Former Fulton wrestlers of all ages gathered together to honor the first inductees into the Fulton Wrestling Hall of Fame at its inaugural ceremony.
Each of four inductees were regarded as “legends” in their own right to Fulton’s more than 50-year-old wrestling program, each having earned their spot in the Fulton Wrestling Hall of Fame through unforgettable high school wrestling and coaching careers.
The Fulton Wrestling Hall of Fame was launched with the induction of former Fulton wrestlers Greg Stevens, Randy Gillette, and Ron LaBeef as well as former Fulton wrestling coach Tim Moore.
Jeff Waldron, current varsity wrestling coach and the Hall of Fame Master of Ceremonies, said the idea to develop a Fulton Wrestling Hall of Fame was a long time coming.
“Looking at the success of our program and all the great and fierce competitors that have graced our halls and mats of the Fulton High School, I thought it fitting that those men that sacrificed and accomplished so much, that there should be a place where their stories can be shared, accomplishments can be recognized, and their history can be preserved,” Waldron said.
Given the recent reopening of Chubbys Sports Bar and Grill owned by former Fulton wrestler, Nick Duskee, the new home of Fulton Wrestling and the Fulton Hall of Fame seemed obvious, he added.
From there, Waldron and Duskee joined with other notable Fulton wrestling alum Mark Woodworth, Dick Farfaglia, and Wayne Bleau to form the Fulton Wrestling Hall of Fame committee.
“Our intention is to hold this event every year so we can recognize the athletes, coaches, boosters and supporters that made Fulton wrestling a true high school sports dynasty and a genuine community asset,” Waldron said.
Read more on each of the Class of 2018 Fulton Wrestling Hall of Fame Inductees:
Greg Stevens and Randy Gillette were teammates in their overlapping high school careers and recalled pushing each other to be better while wrestling on the same team.
Stevens began his high school career as a Raider Wrestler in his freshman year in 1970.
Despite a shortcoming debut year, Stevens’ sophomore year was lined with excitement as Fulton handed Baldwinsville a win for the first time ever and even went on to end the Watertown Cyclones fifty match winning streak by defeating Watertown’s defending league champion in front of a crowd of 1500.
In his junior year, Fulton’s wrestling team endured its first losing season. Stevens, however, was a beacon of hope for the team winning the league tournament, class tournament, and sectionals.
Stevens ended the season with a loss in the finals of the state tournament, his first loss of the season. He finished the year with a record of 27 wins and 1 loss, the best record of any Fulton wrestler and at the time only the second wrestler to appear in the state finals.
In his final year as a Raider wrestler, Stevens went out in perfect style with 25 wins and no losses. He pinned his way through the league tournament, class tournament and sectionals, and this time, he became the first Fulton wrestler to win a NYS championship and was awarded the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler.
Post Fulton, Stevens was highly sought after by several colleges before settling on the Iowa Hawkeyes where he ended his college wrestling career with a Big 10 title to go alongside a second and third place Big 10 finish, a three-time NCAA qualifier, and a member of three NCAA championship teams for the Hawkeyes.
It was Stevens senior year that introduced Fulton Wrestling to the second 2018 Hall of Fame inductee, Randy Gillette.
Gillette was a Fulton transplant from LaFargeville where he won a sectional title and placed third in the state tournament in his sophomore year before taking his rightful place as a Raider Wrestler from 1972-1974.
With his opening season in Fulton, Gillette showed what he was made of as he won the League Tournament, Class Tournament, and Sectionals where he went undefeated and was named Most Outstanding Wrestler.
He placed third again in the state tournament, this time under the Raider namesake.
In his senior year, Gillette had his sights set on winning that state championship but first, he dropped from the 126 pound weight class to 119 pounds for the sole purpose of wrestling one of high school wrestling’s most known contenders – Dan Hunt, a four time Section Three champion and three time NYS champion.
The match ended in a 3-3 tie.
Again, he pinned his way through the league, class, and sectional tournaments where he again earned the Most Outstanding Wrestler distinction. This time, he kept the streak alive to win his first state title.
