Tobe Wolf’s journey to the St. Helena High School Athletic Hall of Fame – where he will be honored as a longtime coach and teacher – began decades ago.
It began in the summer of 1972, just before the start of the school year.
Wolf and his wife, Andrea, were passing through the Napa Valley, on their way to Lake County, to visit with Andrea’s parents. They made a stop at the Louis M. Martini Winery, which is just south of the high school, less than a mile away, on Highway 29.
Stagnaro was the track and field coach at Calistoga High School and also worked at Martini.
“I started talking to him,” Wolf recalled Friday. “Any teaching jobs around here? And he said, ‘As a matter of fact, there is. There’s one right up the road, at St. Helena High School.’
“I said, ‘What are they looking for?’
“He said, ‘Well, actually, they’re looking for a track coach, but they also need a teacher of world history.’ ”
“And I said, ‘Well that’s me.’ ”
It was Wolf all right. He had a master’s degree in teaching and a background in track and field – having competed for Western Oregon in a combination of running and field events (sprints, relays, long jump, triple jump, high jump, pole vault, shot put, discus throw). He had also played basketball and football in college.
Wolf’s next stop was the St. Helena Unified School District offices. After meeting with Dick Roche, the superintendent, Wolf agreed to return the next day to interview for the position.
“I interviewed the next morning. And they offered me the job,” said Wolf, who lives in Deer Park.
Now it was decision time for Wolf as he and his wife had already signed contracts and purchased tickets to fly to Africa, to teach at an international school in Tanzania.
“After a discussion with Andrea and her parents, they said, ‘Well you’ve got to do this. You’ve got to take it.’ That’s how I got to St. Helena.”
Wolf retired in 2002 after a 29-year teaching and coaching career. He was in the social studies department, teaching world history, American government, civics and world problems. He also was a P.E. instructor. He was the Saints’ head track and field coach from 1973-1997. He also was the cross country coach for 10 years and the junior varsity boys basketball coach for five years.
He returned to campus to coach the boys and girls tennis teams in 2003 after retiring. Wolf also served as St. Helena’s athletic director for 15 years.
Wolf, 76, will be honored later this month, when he enters the St. Helena High Athletic Hall of Fame in this year’s class of inductees. A dinner and induction ceremony is on Oct. 28 at Native Sons Hall in St. Helena. This is the fifth year of the Hall of Fame.
“I think back and there were so many memories of the kids that I’ll never forget,” said Wolf. “We didn’t always win championships, but it was just a joy to coach. What a ride.”
“I remember the first track practice I had, there were over 50 kids in a small school like that. I put them in the right places.”
The Hall of Fame class also has Attilio “Toch” Ghiringhelli (Class of 1936), Del Britton (Class of 1957), Andy Vanderschoot (Class of 1965), Kirk Mulligan (Class of 1968), Rich Lomeli (Class of 1978), and Allison Zumwalt (Class of 1985).
There will be a cocktail hour at 6 p.m., with dinner at 7 p.m., followed by the induction ceremony.
Donna McCornack, the Saints’ former volleyball coach who directed St. Helena to two state championships, along with seven league and five section titles, will be Wolf’s presenter. They taught together at St. Helena.
St. Helena Years
Wolf remembers the storied tradition of athletics at St. Helena when he joined the staff.
“They had the rich tradition with the football teams and they had a really strong tradition in track,” he said. “They were always successful in every sport.”
Wolf coached the Saints in track and field in two different sections, the CIF North Coast Section and then in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
Under Wolf, St. Helena boys teams won four North Central League I titles (1973, ’74, ’75, 1983). The girls team won eight Superior California Athletic League titles (1989, 1990, ’91, ’92, ’93, ’95, ’96, ’97).
He said he took pride in working with student-athletes, who did not have a lot of skills, and bringing out the best in that person, to where they could experience success.
“I think back to some of those kids,” said Wolf, who was assisted for many of those years by Gordon Anderson. “The coaching part of it was a real juggling act. It was a lot of fun.”
He enjoyed his years at St. Helena and the quality of life that the area provided.
“It was a family atmosphere,” he said. “The town just embraced and accepted us, both my wife and I. It was just idyllic. Everybody looked out for the kids. There were really dedicated principals and teachers.”
Wolf taught for two years at a junior high in Dallas, Oregon and spent two years teaching at an international school in Caracas, Venezuela.
Western Oregon’s 1962-63 basketball team, which Wolf played on, was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2007. Wolf was a center on the team, which had a 13-13 record and made it to the NAIA District playoffs. The Wolves – coached by Robert McCullough and with no player taller than 6-feet-3 – were known as the “Monmouth Mites” and “McCullough’s Midgets.”
“The Wolves of that season had no scholarships and did not charge for admission, but as the year went on, they began to pack Old PE and other gymnasiums because of their hustling, exciting brand of basketball,” according to a report on the Western Oregon website.
Earlier this month, Wolf was named to the Western Oregon Athletic Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017.
Wolf made all of his 21 free throws — a school record —in a game against Eastern Oregon in 1962.
He led Western Oregon in rebounding during the 1962-63 season with 182 rebounds total, averaging 9.6 per game.
He was selected All-District 2 honorable mention in 1960-61 and was named first team in 1961-62.
He played outside linebacker in football.
Coaching his children
Wolf’s two children, Tanya Small-Wolf, a 1993 graduate, and Tyson Wolf, a 1997 graduate, were on St. Helena track and field teams that their dad coached.
Tanya went on to play four years of volleyball at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Tobe Wolf was born in Mott, North Dakota and grew up in Woodburn, Oregon, graduating from Woodburn High.
Wolf has two grandchildren.
This story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling of Dick Roche as well as clarify Wolf’s decision to come out of retirement to coach specifically Saints tennis in 2003.