Coach Michael Vicars walked into Genoa with a reputation as a good coach, and in two seasons turned a struggling football program into champions and energized a community.
The Genoa football team wins its second straight Suburban Lakes League championship, finished the regular season undefeated at 10-0, then won three straight playoff games before losing a Division IV state semifinal to eventual state champion Kettering Archbishop Alter, 42-34.
The buzz it created in local media and in Genoa makes it the No. 1 sports story of 2008.
No. 2 is Lake parent Scott Pennington, who was banned from sporting events for one year by Athletic Director Dave Shaffer after an incident during an Ohio State ACME Baseball Congress tournament in July. The Lake Board of Education held up the ban in the wake of an administrative appeal by Pennington and his attorney.
No. 3. The fact that three state champions from Oak Harbor are wrestling at Division I colleges this year is big news, too.
One of them, Cody Magrum (Ohio State), became the first Rocket to win three state championships last March. Magrum finished off a 48-1 senior season by winning the 189 pound state title match against Eastwood senior Jeremy Foster.
Oak Harbor’s other two state champs are Kirk Tank (Michigan State), who capped a 50-4 season by winning the 152 title, and the 171 champion, Keith Witt (Kent State).
Eastwood wrestler Eric Cubberly (Central Michigan) joined the Oak Harbor wrestlers on the state championship podium by capping a 50-1 season with a crushing of Jon Bittinger of Bisbon Beaver Local, 19-3.
Here are the rest of the top 15 teams, events, or individuals of 2008 who stand out among the others —
4. The Eastwood boys track team wins an unofficial state indoor meet at the OATCCC Division II/III championships on March 15 at the University of Akron. Eastwood followed that by finishing as state runner-up at the Division II meet in Columbus finishing behind Sandusky Perkins (48 to 39½) as Justin Welch claimed a state discus title with a fling of 188-7. In August, two Eagle hammer throwers, Alex Hernandez and Welch, are 1-2 at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics in Omaha, Neb.
5. Emily Pendleton won her first Big Ten discus championship with a throw of 171-5, an NCAA regional record. Sister Erin (Woodmore) continues the family tradition by winning a Division III state championship by tossing 163-4, and earlier in the season had shattered her older sister’s state record with a toss of 168-10. At the regional meet, Erin’s discus toss of 162-9 was further than the top D-III boys toss of 157-11.
6. J.D. Bergman (Oak Harbor) ends his college wrestling career in a nationally televised NCAA championship duel (ESPN), losing a 4-2 heartbreaker to Northwestern’s Dustin Fox, the top seed. A three-time All-American, Bergman finished his senior season 29-2 overall and 22-1 in dual action. He was just one of 16 Buckeyes to reach the century mark in career wins, closing as eighth all-time in OSU history with 125.
7. Clay hockey player Kyle Cannon, a freshman, becomes paralyzed when he was checked and shoved into the boards in a game against Lexington (Ky.) Catholic at the Kettering Recreation Complex in suburban Dayton on Nov. 30.
8. Kate Achter (Clay) ends her record setting basketball career at BGSU as Mid-American Conference Player of the Year and with a selection on the Women’s Basketball Association’s 2008 All-American Basketball Team for the Division I short list her senior season. Achter owns several BGSU career and single season records and graduated with the most wins of any male or female MAC basketball player in a four-year career. The 108 wins are accompanied by four postseason appearances.
9. Oregon wins the bid and successfully hosts the State Special Olympics Softball Tournament on September 13-14 at the William P. Coontz Recreation Complex. Paul Drake, a leading state softball umpire, leads the effort to win the bid, and he is one of five U.S. umpires to travel to Shanghai, China for the World Special Olympics to officiate softball games.
10. Justin Thomas (Clay/Youngstown State) reaches the Major Leagues, pitching late in the season for the Seattle Mariners. Thomas is expected to be on the Mariners’ 40-man roster when spring training opens in February. The 24-year-old, 6-3, 220 pound pitcher was promoted from Triple A Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League.
11. Cory Hornyak (Genoa/Youngstown State) is chosen Most Valuable Player of the National Amateur Baseball Federation College World Series after hitting .458, stealing six bases, scoring seven runs, clubbing a double and triple, and he was credited with sensational play in center field. Meanwhile, his Oregon based summer collegiate Ohio Monarchs win the NABF CWS with a 4-3 championship victory over the Long Island Monarchs at Ned Skeldon Stadium.
