Cal Bentz – Lincoln

Coach.  No one understood the sport of swimming better than this great aquatic coach. Arriving at Westside High School in Omaha in 1963, he became their swimming and diving coach until 1977. During his tenure there the Roman Warriors of Westside High became a dominating force in the state, gaining plaudits across the nation. Westside won ten state championships in swimming and diving while under the direction of Coach Cal Bentz. His next twenty-two years were spent serving as men’s head coach and director of men & women’s swim programs at the University of Nebraska, winning fifteen men’s conference championships: three women’s titles, and numerous top 10 national finishes with both squads. Cal Bentz is a co-founder of American College Connection.

 

 

Roland Locke – North Platte

Athlete—This 1923 graduate of North Platte High School was timed as the fastest sprinter in the world en route to becoming the world record holder in the 100 and 220 yard dashes. Imagine a runner with world-class speed in a high school football backfield.  He led North Platte in 1921 to an unbeaten football season which brought the Platters acclaim as the state champion. Locke gets credit for scoring at least 12 touchdowns in North Platte‘s 176-0 win over Cozad in 1921. However; it was not until the mid-20’s when the “Gip” reached his full potential as a track man, helping the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers as team captain in 1925 and 1926. He competed in the days of hand-held stop watches being timed by some at 9.4 in the 100-yard dash and 20.5 in the 220 during the spring of 1926. He achieved his world records during a successful campaign on the international circuit. Later, he was named one of the outstanding lawyers in Lincoln so his old coach, Henry Schulte, must have been proud of his many successes, both on and off the cinder track. In high school, where his speed was first noticed, he was one of those athletes who rarely if ever lost a race.  He set the state record in 1922 in the 220-yard dash.

Jim Morrison – Howells

Coach. Coaching 40 years at Howells, Jim Morrison became one of Nebraska’s legendary basketball coaches. His Bobcat teams won state championships in 1973, 1974, 1977, 1978 and 1983 and made one other state finals appearance. He compiled a 594-326 record, including two years at Dodge, and coached nine all-state selections. Morrison’s teams qualified for the state tournament 10 times and won 14 conference championships. He was twice named the Nebraska Coaches Association Coach of the Year. At the time of his retirement, Morrison stood fourth in victories among Nebraska basketball coaches. He also coached football, track and baseball.

Johnny Rodgers – Omaha Tech

Athlete. Omaha Tech Class of 1969. High school athlete of the year. 1972 Heisman Trophy Winner. Before he became one of the most exciting players to ever wear the Cornhusker Scarlet and Cream, his exploits on Omaha’s high school football fields was nothing short of legendary. He ran the ball, caught it, returned it.  He was also outstanding on defense.  Other high school exploits included a state championship in the long jump and all-star laurels in basketball where he was a 20-point a game player.

Rodgers blossomed as a national star in 1971 to lead Nebraska to its second consecutive national championship. It was Rodgers’ sensational 72-yard punt return for the first touchdown that ignited the Huskers’ thrilling 35-31 victory over Oklahoma in the “Game of the Century” in 1971. His 77-yard punt return touchdown against Alabama helped trigger the 38-6 Orange Bowl victory and sewed up Nebraska’s second national title.

He owned 43 school records, seven conference records and four NCAA records during his three-year career, in which Nebraska posted a 32-2-2 record. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on December 14, 2000, in New York. Played in both Canandian and National Football League professional leagues.

Rodgers returned to Omaha involved in community and public relations, including the Husker Heisman weekend and his company, Jetwear.

Joe Salerno – Omaha Central

inducteeAthlete. (1988)

From nearly as far back as he can remember, Joe Salerno found tennis in his back yard. He won four straight No. 1 singles championships in high school – the second player in Nebraska history to do so — within sight of his home. The Salernos lived in the upstairs of the Dewey Park Clubhouse where his father was the park’s groundskeeper. In national junior competition, Salerno defeated future Grand Slam winners Michael Chang and Jim Courier. He also played second base for the Omaha Central baseball team. After high school, he played tennis at Tyler (Texas) Junior College, where he was a junior college All-American, then at Nebraska and Alabama.

