CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois athletics has its newest Hall of Famers. The school released its Class of 2022 on Monday, with 15 new members, representing 11 different Illini teams. The sixth Hall of Fame class is star studded, including five Olympians, three members of their sport’s national hall of fame and 22 combined national championships and one team national title. With the 50th Anniversary of Title IX this year, eight members of the class are women, including four Olympians.
Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2022
Jody Alderson Braskamp, Swimming & Diving Bill Burrell, Football
Becky Beach, Golf & Basketball Harry Combes, Basketball Coach/Basketball
Dr. Nell Jackson, Women’s Track & Field Coach Charlton Ehizuelan, Track & Field
Linda Metheny-Mulvihill, Gymnastics Jeff George, Football
Jonelle Polk McCloud, Basketball Ron Guenther, Athletics Director/Football
Dawn Riley, Track & Field Werner Holzer, Wrestling
Emily Zurrer, Soccer Ken Norman, Basketball
Danielle Zymkowitz, Softball
Jody Alderson Braskamp, Women’s Swimming, Early 50s. Alderson won the bronze medal at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics in the 4×100 freestyle and set a world record in 1954 in the 100-yard freestyle. She finished fifth in the 100-meter freestyle in the ’52 Olympics, three-tenths of a second behind the winner. According to the official event clock time, Alderson finished in a three-way tie for third, but the judges awarded her fifth place. While attending Illinois, she set the world record in the 100-yard freestyle and was a member of the AAU national championship relay teams in 1952 and 1953. She married Lt. Bernard Braskamp, Jr., a U.S. Air Force officer in 1954, and retired from competitive swimming. Alderson died in 2021 at the age of 85.
Becky Beach, Women’s Golf, 1974-77; Basketball 1976-78. Beach was Illinois’s first women’s golf medalist, winning the Big Ten title in 1976. She also won the AIAW State Championship in both 1976 and 1977, and competed at the 1976 AIAW National Championship Tournament. Beach also lettered in basketball from 1976-78, helping the Illini to records of 15-10, 15-9 and 9-9 in the three seasons. She led the Illini in scoring in 1976 and 1977, averaging 13.4 and 14.3 points, respectively. Beach also led the Illini in rebounding in 1977 with an average of 9.5, and in assists in both 1977 and 1978 with averages of 2.6 and 2.8, respectively. Beach currently resides in Champaign-Urbana.
Bill Burrell, Football, 1957-59. Burrell finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting and was a Consensus All-American as a senior linebacker in 1959 at only 6-0 and 215 pounds. He was the first Black captain of the Illini football team. Burrell was a three-time First-Team All-Big Ten selection and was the 1959 Big Ten Silver Football Award winner. He also earned All-America honors in 1958. Burrell was drafted in 1960 by the AFL Buffalo Bills and in the fifth round (50th overall) in the NFL Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. He played five seasons in the CFL for the Saskatchewan Roughriders as a linebacker and offensive guard and was the team’s nominee for the Schenley Award as Outstanding Lineman in 1960. In 1990, Burrell was named to the Illinois All-Century Football Team. The football field at Clifton Central (IL) HS is named Bill Burrell Field. Burrell died in 1998 at the age of 61.
Harry Combes – Basketball (1935-37); MBB Coach 1948-67. As head coach, Combes set the school record for wins (316-150) that stood for 25 years until broken by Lou Henson in 1990. His teams won four Big Ten titles (1949, 1951, 1952, 1963) and made three NCAA Final Four appearances (1949, 1951, 1952) during one of the most successful eras in Fighting Illini basketball history. Each of his Illini teams that reached the Final Four finished in third place. Combes starred as an Illini player from 1935-37, helping Illinois to Big Ten titles in 1935 under Craig Ruby and in 1937 under Doug Mills, earning Second-Team All-Big Ten in 1936 and First-Team All-Big Ten recognition in 1937. He also was named Second-Team All-American in 1937. Combes died in 1977 at the age of 62.
Charlton Ehizuelan, Track & Field, 1974-77. Ehizuelan came to Illinois from Nigeria and became the greatest jumper in Illini history. He was the NCAA Outdoor Champion in the triple jump in 1974 and in the long jump in 1975, becoming the first African to win either title. He also twice won the NCAA Indoor Championship in long jump in 1976 and 1977. Ehizuelan was a four-time Indoor All-American. Competing collegiately in his native continent, he won the long jump/triple jump double at the 1975 All-Africa University Games and defended his long jump title four years later. Ehizuelan won the USA Indoor Championship long jump in 1978. His best leap in the long jump was 27-1 in 1975 and his best triple jump was 55-2, with the latter mark from 1975 remaining as the Nigerian indoor record. In his first Illini meet, Ehizuelan set the Big Ten long jump record at 25-9.5, one-half inch past the previous mark set by Jesse Owens 39 years earlier. That same day, he triple-jumped 53-11 ¾, setting Big Ten and NCAA records. More than four decades after his collegiate career ended, his long jump and triple jump marks still stand as Illini records. Ehizuelan won 12 Big Ten titles, including 11 individual and one relay. He qualified to compete for Nigeria at the 1976 Olympics, but Nigeria boycotted after the team had already arrived in Montreal. A torn muscle kept him off the 1980 Olympic team. Ehizuelan currently resides in San Antonio, Texas.
