May 27, 2024


Science It Works

Notre Dame adds 7 athletes, coaches to Wall of Fame during ceremony

Mitch Myers (right), a 1982 graduate of Notre Dame High School, was one of the best basketball players in Nikes history.

John Wessels surveyed the scene at Winegard Field Saturday evening, soaking in everything, memories flooding back from days gone by when he played on the same field nearly 40 years earlier.

Wessels, who manages the credit department for Crossville Inc., in Monterey, Tennessee, was one of seven individuals inducted into the Notre Dame Wall of Fame ceremony as part of the Class of 2020-21.

While the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the ceremony for a year, it made no difference to Wessels, who hadn’t been back to Burlington since graduating from Notre Dame High School in 1983.

After 38 years, what’s another year?

John Wessels, a 1983 Notre Dame graduate, made his first trip to Burlington in 38 years for Saturday's Wall of Fame induction ceremony.

“I wanted to bring my kids — I’ve got a 14-year old and an 11-year old — I wanted to bring them here to see the town. This is the perfect opportunity to come back,” Wessels said. “It was so cool. I took my kids out sight-seeing and showed them all the places where I grew up. I actually went to my old house where I grew up in and there was someone out there and they actually let us in the house to see everything. Everything is so much smaller than I remember.”

Joining Wessels in being inducted into the Wall of Fame were Deb Trine, Rocky Bennett, Steve Ehret, Gregg Koestner, Mitch Myers and Randy Winegard.

For some, it was a rare trip back to Burlington, a chance to show their wives, children and grandchildren their old stomping grounds.

For all, it was a stroll down memory lane.

Steve Ehret, a 1977 graduate of Notre Dame High School, stands on Winegard Field with his family after being inducted into the Notre Dame Wall of Fame Saturday.

“Some things are the same, but there are a lot of improvements. This field is an improvement. Nostalgia Is nice … yeah, that’s my old study hall room. They added a new elementary school onto it and that’s great,” said Ehret, a 1977 graduate who played quarterback for the Nikes and spent 39 years coaching football and track and being activities director at North Mahaska High School before retiring last year. “It’s a great honor, just tremendous. Notre Dame has such a special place in my life. Seeing all the people that you grew up with. High school is the greatest experience there is. I went to college and played college athletics, but nothing compares to high school and the experiences you have in high school.”

Rocky Bennett, a 1981 graduate of Notre Dame High School. admires his Wall of Fame plaque with his family Saturday at Winegard Field.

For Bennett, it was a chance to come back to a place where he enjoyed so much success, first as an athlete, then as coach and athletics director at Notre Dame. He, along with Myers, were members of the 1981 boys basketball team that finished runner-up in the state. He also played baseball and ran track at Notre Dame.

Bennett left 23 years ago to take a job at Cedar Rapids Prairie, where he is activities director. But Notre Dame will always hold a special place in Bennett’s heart.

“It gives me chills. I’m a Nike. I’ll always be a Nike,” Bennett said. “The people and the community always have been great and always will be great. It gives me chills just to see how people are carrying this Nike tradition on.”

Gregg Koestner, a 1976 graduate of Notre Dame High School, wears his baseball uniform from his senior year as he is inducted into the Notre Dame Wall of Fame Saturday at Winegard Field.

Koestner is a well-known figure in Burlington and a fixture at Notre Dame baseball games. The 1976 Notre Dame graduate worked as an electrician in Burlington for over 40 years and donated his time and skill to help wire the new elementary school in 1996.

Koestner was Notre Dame’s first all-state player and had the game-winning hit in the Nikes’ substate victory over Norway to clinch their first trip to state in 1976. He also played on two Notre Dame football teams which qualified for the playoffs and played on the 1976 Notre Dame basketball team which came within one win of qualifying for state.