Naper High School Bears Boys Best Athletes

BEST ATHLETES CRITERIA: The individuals recognized in this section of the Naper High School Sports History have been identified as athletes who excelled in multiple sports at NHS or achieved notable school record level performances in at least one sport and also performed at a high level compared to their peers at NHS in the same decade. The bar for recognition has been raised with the passage of time as practice and event facilities have been upgraded; athletic training, conditioning, and equipment have improved; more competitive contests have been added; scoring has increased; and records have been broken. For example, basketball arenas have evolved from “cracker box gyms” still prevalent into the 1960’s where outside shooting was difficult for fear of hitting the ceiling to today’s modern spacious courts with improved floors and backboards. No Naper basketball player reached the 30 points in a game threshold until 1967 but it has been accomplished numerous times since then. Running tracks have evolved from plain dirt surfaces to excellent artificial surfaces through the years as well. NHS track & field records have been continuously broken through the years. Comparing athletic accomplishments of the 1940’s and 1950’s to the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s would be like comparing apples and oranges. NHS athletes prior to 1957-58 did not have the benefit of competing in three organized sports each year where their competitive achievements could be well documented. Thus, the athletic achievements of some of the early athletes profiled in this document may not appear to compare favorably to later decade performances.

Coach:
Ray Vaughn (1961-62 thru 1970-71)
(1) Football: Head coach (1961-1969) including coaching Naper’s two football teams with most wins in a season (6W-1L Rosebud Conference Champions in 1963 and 6W-2L in 1965). Most all-time football wins at Naper High School.
(2) Basketball: Head Coach (1961-1962 through 1970-1971) including coaching Naper’s all-time best team (16W-4L in 1965-66), District Tournament Championship team (1966-67), and four year run (47W-27L, 63%, from 1963-64 thru 1966-67). Believed to have most all-time career basketball coaching wins at Naper High School.
(3) Track: Head Coach (1962-1971) including coaching the NHS mile relay team that set a State record time at the 1967 State track meet (later broken by Culbertson). Coached a number of Naper’s all-time best individual and team performances.
(4) Cross Country (1970): Head Coach of NHS’s first cross country team that finished 2nd at the 1970 Nebraska State Cross Country meet.

1950’s:
Ken Katzer (Class 1959):
(1) Football: QB and Safety on Naper’s first modern day football team leading the Bears to three wins (3W-4L) in the 1957 inaugural season. Passed and ran for touchdowns in 18-6 win over Verdigre and ran for TD on 25-12 win over Lynch. Did not play football his senior season due to a back injury.
(2) Basketball: Starting five 1956-57, 1957-58, & 1958-59. Selected to the Niobrara Valley Conference All-Conference team his junior and senior years. Scored 20 points vs Butte, 18 points vs Spencer (54-65 loss) in the Championship Game of the 1958 Boyd County Tournament, and 16 points (38-42 loss) vs Niobrara in the 1958 Niobrara Valley Tournament as a junior. Scored 18 points vs Butte, 24 points vs Center, 27 points vs Lynch (believed to be school record at the time), 18 points vs Butte (45-71 loss) and 18 points vs Lynch (49-66 loss) in the 1959 Boyd County Tournament; and 16 vs Butte (39-44 loss) in the 1959 Niobrara Valley Tournament his senior year.
(3) Baseball: Played shortstop and pitched for Naper’s high school team that finished 5-3 his freshman year and lost to St. Ludgers in the District Championship game.
(4) Track (High School): Naper’s first ever State medalist in any sport finishing 5th in the mile run at State in 1958 and 2nd in mile run at State in 1959. Won the mile at District in both 1958 and 1959 finishing third in 1957. Won the mile run at the prestigious Corn Palace Relays in Mitchell, SD his senior year with record time 4:51 minutes. Won the mile at Boyd County Meet in 1957, 1958, & 1959. Won High School AAU Championships mile at Cozad, NE in 1959.
(5) Track (College): Track & Cross Country scholarship to Wayne State College. Won NCC two mile run in 1962 and 1966. Won mile run at Sioux City Relays with 4:19 minute record time. First place in MV AAU 15K run in 1968.
(6) Track (US Army): Won 5th Army mile and two mile championships. Won the 5000 meters and steeplechase in the US Armed Forces Championships.
(7) Road Racing: Won Denver Marathon in 1975 & 1976. Won Omaha Half Marathon and MV AAU 15K run in 1978. Won CC Marathon to qualify for Olympic Trials. Placed third in US Olympic Trials Marathon. Won Lincoln Half Marathon for his age group in 2022.

