Their schedule is so jam-packed that during a recent three-week stay in Florida, they missed 52 sporting events.
Such is the life of Charley and Loraine Wolf, grandparents of 19 and parents of six of the most athletically-blessed sons in Greater Cincinnati history. As the grandchildren grow and develop, the Wolf name continues to rack up trophies and notoriety.
Charley Wolf is not your ordinary grandfather. Most men at 89 years old don’t walk at his pace, let alone play tennis three times a week. On his “off days,” he still hits balls alone.
The legend begins
Back in the day, Charley Wolf coached the NBA Cincinnati Royals from 1960-63, then the Detroit Pistons until 1966. Along the way, Charley and Loraine had six sons: Marty, Steve, Greg, Jeff, Daniel and David.
Prior to that, Wolf played football, basketball and baseball at St. Xavier, then later played at Notre Dame and some pro baseball in the Reds organization.
“I started out at Newport Catholic and they didn’t have sports,” he said. “I switched over to St. X for two years and then went in the service right out of high school.”
After a U.S. Navy stint, Wolf was reunited with his high school quarterback, George Ratterman at Notre Dame. In the early ’40s, as noted in a piece by the Enquirer’s Tom Groeschen in 2003, Ratterman and Wolf played a part in the evolution of St. Xavier’s nickname.
They were once the Conquerors, but thanks to Ratterman’s missiles to his lanky receiver, the school became the Bombers. Later, all six Wolf boys became Bombers.
Charley and Loraine’s boys were all athletically successful in basketball. Marty played at Xavier under Tay Baker; Steve went to North Carolina State, then transferred back to Xavier; Greg played at Spring Hill (Alabama); and Jeff, Daniel and David all played at Rollins College in Florida.
The Wolfs benefited from having a mother who pushed them outside and a father who brought them in contact with some of the finest basketball players in the world. Charley coached the legendary Oscar Robertson and it wasn’t unusual for NBA players to join the family for dinner.
“They would all come over to the house when we were young and shoot around,” Jeff Wolf said. “I didn’t know who they were.”
K.C. Jones, Sam Jones and Bob Cousy from the Celtics visited once. Another time, shooter Tom Van Arsdale came by with some Royals and a young Greg Wolf showed his innocence and curiosity by asking, “Which one of you is the gunner?”
The brushes with greatness eventually paid off for the boys who all went on to become captains at St. Xavier High School.
“I used to go shoot at the Fenwick Club with Adrian Smith (former Kentucky Wildcat/Cincinnati Royal),” Steve Wolf said. “He was the MVP of the ’67 All-Star Game. My brother Marty was a great shooter and passed it on down to everyone.”
As Charley Wolf explains, Marty would work with Steve, then Greg would have Steve and Marty working with him. With each boy, there was the same passing of knowledge and each would try to emulate what their older siblings had accomplished.
Now, the Wolf family is watching the next generation succeed.
“I always say the best athlete in my family is my Dad,” Steve Wolf said. “Then, the grandkids are superseding anything that we could have accomplished. We didn’t win state championships.”
Naturally, basketball is a sport that comes second nature to a Wolf. Marty Wolf’s sons Martin, Johnny and Nick all had stellar careers at St. Xavier and went on to play in college. Martin played at Hanover, Johnny was at Xavier and UNC-Wilmington and Nick was a Division II All-American at Rollins, where he broke every record his uncles achieved at the Florida school. Their older sister, Kristen Wolf Kronauge, played tennis at Sycamore and Xavier.
From one net to another
Tennis is where the Wolfs really have a dynasty and all goes back to a couple of ear infections. When Charley Wolf would speak at the old Fenwick club downtown, he never took money. However, the facility did offer up swimming lessons for his boys.
When Marty and Steve’s ear issues kept them out of the pool, tennis was served as an option. Wolf jumped at the chance to cross-train his sons with lateral movement. At age 44, Charley Wolf began hitting tennis balls with his sons and he hasn’t stopped since.
Marty went on to eventually focus more on tennis than basketball at Xavier and won five Cincinnati Metropolitan tournaments. That record was later broken by his younger brother, Jeff, who won six.
“I worked with him,” Marty Wolf said. “Let’s face it. If I didn’t have five, he wouldn’t have had six. He was shooting for it the whole time. He was 10 years younger and that was a goal of his.”
Jeff is the father of Danielle Wolf, who now plays at Indiana, and J.J. Wolf, who did play at Cincinnati Country Day.
As high school freshmen, both made the state finals. J.J. does not participate in high school tennis now because of his U.S. Tennis Association ranking. He is home schooled and currently is playing the best of the best.
“It’s important to keep your ranking up,” Jeff Wolf said. “USTA tournaments are run Monday through Saturday.”
J.J. Wolf has recently played kids from Italy, China and Hungary. He also played last year’s state champion, Asher Hirsch, and won. Uncle Marty Wolf boasts that J.J. is already better as a teenager than he was in his prime.
