed up to get the program started.
Abbey usually had around 50 wrestlers during the height of the sport in the 1970s. Even later in his career, Cory-Rawson teams nearly always had 20 or more wrestlers.
“We always had some great battles in that gym with Bluffton when Sam Bello was coaching there and Arcadia when Gary Bedlion was coach,” Abbey said.
“We’d all have enough kids for a junior varsity dual followed by the varsity match. It was a great atmosphere in that old gym.”
There’s no doubt Abbey was an old school coach. He was never afraid to tell it like it is to one of his wrestlers or football players. It’s a trait that seems to be frowned upon in many athletic programs today with the changes in society over the years.
“The stuff Bob taught me I still use today,” said Cory-Rawson wrestling coach Justin Parkins, who wrestled for Abbey.
“Bob was very hard-nosed. He expected a lot from us and didn’t put up with a lot of nonsense. He always expected that you did your best, not just in wrestling, but in everything you did.
“And if you weren’t doing it, he wasn’t afraid to tell you about it.”
Parkins recalled one of Abbey’s other features his wrestlers could relate to.
“It didn’t matter where you were or how loud the gym was, you could always pick out Coach Abbey’s voice when he was yelling at you during a match,” Parkins said.
While the community honored Abbey for his 44 years as a positive role model at the school, he is grateful just to be a part of the Hornet family all these years.
“We always had such great kids and great parents at Cory-Rawson over the years. The support we got from everyone was simply unbelievable in good times and bad,” Abbey said.
“I just feel blessed to have been part of it.”
By JAMIE BAKER