Geneva's Amazing '63 Basketball Team, Wrestler Ray Soto to Join GHS Athletic Hall of Fame Feb. 2
Geneva's first and only state-champion wrestler joins its first and only boys basketball team to make the Elite Eight in a ceremony Feb. 2 celebrating the golden anniversary 1963 team's "Hoosiers"-like trip downstate.
Feb. 2, 2013, will mark two firsts in the history of the Geneva Community High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
Ray Soto, the first (and so far, only) Geneva High School wrestler to win an IHSA state title, joins the 1963 Viking basketball team—the first (and so far, only) boys GHS hoops squad to reach the “Elite Eight."
It is also the first time the Hall of Fame has honored a team for its performance and place in Geneva sports history, as well as the first time a high school wrestling achievement has been so prominently recognized.
The 13th annual induction ceremonies for the Vikings’ Athletic Hall of Fame are scheduled for Saturday evening, Feb. 2, 2013, in the school’s main contest gymnasium, during halftime of the Geneva-vs.-Quincy boys’ varsity basketball game (set to tip off at 6 p.m.).
This year’s Hall of Fame inductees, chosen by a committee of former Geneva sports journalists, Viking athletic alumni and coaches, are:
Ray Soto, Class of 1990
A three-sport athlete who started as a football linebacker for Coach Larry Davis in 1988-89 and on Coach Mike VanDeveer’s track teams in the spring, Soto made his biggest mark in the winter as a wrestler for Coach Jon Schaus. During his senior season of 1989-90, wrestling at 171 pounds, Soto peaked at the right time, running the table to victory on the floor of Assembly Hall in Champaign.
While Geneva did have a wrestler who won an AAU state championship in the early 1930s (before formal interscholastic competition), Randy Riotto, Soto became Geneva’s first, and so far only, IHSA state wrestling champion.
Soto went on to serve honorably in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1992 to 2000, rising to the rank of Sergeant on a Light Helicopter Attack Squadron, and earning a Navy Unit Commendation Medal. Soto returned home to the Fox Valley to serve several years as a firefighter for the City of St. Charles. He is currently a paramedic for a private ambulance service; he is currently studying for a degree in nursing.
The 1962-63 Vikings Basketball Team
The 1962-63 Vikings basketball team will, in its entirety, be inducted into the Hall of Fame during the 50th-anniversary year of its remarkable achievement of reaching the Elite Eight and competing in the very first IHSA Basketball Finals Weekend to be held in what was then the brand-new, 16,000-capacity Assembly Hall on the University of Illinois campus in Champaign. (Previous IHSA Finals Weekends had been held before crammed-in crowds of not quite 7,000 in
Huff Gymnasium on the U. of I. campus). What made Geneva’s feat even more notable was the fact that, with an enrollment at the time of fewer than 500 students, it was playing against much- larger competition in what was, until 1971, Illinois single-class basketball tournament. Coach Mel Johnson’s Vikings had started the season with an unremarkable 2-2 record — suffering a 1962
Thanksgiving Tournament loss to Lockport, and a Dec. 1 nonconference defeat at East Aurora.
But — they then proceeded to win no fewer than 28 consecutive games, throughout the remainder of December, January, February and March — not losing again until the last quarterfinal game on Friday evening, March 22, 1963, when they fell to ultimate 1963 state champion Carver, 57-50. It was the first undefeated Little Seven Conference season in Geneva’s history — and, so far, the only 30-win Viking basketball season ever.
Scheduled to appear on Hall of Fame Night on Feb. 2 is the entire 1963 Viking starting five: center Bob Johansen (who received individual Hall of Fame induction in 2002), forwards Tom Busch and George Peck, and guards Pete Burgess and Dick Krell. Also indicating they would be present to receive the honor are sixth man and occasional starter Bob Liden, plus reserves Rick Tornberg, Mike McCleary, Dennis Backey and Chuck Radovich (now Geneva’s veteran city attorney).
Also present will be 1963 assistant coach Bob Schick, who received individual Hall of Fame induction in 2004, and who had to serve, informally, as de facto lead coach during much of the ’63 stretch run, as Coach Johnson grew weaker with the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) that would kill him in 1964.
After the Feb. 2 induction ceremony, and conclusion of the basketball game with Quincy — to which all previously inducted Hall of Fame members are extended invitations — friends and fans will have the opportunity to visit with the 2013 inductees at a coffee-and-cake reception in their honor in the north balcony of Geneva High’s contest gymnasium.
About the GHS Athletic Hall of Fame
The Geneva Community High School Athletic Hall of Fame selection committee, chaired by Athletic Director Jim Kafer, consists of Jerry Auchstetter, retired Geneva High head football coach who compiled an .801 record over 21 seasons from the 1960s into the 1990s, Rick Nagel, class of 1975, editor of the Geneva Patch news website, who has covered Viking sports since 1985; Dr. Peter Temple, class of 1981, a clinical psychologist in local private practice who led the Viking football team to 17 victories over nearly three seasons as its starting quarterback; and Kurt Wehrmeister, class of 1975, who began his professional career covering Viking athletics for six years as the sports editor of The Geneva Republican, and who served for more than 30 years as the Vikings’ varsity football and basketball public-address announcer. Auchstetter, Temple and Wehrmeister are themselves previous Viking Athletic Hall of Fame inductees.
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