2012: The Year In Review
Pickerington Central's title was top story
As we begin 2013, we take a look back at the highlights of central Ohio high school sports for 2012.
There was plenty to celebrate, as area teams won state championships in 10 sports -- baseball, basketball, golf, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field and water polo -- and local individuals won state titles in bowling, golf, swimming, tennis, track and wrestling.
Here's how the year stacked up through the eyes of the sports staff at ThisWeek.
We hope you enjoy the look back at 2012 as much as we did.
1. EYE OF THE TIGER
Led by 6-foot-5 point guard Caris LeVert, the Pickerington Central boys basketball team won its first state championship, defeating Toledo Whitmer 45-40 in the Division I final March 24 at Ohio State.
LeVert, a 2012 graduate playing for the University of Michigan, had a game-high 20 points, four rebounds and four steals and then-sophomore Jae'Sean Tate, a 6-5 forward, added 10 points and four rebounds, as the Tigers finished 26-2.
Ranked fourth in the final state poll, Central became the first central Ohio team to win a state championship since Northland won the Division I title in 2009.
"It hasn't even sunk in, but it's just a great feeling," LeVert said moments after the state final. "To win the last game of the season at state is a great feeling."
2. CHAMPIONS ON THE PITCH
The Olentangy Liberty boys soccer team won its first state championship, defeating Sylvania Southview 2-0 in the Division I final Nov. 10 at Crew Stadium.
Jared Robinson scored and goalkeeper Anderson deAndrade had three saves to lead the Patriots, who finished 22-1. The first goal was an own goal, as the ball hit off the stomach and foot of a Southview player and dribbled into the net.
Liberty was ranked second in the final state poll behind Cleveland St. Ignatius, which beat the Patriots 4-2 in the state final in 2011.
"This year, the moment we walked in (to preseason practice), this was our one goal," Liberty coach Rick Collins said of winning the state title. "That was the focus of everything we did. It's all been for this moment."
Senior midfielder Sam DeRoy was named an All-American by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. DeRoy, who had 14 goals and 11 assists, also shared Division I state Player of the Year honors with St. Ignatius' Tyler Sanda and was named district and OCC-Central Division Player of the Year.
Also earning All-American status was Bexley senior midfielder Jacob Hodge, who scored 13 goals and helped the Lions reach a Division II state semifinal.
3. REPEAT ON THE DIAMOND
The DeSales baseball team defended its Division II state championship, defeating Wapakoneta 3-2 on June 2 at Huntington Park to finish 26-6.
In 2011 with no seniors on their roster, the Stallions won their first state title since 1979 by beating Akron Hoban 9-8. They had 12 seniors last spring.
"You never say anything is easy because of all the hard work and luck it takes to win a championship," Stallions coach Tom Neubert said. "However, last year was much easier than this year. This was the pressure season."
Against Wapakoneta, Derek Traini and Jack Miller each had an RBI and the Stallions scored their third run on an error. Starter T.J. Alas got the win and Nick Eltzroth earned the save.
"This is absolutely more satisfying," Alas said. "Last year we came out of nowhere."
4. NO CHAMPS ON THE GRIDIRON
For the second year in a row, central Ohio did not have a state champion in football.
The only area team to advance to a state final was Newark Catholic, which lost to Maria Stein Marion Local 28-21 in the Division VI championship game Nov. 30 at Massillon Paul Brown Tiger Stadium to finish 12-3.
Three other central Ohio teams -- Pickerington North (Division I), New Albany (Division II) and Hartley (Division IV) -- lost in a state semifinal.
The area's last state champions were Watterson (Division III) and Hartley (Division IV) in 2010. The last time central Ohio did not have a state champion in consecutive seasons was 1993 and 1994. Between 1995 and 2010, at least one area team won a state title in 12 of those 16 seasons, with the exceptions being 1996, 2001, 2005 and 2008.
5. WHAT A WEEKEND AGAIN
On the weekend of Oct. 19-21, the Dublin Jerome boys and girls golf teams and the Jerome girls tennis team won Division I state championships.
