Inductees Jim Custer was basketball and wrestling coach at tiny Durand High School in 1943 when Pekin High beckoned to him. His impact on the state wrestling scene followed quickly.
Once he settled in at his new job, his teams dominated the Mid-State 8 almost every season until he left coaching in 1967. Once the Midstate 8 was formed, Custer's teams won every conference title until he retired except for 1965. And success didn't stop there. His teams also swept every lllini and Big 12 conference meet again except for 1965.
Pekin won every district title between 1957 and 1967, there were seven sectional titles beginning in 1954 and he finished with a dual match record of 268-59-2.
At the state level Custer had one second place team finish, two fourth place and one sixth place. He had six state champions between 1946 and 1967, nine second place finishers, five third place finalists and four fourth place finishers.
One of his athletes, Don Millard, won the NCAA championship at 167 pounds while competing for Southern Illinois.
Custer, an Illinois State graduate and wrestler, was named to the Illinois Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1974. He was a member of the Illinois Wrestling Advisory Committee for three years and was Grand Marshall for the Illinois state high school finals in 1978.
Jim Custer was basketball and wrestling coach at tiny Durand High School in 1943 when Pekin High beckoned to him. His impact on the state wrestling scene followed quickly.
As a man devoted to sports, Mick Donahue contributed an essential (and sometimes underappreciated) service to organized sports in Peoria for decades. His passion for athletics began as a youth as a participant in the Salvation Army Junior League Tournament and Proctor Center Basketball League. At Peoria Manual High School in the early 50’s, he played on the baseball team. After graduating from Manual, he was a player/manager on the LeTourneau-Westinghouse team in the old Industrial League, which was one of the nation’s top amateur sports organizations at the time.
Mick spent much of his life coaching, organizing and officiating youth sports in the area, especially baseball, softball, basketball and volleyball. He volunteered as a coach from 1957-72 for the St. Boniface Mustangs. Additionally he coached numerous Little League and Pony League teams.
Over the next several decades, he volunteered thousands of hours organizing and administering officials for various league play in the community. Beginning in 1972, he supervised adult softball and basketball leagues for the Peoria Park District. He also scheduled officials/umpires for the area’s catholic grade schools as well as many basketball, baseball, and softball games for the Peoria Public Schools. In his over 30 years with the Peoria Park District, Mick trained, assigned, and supervised officials for adult softball games for leagues at Peoria Stadium and Sterling school. He organized a force of volunteer basketball officials for the Prairie State Games.
Even after his passing in 2011, his legacy in sports continued to have a positive impact for a charitable cause. As a tribute and acknowledgement of his decades of dedication to local softball leagues, a Mick Donahue Memorial Tournament was held in August of 2013, on the park district diamonds near Peoria Stadium. Many teams participated and many others, including umpires, volunteered their services. Proceeds from the successful event were donated to the PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease) Foundation, a disease being fought by his granddaughter. Concurrent with the tournament, a park bench was dedicated near the large diamond near Peoria Stadium. The small plaque affixed to the bench, reads, “In Memory of Mick Donahue for his dedication to softball and the Peoria Park District.”