1960’s:
Dennis Wentz (Class 1962):
(1) Football: Varsity starter at QB and on defense (1958, 1959, 1960, and 1961). QB on NHS’s highest scoring football team (36.0 points/game in 1960) and game (67 points vs Wood Lake in 1961 in game called after third quarter). Niobrara Valley All-Conference Honorable Mention on defense his senior year.
(2) Basketball: Varsity starting five point guard (1958-1959, 1959-60, 1960-61, & 1961-62). Niobrara Valley All-Conference team as a senior. Believed to be the first NHS player to reach 1,000 career points. Averaged 14 points per game on as a freshman (varsity starts only), 19 as a sophomore, 21 as a junior, and 19 as a senior. Scored 22 points vs Creighton St. Ludger and vs Colome and 21 vs Cody (59-23 District Tournament win) as a sophomore; 29 points vs Burke as a junior (NHS school record at the time); and 23 points three times as a senior (vs Fairfax, Center, & Wood Lake).
(3) Baseball (Non-High School Summer Sport): Pitched for three division championship teams in 1958 at age 14 (Gregory, SD Midgets that lost in the SD State Championship game, Burke Junior Juniors, and Naper Junior Legion team). Pitched for Burke’s Junior Legion team 1959-1961. Pitched for O’Neill Junior Legion team in 1962 recording five no-hitters and a 19 strikeouts game.
(4) Baseball (College): Pitched for Chadron State College lettering four years (1966-1969). Pitched primarily in relief in eleven games as a freshman with one complete game no-hitter and a season ERA of 1.76. Recorded an ERA of 2.50 his sophomore year, 3.10 his junior year, and 2.35 his senior year while handling the primary starting pitching role on the team his last two years of college. Pitched a two hit complete game in 14-1 win over Hastings College in 1968. Chadron State tied Kearney State College for the Nebraska College Conference title in 1968 and won the conference outright in 1969.
(5) Boxing: Defeated Larry Gokie of O’Neill (Norfolk Novice Champion) in Golden Glove match at Naper’s Fall Festival in 1963.

Lyle Graesser (Class 1964):
[NOTE: Lyle attended Keya Paha County High School in Springview, NE as a freshman and sophomore.]
(1) Football: Arguably Naper High School’s all-time best football player even though he was only eligible to compete his senior year at NHS (Lyle was ruled ineligible for football his junior year after transferring from Keya Paha County High School in Springview after his sophomore year). Tri-Captain, QB, and LB on Naper’s all-time best team (6-1, 1963 Rosebud SD Conference Champions). Lead the 1963 team in rushing yards and touchdowns, passing yards and touchdown, and total tackles for the season. Although complete annual statistics are not available for every season Naper competed in football Lyle is believed to be the only Naper player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season (1963). Accounted for 18 touchdowns in seven games during the 1963 season (10 rushing, 7 passing, and 1 punt return). Rushed for 170 yards and recorded 14 tackles vs Chambers (1963) and rushed for 162 yards and recorded 20 tackles (one for safety) vs Bonesteel (1963). Recorded a 60 yard touchdown run vs Colome and a 40 yard kick return for a touchdown vs Bonesteel. Ended his 1963 senior season scoring Naper’s last touchdown of the year on a 70 yard run vs Long Pine (believed to be a school record).
(2) Basketball: Captain (1963-64), varsity starter and point guard (1962-63 & 1963-64) on team that finished 10-9 during the 1963-64 season including a second place finish in the 1964 District Tournament. Scored a personal and season team high 28 points vs Atkinson St. Joe in 1964.
(3) Track: Competed in 100 yard dash, 220 yard dash, discuss, and broad jump and ran anchor leg on 880 yard relay team. Won or placed in several events in a number of area high school meets but did not win District or qualify for the State meet while a NHS in 1963 or 1964.