The boys golf team won its second consecutive state title and its fifth in its nine-year history, as it shot 630 (307-323) over 36 holes at Ohio State's Scarlet Course to finish one stroke ahead of runner-up Centerville.
Senior Mert Selamet shot 153 (73-80) to finish fourth and earn first-team all-state honors.
The girls golf team also won its second consecutive state title, carding 629 (313-316) at Ohio State's Gray Course to finish one stroke ahead of runner-up Medina Highland.
Junior Lexie Toth tied for fourth with 149 (71-78) to make first-team all-state.
"It feels a lot better than last year," she said. "It's a lot more meaningful the second time since it's a repeat and the boys won, too."
The girls tennis team repeated as Ohio Tennis Coaches Association state champion and finished 22-0.
On Oct. 21 at Reynoldsburg, Jerome beat Rocky River Magnificat 3-0 in a semifinal and Cincinnati Ursuline Academy 3-0 in the final. The first doubles team of Rhiannon James and Emma Stein went 2-0 in the matches.
"We knew we are the best team in the state and we proved it," coach Tyler Stephen said. "Sometimes you see teams that have the most talent lose, but our girls handled our expectations well and they never got complacent."
6. ANOTHER HOOPS TITLE FOR NUBIANS
The Africentric girls basketball team won its third state championship in six seasons, defeating Anna 70-66 in overtime in the Division III final March 17 at Ohio State.
Kiyanna Black led the Nubians with a game-high 27 points and 12 rebounds. Now playing at Ohio University, she made nine of 10 free throws, including five of six in the final three minutes of regulation.
Marley Hill had 11 points and 11 rebounds and Sierra Harley scored 10 points for Africentric, which finished 23-4. Anna, which finished 27-1, had won 50 games in a row.
The Nubians' other state titles came in Division IV in 2007 and 2009.
On Dec. 4, Africentric beat Eastmoor Academy 86-65 for its 100th consecutive City League victory.
7. SULLINGER DRAFTED
Jared Sullinger, a 2010 Northland graduate, became the first area athlete to be a first-round draft pick in a major pro sport since 2009 when he was selected 21st by the Boston Celtics in the NBA draft June 28.
Sullinger, a 6-9 forward who opted to forego his final two seasons at Ohio State where he was a two-time All-American, was averaging 4.9 points and 4.9 rebounds for the Celtics through 24 games.
In 2009, Byron "B.J." Mullens, a 2008 Canal Winchester graduate, was selected 24th in the NBA draft out of Ohio State by the Dallas Mavericks. Also that year, Eric Arnett, a 2006 Watkins Memorial graduate, was the 26th pick in the MLB draft out of Indiana by the Milwaukee Brewers.
8. STREAKS END
Pickerington North girls basketball coach Dave Butcher saw his streak of 23 consecutive district titles end when the Panthers lost 63-46 to Gahanna in a Division I district final March 3.
The streak began in 1989 when he was coaching Pickerington -- now Pickerington Central -- and continued when he and all five starters from the Tigers' 2002-03 team moved to North when it opened in fall 2003.
"That streak was maybe as special to my players as it was to me," Butcher said. "You have to be lucky to do that. We were fortunate to do that and, at times, we were better than other teams. But the kids somehow kept it on a roll. Out of anything I've accomplished, that's actually what I was most proud of."
In football, DeSales missed the playoffs for the first time since 1993, ending an 18-year streak.
The Stallions went 5-5 and finished ninth in Division III, Region 10, one spot from a playoff berth.
"The fact that we didn't make the playoffs is going to drive us harder (for next season)," running back and linebacker Griff Saunders said.
In boys tennis, central Ohio did not have a state champion for the first time since 2006.
9. SILVER LINING
Abby Johnston, a 2008 Upper Arlington graduate, won a silver medal in the London Summer Olympics on July 29 in 3-meter synchronized-springboard diving with her partner, Kelci Bryant of Chatham, Ill.
"It was a goose-bumps moment," Johnston told The Columbus Dispatch. "I wasn't looking at the crowd before the competition or during the competition. I had no idea how many people were there. Then, when I stepped out to walk to the medal ceremony, I looked up and saw the huge number of people there, and the American flags throughout the crowd, people cheering and waving and calling my name. That was just the coolest feeling."
