By Chris Barlow
Recognizing the need for a Hall Of Fame for athletes and coaches from Wauwatosa East High School is easy. Making it happen takes a great deal of time, effort and the assistance of many.
Tosa East grad Chris Mortenson wanted to do just that so he enlisted the assistance of other TE grads, coaches and administrators and together they created a fantastic stroll through the history of Wauwatosa athletics.
“It just kind of hit me that we had never done anything to recognize the coaches for everything they gave to us,” Mortenson said.
Mortenson began the process by putting together a group that would help bring his idea to fruition. They agreed to add athletes to the mix, created a selection process, picked out a location and now the HOF exists in the halls of Wauwatosa East.
One person Mortenson turned to was Tosa East principal Nick Hughes. Hughes was on board immediately and assisted by choosing the site for the HOF and putting together the banquet to honor the first class of inductees.
Hughes knows that his role in this process was important but the majority of the work to be done lied elsewhere.
“Chris and his committee did the bulk of the work selecting people,” Hughes said.
The inductee selection committee was comprised of former Tosa East Coaches and Athletic Department faculty members Joe Vitrano, Roger Erickson and George Haas. They combed through a vast array of information to narrow down the field of potential inductees. The inductees include those who attended Wauwatosa High School that was around until Wauwatosa West opened in 1961.
“ We had every Cardinal Pennant dating back to almost 1900…” Mortenson said. “We went through the WIAA records and the Tosa News Times and the Milwaukee Journal… And from there we started our recommendation process.”
In time 42 athletes and 22 coaches rose to the top and became the inaugural class led by golfer Burleigh Jacobs. Jacobs was from the class of 1938 and won Wauwatosa’s first State Championship in 1937.
Burleigh was able to attend the banquet and spoke on camera in a fantastic 15-minute video put together by Mortenson that was shown at the banquet and is hosted on the Hall of Fame’s Facebook page. Included on the Facebook page are pictures from the banquet and of the HOF itself.
The HOF website, tosaeasthalloffame.org, contains all of the inductees, a history of Tosa East athletic accomplishments as well as a way for the general public to nominate people for future induction. The next class will be selected and inducted in 2020.
Anyone can go on the website and nominate a coach or an athlete for induction. Mortenson acknowledges not everyone agrees with who was and was not selected and thusly they have left the door open for all of those with feelings on this issue to make their voice heard.
“We were able to identify those that rose to the top very quickly. There is another 50 athletes and coaches that we will put in in time,” Mortenson said. “But we wanted to take care of the majors in this round. “
The Hall of Fame at Wauwatosa East High School is not affiliated in any way with the Hall of Fame that exists at Wauwatosa West High School.