Eastern Hancock will welcome its newest Athletic Hall of Fame class Saturday night at the intermission of its boys basketball game against Greenfield-Central: the 1968 boys basketball team, Paul “Butch” Holliday, Bob Oakes and Joe Levering into its Athletic Hall of Fame.
1968 boys basketball team
A newly-minted graduate of Butler University, Tom Jones was on the lookout for a job. Well, two jobs.
The Speedway native was looking for a high school history teaching position and opening for a boys basketball coach.
He narrowed his options down to three schools, two of which were Eastern Hancock and Edinburgh.
EH Superintendent George Glenn knew Jones’ high school basketball coach, and assured Jones that he would feel at home in Charlottesville.
Jones, who played for the Bulldogs under iconic coach Tony Hinkle, decided to take the job.
“It was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said.
In his four years coaching the Royals, the 1968 squad was undeniably his most successful.
That unit was the first team to win a sectional championship following school consolidation.
They played in the old Wilkinson gym, and the team’s point guard, Greg Troy, said the team’s popularity increased as the season went along.
“They had to turn people away once we got rolling,” said Troy, also a co-captain. “I even remember we played at the old gym at Greenfield vs. Mt. Vernon to accommodate the crowd.
“We had an exceptionally good team for a small county school.”
The team’s crowning moment came when it defeated Rushville on the Lions’ home floor in the sectional championship game, which extended what would become the team’s 11-game winning streak, second longest in school history.
“Not counting my family, it was the greatest experience, the most exciting experience of my life up to that point,” Jones said of the sectional title. “I think all the boys on the team would say the same thing.”
EH pulled another upset in its next game by topping Connersville on its home floor, before falling in the regional final to Jac-Cen-Del later that same day.
“We had a tough time beating Connersville,” commented Troy, a lifelong Hancock County resident. “We didn’t have the gas to beat (Jac-Cen-Del). But four out of five times, I think we beat them.”
The Royals finished 20-5, with the 20 victories and five losses ranking second in their respective categories in school history.
If the blue and white had topped Jac-Cen-Del, Jones would’ve coached at Butler Fieldhouse in the team’s next game.
As for Saturday night, Troy is looking forward to getting reacquainted with his teammates, most of whom he hasn’t seen in years.
Jones, who later coached at Center Grove (where he now resides) and Seymour, shares similar sentiments.
“It was a gift for me to be able to be associated with that group of boys,” he said.
Paul “Butch” Holliday and Bob Oakes
Wayne Dye, a former teammate of inductees Paul “Butch” Holliday and Bob Oakes, once saw Holliday practicing free throws before a game against Knightstown. After awhile, the team’s coach told Holliday to stop shooting so he didn’t wear out his arm.
“He made 165 in a row,” recalled Dye, 1957 Charlottesville graduate.
Holliday and Oakes were 1958 graduates of Charlottesville High School, and helped lead the team to the sectional title in their senior year. Both garnered all-sectional designation their junior and senior seasons.
The pair, now deceased, not only earned four varsity letters on the hardwood, but equaled that achievement in baseball — where each were all-conference their junior and senior seasons — and on the track.
“They were both just great athletes,” said Dye, who helped Holliday and Oakes win the Hancock County championship in 1957. “They will be fine additions to the Hall of Fame.”
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice your best.” — Steve Prefontaine, former Olympic runner
Joe Levering was a jovial young man, quick with a joke to bring smile to his face and those in his immediate company.
“He was very funny,” recalled Gail Levering, his mother. “He was a prankster.”
But when Joe stepped between the lines on a wrestling mat or at a baseball diamond, Gail said her son was “Mr. Serious.”
During his school days, Gail once asked her son which sport he preferred, baseball or wrestling. The 2002 Eastern Hancock graduate replied that he loved both equally, and couldn’t choose one.
But, it was as a wrestler where Joe accumulated noteworthy accolades.
A four-year varsity grappler, Joe finished with a career record of 89-22, going 23-5 as a sophomore, 25-3 as a junior and 32-5 as a senior.
Joe, who also spent time playing football and running cross country and track, was sectional and regional champion his final two years in Charlottesville, just missing advancement to the wrestling state finals in his senior campaign.
Unbeknownst to Gail and Joe’s father, Rich, their son was not only friends with students but also other people in the community.
“It’s been amazing when people come and tell you this or that, that they would know him,” Gail said.
Saturday night will be what Gail termed a “bittersweet” moment for the family, as Joe passed away in 2004 in a motorcycle accident.
But even as the years have gone by, Gail still remembers why Prefontaine’s words functioned as Joe’s life motto.
“He was totally dedicated.”