12. Luckey resident and 9-year-old youth, Lucas McCullough, wins the national punt, pass, and kick contest at an NFL playoff game between Indianapolis and San Diego in front of tens of thousands of fans packed into the Hoosier Dome and millions of television viewers. The 52-inch Lucas, competing against several individuals who were larger than he, attends Eastwood Schools.
13. Former Oregon Municipal Court Judge Donald Petroff, 70, becomes the oldest state trapshooting champion at the State Singles Championship competing with 1,280 others. The event is sponsored by the Ohio Trapshooting Association in Marengo, Ohio. Meanwhile, Lake High graduate Eric Curavo wins the national shooting title at the 101st National Matches at Camp Perry near Port Clinton.
14. Cardinal Stritch football coach Andre Hampton is indicted for felony crimes following allegations of diverting school funds for personal use. Hampton is fired as head coach, and assistant Conrad Kolbow is thrust into the head coaching position just prior to the opening game.
15. Antonio Guerra (Waite) earns NCAA All-American honors for fourth time. He finished his wrestling career at the University of Findlay with two Division II national championships during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, and was second in 2008. He lost his senior year in the finals by a 3-2 decision to Minnesota State-Mankota’s Jason Rhoten.
(To see the best of the rest of 2008, visit www.presspublications.com.)
BEST OF THE REST (in alphabetical order) —
• The Cardinal Stritch girls’ basketball team wins its third TAAC championship in five years as Coach Gary Lemle gets Coach of the Year.
• Cardinal Stritch golfer Torey Brummett is named Toledo Area Athletic Conference Player of the Year for the third straight season after shooting a 68 at Detwiler. Waite senior golfer Tom Duris is named City League Player of the Year for the second straight season, but both golfers narrowly miss qualifying for the state golf meet. Lake golfer Matt Smith is named SLL Golfer of the Year. Another Waite athlete, Jeff Brown, advanced to the City League championship in first singles tennis, losing in the final.
• Clay senior Alison Zsigray, Clay sophomore Kirsten Zsigray, Eastwood junior Amy Myers, Oak Harbor junior Katie Bechtel, and two Oak Harbor relay teams (400 and 200 freestyle — sophomore Jenna Diekman, junior Samantha Reynolds, freshman Allie Reynolds, sophomore Olivia Porter) qualify for the state swim meet in Canton.
• Clay softball coach Brenda Radabaugh gets her 300th career win in a 14-4 romp over defending Northern Lakes League champion Anthony Wayne at Pacesetter Park. After another win, Radabaugh was 301-118 for her career (includes a stint at Central Catholic) midway through the 2008 season. Her Clay teams won three consecutive City League titles and three Great Lakes League titles.
• Clay’s 6-9 center Zac Taylor (Toledo) was nominated to fill one of 24 positions on the McDonald’s All-American High School All-Star Team. Taylor averaged 21 points, 11 rebounds, and six blocks per game his senior season at Clay.
• East Toledo boxer Aaron Dunbar wins the Toledo Toughman contest’s 186-214 pound championship at SeaGate Centre.
• East Toledo resident Ray St. John’s Hockeytown Bus rides again in the downtown Detroit parade as the Red Wings win the 2008 Stanley Cup. The bus is a touring vehicle painted with the slogan “Hockeytown” that is easily recognizable by any Red Wings follower.
• Eastwood golfer Alysa Shimel is eighth at the girls’ state golf meet. The junior, who placed fourth as a freshman, shot an 80-76—156 on The Ohio State University’s Gray Course, earning her Second Team All-Ohio honors.
• Eastwood/Genoa golfers team with a professional to win the Jamie Farr Junior Pro-Am golf tourney. The Genoa golfers, Rachel Brown and Emily Mock, teamed with two Eastwood golfers, Alyssa Shimel and Mikayla Young, and LPGA professional Damille Downey, to shoot a 15-under-par 56 and defeat the runner-up team by two strokes.
• Former Eastwood track star Michael O’Brien (Ohio Northern junior) finished third in the 800-meter dash finals at the NCAA Division III championships, earning All-American honors for the third time in his career. O’Brien was named the United States Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association Great Lakes Region Athlete of the Year for the third time.
• Gary Quisno resigns after coaching football 29 years at Oak Harbor, earning a record of 224-83. In addition, his teams appeared in two state final fours in 1999 and 2005. Thirty-one of his players were selected onto the first or second team all-state.
