The Wildcats brought home three District Championship plaques, a country title, and a Regional trophy during
the 90+ year run at "The Thunderdome." The best seasons are listed below.
According to the 1994 Wapella HS yearbook, the Retro, the Wapella basketball program had an excellent and
The school offered boys’ basketball as early as 1922-23, playing in 16 games and averaging 23
points a game that season. At that time, a tournament was held for DeWitt County schools in which Wapella won four times between
1929-33, including a 27-24 victory over Waynesville in the 1933 title game. In
1956-57, the Wildcats went thru the entire Kickapoo Conference circuit undefeated until losing to Danvers in the last game of the season on a long shot at the end of the game. Other schools in the Kickapoo were Armington, Beason, Downs, Deland-Weldon, Stanford, Ellsworth, Bellflower, and Heyworth.
During the 1968-69 season,
Wapella was second in the Kickapoo standings, but won the conference title the next season. The Wildcats also won the Kickapoo
and Lincolnland Conference titles in 1984-85, which was the last season for the Kickapoo. As a result, the "Traveling Tomahawk
Trophy" was permanently retired to the Wapella trophy case.
1922-23 First season
1927-28 DeWitt County Tourney Runner-Ups
1928-29 DeWitt County Tourney Runner-Ups
1932-33 DeWitt County Tourney
Champs coach unknown
1939-40 15 - 10 District Champions
Coach Bob Rissor
1940-41 14 - 11 District Champions
1942-43 16 - 9 District Champions Coach Feldman
1950-51 15 - 10 (good record) Coach
1968-69 19 - 6 (good record)
Coach James Bryan
1969-70 21 - 7 Kickapoo Conf. Champs
Coach Jim Carrona
1970-71 19 - 8 (good record)
1975-76 19 - 9 Regional Champions
Coach Jerry Peroutka
1984-85 16 - 11 Lincolnland Con. Champs Coach
Note about the 1969-70 Team:
Allan Lord was the team's leading scorer and second leading scorer in the state that year. The
team was involved in one memorable game against Tri-Valley, a six overtime affair!!
Another one of the best players to grace the hardwood of Wapella is Marvin Morris. His 50 points in
a November 27, 1956 game against Heyworth is a school record.
Memories of the 1975-76 Squad
From Penny Clifton-Pennell:
"The boys on the Regional Champ team of 75-76 made up ALL the boys in the class of '76. My sister was one of the five
varsity cheerleaders. The boys of the team all shaved their heads in a show of spirit and unity. Coach (as we called Coach
Peroutka) was fabulous. Many long night were spent in the gym, packed from floor to top bleacher, cheering on our
Memories of the 1984-85 season:
- The 84-85 basketball record
was 16-11---some academic difficulties early in the season contributed to a slow start but an eight-game winning streak ended
in a 66-61 defeat in the Regionals to eventual Regional Champ Leroy as Leroy went 24-28 from the foul line in that game.
- The 84-85 basketball team was
the Kickapoo runner-up but recaptured the Kickapoo basketball traveling Tomahawk trophy in the final year of the Kickapoo
conference in the regional opener against DeLand-Weldon. The game was a squeaker (49-48) and the Wildcats pulled it out
on a last second shot by all –conference player Todd Davis. Coach Peroutka’s
quote from the Clinton Journal said about Davis, “Todd’s come through before
in tough situations and made some winning buckets. It’s nothing new for him. It’s a nice thrill every
time he does it.”
- 84-85 baseball record was 15-2. That
baseball team won the Kickapoo outright and were co-champs of the Lincolnland with San Jose.
The 1994 Retro yearbook showed
pictures of a baseball team at Wapella as early as 1961, boys’ track from 1962, and boys’ cross-country in 1980.
Golf was also offered in the 1980's. In 1971, Alan Lord qualified for the state track meet in the 180-yard
low hurdles, becoming the first WHS track athlete to make it to the state meet. The Wildcat baseball team won both the Kickapoo
and Lincolnland Conference titles in 1985 while having its best record (15-2).
girls’ side, GAA actitivies were offered for a number of years until track was started in the spring of 1974, followed
by basketball in 1975-76, volleyball in 1978, and softball was started during that same period. In fact, the softball team
won the Kickapoo Conference title for four consecutive years from 1979-82, along with the Lincolnland Conference title in
Kelley Fryman was the first female athlete from the school
to compete at the state track meet, qualifying in the discus. Angie Olson starred for the Lady Wildcat basketball
team during the early ‘80’s, setting a single-game scoring record of 43 points in 1984.