Ed Peppel (Class 1966):
[NOTE: Ed attended Fairfax, SD High School as a Freshman and sophomore.]
(1) Football: Starting QB (1964 & 1965). Lead team to six win season (6-2) in 1965. Recorded five touchdown passes for 226 yards including one for 78 yards (probable school records) and caught one touchdown pass for 35 yards in a game vs Stuart in 1965.
(2) Basketball: Co-Captain (1964-65 & 1965-66) and Starting Five (1964-65 & 1965-66). Starting forward and all-around most dependable scorer, defender, and rebounder on Naper’s all-time best team (16-4 in 1965-66). Scored 26 points vs Fairfax and 23 vs Bonesteel as a junior and 22 vs Atkinson St. Joe as a senior averaging in double figures both years on teams with multiple double digit scorers.
(3) Track: Team Captain (1965 & 1966). Set school records in the 440 yard dash (54.5 seconds), 880 yard run (2:07.1 minutes), and as the anchor leg of the 880 yard relay (1:38.6 minutes) and mile relay (3:38 minutes) teams in 1966 (the 440 yard dash and both relay records fell the following year and the 880 yard run record lasted until 1973). Finished 2nd at District in the 880 yard run in 1966 qualifying for the State meet (finished 7th at State). Won or placed in numerous local high school meet events during his two years at NHS.
(4) Baseball (Non-High School Summer Sport): Pitched and played first base for the Bonesteel, SD Junior Legion baseball team all through his high school years.
(5) Baseball (College): Played first base and right field for Chadron State College lettering in 1968, 1969, and 1970. Team won 1969 Nebraska College Conference Championship.

Jeff Hamling (Class 1966):
(1) Football: Three year starter at end (1963, 1964, & 1965). All conference defensive end (1965). Starting end as a sophomore on Naper’s Rosebud Conference Championship team (6-1) in 1963.
(2) Basketball: Starting Five all four years of high school (1962-63, 1963-64, 1964-65, and 1965-1966). Center and consistent scorer, defender, and rebounder on three of Naper’s best teams that recorded 36 total wins (1963-64, 1964-65, and 1965-66) including Naper’s all-time best team (16-4 in 1965-66). Varsity game scoring highs of 20 points vs Butte as freshman, 28 points vs Long Pine as a sophomore, 26 points vs Stuart as a junior, and 25 points vs Springview as a senior. Believed to be one of two NHS player to score at least 1,000 career points; however, complete statistics are not available.

