Seven Wittenberg University greats have been selected for induction into the school’s Athletics Hall of Honor, in addition to an alumnus who will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award and two “Teams of Distinction.”
Matt Borland ’09, Amy Cox ’11, Linda Iantuono Finn ’96, Paco Labrador, Ryan Taylor ’01, Eddie Vallery ’11, and John Paoloni ’74 will officially join nearly 300 other Wittenberg greats who have previously been inducted into the university’s Athletics Hall of Honor. In addition, Pat O’Conner ’80 becomes the eighth recipient of the Athletics Hall of Honor Lifetime Achievement Award and two more “Teams of Distinction” will be celebrated, the 1964 and 1969 Tiger football teams.
Matt Borland is one of the most creative offensive players to ever don the Red & White for the Wittenberg men’s soccer program, and he played a key role in leading the team to its most recent NCAA Division III Tournament appearance in 2008. Borland scored 27 career goals, good for sixth in program history, dished out a school-record 30 assists, and tallied 84 total points, which ranks second in program history. In addition, Borland would sometimes finish games playing in the midfield or on defense to help the Tigers close out important victories. His talent and versatility earned him four All-North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) awards, including three first-team selections, and a pair of NCAC Offensive Player of the Year awards. Borland added All-Great Lakes Region awards and All-America awards in 2007 and 2008, capped by second-team All-America recognition as a senior. A native of Kettering, Ohio, Borland currently resides in Swampscott, Massachusetts.
Amy Cox started her collegiate career as right side hitter, but she made her mark as a setter for the Wittenberg women’s volleyball team. The Tigers won the NCAC regular season and tournament titles to advance to the NCAA Division III Tournament in each of Cox’s four seasons on the roster, highlighted by Wittenberg’s first-ever run to the national semifinals in 2007. She picked up a pair of All-NCAC awards, including a first-team nod in 2010 after she led the conference in assists. After leading the Tigers to the NCAA Division III Tournament regional final, Cox added first-team All-Great Lakes Region and first-team All-America awards during her tremendous senior season. She was also named Wittenberg’s female NCAC Scholar-Athlete award-winner for the 2010-11 school year, and she remained with the program as an assistant coach for the next three years, helping the Tigers to three more NCAA Division III Tournament appearances and the 2011 national championship. A native of Newark, Ohio, Cox currently resides in Alexandria, Virginia.
Linda Iantuono Finn is one of the most decorated individuals in the history of the Wittenberg field hockey program. She earned three All-NCAC awards, including first-team plaques in 1994 and 1995, and she added a trio of All-Great Lakes Region awards as well, highlighted by a first-team plaque in 1994. Iantuono finished her career ranked among the best in program history with 18 assists and 74 career points, totals that still have her in the top 10 in both categories, and she picked up Team MVP honors as a senior. The Tigers compiled records of 52-24-4 overall and 30-15-1 in the NCAC during Iantuono’s career, and Wittenberg advanced to the NCAA Division III Tournament twice during that span. A native of Bronxville, NY, Iantuono currently resides in Mount Vernon, NY.
Paco Labrador left a tremendous legacy over 15 years as the head coach of Wittenberg’s women’s volleyball team, winning 14 NCAC regular season titles, 14 NCAC tournament titles, and advancing to the NCAA Division III Tournament every year. Labrador guided Wittenberg to the 2011 NCAA Division III Championship, Wittenberg’s first-ever women’s team national title, and NCAA runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2017. He left Wittenberg following the 2017 season with a career record of 455-71, good for an 86.5 winning percentage that ranked second among active coaches across all NCAA divisions and third in collegiate women’s volleyball history at that time. Wittenberg compiled records of 162-2 in NCAC regular season play and 35-1 in NCAC Tournament play under Labrador’s direction, and his players collected numerous individual accolades, including 32 All-America awards. The 2011 American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III National Coach of the Year and an eight-time NCAC Coach of the Year recipient, Labrador is a native of Phoenix, Arizona. He currently resides in Annapolis, Maryland.
