“I love winning. I’m a very competitive person,” says John Wakeman, the former three-sport all-state athlete for Republic, “but losing, losing is what teaches you character, and ultimately, it teaches you how to be a winner again.” Wakeman, who graduated in 1989, earned all-state honors in track, basketball, and football. In addition to those accolades, he also holds the school record for most points scored in a single basketball game with 56. And he was the top scorer in the Blue and Gold Tournament in 1988.
Moving to Republic from Texas at a young age, Wakeman’s passion was to follow in the footsteps of the man he called dad, Newt Wakeman. “Growing up, dad was this great athlete who had so many stories. I would look at photographs of him playing football, and all I wanted was to be just like him. He coached my teams when I was boy. I wanted to make him proud. I always aspired to be like him, but he and mom never put any pressure on me to be anything but myself. All they wanted was for me to work hard and play my best.”
When Wakeman’s sister Dorsey earned all-state track status herself and graduated from RHS in 1986, he found an additional role model in his life.
“My sister was important to me. I wanted to follow in her footsteps, and with my track career I was able to do that.” John earned his all-state track award his senior year before heading to Missouri State University (then Southwest Missouri State) where he would eventually earn All-Missouri Valley honors twice for decathlon events in track & field. Wakeman would also assist in coaching the team while receiving his masters degree in communication.
Before that, John learned what it meant to play on a team from his coaches and teammates at Republic. “I think the key for my success, and the success of our teams at Republic during the late 1980’s, was that we each knew what our roles were, and our coaches knew what roles we needed to be in for the best fit of the team.”
Wakeman won his all-state selection in football as a defensive back. He earned his all-state selection in basketball as an undersized post player. His medal in track was in the triple jump, where he placed fourth at state.
“While the teams I played on didn’t have the the opportunity to win state titles, we were talented, and our coaches played us in the right positions.”
Wakeman set, and still holds the school record for most points scored in a single game, 56, against Buffalo in 1989. “Everyone worked together. Everyone always did their part. Being on a team means you have to be willing to be open enough to listen and take the advice of others,” Wakeman says.
“Even the game when I (broke the points record)…everyone contributed to me getting the record that night.
Knowing you don’t know everything, depending on the advice and guidance from others, is what will put you ahead in life.”
Wakeman says basketball left the biggest impression on him of any sport, to this day, because of how he had to adjust to succeed.
“I had to play forward/center and I was constantly playing against people bigger than I was. No matter how big they were, I had to out-hustle, out-run, out-play the other person. I tell my daughter it’s not about size and strength, it’s your desire and your drive.”
Today, Wakeman stays connected to the athletic world by coaching his daughter’s sports teams and playing in church leagues.
“I want to leave a positive message for our young kids today. I hope our athletes today will always do their best in every situation. The legacy I want for myself, for my children, is to know that sometimes we aren’t always the best ability-wise, but we can out-effort someone with our drive. That’s what I had. I had the will to win. I simply wanted it. Sometimes the last shot didn’t fall the way I wanted, and on those nights, it was a long bus ride home, but that gave me time for reflection and thinking. Time for a fresh start on how to win the next time. And that’s what I do today in life.”
- All-State Football (Defensive Back, 1988)
- All-State Basketball (1989)
- All-State Track (4th Place, Triple Jump, 1989)
- Holds the school record for field goals and points in a game (56 points vs. Buffalo)
- Holds the school record for field goal percentage in a season (69% in 1988-89)