In its’ final years, Wapella formed several co-ops with its neighbor to the north, Heyworth, in several
sports. The football program at Heyworth benefited from this agreement, especially in 1993 when the Hornets reached the state
class 1A playoffs, winding up with a 8-3 record.
What made this so unique was that in 1992, Heyworth had to forfeit the entire season due to the lack
of varsity players, but with the extra year of junior varsity play and the addition of several Wildcats, it enabled them
to reach the second round in 1993. Other co-op agreements between the two schools were in baseball, softball, and track.
FAMILIAR FACULTY MEMBERS
The school was also known for its involvement
in the Future Farmers of America (FFA) from the organization’s beginning. Even before then, Wapella students were offered
agriculture classes as early as 1920, had a stock judging team that competed in 1922 at the University of Illinois, and in
1923, formed a forerunner to the FFA called the Vo-Ag club. This organization was formed to promote farming as a way of life.
Under faculty members such as Charlie Schettler (33 years) and Vera Fulton (22
years), the school thrived as a place that trained the citizens of tomorrow, while becoming a part of family and community
life. Schettler’s FFA program had a total of four American Farmer recipients, 40 State Farmers, 4 District
Star winners, 65 Sectional Foundation Award winners, 11 District & three State Foundation Award recipients, not to mention
that the Wapella chapter received 14 gold, 10 silver and seven bronze awards at the state level, along with four bronze nationally.
Schettler himself was named the National Vo-Ag Teacher of the Year in 1973, which earned him a trip to Switzerland
paid for by CIBA-GEIGY.
Fulton spent her 22 years at Wapella as an English
and History teacher, not to mention being a class sponsor and involved with the Retro and the school newspaper, the
Retro Jr. Miss Fulton moved to Saunemin in 1947 to be close to family and teach in that community
before retiring and passing away there.
Another faculty member worthy of mention is Maurietta
Cusey, who sponsored the Future Homemakers of America (FHA) chapter at the school for 19 years. She not only taught
Home Economics, but sewing, tailoring, and cooking as well. Under her leadership, Wapella was represented by 15 winners of
the state Homemaker Award in a 10-year period.
The FFA had one of its own go on to become an Undersecretary of Agriculture during the mid-70s. Richard
(Dick) Bell graduated from Wapella in the early ‘50’s, having served a FFA Section president and District
Director of State in 1952. Bell credited Charlie Schettler as an “inspiration”
and being a “great teacher with great values.” Bell was Undersecretary of Agriculture from 1973-77
during the Richard Nixon/Gerald Ford administrations.
The Illinois Theatre Festival is the largest, non-competetive high school theatre festival in the world. It was organized
in 1976 by teachers from the Chicago suburbs. This festival is still going strong as they perform at the University of Illinois
(Champaign-Urbana) and Illinois State University every other January. Wapella High School participated in this festival from
1986 to 1988.
From Penny Clifton-Pennell:
"Kelley Fryman, the first female Wapella athlete to compete at state, had a
twin sister, Kim. I was on track with both of them. Angie Olsen went on to teach PE at Clinton
High School, where all Wapella students go since Wapella closed down.
You could stand at the end of the "old" part of the high school and see all the way to the end
of the "new" part. We didn't do bad for a "small" school - we even had tennis courts!
No other school can come close to what Wapella Jr/Sr High gave us - small and close knit, there
were truly some of us who did NOT want graduation day to come. We were just like the school in the Tom Cruise film "All The
Right Moves," minus the football team (we were too small)!"
As a way of paying tribute to their school, the WHS Class of 1947 wrote this poem, entitled “To
To Our School
Here at the end of Main Street
In a most convenient spot
Stands our school WCHS
The school we love a lot.
In spring we were glad to leave
In the fall, glad to come back.
For there was always some excitement
To brighten our usual path.
We like your fun at parties
Your lively basketball
Your sportsmanship unfailing
When someone took a fall.
We liked your daily lessons
Your studies weren’t bad
And so in leaving you
We feel a trifle sad.
Now as we give you a fond goodbye
We have just this to say
We’ll cherish and remember you
When we are old and grey.
(Taken from the 1994 Retro)
GREAT JOB WAPELLA HIGH SCHOOL ALUMNI!!
to Wapella resident David Taylor for his photos and information he was able to provide to this page. His copy of the
school's last yearbook was invaluable in the amount of information that we put together as well as the photos of the three
basketball teams you see above.
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