Local wrestling great inducted into “Big House” Gaines Hall of Fame

Local wrestling great inducted into “Big House” Gaines Hall of Fame
October 05
05:00 2017

This has been such a whirlwind year for Milton Hardee.  Not only was he inducted into the Winston-Salem High School Hall of Fame in May, he was inducted into the Clarence E. “Big House” Gaines Hall of Fame on September 8.

Hardee was a phenomenal wrestler, first at Atkins and then for West Forsyth.  He went on to accomplish even higher feats once he stepped onto the campus of Winston-Salem State University. Not only has he done well on the mat, he has made a name for himself in the coaching realm as well.  He has coached for over 30 years, including 18 years at Carver High School.  He also spent 5 years as an assistant coach at WSSU and one year as head coach.  Recently he sat down with the Chronicle to speak about this tremendous honor.

Question: How does it feel to be inducted into the Big House Gaines Hall of Fame?

Mr. Hardee: “Its really exciting and one of the best things that can happen to a person when they have played a sport.  I am blessed to have had the opportunity to be part of that event.”

Question: Tell me about your high school wrestling career and how that propelled you deeper into the sport of wrestling?

Mr. Hardee:  “Well that’s a funny story because my English teacher was the wrestling coach and he asked me to come out to practice for three days to see how I liked it.  He said if I didn’t like it after three days then I could just leave if I wanted to.  Ever since then, I haven’t stopped wrestling, so that means I have been involved with wrestling since the 9th grade.”

“My first year I was 16-1, then my second year I was 17-0, my junior year I was 25-3 and my senior year I was 20-1.  I was also a pretty good football player playing with the big boys but with wrestling I was matched up against someone exactly my size and weight so that was easy for me.”

Question: When you first began to wrestle, did you think you would be as good as you were and would wind up being involved with the sport for so long?

Mr. Hardee: “No I had no idea that I was going to be good.  My brother wrestled and he took second in the state but I never had the chance to watch him.  For me, I had no idea where it was going to take me and trust me wrestling has taken me all over the world.  It really has been a blessing for me because I had a guy win the national championship while coaching at Winston-Salem State and we traveled all over the place.  We went to Turkey and all over the United States.”

Wrestling has done a lot of great things for me so when I had a son he did not have a choice.  I told him that I know what wrestling has done for me, so you will wrestle too.  He cried like a baby at first because he didn’t want to but I just felt that how am I going to teach all these other kids how to wrestle and not teach you.  Wrestling got me a scholarship to college and even made me a high school All-American.”

Question: Who do you credit most for your success in the sport of wrestling?

Mr. Hardee: I have to give credit to my high school coach, coach Keenam, for asking me to come out for those three days.  I also have to give credit to my college coach Mike Edwards because I was in the bed after graduation and I received a phone call asking me why am I not over there registering for school.  I asked who is this and he said its Mike Edwards from Winston-Salem State who told me to come over a register.  By 2 o’clock that afternoon, I was registered for college and I came home and told my mom.  When I saw the excitement on her face I said if nothing else I have to graduate.”

Question: Tell me about your time at Winston-Salem State as a wrestler and coach.

Mr. Hardee: “I accomplished some nice individual goals because I was a part of four CIAA championship teams while there.  We actually won it five years in a row.  To be able to also coach at the place where you competed is special.  I also had the pleasure of coaching the first national champion in CIAA history and I will never forget that.

Question: This year you have been inducted into two different halls of fame, how do you feel about being acknowledged by so many in just a few short months?

Mr. Hardee: “This year here has been crazy and wild.  When I got the call from Winston-Salem State I thought someone was playing a joke on me.  I didn’t even know my name was submitted but my wife submitted my name to both so I didn’t know anything about it.  With the accolades you have, she said she thought I was worthy of those honors.  It has been a really nice ride and I am enjoying every minute of it.  I couldn’t ask for anything better.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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