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Waubonsee Honors Athletic Hall of Fame Inductees

One woman and two men pose for a photo with their Hall of Fame award plaques.
Abby (Ruff) Smith, Joe Yager, Mark Klein and Ray Stephens (not pictured) were recently inducted into Waubonsee Community College’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

Waubonsee Community College inducted four new members into its Athletic Hall of Fame during the college’s annual Athletic Banquet on May 9.

Mark Klein, Abby (Ruff) Smith, Ray Stephens and Joe Yager were chosen to form the seventh class of the Waubonsee Athletic Hall of Fame for their involvement in sports, dedication to Waubonsee, athletic successes, and contributions to the community or career accomplishments earned after leaving Waubonsee. The Hall of Fame was formed in 2007 in conjunction with the school’s 40th anniversary celebration.

“We are proud to recognize the success of our student-athletes, as well as the coaches, administrators and community supporters who helped to foster that success,” Waubonsee Athletic Manager Dave Randall said. “Waubonsee athletics has a rich history in contributing to the total development of our students and to the campus community as a whole.”

Mark Klein was a standout athlete at East Aurora High School, earning the Tomcats Athlete of the Year Award in 1977, before enrolling at Waubonsee. As a freshman baseball player, Klein was an All-Skyway Conference Honorable Mention and only improved during his sophomore year when he was named both team captain and Second Team All-Skyway.

These accomplishments led him to play at Eastern Kentucky University, where he was half of a double play duo that set an NCAA record for most double plays turned in a season.  

“Athletics is the other part of a great college experience,” Klein said. “Being part of a team, working with others, learning time management; those are all things that I still utilize today.” 

Klein currently works as the CEO for Children’s Orthopedics of Atlanta. 

Like Klein, fellow Hall of Famer Abby (Ruff) Smith shone on the diamond while at Waubonsee. As a freshman in 2002, Smith was selected All-Skyway First Team and All-Region Second Team as she captured the team’s “triple crown,” leading the Lady Chiefs in batting average, runs batted in and home runs. In her sophomore year, Smith elevated all aspects of her game, leading the league in nearly every offensive category as the conference’s Most Valuable Player. She went on to play at the University of Iowa where she earned the Gold Glove Award, along with Big Ten Conference All-Academic honors and the team’s Hawkeye Heart Spirit Award. She currently works as a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer at Mercy Medical of North Iowa in Mason City.

It’s fair to say that inductee Ray Stephens dominated collegiate wrestling in his time, winning the national championship in three of his four years, including becoming Waubonsee’s first ever NJCAA National Champion during his freshman year in 2006. In his sophomore year, Stephens appeared destined to repeat, capturing the 125-lb. crown at the Central Regional and being named Most Valuable Player of the tournament in the process. However, in the National Championship match, Stephens’ opponent made a surprise move and pinned him in the final seconds.  

“I laid there for a few seconds looking up at the ceiling, and then said to myself that my life is more than just wrestling,” Stephens said. 

But after being named Waubonsee’s Male Athlete of the Year for 2006-2007, Stephens continued to wrestle thanks to a scholarship from Lindenwood University in St. Louis. He took the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) 133-lb. National Title as both a junior and senior, helping Lindenwood win the NAIA National Team Title each of those years. Stephens now works security for the university while coaching wrestling at Timberland High School in the St. Louis suburb of Wentzville, Mo. 

Inductee Joe Yager is just as well known for his perseverance as his 90-mile-an-hour fastball. Yager played just 14 innings of baseball his senior year of high school and was later cut from Parkland College’s team. But Waubonsee Coach Dave Randall saw his potential, and by his sophomore year, Yager led the NJCAA in strikeouts. He was named All-Region IV and All-Conference First Team, was the starting pitcher for the Region IV All-Star game, and was tabbed Waubonsee’s Male Athlete of the Year in 1994. For his senior season, Yager headed to Upper Iowa University where he earned All-Conference honors and the attention of professional scouts before an arm injury ended his hopes of playing professionally. 

Yager has stayed involved in sports and fitness as a certified personal trainer and youth coach. Waubonsee honored him as one of its “Fabulous 40” alumni in 2007.  

The Waubonsee Athletic Hall of Fame honors former Waubonsee administrators, faculty and staff; athletes; coaches; community supporters; and specific teams who are five years removed from their involvement with Waubonsee athletics.