In Waverly High School’s long and storied tradition of strong sports teams, there have been many accomplished athletes, coaches and contributors who have come through the ranks.
The first class entering the Waverly High School Athletic Hall of Fame on Dec. 29, 2016, included familiar names and faces: the 1954 state championship baseball team; coaches Carroll D. Hawhee, Orval Arnett and Mary Gecowets; and athletes John Shoemaker, Candy Pfeifer and John Martin.
Membership has more than doubled with the second class being enshrined on Dec. 29, 2017, at the annual Waverly Holiday Classic basketball tournament. The 2017 inductees include Joe Rhoads, Ed Bolin, April Bryant, Earl Knight, Tom Monroe, Bob Raidiger, Bob Thompson, Ed Smithson and the 1969-1970 basketball team which went all the way to the state tournament.
The 2017 inductees, family, friends and school staff enjoyed a luncheon and banquet on the afternoon of Dec. 29 where the inductees shared stories and memories. All were thankful for the honor of being selected to be among the greatest athletes, coaches and contributors at Waverly High School. Later that evening they were officially inducted at center court between the opening round games of the Holiday Classic.
Randy Heath, a member of the Hall of Fame Committee and former News Watchman Sports Editor, introduced and spoke about the inductees before they were presented with a plaque by Waverly Superintendent Ed Dickens.
During the banquet luncheon prior to the Friday evening induction, Waverly Superintendent Ed Dickens explained how the Waverly High School Athletic Hall of Fame came into existence.
“About two years ago, our board member, Sue Bolin, and I discussed having a Waverly High School Athletic Hall of Fame,” said Waverly Superintendent Ed Dickens. “Jeff Davis also expressed interest. With the support of our Board of Education, we were able to pull it together.”
Next, Dickens said they asked Randy Heath to come and help put together a committee. Heath, the former News Watchman Sports Editor, has compiled a wealth of historical sports information over the years.
Heath said it was the greatest honor of his life to be the first ever dedicated News Watchman Sports Editor from 1976 through 1984.
“I spent 10 years down here in the late 1970s and early 1980s on both the radio and the newspaper. Those are memories I will never forget. There are so many great memories,” said Heath. “On the first day I was hired to come down here in November 1976, I went to the downtown gymnasium. There all alone shooting and trying to improve his basketball game was Tom Monroe. For him to be an honoree today makes it very special.”
The 2017 inductees of the Waverly High School Athletic Hall of Fame are as follows:
The late Joe Rhoads was inducted into the Waverly High School Athletic Hall of Fame for all of the volunteer hours he gave to the football program. Rhoads began working on the field in the late 1960s and then became the team’s Friday night statistician for almost 30 years.
Heath talked about Joe Rhoads, who passed away at the age of 87 on Sept. 13, 2017.
“I knew Joe when I was here. You almost automatically know that he is going to be one of those people who will be there to help you,” said Heath.
“Joe was very committed and had the Waverly Tiger spirit. He and Gary Arnett were diligent in making sure the field looked great on Friday night. All the years I covered the football team, Joe was keeping stats for the teams.We can always still remember the great contributions that Joe made to Waverly.”
Ed graduated in the class of 1954 and was a member of the Waverly baseball state championship team. But baseball wasn’t his only talent.
Some believe Smithson may be the greatest all-around athlete in the history of Waverly High School, winning a school-record 16 varsity letters — four in football, four in basketball, four in baseball and four in track. He was the first 1,000-point scorer in basketball, a member of seven SOC championship teams and a key contributor to the state championship title won by the 1954 baseball team. Smithson recorded two hits in the regional final baseball game and then produced two of the five hits in the state championship win over Sycamore.
Smithson currently resides in Florida and couldn’t attend the induction ceremony due to illness. His high school teammate, Cookie Kritzwiser, spoke about Smithson and accepted the award on his behalf.
“Ed was a leader. All of us younger ball players wanted to follow his example. Ed was quite an example for us in high school,” said Kritzwiser. “Ed was a very fine athlete and a smart guy. I’m glad to introduce Ed as a Waverly Hall of Fame inductee today.”
