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Celebrating the Best of the Best of Liberty Athletics
Updated as of 9/20/14
Five new members were inducted into the Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame during an induction ceremony on Sept. 19, 2014. The Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014 included representatives from football, men’s basketball, men’s track & field/cross country and women’s track & field.
The five-member class, the sixth to be inducted into the Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame, was also honored during special ceremonies surrounding Liberty’s football match up with Bryant on Sept. 20 at Williams Stadium.
The five-member class includes Mike Decker (men’s track & field), Wayne Haddix (football), Matt Hildebrand (men’s basketball), Jake Matthes (men’s cross country/track & field coach) and Delethea Quarles (women’s track & field).
The Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held on Sept. 19 on the Club Pavilion level of the Williams Stadium Tower, while the five-member class will receive special recognition during the Bryant game the evening following the ceremony.
Nearly as old as the University itself, Liberty’s Athletics Department fielded its first athletics team in 1972, when Dan Manley guided a junior varsity men’s basketball team to a 7-1 record. Football followed the next fall, with Lee “Rock” Royer coaching the Flames to a 3-3 mark.
The Athletics Department has quickly grown over the past four decades, moving from its affiliation with the National Christian College Athletics Association during its infancy, to gaining full-time NCAA Division I status on Sept. 1, 1988.
The Athletics Department Hall of Fame committee, comprised of nine members from the University and Athletics Department, will be looking to honor those who have stood out from among the rest during the last four decades, helping the Flames quickly join the highest level of intercollegiate athletics competition.
The committee is comprised of the following members: Kevin Keys, Associate Athletics Director – External Operations, who chairs the committee; Mickey Guridy, Senior Associate Athletics Director; Erin Hagen, Senior Woman Administrator; Bob Good, Associate Athletics Director for Development; Todd Wetmore, Associate Athletics Director for Communications; Dr. Bill Gribbin, Faculty Athletics Representative; Brenda Bonheim, former Women’s Basketball/Volleyball Coach and Senior Woman Administrator; Dr. Linda Farver, Liberty Kinesiology professor and former Women’s Basketball Coach; Ed Gomes, Football Director of Spiritual Development and former Liberty basketball player.
Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame
Class of 2009 (Inaugural Class)
Dr. Jerry Falwell (founder/former University chancellor)
Arthur L. Williams (athletics financial supporter)
Elena (Kisseleva) Bengds (women’s basketball)
Bob Bonheim (wrestling and football coach)
Sid Bream (baseball)
Kelvin Edwards (football)
Karl Hess (men’s basketball)
Class of 2010
Theresa Bream (women's basketball/volleyball)
Gina Gibson (women's track and field)
Lee Guetterman (baseball)
Chip Smith (football)
Al Worthington (baseball coach and athletics director)
Class of 2011
Paul Annan (men's soccer)
Fred Banks (football)
Bill Bell (men's soccer coach)
Jerry Edwards (radio play-by-play)
Heather (Sagan) Zealand (women's cross country/track and field)
Highlight Video from 2012 Hall of Fame banquet:
Class of 2013
Anthonia (Akpama) Oyedele (volleyball)
Bailey Alston (men’s basketball)
Brenda Bonheim (volleyball and women’s basketball coach/SWA)
Nancy (Davis) White (women’s soccer)
Robby Justino (football)
Highlight Video from 2013 Hall of Fame banquet:
Class of 2014
Mike Decker (men’s track & field)
Wayne Haddix (football)
Matt Hildebrand (men’s basketball)
Jake Matthes (men’s cross country/track & field coach)
Delethea Quarles (women’s track & field)
Highlight Video from 2014 Hall of Fame banquet:
Dr. Jerry Falwell will long be remembered as Liberty’s No. 1 fan, as the sports fanatic had a vision of Liberty Athletics competing alongside the nation’s best from the day he opened the doors at then-Lynchburg Baptist College.
Falwell’s presence at athletics events often spurred Liberty student-athletes to victory over the years, as the founder rarely ever missed a home event, while he traveled the country cheering Liberty’s best until he passed away. At his home-going celebration, 10 Liberty student-athletes served as honorary pallbearers, exhibiting Falwell’s passion for athletics.
Arthur L. Williams, the founder of Primerica Financial Services, has long been one of Liberty Athletics strongest supporters since he was first introduced to the program by Dr. Jerry Falwell during the mid-1970s.
Williams’ financial generosity over the years helped a small NCCAA program quickly transition to the NCAA Division I level. Several athletics facilities around the campus still bear his name, including Williams Stadium and the Williams Football Operations Center, home to Liberty’s two-time defending Big South championship football program.
Anthonia (Akpama) Oyedele was Liberty’s first dominate volleyball player at the Division I level, helping the Lady Flames to their first two Big South titles and a pair of trips the NCAA Volleyball Championships (1997 and 1999).