Fred Bessler – Chase County

Coach.  Fred Bessler had a career football coaching record of 248-81-1 and got his start in Brule. From there, Bessler went to Madrid where he was the head coach of their 9-0 eight-man team that was ranked No. 1. He then moved on to Cozad where he was an assistant coach for the state champion team in 1969. From 1975 to 2002, Bessler coached at Imperial. As the head football coach for 31 years, his teams won 206 games and two Class C-1 runner-up trophies. He was a head coach in the West Nebraska All-Star Football Game twice and an assistant once. In 1983 he was an assistant coach in the Shrine Bowl, and in 1995 he was a head coach. He was also the head track coach at Imperial, where his teams won 26 consecutive conference championships. He also coached basketball.

 

 

From Imperial Republican, 2005

Coach Fred Bessler, in his final season as Longhorn head football coach, meets with his team after their August, 2001, win over Cozad, giving Bessler his 200th win in Imperial. (Republican file photo) By Jan Schultz, The Imperial Republican     Fred Bessler will join an elite group of Nebraskans later this year when he is inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame Foundation.

He will join 12 of Nebraska’s greatest all-time athletes, four other coaches, a longtime official and a contributor who make up the 2005 Hall of Fame Class.

They will be honored during an induction ceremony Sept. 25 at the Lied Center in Lincoln.

According to Buck Mahoney of the Foundation, Bessler is the first to gain the honor from Imperial in the 11 years of the Foundation’s existence. The 2005 class brings the total number to 239 honorees.

“It’s humbling,” Bessler said of his selection to the Hall of Fame.

“The fact that you are associated with longtime successful coaches across the state of Nebraska, it’s very humbling. It’s much appreciated,” he said.

Bessler retired from teaching and coaching in 2002, after 27 years in the school system and 37 years overall as a coach.

However, he remains a regular substitute teacher at CCHS and doesn’t miss very many Longhorn athletic events.

He coached football at Brule, Madrid, Cozad and Chase County, compiling a 248-81-1 career record, with 206 wins in Imperial and a pair of Class C-1 state runner-up finishes.

At the time of his retirement from football, his career coaching record was among the top five in Nebraska.

A highlight at Madrid in 1967 was his football team’s 9-0 record and a No. 1 state ranking. That was before Nebraska had football state playoffs.

Bessler was an assistant Shrine Bowl football coach in 1983, then was head coach for the Shrine all-star game in 1995.

His success in coaching track will also be highlighted when he is introduced at the induction ceremony later this year.

Most notably, he coached the Longhorn boys’ team to 26 consecutive SPVA conference championships while at CCHS.

He also spent a combined 16 years coaching boys’ basketball at all four high schools in Brule, Madrid, Cozad and Imperial. He spent six years as an assistant Longhorn coach from 1975-81.

A coach for 27 years at Chase County High School, Bessler has many, many good memories in all the sports he coached.

However, he pinpointed a few from his years as a football and track coach here.

One of his fondest memories in football was the 1989 team, he said. The team had a 2-5 record late in the season, but went all the way to the state football semi-finals that year, winning four straight games and finishing with a 6-6 record.

“That was probably most rewarding,” Bessler reminisced, “because they went so far and overachieved.”

Several state track performances are among the good memories for Bessler, as well.

Bessler coached the state championship 3200 meter team of Gary Snyder, Morgan Kunnemann, Denny Draper and Chris Bubak, who won an unexpected gold medal in 1983.

He also coached the state track second place 3200 meter relay team in 1997, comprised of Chris Skeen, Sam McNair, Steve Barger and Mitchell Vires, who still hold the school record in that event.

The other was Andy Bauman’s second-place state pole vault effort in 1983 at 14’6″.

While he wasn’t the individual jumpers’ event coach, Bessler said Ed Kaiser’s 6′ 9″ high jump in 2002 at the state track meet, another gold medal performance, is high on his list of good memories, too.

Those three still remain on the CCHS track record board.

But, at the top of the list for track are the 26 consecutive conference championships. That is hard to match anywhere in the state. “That was due to the high participation of athletes that we had. It was always satisfying to have 40 to 50 out for track,” he said.

That was true with football, as well.

During the Longhorns’ two football games in the state finals in 1997 and 1998, the CCHS team had an average of 70 players on the roster both years.  Bessler made certain they all suited up for the games and all received state medals those years, even though the NSAA only provided 38 medals to each team.

As Bessler nears the end of his third year in retirement, he said he does miss a lot of what comes with teaching and coaching. “I really miss the day-to-day association with the kids, and obviously, the games” and meets, he said.

He said he was “blessed” with great assistant coaches in all of his years in coaching, and those associations, too, go beyond the court and field.  He said he’d be remiss if he didn’t acknowledge the support from his family, as well, especially his wife, Sandy, and the community support all of those years at CCHS.