Great Bend High School is getting ready to honor its 2021 inductees to the GBHS Hall of Fame. Recognized will be Jeff Langrehr, a star athlete and coach at GBHS and a 1982 graduate, and the late Willmar Meyer “Bill” Bledsoe, a 1939 grad who was a star athlete and who rose to the rank of colonel in the United States Marine Corps.
The Hall of Fame ceremony and luncheon are scheduled for Feb. 19, 2022. Luncheon plans will be announced at a later date, but the ceremony will take place that night between the girls’ and boys’ basketball games versus Liberal with a reception following in the GBHS commons area.
There were no inductees in 2020 and this marks the 13th year for the HOF. Past inductees include globe-trotting JanSport founder Skip Yowell and microchip inventor Jack Kilby.
After the nominations come in, a committee made up of administrators, teachers, school board representatives and local residents make the final determination. Nominees must be students, teachers or community members who have made a significant contribution to community or country.
A display case in the GBHS commons contains plaques and memorabilia paying tribute to all the recipients.
Below are the biographies of the inductees as submitted by those who nominated them.
Jeff Langrehr was born and raised in Great Bend – the son of Harold and Virginia Langrehr. He graduated from Great Bend High School in 1982 where he lettered in cross country, basketball, and baseball. Jeff earned his Associate Degree from Barton Community College in 1984 and graduated Cum Laude from Kansas State University in the winter of 1986. He married Sherry Farthing in 1990 and they are the parents of three children, Conner Langrehr, McKenna Bush, and Brooks Langrehr.
He began his teaching career in 1987-1988 as an English teacher at Roosevelt Junior High School where he taught for five years. He would later teach at Great Bend Middle School for one year and then at Great Bend High School for sixteen years.
Jeff became an assistant varsity baseball coach at GBHS in the spring of 1987 and became the GBHS head baseball coach in the fall of 1987. Jeff spearheaded the Great Bend High School baseball program for 22 seasons racking up a career 346-145 win-loss record. Jeff led GBHS baseball to numerous conference and regional titles, including five Final Four appearances in the state tournament. Those Final Fours were highlighted by two state runner-up finishes in 2003 and 2004 and two state championships in 1995 and 1998.
In basketball, Coach Langrehr served as an assistant coach for seven years before taking over the boys’ basketball team for the 1994-1995 season. Jeff led the 1994-1995 team to a third place finish at the state tournament in his first year and went on to guide the Panthers to a 216-119 record, including seven WAC championships, six sub-state championships, and two state championships in 2005 and 2006.
Overall, during Jeff’s 22 year head baseball and 15 year head basketball coaching stint at GBHS, Jeff amassed 562 wins, eight Final Four appearances, and four state championships.
Since leaving Great Bend, Jeff has continued to teach and coach basketball at three different schools. Jeff directed the Gardner Edgerton boys’ Basketball team for nine seasons from 2009 to 2019 He coached his son, Conner, at GBHS and together they led the program to a third place class 5A finish in 2009-2010. Conner went on to score over 1,800 collegiate points at Mid-America Nazarene University in Olathe where he was blessed to participate in an Elite Eight and Final Four in NAIA Division 1 basketball.
After retiring in Kansas, Jeff has continued to teach and coach outside of Kansas beginning with one season at Castle View High School in Castle Rock, Colo., where he led CVHS to the only winning boys’ basketball season in the school’s 17-year history as of 2021, guiding the Sabercats to a 14-10 record.
In 2020, Jeff took over the boys’ basketball program at Harrisonville High School in Harrisonville, Mo. He has guided the Wildcats to a 33-18 mark in two seasons at HHS and continues to coach in Harrisonville. Jeff’s youngest son, Brooks, participated on the first two HHS teams that Jeff coached in Harrisonville and set the school scoring record for an individual season in 2020-2021 averaging 22.8 points per game for the Wildcats. Brooks is continuing his basketball career at MNU, in Olathe.