Katie Bell, a Clintonville resident and former member of the Ohio State club diving team, also competed in the Olympics, placing 16th in 10-meter platform diving.
10. GIANT ADDITION
Chase Blackburn, a 2001 Marysville graduate, played for the New York Giants when they upset undefeated New England 17-14 in the Super Bowl after the 2007 season.
A backup linebacker and special teams player, Blackburn was not offered a contract by the Giants after the 2010 season and was out of the NFL at the start of the next season. However, 11 games into the 2011 season, he was re-signed by the Giants because their linebacking corps was decimated by injuries.
Blackburn intercepted Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and had seven tackles in his first game back and was an integral part of the Giants' championship run. In the Super Bowl on Feb. 5, he intercepted New England quarterback Tom Brady in the second half to help the Giants win 21-17.
Blackburn is back with the Giants this season as a starter at middle linebacker.
Domenik Hixon, a 2003 Whitehall graduate, also was on the Giants' Super Bowl championship teams in 2007 and 2011. He missed most of the 2011 season, including the playoffs, with a knee injury.
11. SPLASH-ING SUCCESS
The Upper Arlington girls swimming and diving team won its eighth consecutive Division I state championship.
The Golden Bears scored 300.5 points in the state meet that concluded Feb. 25 at Branin Natatorium in Canton to finish well ahead of runner-up Cincinnati Ursuline (233).
"Out of the last four years I've been on the team, this was the biggest state title we've won," 2012 graduate Claire Van Fossen said. "Everything was on the line and we swam our hearts out."
UA placed in the top 16 in every event except the 100-yard breaststroke and had three champions: the 400-yard freestyle relay of Gracie Long, Lauren Comer, Jenny Smith and Gabby Veri (state-record 3 minutes, 24.24 seconds), the 200 free relay of Long, Jessica Miller, Smith and Veri (1:34.68) and Long in the 100 free (program-record 50.71).
12. RACING TO ANOTHER TITLE
The Reynoldsburg girls track and field team cruised to its fourth consecutive Division I state title, scoring 56 points in the state meet June 1 and 2 at Ohio State to finish well ahead of runner-up Lorain (34).
Leading the way for the Raiders was 2012 graduate Destinee Gause, who won her second consecutive title in the 100 meters (11.95), won the 200 (23.91) for the fourth year in a row and was on the winning 400 (meet-record 45.99) and 1,600 (3:50.33) relays.
Gause, who now competes for Florida, finished her prep career with a record 12 state titles.
The meet was the last for Raiders coach Denny Hammond, who retired after coaching the girls team for 14 seasons and the boys team for 18 years.
13. UNLIKELY TREK TO NFL
Nate Ebner, a 2007 Hilliard Davidson graduate, completed an unusual route to the NFL on April 28 when he was selected by New England in the sixth round of the draft with the 197th overall pick.
Ebner opted to play rugby in high school instead of football and earned a spot on the U.S. U19 and U20 national teams in 2007 and 2008, respectively. He was named Most Valuable Player of both teams after competing in the International Rugby Board Junior World Championship.
As a freshman at Ohio State, Ebner was a member of the Buckeyes' club rugby team but decided to walk on to the football team in 2009 and later earned a scholarship. Even though he was a backup defensive back who primarily played special teams for the Buckeyes, he made enough of an impression during the NFL scouting combine Feb. 22-28 in Indianapolis that the Patriots drafted him.
Ebner was a backup safety and special teams player for the Patriots this season.
14. VAULTING TO THE TOP
Jake Blankenship, a 2012 Gahanna graduate, soared to his second consecutive Division I state title in the pole vault, clearing a state-record 17 feet, 2 inches June 2 at Ohio State.
The state runner-up, Middleburg Heights' Aaron Owens, cleared 15-8.
Knowing that he had secured the state title and had broken his own state record by one inch, Blankenship attempted to clear 17-7 three times but was not able to do so.
