Thomas Grzywinski Inducted 2002 - Class of 1959
Athlete. . . coach. . . teacher. . . referee. . . Tom Grzywinski has spent his entire life excelling in everything he does, and inspiring others to do the same.
Tom attended St. Adalbert's grade school and grew up on East Park Street, just one block from WHS. "It was a strong Polish community... hard-working, family-oriented and church-attending people. The neighborhood consisted of small, clean houses, with well-manicured lawns . . . a great place to grow up!"
Tom's best friends at Woodward included Tony Arvanitis, Denny Burns, Jim Helm, Sharon Nawrocki, Rodney Mohon, Dick McGee, Bud Schultz and Butch Komives, another WHS Hall of Famer. They were his strongest supporters as he met the challenges of a student athlete, who earned ten varsity letters in four sports. Tom played football for four years, basketball for four, baseball for two and golf for two. In his senior year, he was selected for 3rd Team, All-City Football. This was just a
prelude to future recognition as a standout college-level athlete.
Tom's favorite memories of Woodward are all related to his playing for countless renowned athletic coaches, including Jim Foltz, Lou Mezaros, Jim Knierim, Darryl Clay, Sonny Smith, Jacko Gordon, Jim Wilusz, Don Martin, Charles Matthews, and Leo Robie. "That's why I became a teacher and coach. I am a little bit of all of them!" Assistant Football Coach Charles Matthews made me realize the importance of college. He helped me get a scholarship to attend Defiance College."
Other WHS staff members who were his favorites were Marie Ersig, Tattler Advisor, and English teacher Maxine Mills. "Mrs. Ersig was disciplined and caring. She made you want to do your best. Getting out the weekly Tattler made you work under pressure! Maxine Mills was demanding, disciplined, and tough. I didn’t really appreciate her until I went on to college. She made that seem easy by comparison!"
Tom's sports know-how made him a natural choice for Sports Editor of the Tattler. "One week, Mrs. Ersig decided that the outstanding player in that week’s football game should be featured in a picture on the sports page. As it turned out, I was that player! We ran my picture with big headlines. My friends and teachers never let me forget it." Tom's advice to current Woodward athletes: “Just become the Sports Editor of the Tattler. You can get your picture in the paper."
After graduating from WHS, Tom continued his successful athletic career at Defiance College, from 1959-1963, where he played and lettered four years on both the football and golf teams. In football, Tom is still regarded as perhaps the finest quarterback in Defiance College history. During his career, he completed more than 50% of his passes and threw for over 4,500 yards and 37 touchdowns. He earned All-American 2nd Team honors at the NAIA level his junior year, during which he also led the nation in passing. Tom was named Honorable Mention, All-America, two other seasons, and was selected for All-Conference, All-Regional, and All-Ohio honors three straight years. Tom still holds all of the major passing records at Defiance College. He was selected to play in the Gem Bowl East-West All-Star Game in 1963. Tom was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 1963 and played one year for the Toledo Tornadoes, a professional football team.
Tom was equally successful on the Defiance College golf team, which he captained for two years. He was named to the All-Conference Team three seasons and led Defiance to the National Tournament in 1962. . .the first time the school advanced that far. During his college career, he twice registered a hole-in-one.
Tom was drafted into the US Army in 1965 and was honorably discharged in 1967. He began his teaching career at Libbey High School, where he also coached football and basketball. Tom was named head football coach in 1969.Three years later, Tom left Libbey and returned to his alma mater, Woodward, where he still teaches. He served as Assistant Football Coach to Sonny Smith and Donald Lewis. Tom has given 35 years of service to Toledo Public Schools. He has also been elected to the Defiance College Hall of Fame (1979) and the Toledo City League Athletic Hall of Fame (1999).
One would think teaching and coaching for 35 years would keep the average person quite busy. But Tom Grzywinski is no average person. He began officiating basketball at the high school level in 1972. This "third career" includes officiating at the NCAA College level for nearly twenty years. Tom has officiated in high school city league and state championships. On the college level, he has officiated championships in the Mid American Conference, MCC, Mid Continent, Division III and NIT tournaments. He has officiated in nearly every major conference, including The Big 10 and The Big East. Tom admits that he gets to live out the ultimate basketball fan's dream. "I get to watch some of the country's best players in action, and I get paid for it." Tom's next logical professional step up would be to the NBA. However, Tom is not interested in taking that step. "I'm as far as I want to go. For NBA refs, their whole life is being an official. Being a college referee, I'm still able to have another job, teaching, which I love."
Tom has been married to Sharon (Nawrocki) for 37 years. They have two daughters, Stephanie (Geoff VanSickle) and Jennifer, and two grandchildren, Madison and John. In his leisure time, Tom enjoys golfing, fishing, and traveling, which includes taking Sharon to any casino. During summers, he has worked as a Caddiemaster at both Inverness and Sylvania Country Clubs.
"I am honored to be included with the names of past honorees as a Hall of Fame inductee. It is a humbling experience. Many of these people (former inductees)were my heroes while growing up. I've always been proud to be a Polar Bear. I still am."
Not many people can say that they've been involved with sports for as long as Tom has been. The March 3, 1999 edition of The Woodward Tattler called Tom "A MAN WHO DOES MORE THAN JUST TEACH". That's an understatement. We honor you, Tom, for ALL you've done and continue to do!