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Athletics & Recreation

Ivan "Kaiser" Wilhelm


Even at a time when high school boys regularly played multiple sports, Ivan Wilhelm took the idea of the multisport athlete to an extreme. If there was a sport, he played it, and he excelled at them all. He was known as the best all-around local athlete of his era, and remains one of the best Huntington County has ever produced.


Born in 1929 in Huntington, he was nicknamed “Kaiser,” after the German leader Kaiser Wilhelm II. Huntington’s Kaiser would go on to be a leader in just about everything he did.


He wasn’t very big -- only 5-foot-8 or so -- but he could handle the basketball and run the team like a coach on the floor. While he didn’t score much, he ran plays to perfection and got the ball to teammates in the places for the best shots. He said he preferred making a perfect pass over making a perfect shot. As a sophomore at Huntington High School in 1945, Wilhelm did make a perfect shot, hitting the winning basket against Kokomo in the semistate championship game to send the Vikings to the Final Four.


Wilhelm quarterbacked the Huntington football team to a conference title his senior year, then jumped back into basketball to lead the Vikings to a 24-3 record and a regional crown. He earned all-conference honors in football and basketball and was All-State in basketball as a senior. But he had little time to rest on any laurels. It was always on to the next sport. In addition to football and basketball, Wilhelm also excelled in track, baseball and tennis.


Tulane University was his college choice, but when there was no scholarship money the first year, Wilhelm went to Ball State. There he played on the freshman football team and led the Cardinals’ freshman basketball team to an undefeated season. A year later, Wilhelm and his new wife, Thais Carl, finally headed to Tulane, where he played basketball and some baseball. As a senior, Wilhelm was basketball captain, named team MVP and earned All-Southeastern Conference honors.


After earning his teaching degree, Wilhelm taught and coached in Bellevue (Ohio) and Peru before returning to his hometown in 1956. He was head basketball coach of the Huntington High Vikings for four years, also coached baseball and was an assistant with the football program for 30 seasons. He taught math, driver’s education, and was a guidance counselor at the high school before retiring in 1989. Along the way, Wilhelm helped start numerous youth leagues for football and basketball.


In 1972, Wilhelm was named to the Silver Anniversary team by the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 2011 he was elected to the Hall as an individual.


He has been a member of the Metro Kiwanis and served Central Christian Church as Sunday School teacher, elder, deacon and camp counselor. He was also at the side of his wife, Thais, as she was elected the first-ever female sheriff in Huntington County.

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