Jeff George, Football, 1988-89. George enjoyed a 12-year NFL career after being the No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick in 1990 by the Indianapolis Colts. He was named Second-Team All-B1G in ’88 and First-Team in ’89, after leading the Fighting Illini to back-to-back bowl games. George earned Honorable Mention All-America honors in 1989. During his two seasons at Illinois, George threw for 5,189 yards and 31 touchdowns. He set the Illini single-season record with 22 touchdown passes I989, which still ranks tied for third. Under head coach John Mackovic, George led Illinois to two bowl games, including a victory in the 1989 Citrus Bowl, when Illinois finished 10-2 on the year. One of the best clutch quarterbacks in UI history, his ability to lead the Illini in the fourth quarters of games was amazing. George currently resides in Indianapolis.
Ron Guenther, Athletics Director – 1988, 1992-2011; Football 1964-66. Guenther played football for the Illini from 1964-66 as an offensive lineman, earning team MVP, Second-Team All-Big Ten and Academic All-Big Ten honors in 1966. He was the offensive line coach at Boston College from 1971-74 and head football coach at North Central College from 1975-78, where he compiled a record of 22-12-2. Guenther was interim Athletics Director at Illinois in 1988, then named permanent AD from 1992 to 2011, when he retired from the University. He continued to work with the Big Ten Conference as a consultant after his AD career. Major projects under his watch included the Memorial Stadium Renaissance, Eichelberger Field for softball, the Bielfeldt Athletics Administration Building, the Demirjian Golf Facility, the Kahn Outdoor Tennis Complex, the Atkins Tennis Center, the UI Outdoor Track and Field Stadium, the Irwin Indoor Football Practice Facility, the Irwin Academic Center and the Ubben Basketball Practice Facility. During his tenure, Illinois captured 34 Big Ten Championships, made a men’s basketball Final Four and made six football bowl appearances, including the Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl. Guenther was inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. He currently resides in Champaign.
Werner Holzer, Wrestling, 1957-59. Holzer was a U.S. Olympian in 1968 and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1993. He won Big Ten titles in 1957 and ‘58 and was an All-American after finishing third at the NCAA Championships in 1957. He compiled an overall record of 71-7 curing his collegiate career. Holzer placed fourth in freestyle at the 1966 World Championship and finished sixth in Greco-Roman at the 1968 Olympics, making him of the few Americans to compete internationally in both styles. Holzer was credited with founding USA Wrestling as the national governing body of amateur wrestling and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1993. Holzer died in 2018 at the age of 81.
Dr. Nell Jackson, Women’s Track Coach, 1970. Jackson led the Illinois women to the 1970 National Championship for women’s track and field. She was the Olympic women’s track and field head coach in 1956 and 1972. Jackson was inducted into the USATF Hall of Fame in 1989 and is considered one of the pioneers in women’s track and field. At the time of her death, she was the secretary of The Athletics Congress (TAC; now USATF) and had previously been a TAC vice president. While a student at Tuskegee Institute, she was a member of the 1948 Olympic team and also competed in the first Pan American Games in 1951, winning a silver medal in the 200-meter dash. Jackson set an American record in the 200 meters in 1949 and won two national titles for Tuskegee University 1950 in the 200 meters and 4×100-meter relay. After her competitive career as an athlete, Jackson became coach at Tuskegee, Illinois State, Illinois and Michigan State. She was the first Black coach to be named head coach of the U.S. Olympic team, men’s or women’s, as well as the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Olympic Committee’s board of directors. Jackson is honored in several Halls of Fame, among them the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Hall of Fame, the Black Athletes Hall of Fame, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Women’s Sports Foundation Hall of Fame and the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame. From 1973-81, she served as the first Assistant Director of Athletics for Women at Michigan State and also served as MSU’s women’s track and field head coach for six seasons. A native of Athens, Georgia, Jackson died in 1988 at 58 years of age.
