Donald Toomer has lived a majority of his life in Ohio and California.

Akron is his hometown, and Tuesday night, he joined the Summit County Sports Hall of Fame, what he called “the most prestigious sports fraternity in the United States.”

Toomer, an Akron South High School graduate, was a standout in football, basketball and track and field in the 1950s. He helped South win City Series and district championships in basketball, and then played football at Central State University.

Toomer joined Roy Allen, Ben Curtis, LaTonya Hill, Justin “Harry” Lester, David Mariola Sr. and Doug Sims as inductees recognized in the 61st Summit County Sports Hall of Fame banquet at Tangier restaurant. Jim Welling, a 2011 inductee, and Kenmore and University of Akron graduate, dubbed the new class as a “great group of classy people.”

Toomer is a physical education teacher in California. His resumé also includes football officiating experience in the Pac-10, basketball refereeing experience at different levels and serving as an NFL play clock operator for Oakland Raiders games.

Sandy Smith, an 84-year-old bowler, received the Phil Dietrich Senior Athlete Award. Jeff Sheeks received the Andy Palich Memorial Service Award for his work with the West Akron Baseball League, the Summit County Sports Hall of Fame, Catholic Youth Organization, Archbishop Hoban High School and the Dapper Dan Club.

Each honoree thanked family members and friends for their support.

“My father died when I was 10 years old,” said Allen, an Akron resident since 1973. “Coaches were the men in my life and I have never forgotten that.”

Allen was a football, basketball and baseball standout at Alliance and then competed in football and baseball at Wittenberg University. He helped guide Alliance to a state football title in 1958, and has also been active with WABL and Boy Scouts groups.

Curtis, the 2003 British Open champ, praised his family and a coach for his development.

“Herb Page is in his 40th year at Kent State University and he has a great approach to coaching,” Curtis said.

Hill compiled a spectacular track and field career at Central-Hower High School and Mississippi State University — and she is legally blind. She competed in the heptathlon in college in the 1990s, and was an All-Southeastern Conference and All-American athlete.

“I was able to meet track and field icons and run alongside them,” Hill said. “In 2002, I quietly returned to Akron, Ohio, and it’s been great to be home.”

Sims, a 1961 Springfield graduate, succeeded as a high jumper in high school and then continued his athletic career as a basketball player at KSU and then in the NBA with the Cincinnati Royals alongside Oscar Robertson, Jerry Lucas and Walt Wesley.

Sims’ speech included thanking former high school coach Mel Bogard, former University of Akron coach Wyatt Webb and former KSU coach Frank Truitt.

“I am here because of a lot of people, including Akron U,” Sims said. “My family lived on what is now the James A. Rhodes Arena on Akron’s campus.”

Rounding out the inductees are wrestling legends Lester and Mariola Sr.

Lester posted a 162-2 record in high school and won state championships from 1998-2001 at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy. He was selected to eight U.S. World Wrestling teams, and competed in the 2008 Olympics in London.

As Lester spoke, he was moved to tears as he reflected on his family and his high school coach, Dave Bergen. Lester is currently the St. Vincent-St. Mary wrestling coach.

Mariola Sr. is one of the most experienced coaches on the mat in the area due to his run at Twinsburg from the 1980s to the present. While at Twinsburg, he has helped the Tigers win sectional and district titles and finish as state runner-up three times. He has also coached 64 individual state qualifiers, 49 state placers and six state champs.

“Today, a lot of these guys are doctors, lawyers and teachers — and one guy is a federal court judge in Washington D.C.,” Mariola Sr. said. “When the guys call or come back and visit, that makes you happy.”

Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or mbeaven@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the #ABJVarsity high school blog at www.ohio.com/preps.