2016 Athletic Hall of Fame Inductees
Linda Sparks Nathan Bratka1977 UndefeatedFootball Team Linda Sparks- Inducted as a Coach- 2016
A twenty-year coach for West Liberty-Salem, Linda graduated in 1964 from Logan Hills High School. She started her career teaching at Benjamin Logan Schools, where she taught for ten years, before moving to WL-S where she would complete 30 years of education as a teacher, principal, and superintendent. Her coaching career started in 1976 with summer league softball coaching the Little West Liberty Blues that eventually lead into her initiating the start-up of women’s fast pitch softball at West Liberty-Salem in 1985. Coaching positions that became open she was quick to apply. She enjoyed the thrill of competition and watching students excel on the competition field.
For Junior High athletics, she coached volleyball, basketball, and track for several years, and helped with boy’s golf to prepare them for Coach John Day’s high school program.
For High school athletics, along with being the head softball coach for years, she was the JV girls basketball coach under Head Coaches Dennis Spriggs and John Day, the JV volleyball coach under head Coach Eric Harman, and the girls track & field coach. In 1988 she coached the girl’s fast pitch to District Runner-Ups in Division A.
Coach Sparks created a coaching atmosphere that was constantly a positive environment for all athletes and one that would impact the students, not only on the sports field, but in their future lives. In her later years in education as an administrator, she rarely missed an athletic event whether it was home or away, to support the Tigers. Her voice could usually be heard as she would lead chants and cheers to support the teams. During her time in education, she was also heavily involved in the space program, as a candidate for the Teacher in Space program- she developed an activity that could be used in space as exercise for astronauts, and was very close to being able to enjoy an adventure in space on her own.
Linda currently works part time for Mount Vernon Nazarene University as a University Supervisor for students of undergraduate and masters degrees. She resides in West Liberty with her husband Larry, where she enjoys watching her grandchildren’s activities, gardening, showing roses in competitions, camping and golfing. They have three grown children, seven grandkids, and two great-grandchildren.
Coach Sparks invites any former WL-S fast pitch ladies that she coached to come to the banquet and celebrate her accomplishments with her.
Nathan Bratka- Inducted as an Athlete 2016
Nathan is a 2009 graduate of West Liberty-Salem who earned 7 varsity letters in Basketball and Track & Field and was also a state Champion in Discus in 2009.
In basketball, he holds the record for overall field goal percentage with 60.2%, and holds the record for overall blocks in a single game with 11. He is fifth in overall rebounds with 542 and is seventh with overall games played being 68. His sophomore year, he was named Most Improved player, after his junior season he was named Best Defensive Player, named to the All OHC First team, and named to the Bellefontaine Examiner All Area First Team. His senior year, he was the Most Valuable player, named to the Springfield News Sun All Area First Team, South West District D-III Honorable Mention, District 9 All Star Team, All OHC First Team, and Bellefontaine Examiner All Area First Team.
In track & field, he threw the Shot Put and Discus and still holds the current records at WLS: The Discus record being 174’01” and shot put record being 50’10”. After his Junior and Senior years, he was named the Most Valuable Thrower at WL-S. During his Senior year, he set and holds to this day many individual meet records at West Liberty-Salem and other schools. He was the Champaign County Discus Champion and the OHC Discus Champion. He was named four-time All District in Discus, and three times All District in Shot Put, he won the District in Disc his sophomore, Junior, and Senior years while winning shot put his senior year. He set the Discus record at 167’09” at the District meet. He was named All Regional in Discus four times and All Regional in shot put three times. His Sophomore year he tied for the regional Champion, but placed first his Junior and Senior years and still holds the regional discus record at 170’07”. His senior year, he won the Div. III State Discus at the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium at The Ohio State University with a throw of 172’10” and was named to the All State Discus team for the third year in a row.
