Welcome to the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame website. We have inducted numerous individuals and teams. Their plaques are located in the Peoria Civic Center. As you browse through our site, you will learn that the Peoria area is rich in talent. Many individuals, teams and organizations have contributed to our sports history. If you have any comments or requests, please feel free to contact us at any time.
|2022 Team Inductees|
2005-06 Illinois Central College Women's Basketball
The 2005-06 Illinois Central College women’s basketball team finished the season with a 30-5 overall record and the NJCAA Division II national championship. It was the sixth and most recent national title for an ICC women’s basketball squad, and the first as a head coach for Steve Garber. The NJCAA Region 24 champion and Division L national qualifier was also named an NJCAA Academic All-America team. The team was led by point guard Rachel Merriman and the sister tandem of Suzy and Beatrice Bofia. Merriman was named first-team All-Region 24 and third-team NJCAA All-America. She was named to the all-tournament team at the national championship after setting tourney records with 32 assists in her three games and 15 assists in a single game. Suzy Bofia was also an All-Region 24 honoree and joined Merriman on the all-tourney team at the national championship.
1983 Limestone Football
Coached by Roger “Buck” Drach, the 1983 Limestone football team capped its 10-3 season with a second-place finish in the IHSA Class 5A playoffs. The Rockets were the Mid-Illini Conference champions with a 5-0 mark, claiming Limestone’s first conference championship in football. Their only losses in the regular season came to teams that also qualified for the state playoffs. Limestone opened the playoffs with a 13-7 win over No. 8-ranked Peoria Central and followed that with a 23-14 win over Normal Community. The Rockets then posted a 31-28 upset of the No. 1 team in the state and the No. 9 team in the nation, Joliet Catholic, in the semifinals. They lost the state title game to an undefeated Glenbard West team. The Rockets placed nine players on the all-conference first team, four unanimous, and five players were second-team all-conference.
1996 Metamora Football
Metamora’s 1996 football team began an unthinkable run of seven appearances in the state championship game in a 14-year period. Coached by Pat Ryan, the Redbirds obliterated the school record for points, rolling up 563 in its 13-1 season. Led by Peoria Journal Star Player of the Year Jared Grebner at quarterback, Metamora rolled through the Mid-Illini Conference and first four rounds of the playoffs to reach Hancock Stadium at Illinois State University for the title game. Despite its long, proud football history, it was Metamora’s first trip to the title game in 19 years. Playing nationally ranked New Lenox Providence in a driving rainstorm, the Redbirds gave the Celtics all they could handle in the finals. Tied at 21, Providence punched in the game’s winning score early in the fourth quarter and held on to win, 28-21.
1997 Metamora Football
Picking up right where it left off the previous year, Metamora’s ’97 football squad was once again a prolific offensive machine, scoring 555 points in 14 games. The Redbirds were Mid-Illini champs for a third consecutive year, winning no conference game by fewer than 19 points. In the first round of the state playoffs, Peoria Journal Star Player of the Year Jamie Dishroom quarterbacked Metamora to a 41-0 thumping of Peoria Richwoods in the first ever meeting between the schools. Defense was also a calling card of this group, as Metamora’s first four playoff foes combined for 76 total rushing yards. The Redbirds advanced to the Class 4A championship game and again met New Lenox Providence. Tied midway through the fourth quarter, Providence found a way to win its fourth straight state title, defeating the upset-minded Redbirds, 26-12.
1999 Metamora Football
Pat Ryan’s third team to make it to the state finals had to navigate a difficult path. The Mid-Illini Conference was loaded with talent, as Canton had perhaps its best team in school history. Metamora managed to squeak out a 33-23 win at Canton in Week Four and finished the league schedule unbeaten for its fifth straight conference title. A Week Nine loss at Richwoods sent Metamora into the playoffs with question marks, but the Redbirds were up to the challenge in the postseason. The first three rounds all brought difficulties, but saw Metamora pull out victories. The semifinal win at unbeaten Normal Community, 41-14, gave Redbirds fans hope headed into the finals at the University of Illinois. Joliet Catholic, the opponent in the title game, was loaded with talent and soundly defeated Metamora, 48-13, to give the Redbirds their third runner-up trophy in the last four years.
