Darrel Wolters – An Autobiography
Darrel LeVerle Wolters, a lifetime teacher and coach, was born in the Portis, Kansas hospital on July 24, 1942. Dr. Burtch, another Portis County Hall of Famer, did the delivery. Portis, Kansas was always known for basketball because of the legendary 1920-1930s Portis Dynamos, who ruled Kansas semi-pro teams with numerous championships over cities with populations thousands of times larger. In fact LeVerle Wolters, my dad, played in the 1930s on this well known team. So it was probably in the blood that I was going to like basketball. At early age, my uncle gave me the nickname of “Spook” because I was so shy. I am still known in this area as Spook. The disadvantage was when I entered high school I was only 51” tall. I realized that being small in stature, I would have to practice more than my competition. So I played and practiced ball every day, several hours a day. LeVerle owned the Wolters Lumber Yard, and every Wednesday and Saturday mornings it was packed with boisterous and back seat coaches. A new school was built in 1951, which was envy of many schools because of atmosphere and gymnasium. By the way, it wasn’t hard to know what the town considered important in the school system, the gymnasium laid smack in middle of all the classrooms that were built around the gym. The little quiet town of Portis (less than 200 people) had three churches and most put on their best clothes and attended church on Sunday morning, honoring God.
It was in the lumber yard, as I remember, that I realized if you were going to amount to anything or get recognition you better be pretty good at basketball. As a youngster I can remember many Saturday mornings as everyone would huddle around the old wood and coal stove, the excitement would soon lead to laughter as someone’s coat would start to smoke as they had backed up too close to the stove in the passion of stories, of the night before ball games. Someone would beat out the fire with their gloves and the stories of heroics would go on. Portis had no football in the school system, as a severe injury back in the 1930s to a young athlete caused the school board to abolish the sport. So in the fall, baseball was played and there were not many nearby opponents, so we would travel in cars long distances to find competition. Coach Stark would take his station wagon, and rest of the transportation was by students driving to games in their own old car; so we would jump in with our buddies. We had no buses. As servicemen returned from World War II, every town had town team baseball games. I would follow my dad to all them and developed a love for baseball as well as basketball. Then in the 1950s as everyone got older it changed to softball.
As my high school years commenced, I became a part of some outstanding basketball teams, going to State in both of my junior and senior years. Portis was in Class BB and the State Basketball Tournament was played at Dodge City Auditorium. Portis was a part of the North-South Solomon League. It was made up of these schools – Woodston Coyotes, Lebanon Broncos, Gaylord Beavers, Agra Purple Chargers, Kirwin Wildcats, Kensington Goldbugs, and Portis’ biggest rivalry, the Alton Wildcats. Kensington is the only school that still has an attendance center.
It was after success in high school I knew I wanted to coach basketball and give young kids the same experiences I had. Upon my high school graduation and turning down a couple of scholarships, I chose Fort Hays State for college because it was closer to home. Remember, my nickname is Spook.
In 1963 I was married to the lovely Diana (Suzi) Holloway, from Alton Kansas. We have four children: Melody, Dusty, Jason and Mandy. In 1965 my long time dream of coaching and teaching became a reality, as I was contracted to teach and coach at Utica High School. I coached all Junior and Senior High sports, including baseball, basketball, cross country and track. I was fortunate enough to have coached Dave Burrell for six years, the all time Kansas High School Season Scoring Average leader at 33.3 points per game. After six years teaching and coaching the Utica Dragons, I moved on to coach four years at Wheatland (a consolidated high school for the towns of Grainfield, Gove and Park, Kansas). There I was head boys basketball coach as well as track. I taught Biology and Physical Education. After limited success, I came back from western Kansas and was hired to run Ken’s Department Store in Osborne, Kansas. There was no teaching vacancies available on my return to my home county. After three years as a haberdasher, I then managed House of Diamonds, a jewelry store, for two years. I enjoyed the business world, but always wanted to get back into teaching. There is nothing like working with young people. Watching their lives change into young men and women is awesome, and I am always just hoping you might make a little difference. And to teach in my home district is extra special. I always looked at teaching as a tremendous responsibility. The parents are entrusting you with the greatest commodity they have, their children.
