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SMCC to induct 7 individuals, 1 team to HOF

Butch Wagner • Aug 27, 2014 at 3:15 PM

The “Class of 2013” consists of seven individuals and the 1939 Class B state runner-up basketball team. 


That group will also be recognized Saturday at halftime of the varsity boys basketball game between SMCC and Clyde at the “Den” 


The individuals to be inducted are (with the year of graduation and category also listed): 


• Toni Wierzba Majer, 1987 graduate, athlete. 


• Mona Barrett Rutger, 1968 graduate, professional. 


• Ron Baum, 1998 graduate, athlete. 


• Derek Guerra, 1993 graduate, athlete. 


• Reverend Jeremy Miller, 2003 graduate, athlete. 


• Dennis Rectenwald, 1965 Fremont St. Joseph graduate, service. 


• Jim Smith, 1951 graduate, athlete.

Members of the the basketball team— coached by Hall of Famer Lee Zierolf — were Art Link, Joe Riccardi, Charles Stanley, Kenny Smith, John Thompson, Howard Thompson, Leroy “Socket” Riedy and Wayne Stamm.

Stanley is the lone living member of that group with family members of some of those players expected to attend the 2 p.m. dinner and receive recognition.

St. Mary’s finished the season with a 21-2 record that included seven tournament victories and a 24-23 loss to North Canton in the title game which was decided in the final 29 seconds.

1938-39 basketball team

“Art Link was our leader and we all knew our role. We didn’t have any set plays, we just played basketball,” said Stanley. “I think one big key to our success was the fact our zone defense was tough on the opponents.”

He also commented on the final seconds of that title contest.

“We had a chance to win it in the final seconds and had a player wide open in close but the pass went into the stands and thatwas it. I’d say we just had fun all year long and came so close to joining the 1935-36 team as a state champion,” Stanley said.

Toni Wierzba Majer

An outstanding runner in track, Majer was a three-time SBC champion and led the Panthers to their first-ever undefeated track season at 11-0 and also their first ever conference championship.

She finished her career with school records in the 100, 200 and 400 meter races as well as running on the 400 and 800 relays.

Majer talked about a memorable moment and quickly pointed out “running against my older sister (Lynn) and also competing in the state meet her senior year. That was priceless.”

As for going into the HOF, Majer responded, “It’s a great honor, first to be nominated, then to be selected for all the hard work and the dedication involved in athletics.”

Mona Barrett Rutger

Educating people on the importance of habitat and environment has been the driving force behind the effort of the 1968 SMCC graduate.

We want people to try hard to understand the natural world a little better. At times I feel they are unaware of what we are doing to preserve the natural resources,” Rutger said.

“As for the Hall of Fame, this is a huge honor, one I never imagined and its special because its a local award which is far better than one from the outside because hometown people are involved,” Rutger said.

She has spent the past 15 years, along with her husband, Bill, educating the public at the Back To the Wild rehabilitation center on Bardshar Road which encompasses some 30 acres of land.

“We welcome school kids on field trips to learn abut animals, habitats and how to protect them,” she said. More than 70,000 students throughout the state have listened to Rutger and her staff talk about the animals and how they are cared for and possibly return to the wild.

“We have classes all the time with emphasis on teaching the kids and adults the importance of doing what we can to get them back on the right path,” she said. 

Ron Baum

He won the Division III state wrestling title in the 140-pound class his senior year after a runner-up performance at 145 pounds the previous year. He finished his four-year career with a 138-30 mark, and that included a 54-3 record his senior season.

Baum was a member of the SMCC state runner-up team in 1998.

In football, Baum earned first-team all-SBC honors on the defensive unit and was the Panthers’ leading scorer on his way to being named the most outstanding player on the squad.

Asked about his most memorable moment, Baum said, “Obviously, winning the state championship, but there was another time when I thought I won by a tech fall and had my hand raised when it was discovered I was leading by only 14 points and had to come back to the mat. Our fans gave me a big cheer and that really was something I never forgot. I got the needed point rather quickly.”

“As for making the Hall of Fame, I never thought about that but I appreciate the fact the committee felt my hard work was good enough to earn the great honor,” Baum said.