2000 Metamora Football
The 2000 Redbird football team was astonishingly talented, rolling up 618 points in 14 games and scoring over 60 points five times. Led by all-time great Joe Stamm at quarterback, Metamora annihilated its Mid-Illini competition, beating all conference foes except Morton by at least 48 points. The regular-season conference crown was Metamora’s sixth straight and propelled the Redbirds into the Class 4A playoffs with loads of well-earned confidence. A very difficult playoff path saw Metamora pull out wins over Richwoods, Geneseo and Kankakee McNamara in rounds two through four to reach the title game. A familiar foe was waiting in Champaign, as Joliet Catholic had navigated its way back to a rematch with Metamora. Despite Metamora having the lead and possession of the football with eight minutes remaining in the game, the Redbirds were unable to finish the Hilltoppers and ultimately fell, 27-14.
|2022 Individual Inductees|
Ben Zobrist - Baseball
From the little Woodford County town of Eureka, Ben Zobrist authored a classic American “late bloomer” success story that includes two World Series championship rings and a Most Valuable Player Award. Despite a solid high school career, Zobrist had no significant baseball prospects after graduation. Then he spent $50 to attend a summer showcase in Brimfield. There, he earned an offer from Olivet Nazarene College, where he would pitch, play shortstop and second base, and receive first-team NAIA All-America honors in 2003. That got him an offer to transfer to NCAA Division I power Dallas Baptist for his senior season, during which he batted .378 and slugged .590. The Houston Astros took Zobrist in the sixth round of the 2004 Major League draft, but in 2006 traded him to Tampa Bay. Under the tutelage of Rays manager Joe Maddon, who would nickname Zobrist “Zorilla,” he became the prototype for the modern big-league utility player, playing every position except catcher during his 14 seasons in the Major Leagues. A three-time All-Star, Zobrist for his career batted .266, with 1,566 hits, 884 runs, 167 homers and 768 RBI. After helping Tampa Bay to its first playoff berth in 2008, Zobrist had his best season in 2009, when he finished eighth in American League MVP voting, batting .297 with 27 homers and a .947 OPS. Traded to Oakland and then to Kansas City in 2015, he helped lead the Royals to a World Series championship before signing with the Chicago Cubs as a free agent in the off-season. Then, in 2016, he famously helped lead the Cubs to their first World Series championship since 1908, driving in the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning of Game 7 against the Cleveland Indians and earning World Series MVP honors.
Ed McGraw - Distance Running Coach
Distance runners around the world know about Peoria – and Ed McGraw is one of the people who made that happen. As a coach at East Peoria High School, McGraw nurtured some of the biggest distance stars to come out of the Peoria area. Most notable was Tim Broe, who McGraw coaxed out of the high school halls and onto the roads, park trails and track, launching a career that culminated in the 2004 Olympics. He also coached Jenelle Deatherage, who placed fourth in the 2004 USA Olympic Trials at 1500 meters, and Jim Eicken, who in 1972 set the Peoria area preps record for two miles (now 3200 meters), a mark that still stands. McGraw’s East Peoria cross country teams won nine conference titles, seven regional titles, and eight qualified for state. He coached six all-state runners, including Broe and Deatherage, who between them won three individual state championships in cross country and three more in track. Beyond coaching, McGraw worked to build running in the community. He partnered with Hall of Famer Steve Shostrom in the early 1970s to found the Illinois Valley Striders club and to begin the annual Steamboat Classic, which drew international champions to its field and became known as the fastest four-mile road race in the world. But McGraw’s career transcended state champions and future Olympians, as he helped to advocate for physical fitness and promote distance running to all ages and abilities. In 1977, he and other interested parties began raising funds for a running track at East Peoria Junior High School. Three years, $17,000 in donations and hundreds of volunteer hours later, the school had a first-class track that remains in use today.
Gene Jones - Cross Country Coach
For 52 years, Gene Jones prowled Illinois cross country courses at Metamora High School, leading the Redbirds to state prominence and inspiring generations of students to set goals, push themselves and have a great time doing it. His boys teams won 32 conference titles, eight regionals, four sectionals and made 16 state-meet appearances, finishing in the Top 10 eight times. Eighteen boys earned All-State honors, including 1987 champion Mark Scheirer. Jones started the girls program in 1976 and won 19 conference titles, 13 regionals, three sectionals and qualified for 14 state meets. He coached 12 All-State girls. Combined, Jones’s teams posted a dual-meet record of 697-144. He was named the Illinois Coach of the Year for girls in 2005 and for the boys in 2013, and he was one of eight finalists for National Coach of the Year in 2006.
Pat Ryan - Football Coach
Pat Ryan returned Metamora Township High School’s football program to dominance during 30 years as head coach at his alma mater. Beginning with his first team in 1990, Ryan led the Redbirds to 24 playoff appearances and 19 Mid-Illini Conference championships, including eight in a row from 1995 through 2002. He coached Metamora in a remarkable seven state championship games, capturing the Class 5A title in 2007 and the Class 4A crown in 2009. Previously a star quarterback at Metamora, Ryan’s coaching style was built on punishing ground games, elusive quarterbacks and line play filled with players that were very difficult to match physically. The formula worked like a charm. From 1995-2010, Metamora played in seven state championship games, 11 state semifinals, and 14 state quarterfinals. Fourteen of the 16 teams won 10 or more games, and Metamora’s Mid-Illini record during this period was an eye-popping 102-5. Metamora’s biggest rival through the decades has been Washington, and Ryan was proud to establish an astonishing 19-game winning streak against the Panthers. Previous to Ryan’s coaching tenure, Metamora won a state championship in 1975, during which the Redbirds set a single-season school record with 414 points. Ryan’s Redbirds were point-scoring machines, breaking this mark 13 times in a 15-year period, with the best being 671 points in 2007. Ryan’s final record at MTHS stands at 268 wins and 76 losses, an average of almost nine wins per year for 30 years. This sustained level of excellence brought joy to Metamora fans for three decades and established a benchmark for all future coaches and players to strive for.
