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Matt Roggenburk '86 receives Athletic Hall of Fame award from Fr. Raymond P. Guiao S.J. '82.

Four Alumni Inducted Into the Athletic Hall of Fame

By Saint Ignatius Athletics , 08/16/21, 10:15AM EDT


Saint Ignatius High School celebrated Wildcats Roar this past weekend which witnessed four alumni inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame.

CLEVELAND, Oh - On Saturday, August 14, Saint Ignatius High School celebrated Wildcats Roar, which honors the past, present and future student-athletes. Four new members were inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame, joining an illustrious group of Saint Ignatius alumni. Eric Pfaff '81, Matt Roggenburk '86, Chris Della Vella '96 and Steve Kemmerling '97 are the class of 2020 inductees.


Meet the Inductees!

Eric Pfaff '81

Nearly 40 years ago, Eric Pfaff ’81 graduated from Saint Ignatius as a stand-out baseball and football player. He is now a husband, a father to three sons and president of Allied Enterprises in Westlake – but he still recalls the “influencers” so important to him during high school: teammates and friends who led by example and teachers, administrators and coaches who inspired and directed him. Eric’s friendships dated back to St. Christopher parish school in Rocky River and expanded to include fellow athletes on the Saint Ignatius baseball, basketball, and football teams.

Many of those friendships remain strong. Pfaff also has vivid memories of the school’s president at the time, Rev. Robert J. Welsh, S.J.’54. “Day to day, Fr. Welsh was a constant presence on campus, with his teachings and a way about him that everyone loved. He talked at our level, was tough on us when warranted, and gave us a pat on the back when we deserved it. Fr. Styles was my Latin teacher and made sure we did things the right way.

They both taught me what a Jesuit was all about, how to be a man for others, and prepared me for college and being in the working world and a father doing the right things.”

On the baseball diamond, Eric felt most at home. His father Joe had played baseball for the University of Notre Dame and taught him his first skills. Playing all four years at Saint Ignatius, Eric hit .373 his junior year, followed by .418 his senior year and was named to the 1981 All-Ohio First Team. He led the Cats in home runs and slugging percentage and held a school record with seven home runs in a season.

In his junior year, Eric joined the football team and it quickly became his favorite sport. As a hard-hitting linebacker, he was named to 1 st Team All-Independent, Special Mention All-Scholastic, and Honorable Mention All-Ohio in 1980. “The intensity and camaraderie, with daily practices and workouts, you couldn’t get that anywhere else. And there’s never been a replacement for playing under the lights on a Saturday night,” says Eric. “Baseball was more relaxed, but both sports taught me commitment, hard work, and how to be a team player, to win and lose together.”

Eric went on to play baseball at Ohio State University as a four-year starter and senior year captain and played summers in the premier collegiate Cape Cod Baseball League. He was tied for first in career RBI at graduation, 2nd in career home runs, and third in career at-bats. He remains in the OSU Top 25 in these categories. “I arrived at OSU way ahead and I didn’t struggle academically. It goes back to the teachers and coaches at Saint Ignatius. They taught me what’s important and how to prioritize. That’s why my
boys go there now.”

With his degree in Marketing and Business Administration, Eric and his brother Mark ’85 run their father’s company. He has helped coach baseball at Saint Ignatius and continues to coach younger kids in summer league baseball and football at St. Raphael. “I still use the things I learned from Coach Kyle and Coach Antonelli. Sports are one tool of many that can help kids as they grow up. Sports help kids find a place to belong and build their confidence.” Eric and his wife Cathy reside in Rocky River with sons Joe ’22, Jacob ’24 and Josh.

Matt Roggenburk '86

Sports taught Matt Roggenburk ’86 some big lessons. “Life has good days and tough days. Sports teach you how to prepare for the task at hand and the game of the day. It teaches humility. There’s nothing better than winning, but how do you handle the losses?”