At Osborne I taught 7th and 8th Grade Science and Physical Education. I assisted with basketball and football. I taught 23 years in Osborne U.S.D. School District #392 before retiring from teaching in 2004 and from coaching basketball in 2007. I coached High School Golf for 19 years, with our best finish a 3rd place in the State Golf Tournament in 2000. In the late 1980s I coached high school girls basketball for the first time in my career. In four years I had good teams but state play was elusive. In 1997 some parents came to me and asked if I would consider coaching the girls again, as the teams had been struggling.
After saying yes, the next decade was truly a dream come true. Darrel was blessed to have some talented athletes who were as crazy about basketball as he was. Not only were these kids basketball players, but they were intelligent and filled with amazing tenacity! I would encourage them to practice all summer and they would get up 6:30 A.M. to lift weights and shoot hoops for hours. They were disciplined and loved to compete. The Osborne girls practiced harder and longer than any of their opponents. Often there were three hours a night of basketball practice and they never complained. It was such an honor to coach them and even more important to see how successful they are today, as family leaders and successful in their professional careers.
It was at this time that Osborne Lady Bulldogs not only took the community by storm, but provided me with the dream of letting my players experience State Play that I experienced nearly 40 years ago at Portis High School. I will never forget in 2000, the moment that we won the State Championship undefeated, looking up at the score board in Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kansas, and thanking God, that a little boy from a little village had attained what he dreamed of all his life. Along with my team, my family, my assistant coach Jamie Wolters, and all the fans that funneled down Highway 24 for the 130 miles trip east from Osborne; only in America could this happen.
The stats look something like this. An undefeated State Championship and 26-0 in 2000; a winning streak of 51 straight games; the runner-up in the 2001 State Tournament with a record of 25-1; another State Championship in 2002; the runner-up again in 2003; winning six Mid-Continent League titles; a overall 98-6 record in the four-year span; playing in four straight State Championship Title Games; six overall trips to the State Basketball Tournament; and compiling a record of 260 wins and 72 losses in 14 years of coaching the Lady Bulldogs, with never a losing season. I was named Coach of the Year twice in the Salina Journal and Wichita Eagle newspapers. I coached two Kansas Coaches All-Star games in Topeka, as well as one at Colby. I received Coach of the Year honors from the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association twice. I was basketball clinician at the Kansas Coaches Association Clinic in Topeka, as well as at Fort Hays State University. In year 2000 The Osborne Lady Bulldogs and their coach were rewarded with a trip to the chambers of the Kansas Senate and the Kansas House of Representatives for special recognition as undefeated State Class 2A Basketball Champions.
Longtime and successful girls’ basketball coach of the Smith Center Redmen, Nick Linn, said of Coach Wolters, “I don’t ever remember a game where Coach Wolters had his players anything less than 100% ready. They were always well-prepared. Coach emphasized great defense. You have to score to win. Problem was, they wouldn’t let us score. Offense wins games . . . Defense wins championships”.
Many of my athletes went on to play college ball and excelled at every level. Many school records both team and individual were recorded. I am most proud of the kind of teams we put on the floor. I received many cards, calls, and letters about how the teams played with so much enthusiasm. Many noticed how they always dressed up for game day, and carried themselves with pride and loyalty. They were gracious in victory and humble in defeat. Most people don’t realize what truly makes a great teams. Everyone can’t be a star on a basketball team and there are many unselfish role players that are just as much or more important to the team. We had a ton of them. They were the ones who inspired, gave out the assists, rebounded, played tough defense, worked hard so that our teams could be successful. I loved those gals, because they had the heart of David. We were so fortunate to have support of businesses and community and on game nights brought us all together, to pull for each other. I feel very humbled to have had this ride with these beautiful kids along with God’s Grace, they still call me COACH.