Linda Metheny-Mulvihill, Women’s Gymnastics, Pre-Title IX. Metheny won seven gold, three silver and one bronze medal at the Pan American Games in 1967 and 1971, and was the flag bearer for the American team in 1971. She competed in the 1964, 1968 and 1972 Olympics, with a best finish of fourth place on the balance beam in 1968, with the U.S. team finishing sixth at the Mexico City Games. Domestically, she won at least 18 individual national titles including the Pentathlon Gym championships in 1965, AAU championships in 1966 and 1968, and North American championships in 1968. Metheny won the U.S. national all-around title in 1966, 1968, 1970, 1971 and 1972, while also winning a record five gold medals at the 1967 Pan American Games. Metheny was inducted into the U.S. Gymnastics Hall of Fame and was a member of the U.S. national team from 1964-73. She enrolled at Illinois following the 1964 Olympics and competed as the only member of the women’s gymnastics team in the era before AIAW and NCAA Competition. After retiring from competition, Metheny-Mulvihill became a gymnastics coach and worked as an international referee. Together with her husband, Dick Mulvihill, she has run the National Academy of Artistic Gymnastics in Eugene, Oregon, since 1973, where the academy has trained 17 Olympians and more than 75 national champions.
Ken Norman, Men’s Basketball, 1985-87. “Snake” Norman earned Second-Team Consensus All-America honors in 1987 after his senior season with the Fighting Illini. He was a two-time First-Team All-Big Ten pick while leading the Illini in scoring and rebounding in each of his final two seasons in 1986 and ’87. During his senior season in 1987, Norman averaged 19.7 points and 9.8 rebounds per game and set the Illini shooting record by making 64.1 percent of his shots. The Fighting Illini played in the NCAA Tournament each of his three seasons wearing the Orange and Blue. Snake was an NBA First-Round pick in 1987 by the Los Angeles Clippers. He enjoyed an 11-year NBA career with the Clippers, Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks, scoring 8,717 points (13.5 avg) and grabbing 3,949 rebounds (6.1 avg). He was named to the Illini All-Century Team in 2005. Norman currently resides in Las Vegas.
Jonelle Polk McCloud, Women’s Basketball, 1984-87. Jonelle Polk was named All-Big Ten three times, including twice to first team and once to second team. She twice was named Kodak All-District IV. Polk finished her UI career with a school-record 1,984 points, which held for 11 seasons and still ranks third. She was also school record holder with 933 rebounds for 17 years and still ranks fourth. Polk averaged a double-double at 17.9 points and 10.1 rebounds as a sophomore, while averaging more than 20 points per game as a junior and senior and still has two of the top six scoring seasons in school history. Polk also ranks sixth in school history with 135 blocked shots and has the third-most double-doubles with 40 during her Illini career. She was the 1987 Big Ten Medal of Honor winner. Following her collegiate career, Polk played professionally in Europe for four seasons. After returning, she received a master’s degree at Northern Illinois, serving as a graduate assistant for the Huskies. Polk McCloud currently resides in Peoria.
Dawn Riley, Women’s Track and Field, 1993-96. Riley was an eight-time All-American (one relay) and seven-time Big Ten champion. She finished sixth in the 100-meter hurdles at the 1996 NCAA outdoor meet and was third at the 1996 indoor meet in the 55-meter hurdles. Riley also finished fourth in the indoor 800m in 1995. She helped the Illini to Big Ten Indoor titles in 1993, 1995 and 1996, and an Outdoor title in 1995. The Illini were runner-up in each Big Ten Championship meet they didn’t win during her four years. Illinois also had two top-5 finishes at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in both 1995 and 1996.
Emily Zurrer, Soccer, 2005-08. Zurrer earned All-America honors three times in 2006 (1st/3rd/3rd teams), 2007 (2nd/4th teams) and 2008 (3rd team), was a three-time First-Team All-Big Ten selection her final three seasons, and selected to the All-Freshman squad in 2005. She was First-Team All-Region as a junior and senior. During her tenure on the back line, Illinois produced 42 shutouts and gave up the second-fewest goals in program history in 2008, allowing just 19. As a senior, Zurrer was the Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Year. She competed for Canada at the 2008 (starting every game) and 2012 Olympics, helping her squad to a bronze medal in 2012. Zurrer was the 2009 Big Ten Medal of Honor selection from Illinois. She played professionally in Sweden, Germany, Canada and the U.S., and now works as a realtor and fitness instructor in British Columbia, Canada.
Danielle Zymkowitz, Softball, 2008-11. Zymkowitz was a two-time Third-Team All-American in 2009 and 2011, and three-time First-Team All-Region selection from 2009-11. She was named First-Team All-Big Ten three times and was the Illini team captain her final three seasons. Zymkowitz is the Illini career leader in batting average (.384), stolen bases (91), runs (202) and hits (277). She ranks second in triples with 13 and stolen base percentage (.858, 91-106). Her batting average of .425 in 2011 ranks third in school history, her 59 runs scored in 2010 ranks third and her 36 stolen bases in 2010 is the school record. Zymkowitz is arguably the most complete softball athlete to ever wear a Fighting Illini uniform, excelling at the plate, on the bases and with the glove. She was a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and an Academic All-District selection. Zymkowitz is currently the associate head softball coach at Wisconsin, and is in her seventh season playing professionally for the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch League.