OVAC Hall of Fame Adds Five Legends
Five highly honored prep athletes who competed at the major college level will be honored in the 16th class of Legends of Ohio Valley Athletic Conference schools.
The five Legends selections will be feted at the 17th annual OVAC Hall of Fame banquet in Saturday, August 15 at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling.
The honorees include Ed Bode, a basketball standout at Bethel Township in Monroe County who played at West Virginia University; Bob Bowen, a basketball and tennis standout at Martins Ferry who was a three-year basketball starter at Ohio State; Russell (Bus) LaRue, a three-sport honoree at Wheeling High who played football and baseball at WVU; Robert Lilienthal, a football and basketball standout at Cambridge who was in the Ohio State football program; and Chris Yura, a record-setting football player at Morgantown who lettered four seasons at Notre Dame University.
The OVAC Hall of Fame, sponsored by the Robinson Automotive Group of Wheeling, and the OVAC Sports Museum are located inside WesBanco Arena.
The Legends of OVAC schools honors athletes and coaches who competed prior to the conference start in 1943 or while their schools were not OVAC members.
Capsule summaries of the Legends’ honorees follow:
ED BODE (Bethel Township, Class of 1958) As a junior, he led one of Ohio’s smallest high schools to the state Class A semi-finals before bowing to Gratis, 73-72. He was selected all-tournament. Playing for OVAC charter Hall of Fame coach Dick Potts, Bethel won county, sectional, district and regional titles enroute to a 27-2 record.
The 6-foot-4 center was even better as a senior when Bethel went 22-2 and advanced to the district finals. He not only earned 1st Team All-Ohio Class A by The Associated Press but was named Class A Player of the Year. He also repeated as All-Eastern Ohio while scoring 537 points in 24 games. He played in the first Ohio North-South All-Star game along with future Ohio State greats John Havlicek of Bridgeport and Jerry Lucas of Middletown.
Bode earned a scholarship to West Virginia University where his three-year career was limited by a knee injury as he earned one letter and played in 43 games.
He then served 23 years as a boys basketball coach in Ohio with a 325-175 record. He succeeded his prep coach, Potts, at Skyvue where he his 1964 team won 21 straight games before bowing in the district finals. After three seasons, he coached one year at Doylestown Chippewa before taking a coaching break for two years. He returned to Skyvue for four years, where a 24-2 team advanced to the regional finals. He coached at Martins Ferry from 1973-78 and ended his career at Strasburg with a nine-year stint. Bethel became part of the Skyvue consolidation which later was in the Monroe Central consolidation.
Bode died in 2010.
BOB BOWEN (Martins Ferry, Class of 1942) He was a state honored two-sport Purple Rider athlete in basketball and tennis before becoming a three-year Ohio State basketball regular on nationally-ranked teams. The four-year, two-sport standout was a junior starter on a 27-2 record 1941 team which won the Ohio Class A championship by finishing with 17 straight wins and sectional and district titles before winning four games in the state event capped by a 37-30 finals’ win over Lakewood.
In Bowen’s senior season, the Riders hiked the win streak to 33 games before bowing to Steubenville, which also ended a 22-3 record Rider season in the district tournament. Bowen, nicknamed “Frosty”, was a 2nd team All-Ohio Class A choice by The Associated Press while teammate Lou Groza earned 3rd team honors.
Ferry started tennis as a prep sport in 1940 and Bowen excelled as he teamed as a senior with junior teammate Ken Kadar to win the area’s only Ohio state doubles title in 1942. Ferry’s team captured a district crown.
Bowen enrolled at Ohio State and became a three-year basketball starter in 1944 and 1946-47. The 1944 and 1946 teams won Big Ten Conference titles and played in the NCAA national tournaments where the Buckeyes placed 4th in 1944 and 3rd in 1946.
Bowen and Kadar were both inducted into the Martins Ferry Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016.
RUSSELL (BUS) LaRUE (Wheeling, Class of 1926) He was a four-year Wildcat standout in football, basketball and baseball who went on to earn seven letters in two sports at West Virginia University.
In football, he was a do-it-all running back, passer and punter and two-year team captain. In both his junior and senior seasons, he earned first team All-Valley and all-class All-State and twice selected captain. As a senior, he led the Wildcats to an 8-1-1 record and, with no state playoffs and no in-state losses while outscoring foes by 172-16, the Wildcats “claimed” an unofficial state title. They defeated Parkersburg, Huntington, Fairmont Senior, Clarksburg Victory, Moundsville, Benwood Union and Magnolia.
In basketball, the Wildcats were state one-class runner-up to Huntington in his junior season and he earned second team all-tournament honors. After the state event at Buckhannon, the team competed in the National Tournament in Chicago, which invited all state champions and runners-up.
He enrolled at West Virginia University where he played for coach Ira (Rat) Rodgers and lettered three seasons at fullback. The 1928 team went 8-2. He was also a four-year letterman as a third baseman on the baseball team.
After graduation, he returned to Wheeling as an Ohio County high school and junior high teacher and coach.
He is deceased.
ROBERT LILIENTHAL (Cambridge, Class of 1953) He earned state honors in football and basketball for the Bobcats. A three-season football starter at quarterback, he led the Bobcats as a senior to its first Central Ohio League championship, and No. 11 state Class A ranking, by beating third-ranked Zanesville, 20-14. He was named second team All-Ohio and first team All-COL. He played for the South team in the annual Ohio North-South game opposite the 1st team All-Ohio quarterback, Len Dawson of Alliance and future Purdue University and Kansas City Chiefs standout.
A four-year starter in basketball, he led the Bobcats, as a junior, to the Central Ohio League co-title and earned 2nd team All-COL. In his senior season, the Bobcats recorded the school’s first unbeaten regular season and went 23-0 before bowing in the district tournament. He repeated on the 2nd team All-COL and was selected to thirrd team All-Ohio Class A by United Press International.z
He enrolled at Ohio State and was in the football program for three years. The 6-foot, 174-pounder was one of seven quarterbacks on the 10-0 record 1954 team which defeated USC, 20-7 in the Rose Bowl and was the national poll champion by The AP. The 1955 team went 7-2 and repeated as Big Ten Conference champion.
The Cambridge resident was inducted into the Cambridge Athletic Hall of Fame in 2018.
CHRIS YURA (Morgantown, Class of 1999) He was a state record-setting running back (102 career TDs, 50 as senior) who earned the Kennedy Award as state all-class Player of the Year as a junior before placing third as a senior behind the only first place tie in history between two other state record-setters J.R. House of Nitro (passing) and Quincy Wilson of Weir (rushing). A two-time 1st team Class AAA all-stater, he earned All-America mention from USA Today as a senior.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder led the state in scoring two straight years and rushed for over 2,000 yards in both his junior and senior seasons to end with over 5,700 career yards in three years.
He led the Mohigans to a 12-2 record as a senior and state runner-up to a House-led Nitro in a memorable 69-52 Super Six shootout at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Yura nursed an ailing ankle and didn’t start the game but was inserted to score his record 50th season TD.
As a junior, Morgantown was unbeaten in regular season but was upset in the playoffs. Yura rushed for 2,017 yards and scored 37 TDs. He was a three-time All-NCAC Conference selection.
Recruited by several Division 1 colleges, he opted for Notre Dame., where he was a four-year letterman, mostly as a special teams player and backup fullback. The 2000 Irish team went 9-3 and ranked 15th nationally. The 2002 team was 10-3 with a 17th national poll spot.
Yura resides in Morgantown.