Oyedele is the only player in program history to amass more than 2,000 career kills, finishing her four-year run on the court with a program-best 2,024 kills. She is one of only two Liberty volleyball players to have her jersey retired, joining fellow Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame member Theresa Bream on this short list.
The native of Lagos, Nigeria, is the only player in program history to be named Big South All-Conference all four years of her career. She capped off her career accolades when she was named the 1999 Big South Player of the Year.
Oyedele became the fifth Liberty Athletics representative inducted into the Big South Hall of Fame in May 2013. During her four-year career, Liberty posted a combined 93-43 record, winning 20 matches each of her four seasons on Liberty Mountain.
Bob Bonheim orchestrated the first true national powerhouse at Liberty, guiding the Flames wrestling program to five-straight NCCAA national championships (1977-1981). The two-time NCCAA National Coach of the Year (1976 and 1981) finished his days roaming the mats with a 118-31 dual meet record, winning at an impressive 79.2 percent clip.
A 2003 inductee into the Central Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, Bonheim coached 35 All-Americans, including eight at the NCAA level. Twenty-one of his grapplers went on to win NCCAA national titles. Bonheim, who also served four years as a defensive line coach for the football program, helped wrestling move from NCCAA to NCAA Division II, finishing fifth nationally during his final season as head coach in the Flames third year at the new level.
Brenda Bonheim was a pioneer for women’s athletics at then Liberty Baptist College when she arrived in Lynchburg in 1973 and championed women’s athletics during her 26 year association with the athletics department.
Bonheim helped start the women’s basketball (1975-76) and volleyball (1976) programs, serving as both program’s inaugural head coach. She also was Liberty’s first-ever Senior Woman Administrator, serving in the administrative position from 1977 until she retired from athletics in 2000.
Bonheim, along with Dr. Linda Farver (women’s basketball coach from 1977-86), helped initiate Liberty’s membership into the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), where Liberty’s women’s programs competed until the entire athletics department made the transition to full Division I status in 1988.
Bonheim joins her husband, Bob Bonheim, in the Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame. Bob was a member of the inaugural Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame Class in 2009, honoring his efforts as an assistant football coach and head wrestling coach.
Sid Bream was one of Liberty’s first true athletic stars, earning NAIA and NABC All-America honors during his time at first base for the baseball program. He still holds seven different baseball program records, including the career mark for both batting average (.435) and slugging percentage (.830).
Bream was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the second round of the 1981 MLB Draft. The 12-year major leaguer and the 1990 Hutch Award winner, Bream helped the Pittsburgh Pirates to the National League Championship Series in 1990 and the Atlanta Braves to back-to-back World Series appearances in 1991 and 1992.
Feature Article on Sid Bream:
Theresa Bream was Liberty’s first true female standout student-athlete, as the two-sport athlete excelled on the basketball and volleyball courts for the Lady Flames from 1987 to 1993. Despite nearly two decades elapsing between her playing days and her induction, Bream is still the owner of three volleyball program records and two women’s basketball program marks.
Jesse Castro, a four-time NCCAA national champion (1977-78-79-81), was one of a handful of athletes that helped a start-up wrestling program quickly emerge to become a national powerhouse.
One of eight wrestlers in program history to enter the Eagle Medal Gold Club (100 career victories), the 142-pounder finished his four-year stay on Liberty Mountain with a 101-20-2 record and the highest career winning percentage among 100-career winners (82.9 percent).
During his time on the mat, Castro helped the Flames win four of their five NCCAA national team championships (1977, 1978, 1979 and 1981), culminating in 1981 when Liberty also finished 18th at the NAIA national championship.
Castro returned to his alma mater in 2005 to restart the wrestling program for its five-year run at the NCAA Division I level (2006-10). Castro was named NCAA East Region Coach of the Year four times, guiding the Flames to five consecutive NCAA East Region titles and sending 24 individual wrestlers to the NCAA Division I national championship.
Kelvin Edwards helped the athletics department’s flagship program make the move to the NCAA ranks, as the wide receiver shined for the football program during a star-studded four-year career. A 1985 Associated Press Little All-America first-team honoree and Blue-Gray Football Game participant, Edwards still holds the program records for career receiving yards (2,546) and career receiving touchdowns (24).
Upon graduating from Liberty, Edwards became Liberty’s second-highest NFL draft pick, when he was selected in the fourth round of the 1984 draft by the New Orleans Saints. His three-year professional football career was spotlighted when he was a starting wide-out for the Dallas Cowboys.
Gina Gibson was a five-time All-American, earning such distinctive honors in the track and field disciplines of long jump and the 4x100 relay. She had the honor of helping Liberty circle the track for the first time at two different competitive levels, as Liberty moved to the NAIA level during her freshman year and to the NCAA Division II level as a junior.