The late Earl Knight has the distinction of being one of the bigger athletes in Waverly High School history, towering over most of his teammates and opponents. Knight was a 14-time letter winner at Waverly High School, a four-sport athlete, helping the Waverly football team to an 18-5-1 record and one SOC title, scoring 754 points on the basketball floor.
Knight likely could have finished with 16 varsity letters, but did not participate in track and baseball during his senior year due to age limitations. He went on Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College (EKU today) and was a four-time OVC champion in the shot put (1956-59), placing first in every meet he threw in, and was a member of the football team. The Huntington High School football field is named Earl Knight Field, as he was the founder of their program.
Kritzwiser, who talked about Smithson, also mentioned Knight’s play on the basketball court.
“It helped us when Ed (Smithson) would get the ball and throw a big high lob in there. We had a tank in Earl Knight who could score an easy layup,” said Kritzwiser. “There weren’t any defenders who would get in his road.”
Heath remembers Knight as a competitor.
“When I talked to John Martin, who was in last year’s Hall of Fame class, John said he was a giant among boys, not only as a physical human being but a person as well,” said Heath.
Earl’s son, John Knight, talked about his father during the luncheon.
“In some articles I downloaded from the Portsmouth Times (now the Portsmouth Daily Times), one says, ‘Earl Knight, Waverly’s hard-hitting, hefty, crafty fullback started for the visitors, churned out most of the team’s yards ... it goes on.’ Another one says, ‘Big Earl Knight was the big gun for the Waverly Tigers that night. He didn’t score, but he plunged and swept for many yards.’ Every one of them talks about Earl Knight scoring multiple times or having a lot of yards,” said John Knight.
”Everyone thought my dad was just a big run-over guy. He wasn’t just a big knock-people down type person; he was fast, a great basketball player and a great football player. His love was track. He would show up and throw one throw (in the shot put). Then he would go over and sit down. He would pass and watch (the other competitors). No one could get there (to the distance he threw).”
April Bryant was the head coach for the Waverly Lady Tigers track and field team for 28 years. As a coach, she had 10 undefeated regular seasons with seven regional titles and 12 league championships. Under her tenure, Waverly placed eight times in the state meet (including 1981 when the Lady Tigers finished seventh as a team there) and had a two-time state champion in Jenni Wessel (1989 and 1990 in the shot put).
Bryant started her speech at the banquet with numerous thank yous to many, many people from school staff, bus drivers, newspaper editors and her family.
“I moved to Waverly when I was two. Living on Franklin, I could cross Fifth Street and be in the high school back yard, where I had access to all of the sporting events. I loved sports at a very young age,” said Bryant. “In high school I played Y basketball and participated in track, the only school organized girls sport at that time.”
Bryant said she ran with some talented girls, including Lynn Miller, Lisa Foster, Susan Penn and Violet Bowman. She said the team was good, but the athletes didn’t have the funds for their program that some of the other schools did.
“We would go to meets and people would call us ‘hilljacks.’ I am sure we looked like it, because we had no school-issued uniform. We wore black shorts and whatever color top we wanted. I wore boys tennis shoes. I didn’t get track shoes until I was midway through my sophomore year in high school,” said Bryant.
“I listened to other girls talk about their programs and thought, ‘Wow, I wonder how much better we would be if we actually practiced every day, if we were in shape and if we knew what we were doing.’ From that point on, I wanted to help others recognize their full potential.”
After graduating from college, Bryant was hired at Paint Valley where she coached and taught for two years. Then she had the opportunity to return to Waverly as a fourth grade teacher.
“They hired me as the softball coach. The track coach asked if I wanted to swap coaching positions. She wasn’t fooling me. I knew the softball team was going to be really good,” said Bryant. “But track was my first love, so I switched with her. The first year we did well. Over the next 10 to 12 years, we won everything. Winning was fantastic! The memories that I have and the girls that I coached made it really special.”
A special year was 1988 when Bryant’s Lady Tigers won every track meet and won the district title.
