Carter County Sports Hall of Fame: Holsclaw shares memories from athletic, broadcasting career

Published 2:22 pm Monday, June 13, 2016


John Holsclaw, Sr. is a soon to be Carter County Sports Hall of Famer because of his days playing sports, but also for being a sports media pioneer in Carter County.

The 1959 Elizabethton graduate played all sorts of sports at Elizabethton High School, but he may be more well known to a younger generation as the “Voice of the Cyclones” on WBEJ.

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Holsclaw was also an elected servant as he was Carter County property assessor for over 30 years, and his son, John Holsclaw, Jr., is in his first term as a state representative, representing parts of Carter County and all of Unicoi County.

The elder Holsclaw, though, is known for being one of Carter County’s leading sports figures.

Holsclaw played football, basketball, baseball and ran track for EHS, earning 14 varsity letters.

In 1958, he was a member of the baseball team his brother, Claude Holsclaw, coached that was one of only two EHS baseball teams to ever reach the state finals. As a matter of fact, Elizabethton reached the state finals that year, losing a winner-take-all game to Memphis High School.

On that Memphis team was St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame catcher and then baseball broadcaster Tim McCarver.

“We had some championship baseball teams,” said Holsclaw. “We weren’t that good in football, but basketball we could compete with whoever we played and John Treadway was the coach. The closest we came to state was in the region semifinals against Rutledge.  A.W. Davis, who used to broadcast some of the Tennessee games, was a big gun that night and he defeated us single handily.

One of the biggest highlights of high school for Holsclaw was winning the 1958 Tennessee-Virginia all-star game MVP where he scored the winning touchdown to give Tennessee a 14-13 win.

“I didn’t start that game, but I came in and had the winning touchdown,” said Holsclaw. “It was an honor to win that.”

Holsclaw then went on to be tailback at the University of Tennessee, where he played for Johnny Majors, who was an assistant coach at the time just getting into coaching.

Holsclaw would go on to finish his academic career at ETSU.

“I got married and they didn’t like that,” said Holsclaw of the University of Tennessee. “It worked out all right.”

As good as Holsclaw was on the athletic field the last four decades have seen him be the voice of Carter County high school athletics on WBEJ.

WBEJ primarily broadcasts Elizabethton High School during football season, but mixes up its coverage during basketball and includes the four county schools along with Elizabethton.

Holsclaw has become a friend to them all and has developed relationships with legends like Charlie Bayless and Dave Rider all the way up to the current coaches of today.

“Broadcasting football and basketball is a great way to get your mind off of everything else,” said Holsclaw. “The best thing is you get to meet many great people like the local media.  There are many wonderful people in the media. Most of all, you get to be a part of the lives of young people and interact with them.”

Being a Cyclone alum, Holsclaw has had those games where it is hard not to want be so wrapped up in it. One of those nights was Thanksgiving Friday in 1998 when Elizabethton was at Maryville in the state Class 4A football semifinals.

Adding to the drama was the fact that commentator Dale Fair had a son, Justin Fair, on the team. The game ended on a controversial note with Maryville beating Elizabethton on a no-call where many EHS fans felt a runner stepped out of bounds before going on to score.

“Dale had a son in that game and I noticed he had quit talking on me,” said Holsclaw. “He was so wrapped up in what his son was doing, Thirty-four years ago, I asked Dale to help me one night and the rest is history.”

Probably the most memorable high school basketball team Holsclaw has ever covered was the 95-96 EHS Boys Basketball Team which had players like Nathan Copeland, Caleb Gilmer, Tim McLeod, Patrick Norman, Adam Walton, Josh Wandell and Brett Ellis. That season’s team won the District 1-AAA Boys Championship back when Elizabethton played in the highest classification.

During that year, EHS defeated Science Hill twice, including ending Science Hill’s three season long, 47-game winning streak with a 57-50 double overtime win over the Hilltoppers.

EHS defeated Science Hill in the District final, but then was stunned by a down Dobyns-Bennett team in the Region 1-AAA semifinals.

Of all the years covering Elizabethton sports, that defeat to the Indians was probably one of the hardest for him to broadcast.

“We probably had one of the best teams ever assembled at Elizabethton High School,” said Holsclaw. “I felt we were on our way to state. Dobyns-Bennett bumped us off, but what a basketball game! I was sick and hurt. You get so wrapped up in it and that loss really hurt.”

Then there were the victories, like fellow 2016 Carter County Hall of Fame inductee Len Dugger’s Lady Cyclones team of the last few years and especially in 2014 when EHS won the state championship.

“Nobody is going to duplicate what they did,” said Holsclaw. “Those records set by Dugger and his staff, nobody will come close. Coach Dugger would admit that he had great players, but you have to have a good coach, too and he is a great coach.”

As Holsclaw prepares for probably the final years of his broadcasting career, he admits he misses the old Elizabethton rivalries and the full gyms like the 95-96 Elizabethton-Science Hill games produced.

“There is something about those old Big Seven rivalries,” said Holsclaw. “The rivalries are not what they used to be. Back when I played you had to get there early to get a seat. We had some the most well known coaches ever in Carter County in Charlie Bayless, Buck Van Huss and John Treadway.”

One positive about broadcasting Elizabethton sports in recent years has been being able to cover his grandkids, including Alex and Casey Jones, who went on to play for Milligan.

Most of all, Holsclaw is a man of faith as he is an active member of the Elizabethton Church of Christ and cherishes the time spent with his family.

Holsclaw has been involved in sports in Carter County for seven decades and he feels blessed not only to go into the Carter County Sports Hall of Fame, but to be a part of a dream life.

“It’s been a great ride for me,” said Holsclaw. “I hate to see the door closing, but every good thing must come to an end. It’s different when you get up there in age. I hope to do this for at least a few more years.”