Priscilla Welch-DeLaere - Softball
Priscilla Welch was the first female at Pekin Community High School to earn 12 varsity letters – four each in softball, volleyball and basketball. But softball is where she was most dominant and made her biggest impact. Selected to the Chicago Tribune All-State softball team as a Pekin senior in 1993, Welch set Illinois High School Association state records for most grand slams in a season (4) and most consecutive hits (14). Both records stood for more than 20 years, and her marks still rank second in grand slams and fifth in consecutive hits. All of that was mere prelude to further greatness. Earning a scholarship to Illinois State University, she was named Missouri Valley Conference Rookie of the Year in 1994, then made first-team all-conference three times and was voted third-team All-America in 1997. She set the ISU career record for most hits (247), a mark that still ranks second more than a quarter-century later. Her career numbers in batting average (.373), at-bats (662), runs scored (119), RBI (102), doubles (40) and triples (14) all remain in the ISU top 10. During her time at ISU, she helped lead the Redbirds to three successive MVC regular-season championships, plus the MVC tournament title and an NCAA regional appearance in 1995. As a senior in 1997, she compiled one of the greatest seasons in Missouri Valley history, batting .532 in conference games and cementing her ultimate selection to the MVC All-Centennial Team in 2007. Chosen 37th overall in the 1997 Women’s Pro Softball League draft by the Virginia Roadsters, she enjoyed a four-year professional career, capped by her selection to play in the 1998 WPSL All-Star Game.
|2022 Neve Harms Meritorious Service Award|
Chuck Leonard, this year’s Neve Harms Meritorious Service to Sports award winner, is synonymous with volunteerism. He was the lead football scout at Metamora Township High School for 56 years, beginning in 1963 and hanging it up in 2018. During this time period, Chuck was never a paid scout (sometimes being reimbursed for mileage). He loved wearing his bright red Metamora jacket so that everyone knew why he was there, and he thoroughly enjoyed being playfully razzed by fans for being a Redbird scout. During those 56 years, Metamora captured 35 conference championships and played in 10 state championship games. His attention to detail was legendary, as he would insist on arriving before pre-game warm-ups began. He said that he may only get to see the back-up punter during the warm-up, and he wanted to know as much as possible about every facet of each opponent. Chuck taught social studies at Metamora for 43 years and was passionate in the classroom with his students. During his time at Metamora, he also served various stints as varsity baseball coach, wrestling coach, freshman football coach, freshman basketball coach, and the sponsor of Metamora’s intramural basketball program. Post-retirement, Chuck’s passion for education prompted him to establish annual scholarships for MTHS seniors. He currently awards ten $1,000 scholarships annually to students that are either entering his beloved teaching field or have shown outstanding volunteering skills while in high school. He has also set up a foundation to continue these awards posthumously. Long-time MTHS football coach Pat Ryan had the following to say about the importance of Chuck Leonard to Metamora’s football success: “Along with being one of the best teachers in the history of Metamora Township High School and a mentor to many, Chuck was an invaluable behind the scenes contributor to Metamora football for over 50 years,
|2022 Tri-County Athlete and Coach of the Year Awards|
Tri-County Female Athlete of the Year -- Kenna Wollard (IVC volleyball)
All-state outside hitter led the Grey Ghosts to IVC’s first state trophy, third place in class 2A. Her 677 kills from her senior year are third best in an IHSA single season. In October she became the Peoria-area's all-time leader in kills with 1,814, which puts her second in state history. Wollard is now a freshman at Purdue.
Tri-County Male Athlete of the Year -- Malachi Washington (Peoria High football)
Senior running back led Peoria High to a 12-2 record and to the class 5A state runner-up trophy. The Big 12 offensive player of the year rushed for 3,348 yards and 53 touchdowns this season. His six touchdowns in the championship game is a state record. Washington committed to play at McKendree University.
Tri-County Female Coach of the Year -- Maribeth Dura (Brimfield girls basketball)
She led top-ranked Brimfield to a one-point win in the class 1A state title game. Dura guided the Indians to a 32-4 record and the first girls basketball state championship in school history. She is now the head coach at Canton High School.
Tri-County Male Coach of the Year --Jean-Guy Trudel (Rivermen hockey):
After losses in three previous trips to the President's Cup Finals, Trudel led the Peoria Rivermen to the SPHL title by beating Roanoke in four games. The championship was the first for the franchise 22 years. Trudel was forced to rebuild his roster after the team was dormant for the 2020-21 season due to COVID restrictions.