“When we got to the regional at the Dayton Welcome Stadium, they felt very intimidated. I told them to run their races. After three or four events, they saw that they had a chance to win that meet,” said Bryant. “They were so infectious and excited that everyone around us began to cheer for us. It came down to the last race. We won the race and set a record that still stands to this day, and we won the regional track meet.”
In the early 1990s, Bryant said the winning streak came to an end.
“Track was still very fulfilling. You can see so much improvement in the girls. Eventually the winning cycle came back around,” said Bryant.
“When I resigned, I still loved coaching. I miss all of the things about it, including the crazy weather, the long hours and as my son says, ‘the smell of track season.’ I feel blessed to have coached at Waverly for 28 years. I wouldn’t trade those years, the time that I spent, the girls that I worked with, the people that I met along the way, or the memories I have, ever.”
Bob Thompson, one of five talented basketball playing brothers, led the Tigers to its only undefeated regular season in hoops during the 1966-1967 season. Thompson scored a school-record 1,121 points during his career. He was named Second Team All-Ohio and moved on to play basketball for the Ohio State University Buckeyes.
“Fifty years have flown by. I can hardly believe it,” said Thompson. “I would like to thank all of my former coaches, but a couple in particular: Orval Arnett, who taught hundreds or maybe thousands of us to shoot that perfect gooseneck jumpshot, and Carroll Hawhee, who was a great coach and a great mentor.”
Thompson also thanked his high school teammates. Thompson moved from the east end of Pike County to Waverly in the eighth grade. He joined the Waverly varsity basketball team as a sophomore.
“I want to thank my 1965 teammates at Waverly who accepted a puny little sophomore into their ranks. They could have made that transition unbearable, but instead players like Todd Sautter, Eddie Everhart, Ray Mangus, Paul Owens, Chuck Osborne, Ted Evans and Chuck Hamel welcomed me and helped me become a better ball player,” said Thompson.
“I want to thank my 1967 teammates, particularly Terry Abels, Dan Armbruster, Dave Howard, Robert Foster and my younger brother Denny. Between Dan Armbruster, Robert Foster and I, we were worth about 65 points a night. After losing only three games my junior year, we vowed to work our tails off and win the state tournament as seniors. My brothers Bill, Heck and Ken scrimmaged against us a lot during the summer of 1996. I owe my brothers thanks for the scrimmages and beating us. We did not win the state title in 1967, but we did go 19-1 and put Waverly’s first perfect regular season into the books.
“I also want to thank some of the most loyal Tiger basketball fans ever — John “Doc” Allen, John Boyer, Tom Oyer, Ron Petitt, Dave Roberts and Harvey Whaley. Back then, those guys drove us to the ball games. We had more fun going to the games than we did playing in the game. Wherever we played, there were always a huge crowd of loyal basketball fans. I want to thank the committee for selecting me to receive this recognition.”
When Tom Monroe was hired at Waverly High School as a first-year teacher, he was quickly given the job of baseball coach. Monroe played college baseball but never had coached a team. When he retired from teaching and coaching at Waverly, he had amassed 385 wins as a baseball coach while winning one district championship, seven sectional titles and played in the district championship game six times.
“I would like to apologize to anyone I forgot to thank. I would like to thank the committee who gave us the opportunity to do this,” said Monroe to start his speech.
“I graduated from college in 1972. At that time, the Vietnam War was on. There would be 70 or 80 people apply for a job because most draft dodgers didn’t go to Canada. They went to college. I could hit (a baseball), so that’s why I went (to college).”
After graduating college, Monroe took a job making $5 an hour as a laborer in a Grove City housing project. Then he received the call to go to Waverly. Monroe coached the freshman basketball team for one year before getting the job as the baseball coach.
“I had never a coached a baseball team in my life. In my first year, I had some good assistants from the previous coach, Steve Crace. I stumbled and bumbled around. We went 10-5 the first year and 15-5 the next year,” said Monroe. “I am rolling. I wondered how you could even have a losing season. But we had John Shoemaker, who has been with the Dodgers organization for 40 years. Then we had Ed Thompson and Doug Tracy, who was the best high school athlete I ever saw in baseball. So I jumped out of the box with three college athletes. I coached 26 years. In 26 years, I never had three guys who could match up with those three guys.”