Having only been in existence for two years and already having two former baseball student-athletes in the Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame speaks to the considerable success of the program. Lee Guetterman played a large part in that success. The left-handed pitcher set the tone from the mound early on for the Flames.
Wayne Haddix provided Liberty with its first standout defensive back when he came to Lynchburg from Middletown, Tenn., in 1983.
Four years later, Haddix left his mark on Liberty’s record books with 151 career tackles (85 solo, 66 assisted), while adding five forced fumbles and eight passes defended.
Haddix’s standout career on Liberty Mountain was recognized on the national scene when he became the first player in program history to get an invitation to the Senior Bowl and the second to participate in the Blue-Gray game.
His speed allowed him to excel in the return game, and he led the Flames in punt returns, three of his four years. He still holds the program’s single-game punt return record. Haddix extended his playing career when he became the 10th player in program history to sign a free agent professional contract (New York Giants, 1987).
He played five seasons in the NFL, spotlighted by his 1990 campaign where he recorded seven interceptions for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That year, he became the first alumnus in program history to earn a trip to the NFL Pro Bowl game.
Along with Sid Bream, Karl Hess helped put Liberty Athleics on the national scene. He became the men’s basketball program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,373 points and dazzled fans on the hardwood. Hess capped off his four-year career at Liberty by leading the Flames to a 28-11 and an NCCAA national championship in 1980, earning tournament MVP honors during the event.
The CoSIDA Academic All-America first-team honoree still holds 12 program records, including six career standards. Still active in the game, Hess is now considered to be one of the nation’s top referee’s, primarily officiating ACC, BIG EAST and SEC men’s basketball games. In 2007, he served as the crew chief for the national championship game between Florida and Ohio State.
Matt Hildebrand helped usher Flames Basketball into a new era when Liberty joined the Big South Conference during his sophomore season (1991-92). By his senior year, the native of Sturgis, Mich., had the Flames on the national scene, pushing the No. 1 team in the country during the 1994 NCAA Tournament.
Hildebrand started every game he played during his stellar 116-game career, finishing with 1,515 career points scored, 3,729 minutes played, and 207 career three-point field goals. A steady hand at the charity stripe, he finished with an 88.2 career free throw shooting percentage (398-of-451), which ranks him in the top 25 of the all-time NCAA Division I record books.
During his senior campaign, Hildebrand led the Flames to the program’s first-ever Big South title and earned the program its first trip to the NCAA Tournament. Liberty faced No. 1 seed North Carolina in the contest and led the Tar Heels with 10 minutes left to go in the game, thanks to his 20 points and five assists.
Hildebrand is one of four players in program history to have his jersey retired, and he still holds single-game, season, and career records, including the program mark for best career three-point field goal shooting percentage (42.9 – 207-of-483).
Robby Justino (Football: 1989-92)
Elena (Kisseleva) Bengds helped turn a fledgling women’s basketball program into one of the Big South Conference’s longest-running dynasties. During her magnificent four-year career, the Moscow, Russia, native led the Lady Flames to four-straight league titles and the first four of 10-straight NCAA Tournament berths.
The two-time Big South Player of the Year still lays claim to 12 program records, including the career mark for points scored (2,154) and minutes played (3,860). During the 1997-98 season, Bengds helped the Lady Flames enter the 1998 NCAA Tournament with an unblemished 28-0 record, where they faced eventual national champion Tennessee in the only NCAA Tournament matchup of two unbeaten programs in women’s basketball history.
Jake Matthes was the initial architect of one of the most successful athletics programs during the first four decades of Liberty’s Athletics Department.
He started the men’s cross country program in 1976 and the men’s track & field teams the following year. During his tenure as head coach, Liberty won the 1981 NCCAA men’s track & field national title, five Mason-Dixon men’s cross country championships, and eight men’s cross country regional titles.
Matthes, who coached Liberty at four different levels of competition (NCCAA, NAIA, NCAA Division II, and NCAA Division I) helped 18 student-athletes at the NCCAA level earn All-America honors, four at the NAIA level, and three more as NCAA Division II competitors.
The native of Mansfield, Ohio, earned numerous coaching awards during his 15 years of coaching, including 1981 National Christian College Coach of the Year for men’s track & field and 1985 NCAA Division II South Region Coach of the Year for men’s cross country.
Matthes, who also started the women’s track & field and cross country programs in 1977, had Liberty’s outdoor track facility named after him in 1991. The facility, dubbed the Matthes-Hopkins Track Complex, pairs his name with Ron Hopkins, who took over the women’s programs shortly after Matthes helped get them off the ground.
After transferring to Liberty following her freshman season, Delethea Quarles helped the Lady Flames start a dominant run in the Mason-Dixon Conference and jump-start the program’s success at the Division I level.
