The all-class reunion for Williamson High School is this weekend. So it got me thinking about some of the great sports teams and players of the past.
Of course, being 56-years old, I personally started watching teams from the mid to late 1960s.
One of the players I can first remember as a youngster, tagging along with my sister Karen as she went to the games to cheer for the Wolfpack, was Mike McBrayer. He went on to play minor league baseball. Others were Billy Wells, who first got a basketball scholarship to WVU, and then transferred to Youngstown State, along with “Big” John Smith – those two helped lead the Pack back in 1968.
Ralph Hensley was always a favorite athlete of mine, partly because he hailed from my neck of the woods – Nolan, W.Va. He went on to become a great coach at East Bank High School, leading them to several state football championships. I always admired Hensley’s tenacity and hustle. Sharpshooter Buster White, who is a distant cousin, was another player I enjoyed watching in the 1960s.
There have been many great players of the past. Most are already in the WHS Hall of Fame. We have had high school All-Americans and even some players who made it to the professional ranks.
Looking at the list of hall of fame members’ names from the past, Dick Hensley and Vito Ragazzo stand out. They both played on the 1944 state football championship team. They went on to play in college and both played professional football.
On that original list of hall of famers was the late Frank Kimble, who played at WVU and also played a year for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the infancy of pro football.
Mark Cline, now the assistant coach at Marshall, was a high school All-American and led the Wolfpack to the state AA title back in 1983. He played his college basketball at Wake Forest. Anthony Strother was another All-American inducted into the WHS HOF. He helped lead the Wolfpack to a pair of state championships in the late 1980s.
Bill Craig was an original member of the HOF for Williamson. He was a star athlete in both basketball and baseball in the mid 1960s, helping the Pack to a state title in both sports.
Mike Slater was another early inductee into the HOF. He went on to star as a defensive back for the Mountaineers up in Morgantown. He also played in a Peach Bowl during his career at WVU.
There were so many great athletes that walked through the halls of the old WHS building, as-well-as the newer building that opened in 1974.
Danny Moses was always fun to watch as he dominated under the boards for the Pack back in the early 1970s. “Big Mo” was another All-American and he had a solid college career. Rodney McCoy, who was a 3-sport star, was another player I enjoyed watching perform in the maroon and white.
Over the years I’ve had the pleasure to cover many of these fine athletes in a number of sports. I’ll name a few, but I know I’ll be leaving out so many. Michael Hagy, who was an All-State performer in three sports, is one player I covered. Now I cover his teams as a coach across the Tug River at nearby Belfry High School.
I am just going to list a few more that I enjoyed watching and covering during their WHS careers. But remember, I have seen hundreds of athletes so I know I’ll leave out many. Here goes – Joe Stafford, Barry and Gary Baker, Bobby Teeters, Curtis Townes, John Mark and David Keith Copley, Alvena Allen, Donald Hairston, Greg VanZant, Jeff Holliday, Chad Slater, Bobby Fletcher, Julius “Boo” Hatcher, Rick Wilkerson, Scott Maynard, Doug Ward, Robert Williamson, Fred Russell, Garrett “G” Gregory and so many more.
Of course there were many great coaches who navigated the sidelines or hardwood for the Wolfpack. Here are some of the names - mentors like Tony Gentile, Ben Hamilton, George Ritchie, John Moricle, Dick Roddy, Cecil Hatfield, David Hatfield, Curt Fletcher and Allan Hatcher – just to name a few.
Williamson High School excelled when it came to Athletics, WHS owned 13 State Titles over its 101 Year History. Here is the list of state championships Williamson High School won: Basketball 1964(AA), 1983(AA), 1986(AA), 1988(AA), 1989(AA) and 2001(A); Football 1926, 1944, 1960 (AA) and 1961(AA); Baseball 1948 and 1965 (AAA);Cheerleading - 1995(A).
There were so many other great teams that didn’t win state championships, but were terrific teams. The Pack has several state tournament appearances in basketball and several runner-up trophies.
They also made many playoff appearances in football. During the early 2000’s, I watched my son Matt and his WHS teammates make it to four straight Class A playoffs. During his junior season they made it to the Final Four in 2001. That was indeed an enjoyable time for me as a Wolfpack fan, sports reporter, and of course, father.
Williamson High School graduated its first class in 1910. During its existence, the school was housed in three different buildings. Chattaroy High School merged into Williamson in 1963, while Liberty High School merged into WHS in 1966.
On June 7, 2011, Williamson High School closed its doors forever. The final bell rang at 2:45 p.m. The 101 year-old institution consolidated with Gilbert, Matewan and Burch High Schools to form the newly established Mingo Central High School.
However, there are so many great memories and stories that can be shared by WHS alumni this weekend. I’m sure many of those generations and recollections have been recalled this weekend during the reunion.
The Wolfpack had a great tradition through the years. I was glad to be a part of it over the years as a WHS baseball player, radio announcer, sports reporter/ editor, booster club officer and as a fan.
They can take away your school, but they can never take away your accomplishments or your memories. Those will live on forever in the annals of Wolfpack history.
(Kyle Lovern is the sports editor for the Williamson Daily News. Comments or story ideas can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)