Notably, Gillette was recognized as only the second wrestler in Fulton history at the time to log more than 100 varsity wins culminating with 101 in total. More so, Gillette is believed to have more Most Outstanding Wrestler awards than any other wrestler in Section 3 history.
After being named High School All-American, Gillette went on to continue wrestling at Syracuse University.
The past replayed itself as he once again faced off with Dan Hunt – this time for a starting spot on S.U.’s Division I roster and this time, the tie was settled, Gillette won.
He finished his college career as a two-time EIWA place-winner and two-time NCAA qualifier.
Nearly a decade later, the third 2018 Hall of Fame inductee, Ron LaBeef became Fulton’s third NYS champ.
LaBeef has a rather different story than his fellow inductees. As a Raider Wrestler from 1979-1982, Ron made it to the finals of the class tournament in 1980 and placed third in the OHSL North League in 1981.
Instead of continuing that momentum, LaBeef ended his season with that 1981 win when he injured his knee while sitting at a 57 wins to 17 losses record over three years.
1982 would be his year.
While the year started off on a good foot, qualifying to compete in the Empire State Games and bringing home a gold medal in Greco-Roman and a bronze in Freestyle, another injury would soon plaque him.
LaBeef was kept off the mats until January after an arm injury during gymnastics season required surgery. An individual win over Baldwinsville put his team in the lead and staked Fulton’s claim to the state team title.
Now, his sights were set on a personal state title, though many were non-believers.
Recurring losses in the league and class tournaments two weeks in a row cast even more doubt but a momentous sectional title win gave credit to his chances in the state tournament.
Winning his first two round matches, LaBeef was on the track to his goal, but not without another hurdle – a cracked rib suffered in the second round match.
As he’d exemplified before, he wouldn’t let injury stop him. LaBeef competed in the state finals – cracked rib and all- and even more remarkably, became a NYS champion with an 8-2 win.
He went on to enlist in the U.S. Air Force where he wrestled for four years winning a number of freestyle championships in Europe and the U.S. before returning to Fulton to help coach the Raiders to their third stale title.
The final 2018 Hall of Fame inductee was instrumental to Fulton Wrestling, not by his work on the mat, but by paving the way for an untold amount of Fulton wrestlers as a Raider coach.
Tim Moore moved to Fulton from LaFargeville in 1972 after founding a wrestling program there.
Ten years later, the mat had called him back, this time as a Raider coach.
He began as a junior high wrestling coach and continued coaching for 30 years at every level. He began his position as junior varsity coach in 1996, where he stayed for the duration of his coaching career.
His take over of the junior varsity program was perfect timing, some may say. As Fulton’s winning program was believed to be coming to and end, Moore challenged this notion.
While others claimed that kids had changed, they no longer had the will to put in the work of a champion, Moore instead challenged that perhaps the adults in their lives were failing them by not teaching them to do so.
He routinely made the JV team continue working after a grueling practice had just ended, perfecting new techniques and correcting faults, reinforcing the ideal that Fulton wrestlers never quit.
He pushed them to work hard both during and after the season, before and after school, always emphasizing life lessons like discipline, respect, loyalty, teamwork, and how to act like a champion.
As for his argument, the numbers were on his side, teaching athletes the necessary values to be successful sure seemed to produce successful athletes: under his leadership, Fulton’s JV record totaled 167 wins to just eight losses in dual meet competition and won the Union-Endicott JV Duals for ten consecutive years.
His efforts in shaping young Fulton wrestlers did not go unnoticed as Moore was named runner up for National Assistant Coach by Wrestling USA in 2002 and was inducted into the Section 3 Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2015.
As the current varsity Fulton wrestling team is ranked number one in NYS and has won the past four consecutive sectional titles, Waldron anticipates the success of Fulton Wrestling to continue well into the future.
“One thing that separates Fulton from all the other great programs around us is that we don’t peak and then all of a sudden fizzle away and disappear. We’re contenders year after year after year after year … and I don’t see an end in the near future.”