1955 State Semifinal Game

(1-6-20) Willshire no longer has a school of their own, but the memories of two special years during the high school basketball seasons of 1954-55 and 1955-56 will always remain for the Van Wert County community.

The Bearcats during those two seasons would not lose a regular season game, but more important they would go to the Ohio Class B state finals each season. In 1955 at the Cincinnati Gardens they would lose in the  championship game to Lockland Wayne 64-56 and in 1956 at the Cleveland Arena they would be upset in in the semifinal game by Arcanum 55-54 . The Trojans would go on to win another nail-biter in the State title game beating Columbus St. Marys 72-71.

1955 State Tournament

1955 Willshire State


1956 State Tournament

1956 Willshire State

The high profile star on the Bearcats was 6’10 Center Gary Kesler. Kesler, who graduated in 1956,  is still ranked as one of the top scorers in Ohio high school basketball history including over 2,000 points during his career.

Gary Kesler
Gary ‘Gus’ Kesler

Kesler in the OHSAA Record Books

Career Points

  • 19th – 2,215 Gary Kesler, Willshire (1952-1956)

Single Season Scoring

  • 7th –  973 Gary Kesler, Willshire (1955-1956) – 34.6 points a game
  • 19th –  856 Gary Kesler, Willshire (1954-1955)

Single Game FGs Made

  • 28th – Gary Kesler, Willshire vs. Mendon (11/11/1955)

1956 – Named Ohio Class B  outstanding player

1990 – passed away onApril 17, 1990

2018Named to the Parkway Hall of Fame

Five years later in 1961 Willshire would consolidate with Rockford to form the Parkway school district. The Willshire school building would be demolished in 2006…but one thing you can’t take away are the memories of those two special years.

Did you know…

During the 1938-40 season Willshire would play in the Class B State Tournament.

In the first round game played at Ohio State they would be beat Marysville 29-21, they would lose in the quarterfinal game to eventual state champion New Carlisle 36-32 at the Fairgrounds Coliseum. The Bearcats Don Dellinger was named to the All-Tournament team.

Willshire during these two years (1954-55 and 1955-56) was a member of the Van Wert County League which included Van Del, Ohio City, Hoaglin-Jackson, Wren, York and Convoy-Union.

Gary “Gus” Kesler was a 1956 graduate of Willshire High School. He was a memberof the 1955 State-Runner-Up basketball team as well as the 1956 State-Semi-Final team. Gary averaged 34.6 points per game his senior season. He was named 2nd team All-Ohio in 1955 and 1st team All-Ohio in 1956.

Gary ranks 25th on the all-time scoring list in the state of Ohio with 2,215 career points. He is 16th on the all-time listing Ohio for most field goals made in a single game, with 28. Gary scored 856 points during his junior year, which is 19th on the all-time Ohio single season scoring record.During his senior year, Gary scored 973 points which is 7th on the all-time Ohio single season scoring record.

Upon graduating from Willshire, Gary attended the University of Dayton where he averaged 18 points per game on the freshman team. He transferred to the University of Alabama for one season. Gary then went on to play at The University of Tampa where he averaged 17 points per game. At the University of Tampa, Gary was named 1st team all-conference and was named to the All-American team.

After graduation, Gary was drafted by the Hawaii Chiefs of the American Basketball Association. He would go on to play 5 seasons of semi-professional basketball.