The native of Covington, Va., helped Liberty claim indoor and outdoor track championship titles during her junior and senior campaigns (1988 and 1989), thanks to her standout performances in the heptathlon. She also earned All-America honors in the discipline in 1987 and 1988, placing fifth in the heptathlon at the NCAA Division II national championship.
Quarles was the first student-athlete in program history (men’s or women’s) to score more than 200 points in a season and one of only 11 in program history to do so at any level of competition (227.5 points as a senior). The 1989 Penn Relays 100-meter hurdles champion held the program record in the event for more than 20 years before it was broken in 2010.
She served as an assistant coach on Liberty’s staff for eight years (1990-97) before joining the coaching staff at South Carolina, where she has helped more than 20 student-athletes earn All-America honors.
Heather (Sagan) Zealand was Liberty’s first Division I national champion and one of two female track and field student-athletes to capture All-America honors. She was named the 2002 Virginia NCAA Woman of the Year and Eastern Track Athlete of the Year after winning the NCAA Division I Indoor national championship in the women’s mile and earning All-America honors with a second place finish in the outdoor 1500.
The distance runner also was named to the 2002 CoSIDA Academic All-American women’s cross country/track and field team and USTFCCCA Division I Women’s Track and Field Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She became the first collegiate athlete since 1987 to capture the Olympic Development mile title that year at the Penn Relays. She was a 14-time Big South champion, the most by any female student-athlete in program history.The native of Warrenton, Va., was a two-time Big South Outstanding Women’s Track Performer and Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She still holds five Liberty records, including three Big South records in the indoor mile run (4:38.52), indoor distance medley relay (11:52.36) and outdoor 1500 run (4:14.71).
After graduation, the track and field standout represented the United States at the 2003 World Cross Country Championships and made the 1500 finals at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials. She was a nine-year member of the Flames Track and Field and Cross Country coaching staffs, coaching the program from 2002-10.
John Sanders was one of Liberty’s first dominate defensive players on the football field. He is the only player in program history to finish his career with 100 or more tackles all four seasons he took to the gridiron.
Sanders finished his stay on Liberty Mountain with 550 career stops, a mark that leads all career tacklers in program history and is 123 stops ahead of No. 2 on the all-time career tackles list (Mickey Paige – 427 career tackles).
Sanders was a four-time winner of Liberty’s “Big Hit” award and earned AFCA (Kodak) first-team All-America honors as a senior. He also was named to the NAIA all-district defensive team (District 29) and the NAIA honorable-mention All-America team in 1982.
In 1979, Sanders was a part of a Liberty team that posted a 9-1-1 record, the first of three seasons where the Flames finished a year with nine or more victories. Sanders, who took the 1981 season off, helped Liberty post a combined 27-13-2 record during his four years on the field, with three seasons of seven or more victories.
Chip Smith quickly helped jumpstart Liberty’s athletics program as the department’s first-ever athletics standout when the football program first hit the gridiron in 1973.
After joining the women’s basketball program as a walk-on student-athlete, Sharon (Snodgrass) May became the Lady Flames’ first-ever standout on the hardwood during her four-year career.
May is one of only three players in program history to finish their careers with more than 1,000 career points and rebounds. She joins WNBA players Katie Feenstra and Avery Warley, as Snodgrass finished her career with 1,169 career points scored and 1,026 career rebounds.
During her senior season, May became the first female in athletics department history to be awarded the Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award, Liberty’s highest athletics honor. She also became the program’s first-ever VAIAW Division II all-state honoree, earning a spot on the all-state squad after averaging 12.9 points and 9.9 rebounds in 1981-82.
May is the only Lady Flame ever to average a double-double for her entire career, having scored an average of 11.7 points per game and pulling down an average of 10.3 boards per contest.
Ryan Werner is one of the men’s track & field program’s most decorated student-athletes, becoming Liberty’s first three-time All-America decathlete in 1994, 1995 and 1996.
Werner’s then program record of 7,662 decathlon points was a mark that stood for more than 13 seasons, spanning a time where four other Liberty athletes earned All-America honors in the same track discipline.
A 1996 Rock Royer/Mac Rivera award winner, Werner was the first athlete in program history to earn an IC4A title in 1992 (decathlon) and would go on to win a total of five IC4A titles during his Liberty career.
One of only four four-year members of Liberty’s 100-Point Club, Werner became Liberty’s first-ever inductee into the Big South Conference Hall of Fame when he was inducted in 2007. He was a two-time Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year and helped the Flames capture men’s outdoor titles in the Big South in 1994, 1995 and 1996 and an IC4A title in 1996.
Al Worthington used the knowledge gained from 19 years of playing major league baseball and his passion for Christ to help him become one of Liberty’s first coaching legends.