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Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln coach Benitz among 12 elected to National High School Hall of Fame



INDIANAPOLIS, IN (March 16, 2007) - Lewis Benitz, wrestling coach at Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, who has won 17 state championships, is among 12 individuals who will be inducted in the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) National High School Hall of Fame July 4 at the Desert Springs Marriott Hotel in Palm Desert, California. The Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be the closing event of the 88th NFHS Annual Summer Meeting.

Lewis Benitz biography
Benitz, who has directed the wrestling program at Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln since 1967, is the winningest wrestling coach in Wisconsin history and ranks fifth nationally with 663 victories (91 percent winning percentage) through the 2005-06 season. Benitz won his fifth consecutive state wrestling championship this year, increasing his overall number to 17 state titles.

Among the headline inductees of the 2007 class of the National High School Hall of Fame are Jim Plunkett, a three-sport star at James Lick High School in San Jose, California, in the 1960s prior to leading the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders to two Super Bowl victories, and Terry Steinbach, the top high school baseball player in Minnesota in 1980 who enjoyed a highly successful 14-year professional career with the Oakland A's and Minnesota Twins.

Other former high school athletes selected for the 2007 class are Clyde Duncan, a track and field standout at Des Moines (Iowa) North High School in the early 1960s who is currently the track and field coach at Texas Southern University in Houston; Jim Johnson, the most prolific scorer in high school ice hockey from Cranbrook High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan; and Charlie Wedemeyer, considered one of the greatest athletes in Hawaii history after excelling in football, baseball and basketball at Punahou High School in Honolulu in the 1960s.

Rick Insell, who won 10 state girls basketball titles at Shelbyville Central High School in 28 years and now is the women's basketball coach at Middle Tennessee State University, is one of four coaches selected for the 2007 class. Other coaches are John Bagonzi, who won seven state baseball championships and five state basketball titles at Woodsville (New Hampshire) High School;; and Joan Wells, who won 15 state championships as volleyball coach at Lawrence (Kansas) High School.

Two contest officials were selected for this year's class: Jane Hansen, field hockey and lacrosse official from New Jersey, and Sam Short, a veteran football and basketball official from Alabama. The final member of the 2007 class is Tim Stevens, a long-time high school sportswriter for the Raleigh News and Observer in North Carolina.

The National High School Hall of Fame was started in 1982 by the NFHS to honor high school athletes, coaches, contest officials, administrators, fine arts coaches/directors and others for their extraordinary achievements and accomplishments in high school sports and activity programs. This year's class increases the number in the Hall of Fame to 338, and this year's event will be the 25th induction ceremony.
The 12 individuals were chosen after a two-level selection process involving a screening committee composed of active high school state association administrators, coaches and officials, and a final selection committee composed of coaches, former athletes, state association officials, media representatives and educational leaders.

Nominations were made through NFHS member associations.

ATHLETES

Clyde Duncan
Duncan was perhaps the most dominant track and field athlete in Iowa history. He won the 100, 220 and 440 state titles in all three years of high school competition at Des Moines North, and the nine individual championships are the most in 101 years of track and field competition in Iowa. Amazingly, 43 years later, he still owns the state's top time (9.3) in the 100-yard dash. Duncan was a collegiate all-American at Texas Southern University, where he coaches today.

Jim Johnson
Johnson scored 249 goals during his four-year (1971-74) ice hockey career at Cranbrook High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and his national record for career goals has stood the test of time for 33 years. Amazingly, many of his goals were scored on Cranbrook's outdoor ice rink. Johnson was an all-state selection four times and a two-time high school all-American. He then played four years at Michigan State University. Today, Johnson is athletic director at Troy (Michigan) High School.

Jim Plunkett
Plunkett excelled in baseball, wrestling and football at James Lick High School. He was undefeated in wrestling in his senior season and won a California Interscholastic Federation section title. He led his football team to a 9-0 mark as a senior, passing for 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns. He went on to win the Heisman Trophy at Stanford University and led the Cardinal to a victory over Ohio State University in the 1971 Rose Bowl. He then led the Raiders to victories in the 1981 and 1984 Super Bowls and was most valuable player of Super Bowl XV in 1981.