During High School career, Nathan also played the lead role in three musicals and was a member of the yearbook and newspaper staff. He is the son of Dan and Sara Bratka and has two brothers, Ben and Zac. Currently he is Security Forces Officer Serving as a Flight Commander at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana in defense of our nation’s Nuclear ICBM force. In his spare time he enjoys hunting, fishing, and hiking in Montana.
The 1977 Football Team:
After a 9-1 football season in 1976, the '77-'78 Tiger Football Team, led by head Coach Gary Bolyard, did one better and finished their season undefeated, becoming the first undefeated football team in West Liberty-Salem school history. They finished the season first in the WCOC, 14th in the Final AP Polls in the state, and 7th in the final (UPI) United Press International High School Football Standings. The Fighting Tigers landed eleven spots on the ALL WCOC tea and three members (Mike Woodruff, Ed Boysel, and Randy Stapleton) all receiving UPI recognition.
Members of the team included Senior captains Mike Woodruff, Randy Stapleton, David Warye, Matt Yoder, Ed Boysel, and John Carter. Juniors Van Tullis, Glen Lapp, Jeff Cornelious, Kevin Coleman, Rick Wilson, Butch Lowe, Paul Riehl, Steve Miller, Ed Ropp, Reno Stapleton, Joe Buck, Scott Boyd, Sophomores Doug Wren, Paul Snapp, John Lyons, and Freshman Chris Roberts, Bob Leib, David Mitchell, Sam Kensler, Matt Brandt, Mark Brooks, Mike Allison, Joe Lyons, and Merle Neal.
Along with Coach Bolyard who received the WCOC “Coach of the Year” award, the Tigers were lead by Coaches Denny Price, Dennis Spriggs, Dave Ruhe, and Steve McCullough.
Team members and where they are today (if they are not listed, they did not respond):
Coach Gary Bolyard is a retired principal, and lives in Bellefontaine with his wife Julie.
Coach Ruhe lives in South Charleston, Ohio with his wife and is a Special Ed Director for Springfield Shawnee Schools
Coach Spriggs lives in Urbana with his wife, retired from teaching and now operates his own Landscaping business.
Coach Price passed away, his wife Diana resides in Urbana.
Coach McCullough is retired from Navistar and lives with his wife in West Liberty.
David Warye resides in Kingscreek with his wife and son and works for Ohio Department of Mental Health.
Matt Yoder resides in West Liberty with his wife and three children. He is a farmer.
Mike Woodruff lives in West Liberty with his wife and has two children. He works as a program manager at Honeywell.
John Carter worked in the manufacturing field and lost his battle to cancer in 2003. He was married and had two children.
Randy Stapleton resides in Maryland with his wife and has three children.
Reno Stapleton lives in West Liberty with his wife and they have 4 children.
Scott Boyd lives in West Liberty with his wife and they have 5 children and two grandchildren.
Rick Wilson was a Pastor in Dayton and passed away in 2013. He has 4 children and his wife Deb.
Joe Buck resides in West Liberty and runs a farm and a fencing business. He and his wife have 4 children.
Paul Riehl resides in Illinios and has one daughter. He is the Executive Director at Northwestern University.
Ed Ropp lives in Rushsylvania with his wife and works at Pleasant Precision.
Jon Lyons lives in Conneticut and is a senior mechanical designer.
Sam Kensler lives in Rushsylvania with his wife and they have three children.
Jeff Cornelious lives in Bellefontaine, he is retired from Honda and has two daughters and three granddaughters.
Steve Miller and Ed Boysel both have passed away unfortunately, but their families will be there representing them.
Van Tullis lives in California and is pursuing his doctorate degree in Clinical Phychology.
Mark Brooks resides in Urbana with his wife. He works at Ohio Department of Transportation and has 3 children.
The inductees were honored Friday night, Feb 5th, before the Varsity Boys basketball game vs. Mechanicsburg. There was a social gathering after the game for the community to gather and enjoy refreshments with the inductees. The formal induction banquet was Saturday night, Feb 6th, at 5:30 at the Urbana Christian Conference Center. Former Ohio State Football player Tyler Everett was the featured speaker at the event.