Matt began learning these lessons early, from his father Garry Roggenburk ‘58, who played baseball and basketball at University of Dayton and pitched for the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox. The family moved to Florida when Matt was ten so his father could be General Manager for the Red Sox minor league team and Spring Training coordinator for the Boston Red Sox. A Saint Ignatius basketball fan since childhood, Matt was thrilled when they moved back to Cleveland and he enrolled as a sophomore.

“I didn’t know a lot of kids and the Jesuits really took me in,” recalls Matt. He describes a particular group of teachers and administrators who profoundly influenced him, including Rev. Don Serva, S.J., Rev. Robert Welsh, S.J. ’54, Jim Skerl ’74, and Marty Dybicz ‘72. And he still cherishes lifelong friendships made on Saint Ignatius baseball, basketball and tennis teams.

Matt was a three-year letter winner in basketball and credits much of his success to outstanding teammates and coach Larry Arthur. As a junior, he averaged 10.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 2.3 APG as the Cats went 20-4 and earned a spot in the Sweet 16. The team ranked #1 in the state during the season and #11 nationally by USA Today. The lone returning starter his senior season, Matt averaged 16.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 3.8 APG and led Ignatius to the Regional semi-finals. He earned First Team All-Scholastic, First Team All-District and First Team All-State, was named West Side Sun MVP, Cleveland Plain Dealer Independent MVP and participated in the Ohio North-South All-Star Basketball game.

In tennis, Matt found a different group of friends in a sport learned while living in Florida. “Tennis is an individual sport. Win or lose; you can’t blame the ref or coach. It’s you against the other player.”

A two-letter-winner led the tennis squad to a league championship his junior year as a District qualifier and All-Sun West Performer. He has fond memories of practicing at courts along the Shoreway in blustery Cleveland springs.

Gravitating toward a Jesuit college, Matt attended Creighton University on a basketball scholarship. He played in an NCAA tournament his junior year and was proud to be part of a team that brought Creighton’s program back to among the country’s top 50.
Matt met his wife in Omaha and started a career in the pharmaceutical industry in both sales leadership and marketing. He has worked for Johnson & Johnson and other companies and is currently National Account Director for Bayer Oncology.

With children also involved in sports, Matt says, “Sports has taught us if you want to achieve a goal and be a champion, there’s a lot of road work that goes into that.” He is grateful for his Saint Ignatius
education, with people who “walk the walk” and ingrained in him the importance of having a relationship with God. “That’s been a big part of our family. I tell my kids, without that, it’s not a good place to be. I was lucky to have good examples in my parents, my in-laws and a special group of teachers at Saint Ignatius.” Matt Roggenburk and his wife, Colleen, live in Avon Lake. Their children are Matt Jr., ’15 (23). Alyssa (22), and Anna (19).

Chris Della Vella '96

There’s no doubt - Chris Della Vella ’96 was in the thick of it during a legendary era of Saint Ignatius football glory days. In his senior season, he played on three State Championship teams and was a powerhouse linebacker on the 1995 USA Today National Championship team. Chris led the team in tackles from his middle linebacker position and earned First Team All-Scholastic, First Team All-District and First Team All Ohio. He was named AP Division Co-Defensive Player of the Year and was a team captain leading one of the Wildcats’ best defenses ever.

Chris describes his position as being fortunate in a loaded defensive line, with four of the state’s best players in front of him, allowing him to “get the glory.” Looking back, he is emphatic about his high school career highlight: “Whenever you’re named a captain by your teammates, it means the world to you. I was a captain as a freshman on the JV team and the varsity team. And what stood out by far my senior year was being voted MVP by the other players.”
Chris observes that “the craziest thing about the whole Ignatius success was that you’d think there’d be all this pressure, but we just went out and had fun. They had a system to make everyone comfortable in their

He felt blessed to have been coached by defensive coordinator Tony Antonelli, the legendary Chuck Kyle ’69, and strength coach Marty Eynon who Chris describes as a father figure to the team. He also lettered in basketball, smiling as he says, “I was never a great basketball player. I sat on the bench a lot, but I really liked coach Brian Becker. Making the team was huge for me.”