Derek Guerra

Truly a triple threat — football, basketball and baseball — Guerra is one of three SMCC athletes to achieve all-SBC honors in three sports in the same (senior) year.

He was a member of the 1992 football team that claimed a SBC championship and a berth in the state playoffs while he averaged 17.5 points in basketball and was the ace of the pitching staff in baseball with a 1.60 ERA on a team that won the sectional title and finished 17-7. His record on the mound was 14-5 and the overall batting average for four years was .383.

As for his memorable moment, Guerra said, “Being a part of the 1990 football team that had a great playoff run and was runner-up in the state in a game that we should have won. I didn’t play much, but that experience was something I’ll always remember.”

Asked what it meant to get into the Hall of Fame, Guerra said, “never in my dreams did I think this was possible and to join a great fraternity of athletes and community members means a lot.

“Also, my son (Reid) is presenting me for induction and that’s pretty special,” added the 1993 graduate.

Rev. Jeremy Miller

Father Miller is one of the most accomplished players in the history of SMCC tennis.

He won the Division II singles crown in 2002 after a runner-up finish the previous year as a sophomore and was the first SMCC tennis player to place in the state.

His career record stands at 130-2 with four straight SBC singles titles and the same number of sectional and district crowns. The Panthers also won the SBC team title his senior season.

The recipient of the prestigious Zierolf Award (scholar-athlete) in 2003, Father Miller went on to play tennis at Xavier University and was twice named to the Atlantic 10 Conference first team.

He was ordained a priest June 22, 2013, and is an Associate Pastor at Mansfield St. Peter Parish.

“Winning the state my junior year is without question the highlight for me as well as playing for dad (Ron Miller), my coach. We also had a tight group of players and had a lot of fun playing the game,” Miller said.

“I’m quite honored to be chosen for the school’s Hall of Fame and there were so many people who helped me along the way and I really appreciated their support.”

Miller also talked about his routine, especially when involved in big matches.

“I had a certain CD I listened to and did a stretching exercise to get ready for those big matches. I don’t think I was superstitious but I did have a routine,” Fr. Miller added.

Dennis Rectenwald

The principal at SMCC for six years (1975-1981), Rectenwald recalled the magical 1979-80 school year.

“That 12 months had just about everything and there is no doubt in my mind our basketball team was a team of destiny, especially after the three veterans — John Washington, Rudy Perkins and Laco ‘Jack’ Hyer — became so much a part of our team that went 28-0 and won the state championship,” Rectenwald said.

“Those three guys were so taken in by what our kids did for them they wanted to have a banquet at the end of the season and were willing to use what money they had to pay for that. I’ve been in education 40 years and that year we won the SBC all-sports trophy for the only time

“Sister Donna got it all started when she went to the Veterans Home with some of the kids and we found a way to get the veterans to the gym every time we played, then take them with us on the tournament trail, and finally to the state,” Rectenwald said.

He is also proud of the fact he was the leader for the 1977 accreditation by North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and spearheaded the $1.7 million addition to the high school.

Rectenwald, who was the principal during the highest enrollment period in SMCC history, was also selected for the St. Joe Hall of Fame in 1990.

Jim Smith

He was a key part in two history-making basketball seasons for St. Mary’s.

The 1949-50 squad had a perfect 17-0 regular season mark and followed up with a 15-1 record in the 1950-51 season under coach Zierolf. St. Mary’s was 38-3 overall in that period of time.

Smith established a school single game scoring record his senior year with 37 points in a win over Fostoria St. Wendelin and St. Mary’s also set a team mark with 86 points.

He averaged 18.6 points a game as a senior (without a three-point line) when the regular season winning streak reached 30.

Smith earned second team all-Ohio honors in the 1950-51 campaign and also was named a first-team performer in the SBC.

“I worked with dad and we went boating and fishing together, but never did his individual accomplishments come up, He was that kind of man. I really learned a lot about what my dad did after it was announced he was to go into the Hall of Fame,” said his son, Jim who is the presenter for the award at the banquet.

“I know this, we are going to have a large group at the banquet, and that includes mom who wants to be a part of this despite her health problems. My sisters are excited and I just think it’s cool to have dad earn this honor,” Smith said of his late father.

“I just wish he could be here to receive his award.”

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