After 41 years of guiding Fallon to its second consecutive AA football title, coach Anthony “Tony” Klenakis Sr. and his players from that era relived memories of the 1976 season that produced Fallon’s only undefeated championship, which capped with a win against Boulder City.
Not once, not twice but three times Klenakis received a standing ovation for his accomplishments as a coach at Saturday’s inaugural Greenwave Hall of Fame induction dinner at the Elmo Dericco Gymnasium.
Known as Coach K around the state and to the community and his players, Klenakis led Fallon to a 77-49-1 record from 1966-79 that included three state titles, a 20-game winning streak from 1975-78 and 23 consecutive conference wins from 1975-78. He also gave future University of Nevada coaches Chris Ault and Jeff Tisdel their starts.
“This means a whole lot, a zenith of everything I achieved,” Klenakis said, accompanied by his quarterback from the 1976 team, Randy Beeghly. “It was great to see everyone, many I haven’t seen in 40 years.”
Beeghly said the evening and the recognition given to all athletes was both humbling and exciting.
“It gives me the goosebumps,” said Beeghly, who was also a two-time all-state selection on the AA football team. “This brings everything back to 1976 with all the memories. This Hall of Fame was needed and was so badly long overdue. The group that made this happen couldn’t have done it better.”
Bert Johnson, who also played on the 1976 team, said it was an incredible group of athletes. He said only one Greenwave football team came close to an undefeated record until the final game.
“A couple of years back, the team went undefeated up until the championship,” he recalled. “The hardest win is the last one to stay on top.”
Current Greenwave football coach Brooke Hill brought a state football title to Fallon in 2015. Hill also played for Tony Klenakis’ son, Chris in 1988 and 1989. Chris Klenakis is now an assistant coach at the University of Louisville. Meeting the elder Klenakis was a dream come true for Hill.
“We talked football, and I congratulated him,” Hill said, after having his photo taken with him. “It was cool to talk with him.”
After several unsuccessful tries, a committee formed to bring a Greenwave Hall of Fame to fruition. The group met for two years, put together a selection process and several fundraisers.
First, Friday’s homecoming crowd welcomed the inductees prior to the kickoff of the Fallon-Elko football game. Fans stood up, giving the first HOF class thunderous applause. Then Saturday’s event inducted 35 individuals and two teams, the first being the state championship girls’ basketball teams from 1921-23. Included in the mix were athletes representing Greenwave sports from the 1920s to early 2000s who had earned All-League, All-State or All-American honors or own national, state, region or school records; coaches who produced teams that advanced to regional or state playoffs; and contributors who contributed at least 15 years to a sport or program.
Donnie Nelson of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association delivered remarks as the HOF’s first keynote speaker. The NIAA’s assistant director said he came from a family of educators – his mother taught for more than 30 years and his father was athletics director, head basketball coach and assistant coach at one time for football, tennis, baseball, golf and track, all at the same school.
Nelson compared the NIAA’s Hall of Fame process with Fallon’s.
“When I analyze why we put people in our NIAA Hall of Fame, it really all comes down to the fact that the individuals we induct are superior in what they did, how they did it and for how long they operated at the highest levels,” he said. “Their accomplishments and achievements speak for themselves.
“But it’s also the character traits our inductees displayed and the love they showed for others that made them the most revered citizens in their school communities.
“Here we are now to celebrate the legacies of 35 Greenwave Hall of Fame inductees based on the same principles.”
Nelson said the inductees are the best role models.
“I see a role model as someone who demonstrates and teaches six core ethical values on a daily basis, those being caring, citizenship, fairness, trustworthiness, respect and responsibility,” he pointed out, adding role models always set a positive example and do so compassionately.
Nelson told the Lahontan Valley News after the induction that Fallon has a rich history and tradition with its athletics. He said the great athletes, coaches, contributors and teams have left a legacy in the community for all to remember. “This is a great town and it has an incredible history, namely Fallon has produced many outstanding individuals,” said Nelson, whose mother-in-law, Sylvia Rockwood (CCHS Class of 1970), still lives in the valley.
Nelson said it took tremendous dedication from the small committee and then the community to put together its first HOF. He said the event drew 400 athletes, friends and family and gave everyone a chance to reminisce with each other before, during and after the ceremony. He said coaches found their way to Fallon at the right time and created legacies. The athletes either grew up or moved to Fallon where they made their mark.
“Now all the legends came back and had a memorable night,” he added.
James Bailey Jr. received the honor for his late father, who was inducted in the first Wolf Pack Hall of Fame in 1973. The Fallon athlete played in three sports – football, basketball and track – from 1921-24 and was considered one of the best football players in University of Nevada history.
After college, he coached the Yerington and Fallon football teams and worked his way up to Nevada where he was the head track coach and assistant football coach.
Edward “Señor” Arciniega was another legend who arrived in Fallon in the 1950s and coached with Elmo Dericco, who eventually became school superintendent. Both families of Arciniega and Dericco, who were representing the late coaches, received standing ovations.
The 1957 season produced two state champions in baseball and basketball and runner up in football. The Greenwave emerged as the powerhouse of boys’ sports in Nevada. The Wave reached the state final in football, losing to Boulder City in Las Vegas.
“It’s an honor, privilege and exciting to be here tonight,” said Julie Richards, Arciniega’s daughter. “He was always part of Greenwave sports, and he initiated a lot of things.”
Richards said the list of inductees was impressive and showed how the talented athletes had a big part in shaping the community and representing it in competition.
Dan “Sonny” Allen played football at Carson City and was inducted in that school’s Hall of Fame more than 10 years ago. Now his father, Leonard Allen, received similar honors after being inducted into the Greenwave Hall of Fame.
“We live in such a small state that when someone does good, we all do good. I’m so proud of my father,” he said.
Allen said his father has been an inspiration not only to him but also to the community and the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Reservation. Now in his early 90s, Leonard Allen played on the football team, leading Fallon to a state championship in the 1940s. Allen eventually served in the U.S. Army. An outstanding boxer, he placed first in the Tournament of Champions and coached two boxers in the 1976 Olympic trials.
“I can’t remember all the guys I played with,” he said, “but I am glad my coach (Wes Goodner) was inducted too.”
Goodner, who played football with Marion Motley at Nevada, is also in the Wolf Pack Hall of Fame.
Two of the most recent inductees from Greenwave sports are Aarik Wilson and Rachel Sorensen Lewis.
Wilson played basketball and ran track at Fallon, establishing school and state records in both the long and triple jumps. He attended Indiana University where he became a 10-time All-American jumper.
In 2008 he competed at the Beijing Olympics.
“I am beyond humbled and proud to be a part of a group like this,” he said. “To be a part of history makes me feel good.”
Wilson said he learned more about the athletes who were inducted and the different eras they represented.
Likewise, Lewis was an all-state basketball player and track star and holds the school records in the long, triple and high jumps. She also captured state championships in two events and medaled in two others.
She played on the Sheridan College (Wyoming) basketball team that advanced to the national tournament in the late 1990s and then transferred as a junior to play for the University of Nevada women’s team. Coincidentally, her father, Brett, was also recognized as a member of the 1976 football team.
“It was such an amazing evening and experience,” Lewis said. “I was surprised (by the turnout) and humbled to receive such a great honor especially when I see all the accomplishments of the other inductees.”