Note: The Bluffton Athletic Boosters recently completed payment on the Ricky Matter Strength and Fitness Center. This story commemorates that event.
Photo and story by Josh Stallings, Icon university intern
The moment you step in the doors of the flawless weight room or enter the gate for a football game, the memory of a very talented and promising young man hits you like a sucker punch to the gut. The two structures are in remembrance of Ricky Matter, a Bluffton High School student who lost his life in a car accident six years ago.
In his short time at Bluffton High School, Ricky had already made a name for himself. The freshman was the starting varsity quarterback for his hometown Pirates and in his first season he earned First Team All-Conference honors and caught the eye of some big name college football programs.
Right after football, Ricky jumped into basketball season. Once again Ricky was the leader of his team by earning the varsity point guard spot.
Earning these spots as a freshman shows a lot about the young man and how hard he worked. If you didn't know Ricky Matter, you get that feeling of who he was when you look at the trophy cases that hold some of Ricky's honors.
On Valentine's Day 2004, Ricky and few friends went to support their classmates at the sectional wrestling tournament. The boys left the tournament early so they could make it back for their basketball game that night. On the way home the boys were in a car accident. Their car was struck on the side where Ricky was sitting. Ricky was killed in the accident. The already great career of the promising freshman was cut all too short.
In memory of Ricky, local businesses and private donors donated money to build a weight room and locker room for the Pirates. The roughly 3,500 square foot, $800,000 project was dedicated in honor of Ricky on Aug. 21, 2005.
The facility includes home and visitors' locker rooms, coaches' office, and a weight training facility. New weight racks and machines were also purchased for the facility. BHS Athletic Director, Jim Raabe, said of the facility, "Everybody loves it, but nobody likes how we got it."
On Oct. 29, week 10 of the high school football season, the Bluffton Pirates hosted Columbus Grove. At halftime of the game the Boosters burned the mortgage for the facility. Just five years after the dedication, the facility is totally paid off and is now property of Bluffton High School.
Sherri Matter, Ricky's mother, said that the occasion was the first time the whole family had been back to a game since Ricky played his last game. "Getting back to a game really opened a door for us again," she said.
Since he was young, Ricky always wanted to play quarterback for The Ohio State University. With the statistics Ricky accumulated in his first season, Ricky caught the eye of big name football programs, and the Buckeyes were one of them.
His dream was certainly in reach. Ricky's sister, Caity, went to Ohio State to play basketball. She went on to play professionally in the WNBA until an injury cut her career short. After Ricky's accident, The Buckeyes wore a sticker on their helmets the following season in remembrance of him.
Sherri Matter said that the facility is a really good representation of her son. Ricky was a very dedicated and hardworking individual and this allows others to improve themselves.
"It was his dream," said Matter of her son's vision to have a nice sports facility. "He would have been proud."