"It was nice to break my state record, even if it was only by one inch," he said. "I was hoping I could jump 17-7 to get a new (personal record), but it may be a good thing that I'm moving up slowly instead of peaking too soon. I've still got years ahead of me to improve."
Blankenship, who is competing at Tennessee, won the 2011 state title by clearing a then-state record 17-0.
15. GOING THE DISTANCE
Tsehaye Hiluf, a 2012 Reynoldsburg graduate, won his second consecutive Division I state title in the 3,200 meters, finishing in a meet-record 8:55.04 on June 2 at Ohio State.
Tipp City Tippecanoe's Sam Wharton placed second in 9:01.24.
"I was very determined," Hiluf said. "To win it was the most important thing to me. I knew that if I ran a 1:28 first mile that there was no doubt I was going to break nine minutes. (Wharton) pushed me."
Hiluf won the 2011 state title in 9:17.09. He also won the state cross country championship in fall 2011.
16. FLYING THREE-PEAT
Pickerington Central's Maddie Martin won her third consecutive Division I state title in the 100-yard butterfly Feb. 25 at Branin Natatorium.
Martin finished first in 54.27, edging Van Fossen by 1.48 seconds.
"Actually, I can't see anyone when I'm swimming. I had no idea where she was," Martin said of Van Fossen. "It definitely made me nervous coming in and trying to win it again. I tried not to let the pressure get to me because I tend to do worse."
Martin, a senior who is aiming for her fourth state title in the event this season, won in a state-record 53.34 in 2011 after finishing first in 54.85 in 2010.
17. LONE CHAMPION ON THE MAT
Roy Daniels, a 2012 Liberty graduate, was the only wrestler in central Ohio to win a state championship.
A move-in from Spencerport, N.Y., Daniels went 52-1 in his only season with the Patriots and won the 160-pound title in Division I. He beat Stow-Munroe Falls' Connor McMahon 6-5 in the state final March 3 at Ohio State.
Liberty's first state champion, Daniels set the program record for wins in a season and won his final 51 matches after losing his second match of the season.
"When Roy started training with us, I came to the conclusion that he had all of the tools he needed to win a state championship," Patriots coach Mark Marinelli said. "He just needed to learn how to use them and to manage a match. Roy has strong legs and a strong core, and he moves real well. And once he started making guys wrestle his style of match, he couldn't be beat."
18. MAKING A RACKET
Central Ohio captured two state championships in girls tennis, as Hartley senior Rachael Morales won the singles title in Division II and New Albany's Cristina DiLorenzo and Francesca DiLorenzo won the doubles title in Division I.
Morales and the DiLorenzo sisters won their titles Oct. 20 at Elysium Tennis Center in Plain City.
Morales, a four-time state qualifier and Marshall University recruit, won her first state title by defeating DeSales' My Linh Li 6-0, 6-2 in the final.
The DiLorenzos, who played singles during the regular season, beat Jerome's Emma Stein and Sarah Stein 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 in the final. The state title was the first for both Cristina, a senior, and Francesca, a sophomore.
"We didn't think this would really happen," Cristina said. "Our first set was really smooth. We were very aggressive and made the volleys. (The Steins) put pressure on us, but this was my last chance (for a state title). I wasn't really expecting it, but it was good to do it."
19. HAPPY SPARLING
Coffman junior golfer Nick Sparling was medalist in the Division I boys state tournament, carding 145 (74-71) over 36 holes Oct. 19 and 20 at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
He finished two strokes ahead of the runner-up, Chase Johnson of Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit.
"It still feels surreal," Sparling said. "I didn't hit incredible but I putted really well. You have to have a lot of patience on this course because it's very easy to make a couple of bogeys, and when you do, you can't allow yourself to press too much."
Sparling's performance helped Coffman finish third (641) in the 12-team tournament behind Jerome (630) and Centerville (631).
"Nick is our program's first state champion, and that's saying a lot considering that Chris Wilson went on to play on the PGA Tour," Shamrocks coach David Woodmansee said.
20. ROLLING A STRIKE
Pickerington North's Brittany Beeghley won the state title in girls bowling despite not competing during the regular season because the Panthers did not field a co-ed team as the result of low turnout.
