Walderbach Heading to IHSAA Officials Hall of Fame

In North Iowa, we have been blessed with great officials over the years. Men and women who spend their evenings keeping high school games fair and under control. The only ones who after the game is over – don’t care who wins or loses. They are the men and women who love to see the joy on a kid’s face playing the game he or she loves. They don’t have to do it, they don’t get rich doing it, but they do it for the athletes and the love of the games they officiate. 

In 1971 the IHSAA Board of Control established an officials Hall of Fame stating, “Through the years, thousands of dedicated individuals have consistently devoted hours of their spare time because they enjoy working with young people and athletics.” Five wonderful officials will be honored for their dedication to high school sports by the IHSAA, but due to the spread of COVID-19, they will not receive their honor during the championships. In that group of five, two of them live and serve/d the North Iowa area. 

Kurt Walderbach of Mason City is a household name in Iowa officiating. Kurt started his officiating career during his time as a student at the University of Iowa. In between studying and going to class, Walderbach would officiate U of I intramurals. He would eventually get into officiating games for the IHSAA and IGHSAU and has been now for 40 years. Following the retirement of his longtime partner, 2006 IHSAA Hall of Fame inductee, Tim Esbeck, Walderbach started working with Todd Thompson of Greene.

Tim Esbeck – 

Todd and Kurt worked as a two-man crew from 2001 till 2006 when the crews went from two to three. 

Todd Thompson – 

In 2006 when the crews were extended, Todd and Kurt were joined by 2012 IHSAA Hall of Fame official, Ken Robbins of Belmond. Walderbach, Thompson, and Robbins worked together from 2006 until 2015.

In 2015, following Ken Robbins decision to step away, the duo recruited a rising star, 2001 Forest City High School graduate, Ben Hauge. 

Ben Hauge – 

Hauge, Walderbach, and Thompson have now been working together for five years; working high-level high school games including substates, championship, and state tournament games. In fact just today, the three worked a Class 3A semifinal game.

In Walderbach’s 40 years of officiating he has worked 18 postseason and eight football championship games, 24 state tournaments and three title games in boys’ basketball, 20 tournaments and five title games in girls’ basketball. 

Todd says Kurt wants to be the best and expected those that work with him to do their best. 

Todd Thompson –

Esbeck says that just as it felt to him in 2006, it will mean a lot to Kurt when he is recognized tomorrow night. 

Tim Esbeck – 

Thompson says that Kurt is and will and continue to be one of the best in the state 

Todd Thompson –

With all the big and important games that Kurt and his different crews have worked together, they could probably write a book of memories. Some of the instant classic games come back up in conversation from time to time. 

Todd Thompson –

Kurt and his wife Angie live in Mason City and have four children: Amanda, Andrea, Blake, and Reid. 

Also, Cary Griffith of Nashua will also be honored. Griffith spent 50 years officiating basketball including 24 state tournaments 13 girls’ – 11 boys’. He also worked as a softball and baseball umpire. He and his wife kris have five children and 10 grandchildren. 

They will be joined by Royce Ranninger of Sioux City, Jeff Frese of Norway, and Jay Flora of Marshalltown. 

Current Hall of Fame Officials  

Ron Jurgens – Burt 1988

Gary Christiansen – Mason City 1996 

Craig Snider – Osage 1997

Dennis Brumm – Britt 1998

Mike Exline – Charles City 1999

Lowell Cook – 2002

Tom Claude – Algona 2003

Keith Poolman – Charles City 2004

Frank Altman – Osage 2005

Tim Esbeck – Clear Lake 2006

Dennis McGrath – Clarion 2006

Dave Suntken – Belmond 2009

Jeff Trost – Nashua 2009

Price Dahlstrom – Mason City 2011

Ken Robbins – Belmond 2012

Steve Kappos – Forest City 2017

John Bartolo – Algona 2018


Photo Credit – Ben Hauge


Zarren Egesdal is the Sports Director of KIOW/KHAM. Do you have a story idea? Contact him at 641-585-1073 or


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