Soothsayer champ Walro now has target on her back

J. Patrick Eaken

Press Features Editor Tammy Walro probably didn’t know what she was bargaining for when she became a soothsayer.
        A big-time Penn State University and Pittsburgh Steelers, and I mean big-time, last year she became the first woman to win the Press soothsayer championship in its nearly 20-year history. Now, she has a target on her back from the other soothsayers.
        Walro finished at 115-33 (77.7 percent) and Toledo Sports Network television and radio producer Mike Jameson and then-Eastern Maumee Bay Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Yvonne Thoma-Patton finished one game back at 114-34.
        Genoa Banking Company President Martin P. Sutter (112-36) was fourth. Longtime Toledo area wrestling coach Joe Szyperski (110-38), who is an employee at Gladieux Home Center and for 42 years has been a carrier for The Press, was fifth at 110-38.
        Finishing in a three-way tie at the back end of the standings, all at 107-41, are Oregon jeweler Alan Miller, retired Press General Manager John Szozda, and the defending soothsayer champion, Press sportswriter Yaneek Smith.
        It had been decided after Kent State beat Bowling Green, 35-28, and Toledo beat Ball State, 45-13, on consecutive Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
        So now, Walro gets invited back to pick the results from 10 area high school football teams, four locally based NCAA Division I college teams and the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions. Occasionally, of course, she gets to choose between her beloved Steelers and the Browns or Lions, and when she does, she typically goes with her head, not her heart. She spends time researching the high school teams, often filling a notebook.
        “When I’d get the weekly email of the game schedule, I’d look at the games. I’d research the teams’ records and preview the games online. I’d look at the college and NFL game previews on ESPN and other sites – especially early on,” Walro said.
        “After I’d make my picks, I’d sometimes share with my colleagues and always shared with husband, Jim who happily gave me his opinion. When we’d agree, I felt good. When we didn’t, I struggled. If I changed my mind, and I lost, well, then I’d kick myself. If I didn’t change my pick, I risked a loving ‘I told you so.’
        “This happened during Penn State vs. Ohio State game this year. I stuck with my pick – the Nittany Lions, who came up short. I’m not sorry I backed them, though.”
        Walro was proud of her accomplishment, because one year earlier she fell in second — only one game behind champion Harold Hamilton. And, that was in part because Woodward had to forfeit their game to Cardinal Stritch that year.
        “It’s a milestone that no woman ever came in first and this year two of us came out on top. Did we work harder? Maybe. Is it sweet? You bet!” Walro said.
        “As for coming out on top, of course, I’m thrilled,” Walro said. “I’m also excited beyond words that Yvonne Thoma-Patton came in a very, very close second. I consider it a shared victory.
        Szozda reached out to Walro when the results were final and the champion was certified.
        “My fellow soothsayer and former boss, John Szozda, wrote me a thoughtful congratulatory note,” Walro said. “Part of it said, ‘You do not deserve extra credit because you are the first woman to win the championship. You deserve the credit because you did the research and did the best job of prognosticating, far better than I did.
        “This year’s lineup of prognosticators was formidable. For those who might wonder, I had no advantage working with the sports editor. Even when I’d try to engage Pat Eaken nonchalantly about an upcoming game, he’d just shake his head, shrug his shoulders and say nothing.”
        Liking football helps, too, as Tammy and her husband, journalist Jim Wilhelm, spend many weekends in front of a screen somewhere, if not at home, watching their favorites, Penn State and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
        “Growing up in western Pennsylvania, football was a very big deal – high school, Penn State and Pitt, and, of course, the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Walro said. “While I was in college at Penn State, there was something exhilarating about being in the stadium on a fall Saturday afternoon watching the Nittany Lions play their hearts out on the field.”
        “I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m pretty competitive and being a soothsayer at The Press was a fun competition.”
        This year, Walro is joined by Smith, Miller, Sutter, and Szyperski, but there are three soothsayers this year who did not compete last year and will get to challenge her last year.
        They are, and let’s hear the drumroll, Jill Bench of Bench’s Greenhouse in Elmore, who is the proud parent of Andrew Bench, a 2018 Genoa High School graduate now a freshman scholarship football player for the Bowling Green Falcons. So Walro has another female to give her support, like Thoma-Patton did.
        Also new to the scene are Steve Taylor, who hosts a Saturday afternoon radio show on ESPN 106.5 The Ticket and is a play-by-play and color announcer for Toledo Sports Network, along with working in the parts department at Dunn Chevrolet in Oregon.
        Our other “new” soothsayer is Ron Gladieux of Gladieux Home Center, who is really not new because he has been a soothsayer before. Szyperski is one of his employees there, so I can hear the trash talk now inside the Oregon hardware and home improvement store.

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