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Published: Wednesday, 12/10/2008

34-year coach among inductees to Wauseon hall of fame

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

When Steve Schneider is enshrined in the Wauseon High School Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday, all of his fellow inductees will be familiar faces.

Mr. Schneider has devoted his life to athletics and education at Wauseon. He coached wrestling for 34 years and is in his 40th year as a math teacher.

Mr. Schneider is among 10 former standout athletes who will be inducted during a ceremony before the tip-off of the boys' basketball game against Fairview. The 1965 Wauseon graduate said he taught, coached, or played with eight of the inductees.

"It's a special treat," Mr. Schneider said. "I'm looking forward to that night because a lot of the individuals I know personally. This makes it all worth it. The relationships are what have been so special. There are a lot of connections here."

Mr. Schneider earned six varsity letters and coached Wauseon's first two individual state wrestling champions, Joe Ramos and Chris Menchaca. He had a dual-meet record of 287-146-5. It was the third-most wins in Ohio history at his retirement in 2004. His 1984 team finished second in the state.

Mr. Schneider is part of just the second class to be enshrined. The school's hall of fame committee has been meeting since the fall of 2006 with the purpose of honoring athletes, coaches, and others who have made major contributions to the athletic programs.

Thirteen members were inducted in the inaugural class last year.

"It's quite an honor," Mr. Schneider said. "I don't know quite what to say. I'm a pretty emotional guy anyway. All of my family will be there. I've been in this town for so long. I guess you get this reward if you stay around long enough. It will be a fun-filled evening."

Each inductee will receive a plaque, and a duplicate will be displayed in the high school. A reception, which is free and open to the public, will take place following the game.

The other members of the 2008 class are:

•Stan Lammon (1954),

•Carl Crew (1960),

•Dr. John Decker (1966),

•Steve McElrath (1966),

•Bart Graf (1980),

•Dr. Kris Rittichier (1982),

•Dave Bzovi (1982),

•Jeff Bridges (1989), and

•Dr. Lee Davis (team doctor, 1961-2000).

Mr. Graf, who earned nine letters in football, basketball, and baseball, will travel from Florida with his family to attend the ceremony.

"It's real touching. You think of all the great athletes that have gone through that school. It's an honor just to be nominated," Mr. Graf said.

He won honorable mention All-Ohio honors as a quarterback, leading Wauseon to back-to-back league championships in 1978 and 1979. His career record was 22-5.

"I look at my honor as more of a team honor," Mr. Graf said. "I just happened to be the quarterback of some pretty special teammates. Some of them will definitely be nominated too. I was just one piece of the puzzle. The coaching staff was tremendous also."

Mr. Graf, Dr. Decker, and Mr. Bridges all went on to have stellar careers at Defiance College. Mr. Graf said he also knows all of his fellow inductees.

"Wauseon is a typical small town. Everyone knows everyone," he said. "I'm really touched and honored to be recognized by my peers."

He said Dr. Davis once created a cast and pad for him to protect a hip pointer so that he could play against Archbold.

Dr. Davis was the school's volunteer team physician from 1961-2000. He received recognition from the Ohio High School Athletic Association in 1987 for his contributions.

"He hooked me up with it so I could play," Mr. Graf said. "He was just into Wauseon sports. He was at every game."

Larry Burt, who is a member of the selection committee, said he expects each new class to have about eight to 10 members. Athletes must wait 15 years after graduation to be considered; have had an outstanding athletic career, and have demonstrated good citizenship.

"We're a bit behind schedule. We are trying to catch up," said Mr. Burt, who also was a basketball coach for 25 years. "There is a tradition that has been built up."

He said the inductees will be come from all over the country, including Florida, Texas, and California.

He said Dr. Rittichier is the first female inductee. She earned 11 letters in volleyball, basketball, and track and field. She was a three-time state qualifier in the shot put and discus and held school records. She went on to win All-American honors in track and field at Wittenberg College. She is now a pediatrician in Texas.

"It's very, very important for these recipients to be inducted," Mr. Burt said. "They deserved to be very well-honored."

Mr. Lammon earned eight letters in football, basketball, and baseball. He earned a baseball scholarship to Ohio State University and signed a contract with the Cleveland Indians organization. He then returned to college to play at Wilmington.

Mr. Crew, who is being honored posthumously, earned eight letters. He was All-Ohio and an honorable mention All-American in football. He played in the 1960 Ohio North-South Classic with such players as Roger Staubach and Paul Warfield before playing football at Kent State University.

Dr. Decker, an educator for 37 years, earned nine letters in football, wrestling, track, and baseball. He was first-team all-state in football and wrestling. He rushed for over 1,100 yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior and went on to earn All-American honors at Defiance.

Mr. McElrath earned six letters in basketball and track. He scored 41 points in one game as a junior. He finished with 492 points as a senior and had 943 career points. All three were school records at that time. His 25.8 points a game remain a league record.

Mr. Bzovi earned nine letters in track, football, and wrestling. He still holds school and league records in the shot put and won a state title with a throw of 60 feet, 7 1/2 inches.

Mr. Bridges earned five letters in basketball and baseball. He was all-league and all-district in basketball, averaging a career 19 points a game. He was Wauseon's first 1,000-point career scorer, finishing with more than 1,100 points.

Mr. Graf is now an assistant baseball coach at Nova High School in Florida. His team was ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today three years ago, when it had won 34 games in a row. He said he been reminiscing about the highlights of his prep career with the approaching induction.

He said the football team went 9-1 and 10-0 in his junior and senior years. He said upsets of Patrick Henry and Swanton were highlights.

"When you compare some of my accolades to that of [football standout] Rick Volk, you kind of feel like maybe you aren't worthy," he said. "So this is just a very special feeling."

Mr. Volk, a University of Michigan and Baltimore Colts star and class of 1963, was inducted in the inaugural class last year.

Mr. Schneider, who also was an assistant football coach for more than 35 years, suffered a heart attack in August. He said cards from former students and coaches helped him recover quickly. He missed just nine days of school and said he feels great.

"It's touching when you are uptown or at a football game and they come up to me and ask how I'm doing. That means more than anything," he said.

Mr. Schneider said his son and nephews and nieces all attended Wauseon.

Mr. Schneider, 61, retired from coaching in 2007. But he said he plans on teaching for at least four more years.

"Everyone says I'm crazy. They say I should retire and do what I want," he said. "But I tell them, 'Why should I retire? I'm doing what I want to do.' The school has been such a big part of my life."

Contact Mark Monroe at:

mmonroe@theblade.com

or 419-304-4760.



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