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The Legendary Franklin Wonder Five

March 22, 2016

It’s March Madness!

The first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament have finished. This year, four Indiana teams made it to the Big Dance Purdue, Indiana University, Butler and Notre Dame. Unfortunately, only the Hoosiers and the Irish still have a shot at the championship.

With the state of Indiana well represented in this year’s tournament, I thought I would share some little-known basketball history of the Hoosier state’s legendary Franklin Wonder Five.

The Franklin Wonder Five were the teams played during an eight-year era from 1918 to 1926 in Franklin, Ind. The era spanned four years at Franklin High School and four years at Franklin College. The team earned the nickname after winning three consecutive high school championships from 1920 to 1922 before continuing its success at college. The Wonder Five went undefeated during the 1922 to 1923 season at the small Franklin College where they became national champions. The team continued its streak with 50 consecutive wins over a two year period defeating several bigger, stronger teams including Purdue, Notre Dame, Illinois and Wisconsin.

To be considered a Franklin Wonder Five team, it had to consist of Robert “Fuzzy” Vandivier as a player and Ernest “Griz” Wagner as a coach. During the eight-year period, 14 players are considered to be members of the Wonder Five.

The original Wonder Five started playing ball in elementary school and, according to Phillip Ellett’s book, The Franklin Wonder Five, the boys would play every chance they got.

No one expected Franklin basketball to put the school on the map. On Nov. 15, 1918, the first game of the boys’ freshman season at Franklin High School, the team played Spiceland. Franklin scored 13 points before Spiceland ever had a chance to make a basket.

That is how “Fuzzy” Vandivier, who became known as one of the world’s greatest basketball players, and the legendary Franklin Wonder Five began.


Melissa BrummettMelissa Brummett is an intern in the Marketing Department at IHS. She loves Purdue and is heartbroken the team lost the first round. Boiler Up!

Melissa Brummett is a Marketing Intern at the Indiana Historical Society. She enjoys photography, reading, sports and history.

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