Since Jeff Dingess has come back to Northridge High School, he has found it hard to leave.
The 1983 Northridge graduate returned in June 2011 as an assistant football coach, and he also helped as an assistant to track and field coach Gene Weil. Now, with Weil leaving to coach the throwers in the Denison University program, Dingess has moved up to the head coaching position with the Vikings' track teams.
"All those year ago, I said I was going to come back to Northridge to coach, and here I am," Dingess said. "Being at school and around the kids is great, and I couldn't be happier."
Athletics director Wayne Howard said Dingess has been a staunch supporter of Northridge athletics.
"If you were to cut Jeff, I think he would bleed green," Howard said. "He's a Northridge graduate and he's serious about Northridge. He is an assistant in football and he was an assistant in track last year. He always volunteers for things like working the weight room, and the kids work well with him."
Dingess played football and ran track in high school. He said things have changed in high school sports with pay-to-participate fees and numerous other issues.
"I think the biggest challenge is that you have to be a tireless recruiter," said Dingess, who is a substitute teacher at the school. "I will see football or volleyball players, even a couple of cheerleaders who I think would be able to help out the track team. I'll talk to them and try to get them to come out."
Dingess said Weil, who has more than 30 years of coaching experience, has been a mentor.
"Coach Weil has such a wealth of knowledge," said Dingess, who will be a head coach for the first time. "He knows a lot about kinesiology, the mechanics of track and just coaching philosophies. He's an older gentleman, but he is young-minded and can really relate to the kids."
Expected back for the girls team are seniors Taylor Rose (sprints, throws), Hannah Shank (sprints, hurdles) and Caitlyn Tulloss, junior Hayley Menix and sophomores Skylar Briggs (sprints, hurdles), Belinda Marcum (throws), Courtney Schneider (jumps, sprints) and Ellie Shedloski.
The boys team looks to return seniors Tony Shore (sprints) and Nathan Wigal (distance), junior Jesse Kanavel (distance) and sophomore Noah Orcutt (distance).
Wrestlers take second in King of the Hill
The wrestling team finished second (207 points) in the 14-team King of the Hill tournament Dec. 8 at East Liverpool behind champion Wellsburg (W.Va.) Brooke (219.5) and ahead of the host Potters (173.5).
Heavyweight Anthoney Verhovec was the lone winner for the Vikings, with Shane Mulligan (138 pounds) and Thomas Williams (152) finishing as runners-up. Jake Adkins (106), Rob Mickey (160) and Drew Mullen (145) were third, Parker Fox (170) and Jacob Burke (220) took fourth, Alex Arnold (126) was fifth and Brennan Angus was sixth as a second Northridge competitor at 170.
"The whole team was pretty happy about the way we performed," Adkins said. "We were in first place until the very end, but that should help our confidence to do well in a big meet."
Adkins, a junior, finished 38-15 last season after qualifying for the Division III state tournament, where he went 0-2 at 106. He started the season strong, winning the 106-pound title in the Wazie Tournament on Dec. 1 at Mount Vernon.
"I think competing at state has made me more confident and it also showed me things that I needed to work on," Adkins said. "I needed to work on my shot defense, finding ways to counter my opponents' shots."
The Vikings will compete in the first MBC duals Wednesday, Dec. 19, at Utica before competing Saturday, Dec. 22, in the Licking County Championships at Licking Heights.
Last season, Northridge had a pair of champions and finished second (267.5) in an 11-team field at Lakewood behind champion Licking Valley (333).
Williams (152) and Verhovec (heavyweight) won titles, Mulligan (126) and Mickey (160) were runners-up and Adkins (106) and Mullen (138) took third. Wade Stischok (145) and Zach Rudy (170) were fourth and Fox (132) took fifth.
Adkins said he will be ready.
"A big part of wrestling is being mentally prepared," he said. "I think being at state also helped because I don't get as many butterflies before big meets. After you have wrestled (at state), you don't have many meets as big as that."