Larry Ahlers (Class 1967):
[NOTE: Larry attended Skinner Jr. High School in Denver, CO as a 9th grader.]
(1) Football: Co-Captain (1966). All Conference HB & LB (1966). Starting eight (1965 & 1966). Recorded 63 yard touchdown run vs Marty Mission, scored all three touchdowns in 19-18 win over Bonesteel (32 & 27 yard runs and 12 yard pass reception), and scored on a 50 yard punt return vs Fairfax in his junior year. Scored four rushing touchdown in game vs Marty Mission (including runs 50 & 40 yards) his senior year.
(2) Basketball: Co-Captain (1965-66 & 1966-67) and varsity starter (1965-66 & 1966-67). Honorable Mention, Nebraska State High School All State Team (1967). Varsity starter on Naper’s all-time best team (16-4 in 1965-66) and Naper’s 1967 District Tournament Championship team. Scored 39 points (NHS school record at time broken 1n 1973) and grabbed 16 rebounds vs Geddes, SD; scored 30 points and gathered 20 rebounds vs Fairfax; scored 29 points vs Lynch and Stuart; scored 28 points vs Hartington in Regional Tournament; and averaged 20 points per game his senior year. Lincoln Star Journal player of the week for the 29 point 20 rebound game vs Stuart.
(3) Track & Field: Tri-Captain (1967). Member of all-time school record 880 yard relay (1:37.3 minutes) and mile relay (3:31.8 minutes) teams. The mile relay team finished 2nd at the 1967 State meet setting a new State record at the time later broken by Culbertson in the same State meet). Finished second in the high jump (5’10”) at the 1967 State meet breaking his own school record (5’7-3/4”) set in 1966 (the record stood until 1979). Qualified for the State meet winning District high jump, 180 yard low hurdles (21.4 seconds finishing 6th at State and equaling the all-time school record), long jump (21’2” school record until 1984), and running a leg on the mile relay team. Also set school record in 120 yard high hurdles (16.9 seconds) that lasted until 1972. Competed in the AAU Junior Olympic Qualifying Meet held at Bassett, NE in 1967 finishing 1st in high jump, 2nd in 880 yard relay, and 3rd in the 220 yard dash. Won many more medals and ribbons at other local high school meets.
(4) Baseball (Non-High School Summer Sport): Played first base on Bonesteel, SD Junior Legion team that won District Tournament (Summer, 1967).
Bill Peppel (Class 1967): [NOTE: Bill attended Fairfax, SD High School as a Freshman.]
(1) Football: All Conference QB & Safety (1966), Starting eight on offense and defense (1965 & 1966). Excelled at offensive end (recorded 4 TD receptions including one for 70 yards vs Stuart) and also recorded a 60 yard rushing touchdown vs Fairfax his junior year. Assumed the team’s leadership role as starting QB role his senior season. Outstanding defensive back his junior and senior years.
(2) Basketball: Co-Captain (1966-67) and starting five (1964-65, 1965-66, & 1966-67). Point guard, play maker and varsity starter on Naper’s all-time best team (16-4 in 1965-66) and on Naper’s 1967 District Tournament Championship team. Scored 31 points in a game vs Butte and averaged 13 points per game as a senior.
(3) Track & Field: Tri-Captain (1967). Member of all-time school record 880 yard relay (1:37.3 minutes) and mile relay (3:31.8 minutes) teams. The mile relay team finished 2nd at the 1967 State meet setting a new State record at the time later broken by Culbertson in the same State meet). Set new school record at the time in the 440 yard dash (52.4 seconds) in 1967 that lasted until 1979. Also a member of the 1966 mile relay team that set a school record (3:38 minutes) broken by his 1967 relay team. Set a new school record in the 180 yard low hurdles (22.3 seconds) in 1966 and again in 1967 (21.4 seconds) that was tied later the same year. Qualified for the State meet in the 440 (finished 8th at State) and the 180 yard low hurdles his senior year. Won or placed in numerous local high school meet events during his three years at NHS.
(4) Baseball (Non-High School Summer Sport): Pitched and played second base for the Bonesteel, SD Junior Legion all through his high school years including for the 1967 team that won the District Tournament. Pitched and played first base for the Burke town team that qualified for the South Dakota State B Amateur Tournament in 1975.
(5) Baseball (College): Played second base for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Freshman team in 1968. Pitched and played second base for Chadron State College lettering in 1970, 1971, and 1972. Co-Captain on the 1972 team.

1970’s:
Eldon Vogt (Class 1973):
(1) Cross Country: Finished team best 8th in 1970, 5th in 1971 and 7th in 1972 at State meet. Leading runner on NHS team that finished second at State in 1970 and in 1971 (finishing just one point behind Hebron in 71) and 4th in 1972. Received first place team medals for District Championships all three years.
(2) Basketball: Starting five point guard in 1971-72 and 1972-73. Starter on the 1971-72 team that won 12 games (12W-6L; believed to be the second most wins in a season in NHS history). Named to the all-tournament team at the Chadron Holiday Tournament in December, 1972. Scored school record 42 points vs Stuart, 36 points vs Geddes, and averaged 18 points per game as a senior. Scored 28 points vs Lynch and 21 vs Bonesteel as a junior.
(3) Track: Placed 3rd at State in mile run in 1971, won State mile run in 1972 with all-time school record (4:32.6 minutes), and finished second at State in two mile run in 1973. A member of the two mile relay team that finished 4th at State in 1973 with then school record time. Won the mile run at Districts 1971, 1972, and 1973. Also won the two mile run at the District meet in 1973. Won a total of 20 State & District medals and won numerous local high school meet events during his four years at NHS.