Once those players graduated, Monroe had work to do. Coach Carroll Hawhee, the man who hired Monroe, had some advice for him.
“In my third year, now that I’m a good coach and they all graduated, we had our first losing season. Coach Hawhee was good at telling me when I was messing up because he had about 200 wins in baseball. He had a good way of ripping you in a fairly nice way,” said Monroe. “I said, ‘Coach, those guys aren’t very good.’ He asked, ‘How much have you worked with your catcher?’ I said, ‘No more than I worked with Ed Thompson and Mark Workman. He said, ‘You need to work with the one you have.’”
So Monroe taught himself the basics of catching, so he could share it with his players.
“I have a book laying by the back of the TV. I would sit on the floor where I could see myself. I read this book and learned how to catch,” said Monroe. “Rick Conkel learned how to catch at Christmas time and we won our first sectional title. That was one of my favorite teams. After the first losing season, they won the sectional.”
Monroe talked about some of the people who had influenced him, including Bob Wren, the late head coach of Ohio University’s baseball team who amassed a record of 464-160-4 during his time there.
“We were all influenced by a lot of people. Bob Wren taught the man who coached me. Bob Wren knew baseball. I only got to meet him once,” said Monroe.
“Mr. Arnett, who I still have a hard time calling Orval, my father-in-law ... I should have developed some of his patience. He was a good person to drain knowledge from. Also, Gabby Smith and Willie Hobbs, because we all grew up together. It has been a good ride. Coaching the other sports was fun. You coach year round.”
Monroe also gave praise to one of his former players and the current head coach of the Waverly baseball program.
“I would like to recognized Jeff Noble, who made all-state honors. I’m most proud that Jeff and I have coached baseball so long at Waverly. We only had one snafu. One year someone else coached baseball. I don’t remember his name. We know he won seven games,” said Monroe. “That’s when we got back in it. The two of us have 700 and some wins since 1973. I hope I am sitting out here when we get up to 800 wins. We have been in this thing together for 40 years.”
Waverly High School’s football field was named in honor of Bob Raidiger, who never had the opportunity to play football. Raidiger’s talents came in the sport of basketball.
“When I came to Waverly, you came to Waverly High School, the stadium and Raidiger Field. I assumed it was someone who must have been a good football player,” said committee member Randy Heath, while talking of Raidiger.
“The ironic thing is that Bob Raidiger graduated in 1945. During that span, Waverly did not have football because it was during World War II and many of the smaller schools disbanded football during the war.”
Bob Raidiger led the Waverly Tigers basketball team to their finest season to date in 1944-45 when the 6-4 center helped Waverly to an 18-1 regular season record and 21-2 overall mark, winning the Pike County Tournament and losing in the second round of the sectional-district tournament. He scored over 20 points in 11 different games in a era where very few players ever scored in double figures.
Four years later, though, just before midnight on May 21, 1949, Raidiger, a leading scorer on the Ohio State University men’s team, lost his life when he was struck and killed by an intoxicated driver on Refugee Road in Columbus.
“Looking up the history of Bob and the stories in the Columbus newspapers, you could tell this was not only an event that struck Waverly very hard to have this wonderful young man taken in the prime of his life, but he had become beloved throughout the Ohio State University campus,” said Heath. “It took time for them to recover. In the following year, Bob would have been a senior on an Ohio State team that won the Big 10 Conference. It was ironic that when Bob was taken from us, Fred Taylor had to step in and fill his shoes.”
Raidiger’s niece Janie Burkitt talked briefly at the luncheon.
“I never knew Uncle Bob because the accident was 11 years before I was born, but I heard a lot of stories from Grandma and Grandpa Raidiger, so I felt like I knew him. I know if they were all here today, they would feel so blessed and so thankful that people are remembering him after all of these years,” said Burkitt.
“It has been almost 70 years since the accident. I know our family would appreciate it like all of us do who are still left. I just want to say thanks to the committee, the schools and the community for rallying behind Bob to put him into the hall of fame. With the construction of the new Raidiger Field arch over at the football field, it is amazing. Thank you to everyone.”
