February 11, 2022
Life After Witt

Full Circle

Former Tiger Running Back Maso Moon ’80 Reunited with Long-lost 1976 OAC Championship Ring

As they walked toward Edwards-Maurer Field to attend Wittenberg University’s annual Champions Night in late October, Maso Moon, former Tiger football standout from the Class of 1980, and his partner, Christy Assmann, were approached by three men.

“Are you the guy that ran a 4.4 40?” they asked, referring to Maso’s impressive 40-yard-dash time. When he replied yes, they hugged him and told him that they had looked up to the senior athlete as Wittenberg freshmen in the late 1970s.

Continuing on to the stadium, Christy took Maso’s arm and said, “Well, we are going to have a great night.”

Just 15 minutes later, their evening got even better when they were told that Maso’s 1976 football championship ring – lost for more than 25 years – had been found.

Perfect Timing

Just one day prior, the Office of Alumni & Lifelong Engagement had received an email inquiry from Nikki Womble, who was trying to return a Wittenberg ring she had found among her grandfather’s things in Clover, South Carolina.

Engraved with the year 1976 and player number 27, the ring held a few clues to the owner’s identity. Still fairly new to her position as coordinator of alumni relations, Tammy Schiessler wasn’t sure how to track down an old team roster. A quick look at the football team photo in the 1976-1977 yearbook proved fruitless as jersey numbers weren’t listed or visible.

But in what can only be called perfect timing, Wittenberg would be hosting Champions Night the next evening, and the 1976 football team – which had won the Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) championship that year – was among those being celebrated. Scheduled to work the event, Tammy asked a 1978 football alumnus in attendance if he happened to know who wore jersey #27.

Maso Moon, came the immediate reply.

As luck would have it, Maso was registered to attend the event that night.

Football Standout

Maso came to Wittenberg in 1976 from Marion Franklin High School in Columbus, Ohio.

“I had a lot of different opportunities,” he said of his college choices. “I picked Wittenberg because it was a good fit for me.”

He had also talked with legendary head coach Davey Maurer, who led the Tigers to NCAA Division III championships in 1973 and 1975 and was later inducted into the National College Football Hall of Fame.

Under the tutelage of Maurer, along with assistant coaches Bob “Rosy” Rosencrans ’58, Ron Murphy ’60, and Lloyd Ball ’74, Maso was a four-year letterwinner, a two-time first-team All-OAC honoree, and a member of three OAC championship teams (1976, 1978, and 1979). In addition, the Tigers were NCAA Division III runners-up in Maso’s junior (1978) and senior (1979) years.

Once described by Coach Maurer as “the quickest and most elusive runner on the team,” Maso holds the fifth-highest records for kickoff returns and kickoff yardage among Wittenberg players.

More than 40 years later, Maso is still in touch with his former Wittenberg teammates. “Friends through the years,” according to Maso, they have watched each other’s children grow, and they have mourned and celebrated the lives of teammates who have passed away.

“It is amazing,” Christy said. “They are close-knit. I didn’t go to Wittenberg, but I credit Wittenberg’s sense of family with keeping them together.”

Lost and Found

After graduating from Wittenberg with a degree in health and physical education and earning a master’s degree from Miami University, Maso began a long career in education as a teacher, football and wrestling coach, and principal, primarily in Georgia. As head coach for the Columbia High School wrestling team from DeKalb County, he earned a championship ring when his boys won the state title in 1988.
That ring – along with his 1976 Wittenberg ring – would go missing a few years later.

“I lost them in North Carolina,” said Maso, who was visiting his sister in Charlotte. “I was cleaning out my car at a car wash, and of course, I took my rings off. And that was the last that I knew of my rings.”

According to Nikki Womble, her grandfather, Harry Merck, found the Wittenberg ring sometime in 2005 in a trash can at the York County, South Carolina, courthouse, where he worked as a custodian. Neither he nor Nikki has any idea how the ring ended up there.

“I am sure [my grandfather] would have loved for the ring to be returned to its rightful owner, but back then social media wasn’t really a thing,” she said. Harry is now living in a nursing home; finding the ring among his things, Nikki contacted Wittenberg for help.

When Tammy approached Maso and Christy at Champions Night to tell them the ring had been found, the tears immediately started rolling, and Maso began texting his football friends to share the story.

“Once again, Wittenberg just brings people together,” Christy said.

Reconnecting 30 Years Later

Maso and Christy met one summer in college while working as lifeguards for different pools in Columbus. They dated on and off throughout college, and Christy attended Maso’s football games, including championship games, during his sophomore, junior, and senior years. As his girlfriend, she made him photo albums.

“I saved every news clipping of Coach Maurer talking about him, talking about his speed,” she said.

They eventually went their separate ways, parting on good terms. Maso married, had five children, and later divorced. Christy’s husband of 33 years passed away in 2016. Maso reached out to express his condolences, even though the two hadn’t talked in more than 30 years.
When they reconnected, he said, “Guess what? I still have my albums.” Now a couple, they live together in Columbus.

On the Road to Recovery

Maso eventually left coaching and went back to the classroom in order to spend more time with his family. He relocated to Columbus several years ago to care for his mother, who had Alzheimer’s. He was retired, but it wasn’t long before he started teaching health and physical education to elementary school children in the Columbus Public Schools.

He told Christy, “For retirement, there’s no better job.”

In the spring of 2021 during the last week of school, Maso suffered a stroke. Although he has no physical issues from the stroke, he does have aphasia, which affects his ability to communicate. He has been undergoing speech therapy to re-learn how “to read and write and put words together,” he said.

“His recovery has been amazing,” Christy said. “It has been great.”

“They were hard on me, but in the end, I’m telling you, to be able to read is a blessing,” Maso said.

Just as he has helped his Wittenberg friends move forward from the challenges in their lives, he tries to build up others when he goes to therapy.

“This man has a heart of gold,” Christy said.

He also had a potentially fatal heart condition, discovered in the aftermath of the stroke and since treated.

Seeing the silver lining, Maso said, “Everything ended up the best for me, even with my stroke. It has given me an opportunity to not only be a better person but be better than I ever thought I would be. After that, nothing else is important.”

A Blessing

Listening to Maso recall his days as a Tiger student athlete and vividly describe the details of each championship game, it’s no surprise that he’s so happy to be wearing his ring once again.

“When I reconnected with Maso, he told me about his rings being stolen, and he was just sad,” Christy said. She had looked into having the football ring replaced, but Maso told her it just wouldn’t be the same.

“God knew that in a couple of years, it was going to be located,” Christy said.

On October 27, player #27 was reunited with his ring. And it still fits perfectly.

“It kind of brings it full circle. That was my first one, and now it’s my last one,” Maso laughed. “We just had some wonderful memories, and it’s been a blessing. Yeah, it’s been a blessing.”

Debbie Ritter
Debbie Ritter
Writer and Content Editor

About Wittenberg

Wittenberg's curriculum has centered on the liberal arts as an education that develops the individual's capacity to think, read, and communicate with precision, understanding, and imagination. We are dedicated to active, engaged learning in the core disciplines of the arts and sciences and in pre-professional education grounded in the liberal arts. Known for the quality of our faculty and their teaching, Wittenberg has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any four-year institution in the state. The university has also been recognized nationally for excellence in community service, sustainability, and intercollegiate athletics. Located among the beautiful rolling hills and hollows of Springfield, Ohio, Wittenberg offers more than 100 majors, minors and special programs, enviable student-faculty research opportunities, a unique student success center, service and study options close to home and abroad, a stellar athletics tradition, and successful career preparation.

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