Terry Steinbach
Steinbach was an ice hockey and baseball standout at New Ulm (Minnesota) High School. He set school records for most career goals in ice hockey and most career home runs in baseball. He was the co-Big Ten Conference baseball player of the year at the University of Minnesota in 1983. He played with the Oakland A's for 11 years, including the 1989 World Series championship team, and finished his career with the Minnesota Twins (1997-99).

Charlie Wedemeyer
Wedemeyer was all-league three times in three different sports (football, basketball and baseball) at Honolulu Punahou. He was selected Hawaii Athlete of the Decade for the 1960s and is generally recognized as the state's greatest prep athlete in history. He played football at Michigan State University, where he was a member of the 1965 national championship team and played in the famous "Game of the Century" in 1966 against Notre Dame. For the past 30 years, Wedemeyer has battled Lou Gehrig's disease and communicates through his wife, Lucy. A made-for-TV movie was broadcast nationally in 1988, and the Wedemeyers give inspirational speeches throughout the country.

COACHES

John Bagonzi
Bagonzi won more than 80 percent of his games as basketball and baseball coach at his alma mater - Woodsville (New Hampshire) High School - from 1958 to 1981, including 12 state championships. His basketball teams won five state titles and had a 62-game regular-season winning streak from 1968 to 1971. In baseball, his teams won seven state championships and had a 35-game winning streak. He has written more than 100 articles on baseball for national publications and authored a book, The Act of Pitching, now in its fifth printing.

Rick Insell
Insell compiled a 775-148 record in 28 years as girls basketball coach at Shelbyville (Tennessee) Central High School and claimed 10 state championships. His teams won four consecutive state titles (1989-92) and 110 consecutive games between 1987 and 1991. His teams were runner-ups five other times. He is now in his second year as women's basketball coach at Middle Tennessee State University and has guided MTSU to the NCAA tournament both years.

Joan Wells
Wells retired as volleyball coach at Lawrence (Kansas) High School in 1997 after an outstanding 27-year career. She compiled an 865-89 record (90.7 percent), won 15 state championships and finished second in state seven other times. She coached 29 athletes who went on to play NCAA Division I volleyball. She also coached softball for 16 years, guiding Lawrence to its only state softball championship in 1977.

OFFICIALS

Jane Hansen
Hansen has been the field hockey rules interpreter for the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association for 26 years and served in the same capacity for girls lacrosse for 12 years before retiring in 2003. She has umpired in the New Jersey field hockey championships almost every year since 1975. She also has served on the NFHS Field Hockey Rules Committee.

Sam Short
Short has been involved with basketball officiating in the state of Alabama for 53 years and still serves as coordinator of officials for the Alabama High School Athletic Association. He also was a football official for 37 years and holds the record for officiating the most state football championships. Short has served on the NFHS Football
Rules Committee and Basketball Rules Committee.

OTHERS

Tim Stevens
Stevens has been involved with the Raleigh Times and the Raleigh News and Observer since starting at the Times in 1967 as a high school correspondent. He has devoted his entire career to coverage of high school sports and has been high school sports editor for the News and Observer since 1990. He was co-author of the North Carolina High School Record Book and has been involved for many years with the annual holiday invitational basketball tournament in Raleigh. He is the fourth newspaper journalist to be inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame.

About the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS)
The NFHS, based in Indianapolis, Indiana, is the national leadership organization for high school sports and fine arts activities. Since 1920, the NFHS has led the development of education-based interscholastic sports and fine arts activities that help students succeed in their lives. The NFHS sets direction for the future by building awareness and support, improving the participation experience, establishing consistent standards and rules for competition, and helping those who oversee high school sports and activities. The NFHS writes playing rules for 17 sports for boys and girls at the high school level.

Through its 50 member state associations and the District of Columbia, the NFHS reaches more than 18,500 high schools and 11 million participants in high school activity programs, including more than 7 million in high school sports. As the recognized national authority on interscholastic activity programs, the NFHS conducts national meetings; sanctions interstate events; produces publications for high school coaches, officials and athletic directors; sponsors professional organizations for high school coaches, officials, spirit coaches, speech and debate coaches and music adjudicators; and serves as a national information resource of interscholastic athletics and activities. For more information, visit the NFHS Web site at www.nfhs.org.
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