Jeff and his wife Sherry live in Raymore, Mo. Conner resides in Overland Park, and Mckenna, an avid marathon runner, lives with her husband, Ryan, in Boston, Mass.
Jeff’s overall coaching mark currently stands at 711 wins and 385 losses and is in his 35th year of teaching and coaching.
Willmar Meyer “Bill” Bledsoe
Willmar Bledsoe was born January 21, 1921, in Walters, Minn. Harley and Emma Bledsoe moved to Great Bend in 1927 with their five children. The family lived at 901 Holland St. Harley Bledsoe was killed in an auto accident in 1934. As the oldest child, Willmar took on many responsibilities in addition to going to school and participating in athletics.
Willmar attended Riley School, Great Bend Jr. High and Great Bend High School, as did all of his siblings. Emma Bledsoe lived at 901 Holland St. until her death in 1981.
Willmar had a distinguished career at Great Bend High School. He was Freshman Class President. It was athletics in which Willmar really excelled. He earned 10 Varsity Letters: four in football, four in basketball and two in track.
Great Bend only had a track team his last two years. In Willmar’s last three years, the football team compiled a 22-3-1 record. The 1937 team finished undefeated and it was Willmar’s two touchdowns, beginning with his return of the opening kickoff, against one-loss Larned which finished off the perfect season.
Willmar was the star of the 1938 team, scoring two or more touchdowns in five of the seven games he played, having to miss two games due to a broken hand. He was recruited by USC, Alabama, LSU, Iowa, Purdue and Kansas.
Willmar lettered in basketball all four years and was a starter his last three. In his junior year, he finished third in the Southwest Kansas League in scoring and was named to the All-League team. Willmar lead the SWKL in scoring his senior year and was first-team All-League. Great Bend High School had its first winning season in over a decade. Not bad considering basketball was Willmar’s third best sport.
While Willmar’s football prowess attracted interest from major universities across the country, arguably his greatest accomplishments came in track and field where he was a two time State Champion. In the spring of 1937, Coach Ostenberg decided to re-establish a Track team at Great Bend. He trained Bill Savoy ’38 and Willmar in the discus and shot put for a couple of weeks and entered them in the Central Kansas Invitational in Salina.
Willmar won the discus and Savoy the shot put. In 1938, Willmar and Savoy became Great Bend High School’s first individual State Champions. Willmar won the broad jump and Savoy the shot put, leading Great Bend to tie for second place in the team competition. In 1939, Willmar participated in seven meets, competing in 21 events, earning 16 firsts, two seconds, one third and one fourth. He set numerous meet discus and broad jump records along the way.
In the State Championship, he again won the broad jump, setting a new record. He finished second in the discus and fourth in the shot put. His State Broad Jump Record was not broken until 1960 and was the longest standing record at the time.
Willmar chose to follow his former Great Bend teammate Bill Savoy to USC on a football scholarship. Willmar started at end on the freshman team and at half-back and quarterback for his three varsity years. He had numerous highlights at USC and his touchdown reception against Notre Dame in 1941 was shown on a Universal Newsreel in movie theaters across the country. Bill, as he was called after arriving at USC, was one of only four players in his class to letter in football all three years and received the “Three Year Varsity Man” lifetime pass to all USC home athletic events.
With World War II raging, Bill turned down an opportunity to play pro football and accelerated his graduation from USC so he could report to Quantico, Va., for Marine Corps bootcamp. He earned a B.S. in Business.
Willmar served his country honorably as a Marine Corps officer from 1943 to 1974, retiring as a colonel. He served in Okinawa and China during World War II. He was a company commander in Korea and earned a Bronze Star with Combat “V” for Valor in Vietnam. He also received the Legion of Merit and was a graduate of the Naval War College. He was buried with full military honors at Quantico National Veterans Cemetery following his death in 1989. He was survived by his now deceased wife Shirley Freeman Bledsoe, whom he married while at USC, and their two children. His son William T. Bledsoe lives in Leavenworth and daughter Teresa Bledsoe Colonna lives in Norfolk, Va. There are eight grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.