Noah Koch overcoming adversity to compete in college

J. Patrick Eaken

In 2019, then-Genoa senior Noah Koch and Eastwood senior Erik Fertig were rivals in the shot put and discus scene. Not just locally, but statewide.
That year, Fertig went on to win his second straight state discus championship with throw of 173 feet, six inches. Koch had by far the best state-qualifying throw at 186-4 but finished second with a throw of 170-1, in part thanks to two fouls, including on his final throw.
“It just fell out of my hand as I threw it,” Koch told Press sportswriter Mark Griffin. “It slipped off and went out of the sector. It has happened maybe a handful of times before. Being my last throw and knowing I didn’t get it done, I was very disappointed. I was trying to be focused and I had everything going through my mind how I was going to throw it, like any other day. It just didn’t happen.”
Koch also placed second in the shot with a career-best throw of 58-2½, trailing only champion Adam Riedinger of Springfield Northwest’s throw of 59-7½.
Fertig went on to throw the hammer at the NCAA Division I University of Louisville. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Koch is throwing the shot, discus and hammer at NCAA D-II Ashland University, but the discus slipping out of his hand was the least of his problems while going through high school.
Noah’s mother, Connie Sue Koch, 48, a 1985 Clay graduate, passed away on December 16, 2016 to organ failure. Connie was a University of Toledo graduate who worked in public relations. At the time, he knew of his father, but had not met him.
Koch said he and his mother were “very close.”
“It’s always just been me and my mom since I was a baby,” he said.
Koch’s aunt, Jennifer St. John, who lives in Oregon, adopted him. Koch said she had been one of his biggest supporters while at Genoa.
“She’s come to every football game and wrestling meet,” he said. “She will drive two or three hours to come watch me wrestle twice. She always puts me in my place if I need it. She’s just like my mother a little bit, but a bit more strict. She’s always been there for me.”
Besides extended family who became his immediate family, Koch credits Genoa throwing coach Mike Pendleton for helping him get back on track with his life. But it wasn’t easy, says Pendleton.
“He had a lot of personal things going on in his life, and it really took a while for him to have trust in me and when he did, he talked often,” said Pendleton.
Koch says he appreciated everyone around him during that time, including his classmates. He would not have gone to Genoa had it not been for his mother.
“I had a really good time at Genoa. With everything that happened, it was a real good school to be at, and that was a real good decision for my mother to make (to attend Genoa),” Koch said.
“Having Mike there, he helped me through a lot of things that really showed me how to be patient — not just with track, but with academics and life-things like that. I think going to Ashland is just as good. It’s like Genoa, but even bigger. There are a lot of good people there, lots of good coaches. (Ashland) Jud (Logan) and Mike are like the same person, but different levels, so it’s really good to have them both there because they both care about our academic and our personal life, too, which is nice.”
Took some coaxing
Pendleton is the one who got Koch started. Just like with Genoa wrestling coach Bob Bergman, it took some coaxing to get Koch playing sports.
Koch was also instrumental in helping the Comets winning four straight state wrestling championships.
“This is probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life so far,” Koch told Griffin. “I’ve been through a lot of trials in my life, and this put me back on track. Wrestling keeps you very structured, and it helps you in life with your work ethic and your time management.”
It was Pendleton who got him started with throwing and the Genoa coach remains involved in his life today.
“He introduced me to track in eighth grade and I kind of picked it up from there. I progressed throughout the years. My freshman year I was just trying it out and sophomore year I had a big throw and I thought, ‘Maybe this is something I could do.’ Then, obviously my junior and senior year I took advantage of it,” Koch said.
After high school, Pendleton got involved with Koch’s college recruiting. Pendleton’s four daughters were collegiate throwers at Big Ten and Mid-American Conference schools after winning state championships for Woodmore.
“Noah is a great story of hard work. He’s lucky. Obviously, I’m coaching, and I want him to have a good chance that he’s got numbers. He’s got some pretty darned good numbers, actually. If you look at him, he’s got a great build,” Pendleton said.
“So, no Division I schools were picking him out. He missed tons of days of school while his mom was sick and in the process of passing away. So, what I did — my son-in-law is a coach at Central Michigan and Stephen (Saenz) tried to recruit him, but they couldn’t (because of his grades).
“So, a lot of Division I schools did not recruit him because of that, so I reached out to Jud Logan at Ashland, who is a friend of mine — I’ve known him through the sport of track and field for years and he recruited my girls. He’s just an outstanding coach, gentleman, mentor, whatever, and he was kind of excited about talking about Noah.
“So, I lined up a time when I could take him, I rode with him up to Ashland and his aunt went with him. We talked in there and went through admissions and all that kind of stuff and we met with coach Logan. Jud has his own health problems — he has cancer and he pretty much beat it, but he was going through that with chemo and all that kind of stuff at the time.
“He was sitting in a chair when we walked up the stairway, and Noah kept getting taller and bigger as he went up, and Jud was just smiling. So, Jud at Ashland could do a few different things.
“But at Ashland, Noah has had really good grades. He’s doing well. I keep on him all the time, and like my children, I call them up and ask, ‘How is school going?’ He’ll say, ‘Good.’ And, I’ll say, ‘Now, cut the crap. I want to hear scores. I want to hear grades, I want to hear this, and I want to hear the details good and bad.’
“I did the same thing to Noah, and he kind of laughed and everything. I kind of push him. He really does have a good support staff in family — he’s got great aunts and uncles who are concerned about him and without that this kid could have fell through the cracks.”
(— includes quotes from a file story written by Press sportswriter Mark Griffin).


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