Higgins, O’Brien lead Hall of Fame class
by Emily Horos
ehoros@cherokeetribune.com
February 24, 2013 01:01 AM | 2916 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Former Woodstock football coach Mike O’Brien, who won 42 games in seven seasons, is one of four inductees into the Cherokee County Sports Hall of Fame.
<Br>Staff file photo by Laura Moon
Former Woodstock football coach Mike O’Brien, who won 42 games in seven seasons, is one of four inductees into the Cherokee County Sports Hall of Fame.
Staff file photo by Laura Moon
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The Cherokee County Sports Hall of Fame announced the inductees for its 11th class, which will be inducted on May 3.

Kevin Higgins, Mike O’Brien, Kyle Owen and Brenda Poole Jones will join the 82 members that have already been enshrined.

Higgins, who currently serves as the athletic director at Creekview High School, is being recognized for his contributions to wrestling at both Sequoyah and Creekview. He is the winningest wrestling coach in county history with 291 dual-match victories, two state-championship teams at Sequoyah (1996, 1999) and one runner-up team.

Nine times, his team finished among the top 10 in the state. He led teams to five region championships and three runner-up finishes.

Higgins was named the state coach of the year four times as he coached 13 individual state champions and 46 region champions. He was named region coach of the year 10 times and the Cherokee Tribune Wrestling Coach of the Year 11 times.

Higgins said he was proud to receive the honor.

“I was lucky enough to be a part of some pretty good wrestling teams there in the 1990s,” he said. “A lot of guys work hard and receive success at a high level, and it’s kind of weird that I get recognition for all the hard work that they put in.”

O’Brien, who coached football at Woodstock from 2003-09, took over a team in the midst of a 26-game losing streak and turned it around. He also served as the coach at powerhouse Valdosta from 1996-2002, winning a state championship in 1998.

O’Brien coached 13 college players along the way and complied an overall career record of 120-54-1. In his final year with the Wolverines, he posted a program-best 10-2 record.

O’Brien said the honor was very unexpected.

“There are a lot of fine coaches and athletes in the Hall of Fame in Cherokee County,” O’Brien said. “I’m just thrilled to death.”

Owen was a three-time MVP for the Cherokee High School golf team from 1988-90. He went on to compete at Kennesaw State, where he was named the Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 1992 and competed on three nationally ranked teams.

Owen won 10 individual titles between 1992 and ’94 before turning professional in 1997. He was inducted into the Kennesaw State Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.

Jones was a standout basketball player at Cherokee from 1965-69, becoming a two-time all-state selection and three-time all-region player. The four-year letterman was part of three region championships and three state championships from 1967-69 — a group that will also be recognized by the Hall of Fame.

Jones, who once scored 48 points in one game, said several of her former teammates were inducted into the Hall of Fame, but she never thought she would be herself. She said one of the best parts of being inducted is getting the chance to see some former teammates again.

“I’m hoping most of my teammates will be there,” Jones said. “I live in Buford now and don’t get to see many of them, so that might be the best part.”

Each year, the hall solicits nominations from members of the community. Nominees are then weighed against a set of criteria and finally voted upon by the board of directors.

Inductees much be at least 40 years old — or 50 if they are still an active coach — they must be a native of Cherokee County or participated in the sport for two years as an athlete or five years as a coach and they must have made notable contributions their program.

According to board member Scott Webb, the organization aims for between four and six new inductees per year.

“They have to meet pretty stringent criteria,” said Webb, a former basketball standout at Cherokee who himself was inducted in 2008. “We try to pattern it a little bit after the Baseball Hall of Fame or Football Hall of Fame, where it isn’t just the top point-scorers. Folks have to get 75 percent of the vote from the board of directors.”

The top male and female athletes from each of the county’s six high schools will also be honored.

“It’s a special night,” Scott said. “It is the highlight of my year because I get to be in the same room as the legends of sports from our county, and it is such a treasure to be able to do that. I think what we do is very special.”
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