Steve Ahlers (Class 1973):
(1) Cross Country: Runner on the NHS cross country team that finished 2nd at State in 1971 (finishing one point behind Hebron) and 4th at State in 1972. Received first place team medals for District Championships in both 1971 and 1972 plus won five more individual performance medals each year.
(2) Basketball: Starting five forward in 1971-72 and 1972-73. Starter on the 1971-72 team that won 12 games (believed to be second most wins in season in NHS history). Recorded four 30+ point games as a senior (37 vs Haigler, 37 vs Lynch, 32 vs Springview, and 32 vs Fairfax) Named to the all-tournament team at the Chadron College Holiday Tournament in December, 1972. Averaged 22.4 points & 11 rebounds per game and made 90% free throws (56-62) for the 1972-73 season ranking among the best ever individual performances at NHS.
(3) Track: Member of the two mile relay team that finished 4th at State in 1973. Won District two mile run in 1973. Won total of 36 track and field medals in 1970, 1971, 1972, and 1973 including eight first place in two mile run, four first place in the mile relay, and two first place in the two mile relay.

1980’s:
Lyndon Vogt (Class 1983):
(1) Cross Country: Finished team best 5th at State Cross Country in 1981 and an all-time school best 4th at State Cross Country in 1982. Lead varsity runner for NHS team in 1979, 1980, 1981, & 1982 (team finished 3rd at State in 1982.) Finished 2nd at Districts in 1980, 1st in 1981, and 3rd in 1982 (NHS team won District in 1982). Set course record time at O’Neill invitational as a freshman. Set West Holt meet record time of 16:51 in 1980 as a sophomore. Won two State and three District cross country medals in his four years at NHS.
(2) Basketball: Starting five (1981-1982) and (1982-83). Second leading scorer on the 1982-83 team (complete season statistics not available).
(3) Track: Placed 4th in 1600 meter run and 5th in the 3200 meter run at State in 1981 and won State 1600 meter run in 1982 (4:36.7 minutes). Finished 3rd in 1600 meter run, 2nd in 3200 meter run, and 2nd in 3200 meter relay at Districts in 1980 (Did not medal at State). Finished 1st in 1600 meter run, 1st in 3200 meter run, and 5th in 400 meter relay at Districts in 1981. Finished 1st in 800 meter run, 1st in 1600 meter run, and 1st in 3200 meter run at Districts in 1982. Finished 2nd in 800 meter run and 3rd in 1600 meter run at Districts in 1983 (Did not medal at State). Won total of three State and 12 District medals plus won numerous local meet events in his four years at NHS.

Jacques Davison (Class 1984):
(1) Track: Naper High School’s all-time best sprinter. Won State 100 meter dash (11.13 seconds) and won State 200 meter dash (22.48 seconds) in 1984. Finished 4th in State long jump in 1984. Set all-time NHS team scoring mark by himself at State meet in 1984 with 24 points (team finished 5th at State). Holds all-time NHS records in 100 meter dash (11.0 seconds in 1984), 200 meter dash (22.4 seconds in 1983), and running anchor leg of the 400 meter relay (46.7 seconds in 1984). Also, qualified for State meet in 1983 in 100 & 200 meter dashes but was disqualified for false starts in both events at the State meet. Won 100 meter and 200 meter dashes at District in both his junior and senior years. Undoubtedly won many more sprint events at local high school meets but documentation is not available.

Any comments, suggestions, corrections etc should be directed to Stan McLaughlin at sjmclaug@aol.com.