When Ed Bolin arrived at Waverly High School, the Tigers had not had a winning season in 14 years. By the time he retired from coaching, he had amassed a record of 113 wins and 68 losses with a 43-28 record inside the Southern Ohio Conference and seven seasons of eight or more wins.
Ferdie Marquez, Bolin’s son-in-law, had the opportunity to be Bolin’s first quarterback, and coached alongside him in later years when he returned to Waverly City Schools as a teacher. Marquez shared memories and milestones with those present at the banquet.
“We are blessed to have an opportunity to celebrate success at Waverly City Schools. As Coach Bolin’s first quarterback during his 18 years at Waverly, it is truly a privilege and honor to speak on the Bolin family’s behalf. I would like to thank the Waverly High School Athletic Hall of Fame committee for recognizing one of the most influential men in my life,” said Marquez.
“Everyone who had a close relationship with Ed Bolin could share stories that are astonishingly similar to mine. Personally, he did a tremendous amount for me. He is probably one of the major reasons that I am able to stand and speak before you today. As his first quarterback at Waverly High School, he put a tremendous amount of trust in me. He believed in me.”
Marquez said Bolin left his hometown school of Glouster Trimble where he had coached three Division I college athletes on a very talented team and came to Waverly.
“He started his 18 year football campaign with me taking the snaps. As he would say, ‘Ferdie couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean,’ and he was right. I couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean, but he implemented a system that allowed our Waverly Tigers football team to be competitive,” said Marquez.
“He coached our team by presenting us with a system that would maximize our opportunities. That is simply what he did. He identified our strengths and weaknesses and devised a plan that would maximize our learning throughout the practice week. All of this hard work was put in with the expectation of performing at a high level on Friday nights, which led to a 3-7 season in 1984.
“Personally, I proud to say that it is truly a blessing that Coach Ed Bolin came to Waverly. Because the Waverly Tigers, led by his patience and persistence, became a winner again.”
Marquez said the Tigers bounced back from that 3-7 season and went 8-2 in 1985. That was the first winning season for the team since 1969.
Thank you for being patient with my sharing of personal memories from the 1980s, because as a player of the 1984-1985 Tigers and an assistant under Ed Bolin in the 1990s until the end of his football career, I had the unique opportunity to witness his vision of Waverly Tigers football to the present day,” said Marquez.
“To the first winning season since 1969 to the monumental CAPE victory in the late 1980s to the recent back-to-back playoff appearances, Waverly High School football will continue to grow, partially because of the RMA concept he brought with him. Our head coach, Chris Crabtree, continues to build on this concept as he has implemented it into his football culture. Chris has carried on Coach Bolin’s legacy by ensuring that each player carries on the RMA or ‘Right Mental Attitude’.”
Marquez says that having the right mental attitude allowed Bolin to have many accomplishments. Bolin will be inducted into the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame in 2018.
“Anyone in this room who knows Coach Bolin also knows that football and the recognition that comes with it was not the ultimate prize. To him, the ultimate prize was developing confident men, women and people. He did this for his players, his students and his children. As a friend, grandfather, brother and an uncle, he did this. He did this for his beloved wife Sue Ann who was the stable rock behind the passionate coach,” said Marquez.
“In order to perform at a high level, most would agree that Coach Bolin had high expectations backed with genuine unconditional and tough love. As a young assistant coach beginning his coaching career in the 1990s, I watched Coach Bolin in a punitive manner tell his son Jason to run what we called fences all practice. If you are familiar with the old practice field, it meant running between the old baseball field and the old softball field for about an hour and a half. I thought to myself, ‘Wow that’s tough love.’ That’s just how he worked.”
Marquez said Bolin was an innovator as a coach, running the spread offense before it was accepted in the high school ranks. Bolin called himself a risk taker. He studied the game of football and worked hard to make sure that Waverly would compete in unconventional ways.