“It’s been really fun watching my nephews and nieces,” Marty Wolf said. “Greg’s kids were Players of the Year in the state in volleyball and then there’s J.J. (Jeff’s son).”
Greg Wolf’s oldest daughter, Andrea, was also a Player of the Year in tennis for MND and played at Xavier.
Moving on to a higher net
Volleyball is a sport Charley Wolf doesn’t totally understand, but enjoys watching. Whatever the competition is, the patriarch is usually in the stands.
“He said he went to 19 events one week,” Dan Wolf said.
The fifth of six, Dan’s son, Alex, plays golf and basketball at St. Xavier and freshman Samantha plays volleyball at Mount Notre Dame.
The Wolf volleyball legend at MND is growing and began with Greg Wolf’s daughters, Kelsey and Margo. The pair played together on MND’s 2011 state championship team with Kelsey moving on to Kentucky and Margo going to Dayton.
Steve Wolf’s daughter, Sabrina, was on last year’s state title team and is an early commit to the University of Cincinnati. Younger sister, Stevie joins the fray next year as the brothers see their children share the floor.
Of the brothers, Jeff and Dan were the only to play together, pairing up at Rollins.
On the football field, Steve’s son, Chase, is a sophomore quarterback. Chase is in line to sling “bombs” for the St. Xavier team his grandfather helped name.
“I think just going to St. X and playing sports has brought them to where they are today,” he said of his family’s athletic DNA.
The elder Wolf doesn’t watch the Reds or Bengals. Most of the time, the family finds a seat in venues they’ve probably sat in hundreds of times to watch someone with “Wolf” on their back. It’s a repeatable pattern.
“It’s something that keeps me busy; it helps,” Charley Wolf said. “It’s a way of connecting with them. A lot of times grandparents have trouble connecting with their grandchildren.”
When many his age need assistance, Charley Wolf is his own man. At a recent MND volleyball match with Ursuline, the parking lot and gym were packed like sardines. Wolf drove himself to the game, and then found his own seat.
Anything for his family.
“God’s been good to me, it’s been a good life,” Charley Wolf said.
Tracing the Wolfpack
Charley Wolf is father of Marty, Steve, Greg, Jeff, Daniel and David Wolf. Played football, basketball and baseball for St Xavier and Notre Dame. Played professional baseball for the Cincinnati Reds organization. Coached in NBA for the Cincinnati Royals and Detroit Pistons.
Marty Wolf played tennis at St. Xavier and Xavier University and won five Cincinnati Met singles titles. Children: Kristen Wolf Kronauge played tennis at Sycamore and at Xavier; Martin Wolf played basketball at St. Xavier and Hanover College; Kevin Wolf, physically disabled from birth; Johnny Wolf played basketball at St. Xavier, Xavier University (under Sean Miller) and at North Carolina-Wilmington. Co-Player of the Year in the state of Ohio (along with O.J. Mayo). All-time leading scorer at St. Xavier; Nick Wolf played basketball at St. Xavier High School and Rollins College. Division II All-American in college.
Steve Wolf played basketball and tennis at St. Xavier, North Carolina State and Xavier University. Children: Sabrina Wolf has won back-to-back state volleyball championships at Mount Notre Dame and has verbally committed to play at the University of Cincinnati; Chase Wolf, sophomore at St. Xavier, plays varsity football and basketball; Stevie Wolf plays eighth-grade volleyball and basketball and is heading to MND; Shayna Wolf is in fifth grade, and plays volleyball and basketball.
Greg Wolf played basketball for St. Xavier and Spring Hill College (Mobile Alabama). Children: Andrea Wolf played tennis for Mount Notre Dame and Xavier University; Kelsey Wolf played volleyball at Mount Notre Dame and was the Cincinnati and Ohio Player of the Year, Under Armor All-American and started for Kentucky; Margo Wolf played volleyball at Mount Notre Dame and was the Cincinnati and Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year. She was a finalist for LaRosa’s Athlete of the Year and now plays volleyball at Dayton.
Jeff Wolf played basketball and tennis at St. Xavier and basketball at Rollins College. Won six Cincinnati Met Tennis titles surpassing his older brother, Marty. Children: Danielle Wolf played tennis for Cincinnati Country Day. As a freshman, lost in the state finals. Now playing tennis at Indiana University; JJ Wolf is a senior and is home schooled. Played tennis for Cincinnati Country Day. lost in the state finals his freshman year and then did not play after that. Recently qualified for the Junior U.S. Open and upset the 16th-rated player in the world.
Daniel Wolf played basketball and tennis at St. Xavier and basketball at Rollins. Children: Alex Wolf junior playing varsity golf and varsity basketball at St. Xavier; Samantha Wolf is a freshman at Mount Notre Dame and plays volleyball on the reserve team.;
David Wolf played basketball and tennis at St. Xavier High school and basketball at Rollins College. Children: Michael Wolf plays basketball, baseball and tennis in the seventh grade; Paige Wolf plays tennis and basketball in the fifth grade; Benton Wolf plays basketball, baseball and tennis in first grade.