• Genoa girls’ basketball Second Team All-Ohio center Brittany Darling (Owens) plays in the Indiana-Ohio “Border Wars” All-Star Game.
• Gibsonburg sprint car driver Stuart Brubaker, 24, wins both Fremont and Attica season championships. Brubaker beat out runner-up Kevin Lee by 24 points for the 305 sprints title at Fremont. He competed in 19 races at Attica, winning four and having two second place finishes.
• Graytown 70-year-old resident Dorothy Gackstetter qualifies for National Senior Olympics after taking the Gold Medal in three events and the Silver in three others during the State Senior Olympics at Kettering Fairmont H.S. near Dayton.
• Kent State junior wrestler Drew Lashaway (Eastwood) was one of five Golden Flashes to qualify for the NCAA Division I tournament in St. Louis.
• Lake boys/girls soccer teams both reach the regional tournament. The Lake girls went 12-4-4 and reached the D-II regional semifinals, and went 6-0-2 in the SLL to win the league’s inaugural league title. The boys win eight straight to advance with a 15-4-1 record to the D-III regional final, losing 4-0 to eventual state champion Ottawa Hills.
• The Lake Erie Wrestling Club brings home Olympic Gold at the AAU Junior Olympic Freestyle Wrestling Tournament in Novi, Michigan. The LEWC send four teams to the dual-match tournament, with its first team capturing the title at the Rock Financial Showplace.
• Lake’s Tim DeCant becomes a Second Team All-Ohio baseball player and 2008 Alan Miller Jewelers Baseball Player of the Year after the senior outfielder hit .382 with 12 RBI and 29 stolen bases.
• Lakota leaves the Suburban Lakes League citing declining enrollment and enters the Midland Athletic League starting in 2009-10. The SLL invited Rossford for membership, but then voted Rossford down, leaving the SLL with seven teams for the next two school years. If Rossford had left the Northern Lakes League, it would have continued a domino affect that could’ve led to Clay entering the NLL.
• Oregon bowler Troy Wollenbacher becomes a regular on the PBA Tour, earning his exemption at the Tour Trials in June of 2007.
• Oregon softball players Alyssa Frobase (St. Ursula) and Mollie Berry (Clay) compete for their college teams at NCAA regionals. Berry helped Wright State win the Horizon League tournament in Chicago, and Frobase was on Kent State’s team as the Golden Flashes opened the Ann Arbor regional against Notre Dame.
• Oregon ultimate fighter Cody Allen, 22, wins national martial arts title in the 161-pound class at the United States Fighting Championship Mixed Martial Arts Championships in Angola, Indiana. The Clay grad trains at 360 Martial Arts on Sylvania Avenue.
• The East Toledo Junior Football League celebrates its 60th year. For ages 8-14, its Major Division has played for the Earl Cousino Cup since 1972. Since 1948, the league’s motto has been “Education through sports.”
• The Oregon Clay Wrestling Team earned All-American status at the AAU Disney Duals at the Walt Disney Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla. Coached by Troy McLaughlin, the team had five medalists — Nick Garcia, Kody Sutter, Kirk McLaughlin, Reid Rayfield, and Jacob Staebler.
• The Wood County Dartball League celebrates 70 years at its league banquet. The league consists of 12 teams from 11 different area churches and is open to any denomination. Teams come from Bowling Green, Luckey, New Rochester, Pemberville, and Stony Ridge and play on Monday nights.
• Veteran sportswriter George Cantor releases a 256-biography about Paul Brown titled Paul Brown: The Man Who Invented Modern Football, which features several pages on the historic Toledo Waite football teams from the days when Browns’ Massillon Tigers played Waite. With a foreword by Bill Walsh, the book is available for $24.95 at www.triumphbooks.com.
• Waite’s renovated Mollenkopf Stadium press box is formally rededicated and named for the late Andy Toth. A career coach and teacher, Toth had co-captained Waite’s last City League championship football team in 1963, receiving All-City honors, and he earned two letters in baseball at the University of Toledo.
• Woodmore sophomore cross country runner Lacy Nagy advances to the state meet by placing second in the regional meet with a time of 19:33.15. Also qualifying for state is Gibsonburg senior Elias Dandar in the D-III boys meet and St. John’s Jesuit senior Chris Madaras, a Pemberville resident.