BY GREG GULAS
The 49th Curbstone Coaches Hall of Fame Banquet is set for Sun., May 1 with 12 new members set for enshrinement during ceremonies at Mr. Anthony’s Banquet Center, Boardman.
Former Champion High School, Ohio State and Denver Broncos standout Randy Gradishar will serve as guest speaker.
The 2016 class includes Chester Cooper (contribution to sports), Don Feren (contribution to sports), Rick Havrilla (bowling), John Hritz (coach, basketball), Craig Kikta (boxing), Jamie Palumbo (baseball), Rose Smith (bowling), Tamron Smith (football), Jim Tressel (coach, football), Bill Triplett (football), Herb Williams (football) and Bruce Zoldan (hockey).
The only pugilist honored in this year’s class, Kikta was born on June 22, 1976 and is a 1994 graduate of Austintown Fitch High School.
Boxing was his first love and he entered the 1991 K.O. Drugs High School Boxing Tournament, where he was runner-up in his weight class.
At age 14, he was a Jr. Olympic champion in the 147 pound weight class in competition held in Cleveland.
In 1993 while a junior in high school, he took first-place in the Youngstown Golden Gloves 139 pound Novice Division, also earning the Novice Division’s “Outstanding Fighter Award.”
The following year as a senior, he earned the Youngstown Golden Gloves’ “Outstanding Fighter Award” once again, this time in the Open Division.
He graduated high school in June and in July, 1994, turned pro.
Known as “The Kid,” he had 18 professional fights and went 16-2 overall with eight KO’s.
He won his first 14 pairings, making it 15 in a row on April 10, 1996 when he defeated Dwayne Swift on points at the Youngstown Metro Plex Center to claim the vacant IBC (International Boxing Council) welterweight title.
On August 8, 1996, almost four months to the day, Verdell Smith scored a TKO over Kikta in Columbus (his first professional loss) to wrest the IBC title from the Austintown native.
He moved to 16-1 with a unanimous decision over Deltonia Clary at the Packard Music Hall on October 31, 1997 and in his last professional match-up, lost to Rodney Jones (December 8, 1997) at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California for the WBO, NABO super welterweight title.
In all, his professional career was well-documented with fights that were televised to national audiences on ESPN, ESPN2 and Fox Sports.
He is the owner of Craig Kikta Distributing, L.L.C. and currently resides in Austintown.
Born on November 26, 1973, Palumbo is a Hubbard native and 1992 Hubbard HS graduate.
He starred on both the gridiron and baseball diamond for the Eagles, earning the Ron Stoops Memorial Award in baseball as a sophomore.
As a junior, he was an All-League, All-County, All-NEO, Second-Team All-State and was a Trumbull County “Player of the Year” nominee in football, earning All-League All-County and All-NEO laurels in baseball.
As a senior he was All-League, All-District, defensive “Player of the Year” and team M.V.P., earning a baseball scholarship to YSU upon graduation.
He played for the Penguins from 1993-96, earning four letters while helping to re-write several categories in their all-time record book.
As a freshman in 1993, he led the team in triples with three then during his junior campaign (1995), was part of the school’s record-setting 37-win season.
That season, he led the team in batting (.340), hits (64), doubles (17, which was then a new school standard), triples (3) and walks (31), also hitting for the cycle.
In his final season the team posted the second most wins ever in a single season, leading the team once again in hits while also leading the Penguins in home runs (6) and runs (29).
He had four career grand slams, was the team’s “Defensive M.V.P.” his final two seasons while adding team “Most Valuable Player” honors his senior campaign.
He was the first Penguin baseball player to be named Mid-Continent Conference, First-Team (1995, 1996) two consecutive years, closing out a stellar collegiate career still ranked third overall in triples (8) for a career, 10th overall with 31 walks (1995) for a season and 10th overall with 17 doubles (1995) in a campaign.
He would later play for the Chillicothe Paints (Frontier League runners-up in 1996 and a team that was named the “Most Talented” in franchise history) and Canton Crocodiles (1997).
A member of the Giachetta’s local touch football entry, he helped lead the team to the USTFL (United State Touch Football League) national championship three consecutive years (1995-97).
For his efforts he was named Special Teams “Most valuable Player” in both 1995 and 1997, also earning Offensive “M.V.P.” laurels in 1996.
On the local sandlot, he was a member of the 1998 NABF World Series champions (he was named to the All-Tournament team) while in 2010 and 2011, as a member of the Canton Stallions, helped them to the Stan Musial World Series crown (he earned All-Tournament honors in 2010).
He was a 2014 inductee into the National Semi-Pro Baseball Hall of Fame during ceremonies in Evansville, Indiana.
The father of three sons, he currently serves as a real estate broker and resides in Warren.
Tickets are $60 each.
Further information can be obtained by calling 330-792-2272 or 330-506-6774, or by visiting the organization’s website at www.curbstonecoaches.org