In honor of Sunday’s Christian holiday, we salute former Illini football star Robert “Bob” Easter. A letter winner in 1961, ’62 and ’63, he was a starting guard for Illinois’ 1963 Big Ten champions.
That squad defeated Washington in the 1964 Rose Bowl. The 6-foot-2, 218-pounder was a Peoria Richwoods High School teammate of Bo Batchelder and an Illini teammate of Dick Butkus, Jim Grabowski, Don Hansen, George Donnelly and others. Upon his graduation from Illinois, Easter coached one season in Rockford before joining the Richwoods staff in 1967. In 29 years as the Knights’ line coach, he was instrumental in producing perennial winning teams.
Richwoods won two state championships, placed second once, appeared in the state playoffs 15 times and claimed 10 Mid-State 6 Conference titles. Among Richwoods players he helped to send to Illinois were Terry Cole and Gary Lee. In 25 seasons as Richwoods’ head wrestling coach, Easter’s Knights won eight conference championships. Individually he coached 46 conference champions, 73 district champs, 51 sectional qualifiers, 16 who placed at state and three state champions.
Altogether, his wrestlers won 171 individual tournament titles, 28 of them won 30 or more matches in a season and 75 won 20 or more in a season. In 2005, Easter was a member of the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame’s 25th induction class.
Sunday: Beth Vrdsky, volleyball (29)
Monday: John DiFeliciantonio, football (59)
Tuesday: Shawn Herzog, baseball (41)
Wednesday: Jack Ingram, basketball (32)
Thursday: Max Hooper, basketball/baseball (82)
Friday: Brittany Koester, softball (29)
Saturday: Ted Beach, basketball (85)
— By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore
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