Since retirement coach I like to hunt, fish, and camp, as well as following my eleven grandchildren in academics and athletics. I love being active in the Grace Brethren Church, giving back just a little of what the Lord blessed me with in my teaching and coaching profession.
* * * * *
Darrel Wolters on His Osborne High Bulldog Teams
The first year, 1998, we were defeated in finals of Sub-State in the last couple minutes to Valley Heights High School by the score of 76-71. That was the last motivation that this group of girls needed. As they say, the next few years is history. The 1999 Lady Bulldogs went 19-5 and earned their first trip for Coach Wolters as their leader. In the first round at the State Tournament in Bramlage Coliseum it was a heart breaking loss of 60-59 in overtime to Jackson Heights High School. Members of that State team were April and Amber Roadhouse, Brittany Dietz, Stephanie Corwin, Alisha Spears, Kristi Hartzler, Skylar Boland, Mellisa Legg, Angela Gashaw, Jonna Webb, Amanda Smith and Malea Henke. Little did we know at that time, but motel rooms, restaurants, and Bulldog Mania would soon set into Osborne County every March.
The turn of the century was a fairy tale come true. In 2000 the Lady Bulldogs became the first basketball team in Osborne High history, boys or girls, to go undefeated, 26-0. Osborne won the preseason tourney, league tournament, overall Mid-Continent League Champs, and the Sub-State tourney. In the first round of the State Tournament the Bulldogs annihilated Valley Heights 64-35 in Manhattan, Kansas. In the semifinals they outplayed Garden Plain, a very quality team, 51-41. The finals saw hundreds of Osborne Bulldog fans fill the their side of Bramlage Coliseum for the match with Moundridge. Moundridge started five seniors and featured Laurie Koehn, who went on to star for four years with the Kansas State University Wildcats. Maroon and Gold went Wild! The final score was 61-54 for Coach Wolters’ first State Championship, as well as for Osborne High School. It was the most talented and toughest team I ever had. I give all the credit to them, and so thankful the good Lord allowed this time, this place, with this group to share once in a life time event. Not many times in life can you be perfect! The members were: Amber and April Roadhouse, Brittany Dietz, Mary Wilson, Kristie Hartzler, Ashley Noel, Jessica Spears, Melissa Legg, Brooke Ubelaker, Jonna Webb, Amanda Smith and Alisha Spears. The team bought Championship Undefeated Rings, and were rewarded with several school and community celebrations.
2001 started out like 2000, as this new team won 25 straight games without a defeat, ending with a 51-game winning streak. Again they won the preseason, league tourney and league title, along with the sub-state tournament. In the first round of State, the Bulldogs defeated Valley Heights 65-35. In the semi-finals the Lady Dogs set an all time Class 2A defensive record by holding Inman to just 22 points for the entire game. It was a masterful exhibition of pressure defense that completely stymied our opponents. This record still stands for all State Playoff games. The finals of the State Championship was a heart breaker, as Garden Plains handed the Bulldogs their first defeat in 52 games by score of 54-45. After playing three games in three days we seemed to be just a step slow. I feel we could and should have beat them on most nights. We ended the season 25-1, another super year! Team members were: April Roadhouse, Brittany Dietz, Ashley Noel, Kristen Henke, Mary Wilson„ Denise Hartzler, Anne Zeiger, Jill Smith, Brooke Ubelaker, Jessica Spears, Alisha Spears, and Hanna Wilson. Expectations were growing at OHS.
2002 was another dominating year for the Osborne girls, winning all four tournaments and their second State Championship in three years. Hundreds of cars funneled down Highway 24 to the Little Apple. The opening round at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan saw Osborne defeat Onaga 61-41. In the second round Osborne whipped Sublette 68-54. Sublette had Shayla Lenning, who went on and became an All-American for Emporia State University. The finals was between Osborne and the Ness City Eagles, who also had one loss. It was an exciting game, but the Bulldogs pulled away late in the game with a 55-38 trouncing. Members of that team were: April Roadhouse, Brooke Ubelaker, Ashley Noel, Mary Wilson, Karie Ubelaker, Denise Hartzler, Rachel Noel, Meridith Musil, Jessica Spears, Krisa Ubelaker, Lacey Sechtem and Jill Smith. The Cinderella streak continued. With another State Championship, everybody in the State of Kansas knew about the Osborne Lady Bulldogs.
