Honoring the "Wonder Team"

Honoring the "Wonder Team"

FRANKLIN, Ind. (Jan. 19, 2017) – For a host of reasons, not the least of which was a dramatic upset of the nation's top-ranked team with a championship at stake, the 1991-92 Franklin College men's basketball season was one for the ages.

A quarter century ago, the Grizzlies -- who came to be known as "The Wonder Team" -- won 25 games, were ranked as high as third in the nation, earned a conference championship and stamped their ticket to the NAIA Division II National Tournament in Stephenville, Texas with a thrilling 118-110 win in the District 21 championship game at top-ranked Grace College.

With that victory, the Grizzlies picked up the National Tournament's No. 3 seed and rode it all the way to the Elite Eight before succumbing in a rematch against eventual national champion Grace.

Franklin finished the season ranked No. 6 with a 25-4 record, the most successful campaign by any Grizzlies team since the legendary "Wonder Five" squads of the 1920s.

As part of Saturday's Alumni Day celebration in Spurlock Center, members of the 1991-92 team will be recognized prior to the 2 p.m. start of the men's basketball game against Bluffton. Eleven of the 12 players from the "Wonder Team" will be on hand.

"I had so many great memories at Franklin College and met some wonderful people at Franklin that I consider my best friends today," said John Holden, who was a senior on the 1991-92 team.

Holden, like his teammates, has a vivid recollection of the Grizzlies' finest hour from that season.

"I would have to say that our win at Grace College, with a district championship and a trip to the NAIA National Tournament on the line, was one of my fondest memories," Holden said. "We had so many fans make the trip to Grace. The atmosphere was incredible. The gym was full, and to go into that hostile environment, play extremely well and come out of there with a road win, was a true testament of how mentally tough and talented that 1991-92 team really was."

Close-knit, immensely talented and remarkably determined, the "Wonder Team" was renowned for its chemistry, athleticism and commitment to winning. On any given night, any given player might lead the way statistically. But on every single night, every single player contributed in ways that didn't show up in box scores.

"I think what sets that group apart is the extent to which they were not just willing, but eager to sacrifice whatever they needed to for the team and to the goal of winning," coach Kerry Prather said. "That's why I think, statistically, it was an 'every-dog-has-his-day' kind of a team in terms of leading scorers. But they took such pride in rebounding and such pride in the blue collar parts of the game."

That, and running past opponents. Literally.

To compensate for a notable graduation loss and a collective lack of height, Prather devised a new playing style that would become the hallmark of future Franklin teams. The Grizzlies would play at one speed, at all times: maximum overdrive.

"We had lost Scott Roberts, the all-time leading scorer and all-time leading rebounder (to graduation)," Prather said. "We were bringing back Dave Dunkle, a 6-4 post player coming off leukemia treatment, and so we had to figure out a different way to play. We knew we had talent coming back, but we had to find a different way to play."

The style served them well throughout the storied season -- and in the District 21 championship game in particular.

"That turned out to be the best way to use all of that talent, even though it was, for us and most folks at the time, unconventional," Prather said. "The only way we could win (at No. 1 Grace) was to play the way we needed to play. We would have gone to the national tournament, regardless, because we were ranked third in the nation. But the seeding and the district championship, and everything else, was the order of the day.

"I honestly don't remember making a lot of adjustments in the course of that game, except to say in every timeout, 'You can't slow down. You cannot slow down. We cannot slow down."

The Grizzlies didn't. Their reward was a district title and an automatic trip to Stephenville, Texas as the National Tournament's No. 3 seed. They defeated Husson (Maine) University in the first round to reach the final eight before losing a rematch against highly regarded and eventual national champion Grace. 

On Saturday, players from the 1991-92 team and other returning alumni will be recognized at halftime. Former player Dr. Billy Abel, of the Class of 1947, will attend and be among those recognized.

 

Where Are They Now?

Here is a look, 25 years later, at the "Wonder Team" players.

 

Brad Davis

Residence: Columbus, Ind.

Hometown: Shelbyville, Ind.

High school: Shelbyville

Age: 47

Position: Guard

Class of: 1992

Occupation: Chief Credit Officer for Centra Credit Union

Family: Wife, Julie Davis; children, Hannah, Ali, Mackenzie and Gracie

Fondest memory of the 1991-92 season: "Our big win over Grace College, in Grace's standing-room-only gym, to win the district championship and an automatic bid to the NAIA National Tournament. A high-scoring, back-and-forth game that was so much fun, followed by an early morning pep rally back at Spurlock when we returned to a toilet-papered campus."

 

Pat Dunbar

Residence: Charlottsville, Ind.

Hometown: Indianapolis

High school: Pike

Age: 48

Position: Guard

Class of: 1992

Occupation: General Manager of a Belk Department Store

Family: Spouse, Don Hartman

Fondest memory of the 1991-92 season: "The diistrict championship game."