A junior at the time, she rolled a 654 series in the state tournament March 3 at Wayne Webb's Columbus Bowl to finish two pins ahead of the runner-up, Riverside Stebbins' Sierra Kanemoto.
Beeghley rolled games of 226, 234 and 194 at state.
"It's very exciting," she said. "I felt pretty comfortable once I got into the third game. I got off to a good (start). I wanted to do better than I did at district. I'm happy I made it this far. This year I took a big step forward."
Beeghley won the sectional Feb. 18 at Columbus Western Bowl with a 646 series and placed second at district Feb. 24 at HP Lanes with a 593 series.
21. POLO GROUNDS
The Upper Arlington boys and girls water polo teams swept the state championships.
The girls team earned its third consecutive title, beating Napoleon 15-5 in a semifinal Oct. 26 and Cincinnati Sycamore 6-3 in the final Oct. 27. The state championship was the fourth in five years and 13th overall for UA, which finished 26-3.
"It's never old hat," girls coach Dan Peterkoski said. "It's always a challenge, and it's always special to help a new group of girls develop the skills necessary to maintain playing at the level we do."
The boys team captured its first state title since 2009 and seventh overall, defeating Thomas Worthington 18-8 in a semifinal Oct. 26 before topping Sycamore 17-2 in the final Oct. 27 to finish 25-4.
22. BEAR-ING DOWN
The Upper Arlington boys lacrosse team won its second Division I state championship in three years and its 11th overall by edging Jerome 7-6 in the final June 2 at Thomas Worthington.
The Bears, who lost to Jerome 7-6 and 10-9 during the regular season, finished 18-4. The Celtics, who had won Division II state titles in 2010 and 2011, finished 21-1 and saw their 29-game winning streak come to an end.
UA tied the game at 6 on a goal by midfielder Eliot Allen with 6:10 left. Allen then scored the go-ahead goal while falling backward with 2:20 remaining. Goalkeeper Jack Warmolts made sure the lead held, making two of his eight saves in the final 90 seconds.
"I saw (the ball go in the net) right before my head hit the ground. It was surreal," Allen said of his winning goal.
23. VIKINGS END TITLE DROUGHT
The Columbus Academy field hockey team won its first state title since 2006 and ninth overall by defeating Watterson 2-1 in double overtime Nov. 3 at Upper Arlington.
Freshman Hana Sinno scored the winning goal on an assist by junior Charlotte Vaziri with 6:05 remaining in the second overtime. The Vikings finished 19-0-1.
"It is amazing to win another title," coach Anne Horton said. "These girls have clicked together since day one and have carried that bond all season. It is very difficult to go all the way, so I give a special tribute to this team for making this happen. This is our ninth state championship -- it feels as special as the first one."
Vaziri opened the scoring as freshman Grace Geiger and junior Brie Stahl assisted with 4:03 remaining in the first half, but Watterson tied the game with 9:01 left in the second half on a goal by Alessandro Margello.
24. WHEELCHAIR COMPETITION IN TRACK
On June 7, the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced it had approved adding wheelchair finals in four events to the state track and field meet beginning this spring.
The finals will be held in one boys division and one girls division in the 100 meters, 400, 800 and shot put.
The top eight boys and top eight girls will advance to state in each event based on the best regular-season times and distances. The Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches will keep track of those results.
Participants will wear school uniforms and receive awards for individual honors, but they will not score points for their teams.
25. IMMEDIATE IMPACT
Tabatha Piper, a 2011 Big Walnut graduate who attends Otterbein University, became the first two-sport Freshman of the Year in the Ohio Athletic Conference when she received the honor in volleyball and basketball.
A setter in volleyball, Piper led the OAC in assists as a freshman with 1,094, as Otterbein posted a program-best 26-6 record. A 5-foot-11 wing player in basketball, she started all but the first two games and averaged 7.6 points and 5.9 rebounds as the Cardinals finished 20-7 overall, marking the first time they reached 20 wins in eight seasons.
As a sophomore this fall, Piper was named first-team all-OAC, first-team all-Great Lakes Region and third-team All-American in Division III in volleyball.