John Paoloni was a standout defensive lineman for the Tiger football team. Paoloni was one of the captains for the Tigers in 1973 as Wittenberg captured the first-ever NCAA Division III Tournament. After ranking third on the team in tackles from his middle guard position, Paoloni earned first-team All-Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) honors that season, in addition to a second-team All-America award from Lutheran Brotherhood. The Tiger defense did not allow more than 17 points in a game in 1973, and eight of the 12 opponents did not even reach double figures offensively. Wittenberg recorded a pair of shutouts during the season, highlighted by a 41-0 whitewashing of Juniata in the first-ever NCAA Division III National Championship game. A native of Kent, Ohio, Paoloni currently resides in Orlando, Florida.
Ryan Taylor made steady improvement throughout his men’s basketball collegiate career, culminating in a phenomenal senior season that ended with All-America honors as he led the Tigers to the NCAA Division III Tournament Sweet Sixteen. Taylor led the Tigers in scoring three straight seasons, and he finished his career ranked ninth on Wittenberg’s all-time scoring list and 15th on the NCAC’s scoring list with 1,426 career points. In 2001, Taylor ranked fourth in NCAA Division III for three-point field goal percentage (.493) and his 75 three-point field goals was good for second on the Wittenberg single season list. Following that season, he earned NCAC Player of the Year honors to go along with first-team All-Great Lakes Region and second-team All-America awards. The Tigers posted records of 80-26 overall and 52-12 in the NCAC during Taylor’s career. A native of Waynesfield, Ohio, Taylor currently resides in West Mansfield, Ohio.
Eddie Vallery turned in one of the most dominant individual seasons in the long and storied history of Wittenberg football, sweeping conference, region and national defensive player of the year awards in 2009 as he led the Tigers to the NCAA Division III Tournament quarterfinals. He recorded 73 tackles, including 22 for a loss, which ranks second in school history, and he led the NCAC and all of NCAA Division III with a school record 16.5 sacks during the 2009 season. The following season, Vallery overcame injuries to finish third on the team with 76 tackles, including 10.5 for loss and six sacks, and another undefeated regular season. Vallery finished his collegiate career ranked in the top five in program history in career tackles for loss and sacks, and the Tigers posted a four-year record of 36-8 during that time. A native of South Solon, Ohio, Vallery currently resides in London, Ohio.
Pat O’Conner helped to revolutionize the professional baseball industry as he worked in various areas of Minor League Baseball before spending 13 years as the CEO. O’Conner joined the Minor League Baseball staff in 1993 as chief operating officer and later moved into the position of vice president for administration. He was elected the 11th president of Minor League Baseball in 2007, and he went on to serve in the position until retiring on the final day of 2020.
Under O’Conner’s guidance, Minor League Baseball enjoyed a period of unprecedented increases in revenue and franchise values. The 160 teams across 14 leagues combined to attract more than 40 million fans every season between 2005 and 2019, buoyed in part by a substantial investment in facilities, including state-of-the-art ballparks from coast to coast. A native of Grove City, Ohio, O’Conner currently resides in Umatilla, Florida.
Finally, the Athletics Hall of Honor is welcoming two “Teams of Distinction” as part of the Class of 2022.
The 1964 Wittenberg football team claimed a national title with a perfect 8-0 record, including a mark of 7-0 in the OAC, the last of four straight league championships for the Tigers. Coached by National College Football Hall of Famer Bill Edwards, Wittenberg was nothing short of dominant defensively, allowing just two opponents to reach double figures and recording three straight shutouts. Just two games were decided by less than 10 points and the Tigers’ average margin of victory was more than 35 points per game.
The 1969 Wittenberg football team staked its claim to a national title with an unblemished 10-0 overall record, including a mark of 4-0 against OAC opponents. The Tigers showed their mettle repeatedly during the season by pulling out tight contests against Capital (20-18), Lehigh (21-13), Baldwin Wallace (16-12), Wooster (14-13), and William Jewell (27-21) in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, which was designated as the West Regional championship game. The Tigers were coached by National College Football Hall of Famer Dave Maurer, who had taken the reins from Edwards following the 1968 season.
COURTESY WITTENBERG ATHLETICS