 

Dave Dunkle

Residence: Bargersville, Ind.

Hometown: West Lafayette, Ind.

High school: Willam Henry Harrison

Age: 45

Position: Center

Class of: 1994

Occupation: Family physician and Chief Medical Officer of Johnson Memorial Hospital

Family: Married to Amy Dunkle; children Evan and Reese

Fondest memory of the 1991-92 season: "Returning to campus late at night after defeating Grace for the district championship to find the campus covered in toilet paper and hundreds of students and fans waiting for the team at Spurlock Center."

 

Brad Emmert

Residence: Brazil, Ind.

Hometown: Brazil, Ind.

High school: Northview

Age: 45

Position: Forward

Class of: 1994

Occupation: President of Timber Lumber, Inc.

Family: Married to Kathy Emmert; children, Wes and Cassia

Fondest memory of the 1991-92 season: "Game against Grace."

 

Aaron Franks

Residence: Gibson City, Ill.

Hometown: Remington, Ind.

High school: Tri-County

Age: 46

Position: Forward

Class of: 1992

Occupation: Senior Contract Administrator for DuPont

Family: Wife, Billie Joe; children, Brandon, Mackenzie and Megan

Fondest memory of the 1991-92 season: "The togetherness and friendship we had with each other, and not accepting failure."

 

Mike Guth

Residence: Santa Claus, Ind.

Hometown: Rockport, Ind.

High School: South Spencer

Age: 44

Position: Guard

Class of: 1995

Occupation: Teacher/coach

Family: Wife, Sara Guth; children, Nathan, Caroline, Adam and Daniel

Fondest memory of the 1991-92 season: "Many of my teammates will no doubt mention the win over Grace and the ensuing celebration, but my fondest memory of that season was immediately before the Grace game. We were in the lockeroom, which was located below the bleachers. We could feel the energy from the crowd radiating down to us, the stomping, the screaming. Coach (Prather) put his arm around me and asked if I was nervous. I remember just smiling and telling him, 'This is why we play!' And we did."

 

John Holden

Residence: Canton, Mich.

Hometown: Martinsville, Ind.

High School: Martinsville:

Age: 47

Position: Forward

Class of: 1992

Occupation: Senior Vice President of Sales and Operations for HP Products

Family: Wife, Laura Holden; children, Whitney and Lucas

Fondest memory of the 1991-92 season: "I would have to say that our win at Grace College with a district championship and a trip to the NAIA National Tournament on the line my senior year. We had so many fans make the trip to Grace. The atmosphere was incredible, the gym was full, and to go into that hostile environment and play extremely well and come out of there with a road win was a true testament of how mentally tough and talented that 1991-92 team really was."

 

Tim Nierste

Residence: Fishers

Hometown: Brookston, Ind.

High school: Frontier

Age: 46
Position: Guard

Class of: 1993

Occupation: Vice President Capital Markets for Stonegate Mortage Corp.

Family: Wife, Stacey; children, Paige

Fondest memory of 1991-92 season: "The game at Grace for the district championship and coming back to campus to a celebration, and traveling to Texas for the National Tournament."

 

Brooks Padgett

Residence: Brownsburg, Ind.

Hometown: Kirklin, Ind.

High school: Clinton Central

Age: 44

Position: Forward

Class of: 1994

Occupation: Mortage Underwriter for GVC Mortage, Inc.

Family: Wife, Irma Padgett; children, Lauren; grandchildren, Orion

Fondest memory of the 1991-92 season: "The Grace College (district) championship game. Being able to win in such a hostile gym, then going back to Franklin in the wee hours of the morning and having a pep rally and seeing all the support we had."

 

Mark Rosenthall

Residence: Yorktown, Ind.

Hometown: Summitville, Ind.

High school: Madison-Grant

Age: 45

Position: Guard

Class of: 1994

Occupation: Orthodontist

Family: Wife, Raean Rosenthall; children, Abe, Isabella, Anna and Jake

Fondest memory of the 1991-92 season: "Celebrating coach Prather's daughter Katie's first birthday at the Sweet 16 in Texas."

 

Ed Westmeyer

Residence: Troy, Ohio

Hometown: Versailles, Ind.

High school: South Ripley

Age: 45

Position: Forward

Class of: 1993

Occupation: Commercial Banker, SVP for MainSource Bank

Family: Wife, Shannon Westmeyer; children, Jesse and Hallie

Fondest memory of the 1991-92 season: "The final game for the district against Grace College at Grace. A high-scoring game that resulted in a great win with a gym packed with an awesome crowd of Franklin College fans."

 

Rowdy Williams

Residence: Terre Haute, Ind.

Hometown: Terre Haute, Ind.

High school: Terre Haute South

Age: 46

Position: Point guard

Class of: 1993

Occupation: Attorney

Family: Wife, Billie Williams; children, Kennedy and Courtney