The 2003 Bulldogs’ record ended at 23-3. After winning the league tourney, league championship, and Sub-State Tournament, Osborne returned to State for their fifth straight year. In the sub-state tournament Osborne bombed Lincoln 75-45 in the first round; the semi-finals found Osborne beating a good Sacred Heart team 53-50. The finals of sub-state was Osborne 53 and Valley Heights 46. Again the Bulldogs marched to the State Tourney finals for the fourth straight year. In the first round we doubled the score 76-36 against Uniontown. In the semi-finals Osborne ousted St. John 69-63. In the finals, a powerful Moundridge team won by score of 73-55. This give these Senior girls two State Championships and two runner-ups, with an unbelievable record of 98-6. Seniors were Denise Hartzler, Ashley Noel, Brooke Ubelaker, Jill Smith, Jessica Spears. Others are Tracey Conway, Karie Ubelaker, Rachael Noel, Krisa Ubelaker, Michele Princ, Meredith Musil, and Kelli LaRosh.
After retirement coach Wolters wanted to try and get another group to state and it took four years, with a one point loss in the finals of sub-state in 2006. In 2007 they put it together and returned to Manhattan and the Class 2A State Tournament. The first round, the Lady Maroon and Gold defeated St. John 61-57 in a hard fought game. The semi-finals was another back and forth game as Osborne lost 52-46 to Oakley. The Bulldogs won third place at State with a 57-47 win over Cimarron. This team consisted of Jannica Schultze, Demi French, Traci Mans, Paige Noel, Amberleigh Plowman, Hanna Thibault, Stephanie Plowman, Katie Wolters, Jeni Wolters, Tana Spears, Emily Girard and Blake Nichols. These girls worked real hard to keep tradition going.
* * * * *
Kansas Enrolled Bill #1841 Session 2000
Effective: April 6, 2000
SENATE RESOLUTION NO.1841
A Resolution congratulating and commending Coach Darrel Wolters.
WHEREAS, Darrel Wolters has been selected by the Wichita Eagle as the Girls Coach of the Year and by the Salina Journal as the All Area Girls Coach of the Year; and
WHEREAS, Darrel Wolters coached the Osborne High School girls basketball team to the 2000 class 2A Kansas High School Activities Association Championship. The team completed a perfect 26-0 season by defeating top-ranked and four-time defending state champion Moundridge 61-54 in the class 2A championship game; and
WHEREAS, In 29 years of coaching, Coach Wolters has taken teams to the state tournament in baseball, cross country, track, golf and basketball, but the 2000 girls basketball championship was his first state championship. Wolters got out of coaching in 1990 because he thought it was time for him to retire from coaching but three seasons ago was persuaded by parents to return to coaching. In six years at Osborne he has a 101-34 record. During the season he may not get to bed before 4 a.m. because of looking at game films and entering data in the computer. During the summer he follows his players in league play and sends them packets of information in the mail; and
WHEREAS, Darrel Wolters and his wife, Suzi, have four children and seven grandchildren. Their home is at Portis, approximately 10 miles north of Osborne, which is Wolters’ home town: Now, therefore,
Be it resolved by the Senate of the State of Kansas: That we congratulate and commend Darrel Wolters upon his selection as Coach of the Year and for his devotion to young persons’ dreams; and
Be it further resolved: That the Secretary of the Senate be directed to send five enrolled copies of this resolution to Darrel Wolters at Osborne High School, 219 N. Second, Osborne, Kansas 67473-2003.
Senate Resolution No. 1841 was sponsored by Senator Janis K. Lee.