In 2020, a tiny ‘bug’ tops state, national champions

J. Patrick Eaken

It is extraordinary that a virus first detected in China could be responsible for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of athletes across the United States not getting to play sports last spring.

That included high school athletes from 10 Eastern Maumee Bay community high schools, most of which would have played baseball or softball, participated in track and field, and at one school, played lacrosse. That accounts for dozens of athletes from each school and hundreds affected in our own backyard.

You also have dozens more local athletes who were set to play collegiate sports last spring and this fall and one professional, Jase Bowen (Central Catholic) from Northwood, who did not get his chance to play a second season of minor league baseball.

Fortunately, some 2020 high school seniors were able to get recognition from college programs and are moving on to the next level.

For instance, in 2019, Lake sprinter Colette Askins competed at the Division II state track meet. In 2020, it was supposed to be Askins’ senior season, but it never materialized because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not all over for Askins — she is at Albion College to play soccer and run track, and she is one of dozens of local 2020 seniors who will still play college sports.  

“We had uniform turn-in, and obviously, around the country it’s not just us, but these kids are crushed,” Lake track coach Jason Schober said after everything was canceled. “They don’t get their senior season but I think she is trying to see the positives in it and is excited to go to the next level and continue to compete. I think it’s nice for someone to know that they are not completely done. So, there’s a lot of disappointment but I think she is going to do awesome things at the next level.”

However, who knows how many others might have had a standout senior season and also become a college prospect? Those athletes may never get noticed unless they stand up for themselves, attending a prospect camp or trying to walk on to a college program somewhere. Some high school coaches had to get more involved, promoting their student-athletes and sending film to college programs.

The COVID-19 virus first affected local prep sports programs last March, right before the state wrestling tournament, which was canceled. That resulted in two Genoa seniors, Kevin Contos and Dustin Morgillo, not getting an opportunity to defend their D-III state championship. 

Morgillo believed that 2019-20 was his best ever, sitting at 43-3 entering the state meet. All of his losses were to quality opponents, including a Pennsylvania state qualifier in the Medina Invitational championship match.

As a junior, Morgillo (50-3) won the 145-pound state title via four wins by decision. His championship opponent was the previous year’s 138-pound state champion Nick Burgard, a senior from Ashtabula St. John. Burgard beat Morgillo, 8-6, in the state semis the previous year. But Morgillo turned the tables, earning a 5-1 victory.

During Contos’ junior year, (48-2) he made it look easy en route to the state title at 152 pounds. He won by tech fall, by pin (1:03) and used an 11-4 decision in the semifinals to advance to the title match. He beat Ashland Mapleton senior Beau Lefever (43-3) by a 9-2 margin. Contos’ senior year he was also 43-3 heading into the state meet.

Morgillo and Contos both had 4.0 GPAs at Genoa and are now wrestling at the NCAA Division I level — Contos at Brown University and Morgillo at George Mason University. 

If the state meet had happened, Contos and Morgillo’s possible repeat championships could have been the No. 1 sports event of the year. There were other local wrestlers who had state championship aspirations, too, like Eastwood junior Brandon Hahn (48-2) and sophomore Gavin Owens (45-7). 