“It is not surprising that we are honoring a tremendous group of people (at the Waverly High School Athletic Hall of Fame luncheon), which is quite tremendous to witness. Each and every inductee is truly deserving and in some way has touched the lives of others and encouraged success. This is a great day to celebrate success at Waverly City Schools,” said Marquez. “Special congratulations to Sue Ann Bolin and her family for being able to witness such a humbling and honorable ceremony. Thank you, Ralph Edward Bolin, for everything you have given all of us. God bless.”
1969-1970 BOYS BASKETBALL
As the only team in Waverly history to reach the state basketball tournament, the 1969-70 Tigers took their town and school on a thrilling ride.
Heath had the opportunity to witness the tournament run through his uncle, who was a big basketball fan. After Jackson had lost its tournament game, Heath and his uncle decided to follow Waverly, following the Tigers all the way to the Class AA state semifinal 70-57 loss to Dayton Chaminade.
“The first team that I ever really got to follow was the 1969-70 Waverly team with names that you grew to know and root for like Denny Thompson, Phil Miller, the late Rick Eblin, Ted Downing and Jeff Hopkins. Those are names that will remain in Waverly lore for as long as we live,” said Heath. “At that time, there was two classes, not four (divisions) like today. If they (the state) didn’t know about Waverly and Carroll Hawhee, they knew about Tiger pride from that moment.”
Waverly started the tournament run by winning the sectional title over Ironton. The Tigers met Chillicothe in the district semifinal at Ohio University’s newly built Convocation Center. It took three overtime sessions for the Tigers to come away with the 67-65 victory. On the following night, Waverly defeated the SEAOL champions, Athens, by a score of 63-56. Moving on to the regional tournament, the Tigers claimed a narrow 58-56 conquest over Columbus Walnut Ridge before knocking off Canton Lehman in the regional final by a score of 58-55. The run ended with Dayton Chaminade and a 70-57 loss in the state semifinal.
The four living starters were present at the luncheon and each one talked a little about the tournament run. The win over Walnut Ridge came on a buzzer-beating shot by Phil Miller.
“Phil hit the shot, taking a sideways step to hit a fadeaway. It was a big arching fadeaway that touched nothing but the floor when it hit,” said Denny Thompson.
“I do think we could have beat those other two teams in Columbus if we would have had the chance to do it. We appreciate (being inducted) into the Waverly High School Hall of Fame. I am humbled and honored. Thank you.”
“I want to thank everyone. I really appreciate it,” said Jeff Hopkins. “Memories of these games stay with you your whole life. Against Walnut Ridge, Phil shot that last second shot. I knew it was going to be short, but it went right through the middle of the net and we won.”
Miller gives credit to his teammate for setting him up for the win.
“We had a lot of good components. We had good guard play, forward play and center play. Everyone knew how to block out and everyone knew how to fill the basket. We had some games where we scored 80 points and won by 40 points,” said Miller.
“In the Walnut Ridge game, no one gives any credit to the assist I got. I took the ball out of bounds and threw the ball to Bill Pekkala, who was in for ball handling skills. He made a great catch over his shoulder and dribbled it down. Denny (Thompson) cut around and got the ball. Then he made the pass to me. I was wide open. He should get the credit as much as me because he made the assist.”
Miller also talked about the season leading up to the tournament run.
“We played a lot of good teams early. (Coach) Hawhee stepped up who we played (to get us ready for the tournament). Dayton Roosevelt came down,” said Miller. “In the tournament, you are either hot or cold. We had a pretty good run. We went on to play Canton Lehman and didn’t have a real good game in the state. It was unfortunate. It was my worst game in all of my tournament games. Here we are 47 years later. It was a great time. We had a great team. Thanks again to everyone for putting this together. It is a real pleasure being inducted into the hall of fame with these guys.”
Ted Downing also said being inducted into the Waverly High School Athletic Hall of Fame was an honor and a privilege.
“Once a Tiger, always a Tiger. We talk about those stories and that tournament time. It is something that is still with us today. Most of those teams we played in the preseason and we lost,” said Downing. “The timing was right, the stars were aligned and we had a great run. It was a great group of guys to play with. I want to thank everyone.”
Randy Heath contributed to this story.