Liberty Athletics 2012 Hall of Fame class (l to r): Mark Chafin, Sharon (Sondgrass) May, John Sanders, Jesse Castro and Ryan Werner.
Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame
Representatives from football, men's and women's basketball, wrestling and the men's track & field program were among the five newest members inducted into the Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame class, last night.
The five-member class included Jesse Castro (wrestling), Mark Chafin (men's basketball), John Sanders (football), Sharon (Snodgrass) May (women's basketball) and Ryan Werner (men's track & field).
The five-member class, the fourth to be inducted into the Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame, has inducted into the Hall of Fame at last night's annual Hall of Fame banquet, which was held on the Club Pavilion of the Williams Stadium Tower.
Several previous inductees returned for the festive evening, including Class of 2009 members Elena (Kisseleva) Bengds and Bob Bonheim, Class of 2010 member Gina Gibson and Class of 2011 members Paul Annan, Jerry Edwards and Heather (Sagan) Zealand.
This year's class will also be recognized during a special halftime ceremony at tonight's football game against No. 16/13 Lehigh at Williams Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
The Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame celebrates the best of the best, honoring those who helped shape the face of Liberty Athletics. The Hall of Fame's now 22 members have each played a key role in helping Liberty grow from an NCCAA program in 1972 to its current status as a thriving NCAA Division I program today.
Jesse Castro (Wrestling – 1977-81)
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.
Mark Chafin (Men's Basketball – 1975-78)
Mark Chafin finished his four years racing up and down the basketball court as Liberty's all-time leading scorer (1,951 career point), a figure that stood until it was surpassed by fellow Liberty Athletics Hall of Famer Karl Hess two years later.
Chafin was a three-year starter, earning NCCAA all-district team honors in 1975, 1976 and 1977 and honorable-mention honors in 1978.
Chafin was one of Liberty's most prolific scorers and the program's most accurate shooters during his last three seasons with the program. He finished his career with a 45.8 field goal shooting percentage (783-of-1709) and a 73.6 shooting percentage from the charity stripe (381-of-517).
Chafin, who is an active participant in his sport as a NCAA Division I referee, still currently ranks among the program's leaders in scoring, field goals, free throws and steals (225).
John Sanders (Football, 1979-82)
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.
Sharon (Snodgrass) May (Women's Basketball, 1979-82)
After joining the women's basketball program as a walk-on student-athlete, Sharon Snodgrass became the Lady Flames' first-ever standout on the hardwood during her four-year career.
Snodgrass 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, Snodgrass 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.
Snodgrass 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 (Men's Track & Field, 1992-96)
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.
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 & 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 & field)
Class of 2012 Jesse Castro (wrestling) Mark Chafin (men's basketball) John Sanders (football) Sharon (Snodgrass) May (women's basketball) Ryan Werner (men's track & field)