  1. Instead, leading the headlines in 2020 was the COVID-19 coronavirus and its impact on sports, which includes preventing local athletes from placing at the state track meet, where our schools typically return a state champion or two each year. The story continued into the fall when Governor Mike DeWine gave the green light for contact sports, but playing schedules were limited. On the bright side, every high school football team had the opportunity to participate in the playoffs and Clay, Genoa, Eastwood, Oak Harbor, Northwood and Gibsonburg all got playoff wins or byes. For those who did get to participate, here is the best of 2020 —
  2. Major League pitcher and Curtice native Chris Bassitt (Genoa/University of Akron) had his best season ever for the Oakland Athletics. In his sixth Major League season, Bassitt helped the A’s to an American League West Division title (36-24), going 5-2 with 55 strikeouts, 17 walks, and a 2.29 ERA in 11 starts. The 6-foot-5, 217-pound Bassitt followed that up by starting in two playoff games, striking out nine and walking one, and earning his first MLB playoff win.
  3. Central Michigan University junior Matt Stencel (Clay) was named Mid-American Conference Wrestler of the Year, winning his third straight league title at 285 pounds and qualifying to the NCAA championships for the third straight year, but the national championships were canceled because of the global pandemic. The Oregon native finished the 2019-20 season 30-4 with 15 pins, tying for second in the nation in that category. He entered his senior season fourth in program history with 49 pins. He is 89-25 in his career.
  4. Former Bowling Green State University basketball player Kate Achter (Clay) was ranked sixth by Bowling Green State University fans as one of their all-time fan-favorites over the past 20 years. Achter was the MAC Player of the Year as a senior in 2008. She also was named to the MAC All-Tournament Team three times in her four years, including in 2005, when she earned MAC Tournament MVP honors. Achter is the Falcons’ all-time leader in assists (688), free throws made (551), and free throws attempted (718). She also ranks fifth all-time in school history in scoring with 1,580 career points, and is the only player in program history with over 1,000 points and 600 assists. Achter is currently the head coach of the Loyola (Chicago) University women’s basketball team. Former BGSU volleyball defensive standout Kallie Seimet (Clay), a two-time MAC Player of the Year, was ranked 20th by Falcon fans.
  5. Lourdes University wrestler Nick Henneman (Clay) was named the Sooner Athletic Conference Wrestler of the Year. Henneman and teammate Garret Anderson (Clay) helped put Lourdes wrestling on national stage. Henneman, who won the SAC title at 141 pounds to earn first team All-SAC honors, posted a 19-1 record for the Gray Wolves while recording six pins.  At the SAC championships, he went 4-0 on his way to the title and earned his second consecutive automatic bid to the NAIA National Championships.
  6. After starting 15 of 16 games his rookie year (2019), Miami Dolphins lineman Michael Deiter (Genoa/University of Wisconsin) did not get a start in 2020, but played in all 16 games. The 6-foot-6, 316 pound Deiter made the move from guard to left tackle and got his first career NFL catch off quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick’s deflected pass. The 10-6 Dolphins just missed the playoffs. An All-Big Ten lineman and third round NFL draft pick, when Deiter completed his college football career at Wisconsin, he had started more games (54) than any other player in Badgers history.
  7. Gibsonburg senior Sydney Leyerle closed her prep golf career shooting a 3-over par 71-72—143 at the Ohio State University Gray Course to finish as Division II state runner-up. She was five strokes behind the champion, Shaker Heights Laurel golfer Jami Morris, who was an incredible 2-under par 68-70—138. Leyerle finished one stroke ahead of defending state champion Kyleigh Dull, a Lakota senior and friend who shot 73-71—144 to finish third. Leyerle was the All-Press Girls Golfer of the Year for the fourth time in her high school career and signed to golf collegiately at Indiana Wesleyan University. On the boys side, Woodmore senior Danny Greenhill reached the D-III state tournament at NorthStar Golf Course. He shot 85-83—168 to tie for 30th place among 72 golfers. Woodmore won its first NBC title in seven years, sharing the championship with Genoa. The Comets were led by Tommy Giles and won its fourth straight championship.
  8. Wrestling on this side of town rocks. Out of nine Eastern Maumee Bay community high school wrestling teams, five won league championships — Clay (Three Rivers Athletic Conference), Waite (Toledo City Athletic League), Eastwood (Northern Buckeye Conference), Oak Harbor (Sandusky Bay Conference Bay Division) and Gibsonburg (SBC River Division). Clay took its eighth title in nine years. A sixth team, Northwood, finished a close second behind Waite in the City League. Local teams qualify 19 wrestlers in all three divisions to the state meet.
  9. Chance Cover, a 29-year-old Oak Harbor resident, was a national quarterly champion in the 60 Shot Air Rifle competition at Camp Perry. The Aces Postal is a satellite air gun match for adult and junior competitors – posing several competition opportunities over the course of four quarters.
  10. Woodmore senior cross country runner Ava Beam finished 12th out of 176 runners at Division III state meet. Beam was in sixth place at the first split (5:42.7), seventh place at the second split (11:57) and finished in 19:06.7. The Woodmore girls team, in its second straight year qualifying for state, finished 11th out of 20 teams, one position better than last year, scoring 302 points. For the Wildcats, sophomore Olivia Vogelpohl finished in the upper half, crossing the finish line in 20:18.1. The ‘Cats other state runners were senior Olivia Thatcher (20:53.8), freshmen Madi Hammer (22:12.3) and Emma Hammer (22:24.3), junior Kristen Davis (23:25.1) and freshman Kylie Cordy (23:43). At the boys state meet, Woodmore junior C.J. Buchanan finished in 16:51.4, good for 53rd place out of 170 runners. Beam and Buchanan were the Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press Runners of the Year.
  11. The NBC and district champion Eastwood wrestling team qualified for the D-III state dual meet, but lost in the state quarterfinal, 43-28 to No. 5 seed Brookville at Ohio State University’s St. John Arena. Things started well for the No. 4 seeded Eagles, winning five of the first six weight classes, including three by pin.
  12. Clay senior Madisen Gladieux qualified for every event as an individual at the state gymnastics meet. Gladieux placed in a tie for 19th in the vault with a score of 9.3, in a tie for 26th in the floor exercise (8.975), 31st in the balance beam (8.6), 34th in the uneven parallel bars (8.125), and 25th overall (35 accumulated points). She won top honors at the TRAC meet and was named the league’s Gymnast of the Year. Ironically, even though the track and field season was canceled her senior year, she is now a hurdler and middle distance runner on the Ohio Northern University track team.
  13. The LPGA womens’ professional golf tour brought two tournaments to Toledo, and arriving with the tour was Eastwood graduate Alexis Abraham, the senior coordinator of player services who found herself busy dealing with COVID protocols this year. At the LPGA’s Drive On Championship at Toledo’s historic Inverness Club and the Marathon Classic at Sylvania’s Highland Meadows Golf Club, Abraham told The Press that her favorite places traveling with the LPGA tour include Singapore, Scotland, South Korea, Thailand, California, Arizona, Washington, and Hawaii.
  14. Lake Erie College freshman basketball player Jacob Plantz (Genoa) moved into a starting role as a freshman for NCAA Division II Lake Erie College. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound guard played in 29 games, starting in 21. He averaged 9.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists, plus he shot 46.2 percent from the field, including 37.7 percent from beyond the three-point arc.
  15. Last, but not least, we can include the 2020 highlights of dozens of All-Ohio athletes from nearly all 10 schools in the Eastern Maumee Bay community, the state-ranked teams, and the dozens of league and district champions, especially in girls soccer where this side of town dominates much like it does in wrestling, strangely enough. You can throw in Genoa wrestling coach Bob Berman, who was named Ohio’s D-III Coach of the Year, the Lake girls basketball team’s Cinderella tournament run, or even the naming of the Pemberville American Legion Post 183 baseball field after the late Don “Chopper” Schmeltz or Clay getting its first football playoff victory. In anticipation of 2021, Eastwood golf coach Mike Gardner will be entering his 50th season at the helm — a half century as a head coach at one program has to be one for any record book anywhere on this planet. 



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