Attending Bowling Green University on a football scholarship, Chris was a two-year starter and played all four years. After college, he began working for his father’s Della Vella home remodeling business with his brother Chuck ’95. His two daughters are involved in gymnastics and basketball. He coaches their Westlake travel league basketball team and describes himself as a devoted Cleveland sports fan.

“To think I not only made it onto the field, was a captain and an All-State player, then in the Saint Ignatius Hall of Fame. It’s humbling. So many guys deserve to be in my spot, guys on my team and teams before me,” says Chris. “The way you learn to carry yourself at Ignatius, I try to instill those things in my daughters and teach the values I learned there. Being part of the football team's success gave me a template for how to run a business and gives me something to show my daughters.”

Chris Della Vella and his wife Sarah live in Westlake with daughters Gianna (11) and Luci (6).

Steve Kemmerling '97

Steve Kemmerling ’97 can’t imagine his life without swimming. Growing up in Parma Heights, he followed in the waves of two older sisters and started swimming competitively at age five for Berea Midpark Swim Club. He trained as a middle schooler with Team Viking, where many older swimmers went to Saint Ignatius. That, and the fact that a former coach of his was currently coaching at the school, influenced a decision that would form his life and future.

“At Saint Ignatius, there is a lot of rigor, expectation, quality and honor. ‘Men for Others’ is a concept you simply won’t get at any other school,” reflects Steve. “Ignatius aims you for excellence while focusing on growing you as a human, too.”

Steve recalls a demanding schedule, balancing academics with workouts before and after school. He appreciated supportive teachers understanding swimmers’ schedules; many of them coach themselves. He graduated in the top 10 percent of his class while proving himself an integral member of the school’s 1994 and 1995 district championship teams and as a decorated individual at the state and national level.

He was a four-time district champion in 100 Freestyle, placed in multiple events at state championships, was a four-time Plain Dealer All-Star, and earned All-America recognition in 100 Freestyle, 200 Freestyle and 400 Freestyle Relay. Steve still holds the school’s oldest (23 years) swimming record in the 200 Freestyle at 1:40. He previously held the 500 Freestyle record, later broken by fellow Hall of Famer Todd Minnier ‘00.

Steve’s freshman times ranked him nationally at first in 100 Free and second in 200 Frees for his age group, earning him a spot at an Olympic Training Center camp. His junior year, Steve won the 100 Free at the 1996 State Championship in a rare tie and recalls “not arguing over who got the gold medal, because the other guy was a senior and I thought I’d win the following year.” However, his senior year proved a humbling lesson in disappointment when he placed second in the 100 and 200 Free, remembering “you can’t win them all.”

Accepted at West Point and wait-listed at Harvard, Steve chose Southern Methodist University because it had a Top 10 Division 1 swim team and many of his friends from the Olympic camp would-be teammates. At SMU, he earned Division 1 NCAA All-American honors, was a Junior National Champion (100 Freestyle), and competed in 100 and 200 Freestyle at the 2000 Olympic Trials. Continuing his academic success, Steve graduated magna cum laude with a BS in Economics and BA in Public Policy. He spent most of his career as an investment banker before founding his own company, CRB Monitor, which has developed the most comprehensive database of licensed cannabis-related businesses, which the company sells to banks and investment firms for compliance purposes.

Steve continues to swim recreationally and, occasionally, in U.S. Masters competitions. He looks back with gratitude and pride at his Saint Ignatius experience. “The school really pushed me to excel and surrounded me with like-minded, hard-working, faithful classmates. I cannot think of a better environment to grow physically, emotionally, and spiritually.”

Steve and his wife, Kim Breese, live in Nashville, TN. His parents are David and Judith and sisters Wendy and

Congratulations to our four new inductees into the Saint Ignatius Athletic Hall of Fame.