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Aurora High's Bliss picked for National Wrestling Hall of Fame

by MIKE LESKO | REPORTER Published: August 3, 2016 1:00 AM
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Aurora -- Dick Bliss, Aurora High School's legendary wrestling coach, has been selected for induction into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

"I'm fortunate to have coached as many years [51] as I have," he said. "I'm fortunate to be at Aurora High School with all these wonderful kids and families that I work with in a great school system.

"I receive great support. It's a wonderful thing. A lot of people spend their lives working with kids and aren't as fortunate as I am."

While the actual Hall of Fame is in Stillwater, Okla., there will be an induction ceremony in Columbus in October that Bliss said he plans to attend. He said he hasn't been informed of the date yet.

Inductees are determined by a distinguished member selection committee and a veterans committee from nominations received.

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Dave Keckan, an Aurora assistant wrestling coach who wrestled for Bliss in high school, said the Hall of Fame is mainly for collegiate wrestlers. "Rarely do you see a high school coach inducted," he explained.

Bliss has been a wrestling coach for 51 years. In 1972, he became head coach at Aurora, where he also served as athletic director for 28 years. He led his team to nine top 10 finishes in Ohio, including the state championship in 1995.

Bliss is a 1961 graduate of Eastlake North High School. In 1967, he and his wife Betty got married.

"Betty is a Cadillac in a world of Yugos," Bliss said. "You can't do what I've done for as long as I have without exceptional support at home. I knew I was fortunate when I married her 49 years ago.

"Being married to me, her most outstanding quality is patience," he added with a laugh.

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They have two grown children -- Michelle Harman and Dan.

Keckan called Bliss an "icon."

"COACH BLISS is as respected in the sport of wrestling as you can possibly be, based on the numerous things that he's done for it," Keckan said, praising the way Bliss "conducts himself as a person and the way he trains kids to be men.

"His No. 1 focus is always the kids," he added. "That is truly the way he is. One of the most amazing qualities of Coach Bliss is his ability to make wrestlers of all different abilities feel as if they are important to the team -- from the first-year wrestler to those who have multiple titles."

Mike DeMay, former Aurora wrestling assistant coach, said he was "amazed" at how much Bliss knew and wanted to know about wrestling.

"He'd take me to clinics to show me so many aspects of the sport," DeMay said. "When we went to these workshops and clinics, everyone knew him and would ask him questions -- even wrestling officials. He was so inspirational to me."

DeMay called Bliss "a great man and an ambassador for the sport of wrestling. His organizational skills, long- and short-term, are amazing. He has a way of making the team a family along with the parents being part of it."

Bliss was named the Ohio High School state coach of the year in Division II twice. In 1997, he was inducted into the Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

In 1999, he was recognized as Aurora's citizen of the year, and in 2007, he was inducted into the Aurora High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

Bliss' teams have won 12 conference championships, seven sectional titles and three district crowns.

He has coached 89 athletes to the state wrestling tournament, where 56 have placed, including seven state champions -- Todd Jindra, Randy Jenkins, Jon Stratton, Phil Quinn, Josh Schroeder, Tim Courtad and Ty Mitch (a three-time champion).

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

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Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC

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