TriCounty Wayne McClain had both a plus and a minus going into his first season as head coach of the Manual Rams last season.
He was now the boss of the bench at his alma mater after a long stretch as an assistant coach, which means he had great knowledge of his players, but he was succeeding an Illinois coaching legend and his long-time chief, Dick Van Scyoc.
So all he did in his initial season as head coach was post a 32-2 record and coach Manual to a second consecutive state championship, something only a handful of teams have managed.
And his long affiliation with Manual, both as a player under Van Scyoc and his tenure as an assistant coach, helped much in his quick success story.
"Some teachers and townsfolk tend to think of you as still a kid in short pants," the 39-year-old coach, who played one season for Bradley in 1974-75, said after bringing his team back from Champaign with its first-place trophy. "I went to school with the parents of a lot of my players and they trust me to mold their kids."
In his first season, Manual lost only to Danville and Springfield Lanphier and won the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament and whipped St. Louis Vachon in the St. Louis Shootout. On the way to the state title, the Rams disposed of Quincy 74-63, Glenbrook North 64-36, Joliet 62-60 and Harvey Thornton 65-53 in the championship game.
Wayne McClain had both a plus and a minus going into his first season as head coach of the Manual Rams last season.
Larry Leitner was among the state's elite officials for more than 40 years, officiating high school, college and professional sporting events from 1960 through 2003 and he remains involved in sports by serving on the board of directors for the Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament, as well as evaluating current officials and moderating IHSA rules clinics.
Among his officiating highlights, Leitner worked more IHSA basketball and football tournament games than any official in the state's history, earning 27 consecutive boys basketball regional assignments. He also worked the IHSA boys basketball state finals in 1973, 1974 and 1976, including the 1976 championship game, and three IHSA football finals, including the first-ever 2A state championship game in 1974. A charter member of the Gateway Conference officiating crew in 1988, Leitner was part of the crew that officiated the 1990 and 1993 NCAA Division I-AA quarterfinals and he served as an associate official for the Big Ten Conference from 1984-88.
Leitner also was called upon to officiate two IESA state championship games, the 1990 National Catholic Basketball finals, three Shriner All-Star football games and the 1980 IBCA All-Star Classic, while also working for two seasons in the Midwest Professional Football League.
Leitner is a member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association, Peoria Officials and Bloomington/Normal Officials Halls of Fame.