By Elizabeth Coss
Athletes and contributors filled the Chestnut Room in Kilcawley Center for the 38th Annual Youngstown State Athletics Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Jan. 28.
Kicking off with formalities and a breakfast, the ceremony highlighted the athletic contributions of seven inductees who’ve represented Youngstown State on and off the field.
Inductees varied across sports, including golf, softball, baseball and football. Ken Conatser was the assistant football coach for Youngstown State from 1986 to 2000 under then-head coach Jim Tressel. Conatser returned in 2003 under the same position.
Conatser, nicknamed “K Dog,” helped lead the Penguins to 10 playoff appearances and won four championships. He said the community, players and university meant the world to him.
“This community … I’ve spent 36 years in this town. I’ve never lived anywhere else in my life for more than five years,” Conatser said. “The support from the people on this campus is incredible.”
Conatser touched on his life experiences stemming from his time at Youngstown State and said it was an honor to have built up the football program with Tressel.
Tressel attended the event and said the hall of fame was special because of how many past football faces the event brought together.
“One of my former coaches, Ken Conatser, who spent 15 years with me here, is being honored and all of those guys from that era are coming back — we get to see so many of our former student-athletes,” Tressel said.
Tressel also said the event offers an opportunity to reminisce on stories and memories players and coaches share.
“[The hall of fame] gives you a chance to sit back and reflect on the great teams and the outstanding performers, and as these guys are getting around one another, they’re telling stories about, ‘Remember this,’ and ‘Remember that,’ and it’s just a great time. It’s a reunion as much as it is a banquet,” Tressel said.
Some of this year’s inductees were women’s golfer Gina Abruzzino, football player Jamaine Cook, and softball players Jordan Ingalls and Haley Thomas. There were also two same-season baseball players from YSU who went on to play Major League Baseball.
Aaron Swenson, who played for YSU from 2007 to 2010, went on to sign with the Baltimore Orioles after graduation. Jacke Healey, who played in 2009 and 2010, was drafted by the Houston Astros in 2011.
The two reunited at the event, and Healey said he was surprised to see his teammate and fellow MLB player at the event.
“Coming back here from New York City in the Pocono Mountains, it’s an unbelievable experience to come back here to a place that meant so much to me for two years,” Healey said. “The coolest part to me was to be inducted with a teammate like Aaron Swenson. For two years here, he treated me like a brother and was a great pitcher, a great teammate and he’s a great friend.”
For more information on all hall of fame members, visit ysusports.com.