Central Ohio High School Sports Awards: Fall Coaches of the Year announced
ThisWeek’s Fall Coaches of the Year have something in common besides winning programs: They have earned praise for how they interact with their athletes and mold them into a cohesive unit.
An overall Coach of the Year will be announced during the Central Ohio High School Sports Awards online show at 7 p.m. July 8.
Janet Baird, Watterson
With a 3-0 victory over Hudson in the state championship game, Watterson won its third title under Baird.
Only Anne Horton, who has guided Columbus Academy to 12 state titles, and Terri Simonetti Frost, who has led Thomas Worthington to five, have won more championships in Ohio history.
The Eagles have gone 337-80-25 in 25 seasons under Baird, who has led the program to 10 state tournament appearances and five runner-up finishes.
The Eagles went 18-3, with two of their losses to Thomas, but they avenged those defeats with a 2-1 win in a district final and then beat Academy 1-0 in two overtimes in a state semifinal.
The win over Hudson avenged a 4-1 regular-season loss.
“Janet did a tremendous job of managing the girls and their time on the field wisely after we were cleared to play in June, which was no small feat,” athletics director Doug Etgen said. “Janet is humble, yet tough. Caring, yet with high expectations of her girls. In my opinion, she’s not only one of the best field hockey coaches in central Ohio, she’s one of the best coaches in any sport in central Ohio.”
2019: Anne Horton, Columbus Academy; 2018: Horton; 2017: Terri Simonetti Frost, Thomas Worthington
Earl Devanny, Olentangy
Devanny’s fourth and final season in charge of the Braves culminated in the program’s first Division I regional championship and a state runner-up finish.
Olentangy went 18-3-2 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Cardinal Division, losing 3-1 to Strongsville in the state final. The Braves went 14-0-1 in a 15-game stretch from Sept. 12 to Nov. 10, including four shutout wins in the postseason.
Devanny, who was an assistant coach at Olentangy before becoming head coach in 2017, retired in December after going 55-12-8 overall and 16-2-2 in league play with two league championships and two district titles. The Braves reached at least a district semifinal in each year of Devanny’s tenure.
“He’s so invested in everything he does,” forward Rachel Austin said. “He puts in the time and effort to know everything about the team we’re playing and builds our training around that. He does a good job of keeping the team in line. When we play well, he makes sure we know. And when we didn’t play well, we knew that, too.”
2019: Matt Thompson, Columbus Academy; 2018: Scott Dempsey, Watterson; 2017: Drew Pitzer, Big Walnut
Chris Ditello, Columbus School for Girls
In his fifth season, Ditello led the Unicorns to their second consecutive Division II state tournament.
CSG shot a 694 in the two-day event at Ohio State’s Gray Course to finish fourth of 12 teams behind champion Lima Central Catholic (630). Last season, in their first time at state since 2008, the Unicorns placed 10th (731) behind champion Central Catholic (647).
The Unicorns also won their second consecutive MSL-Ohio title, going 15-1 to finish ahead of runner-up Columbus Academy (12-3).
“We’re so fortunate to have Chris leading our golf program,” athletics director Megan Henry said. “He has a way of getting the most out of our players, but also knows how to help them relax on the course. He brings out the best in our players each and every match. His ability to teach the game he loves is unprecedented.”
CSG won a sectional title at Blacklick Woods with a 346 then shot a 364 to win a district championship at Darby Creek and earn the lone team berth to state.
2019: Rich Ritter, New Albany; 2018: Ritter; 2017: Cari DeAngelis, Olentangy Orange
Stephanie Grieshop, Watterson
Following back-to-back seasons of losing in a Division I regional semifinal, the Eagles broke through with their first regional championship this fall in Grieshop’s fourth year as coach.
Grieshop took over a program in 2017 that had gone 14-12 the year before and guided it to district titles in her second and third seasons, with Watterson also losing in a regional semifinal in 2018.
The Eagles have gone 72-30 under Grieshop, including 17-7 this season despite being forced into a two-week quarantine shortly before the postseason.
Watterson beat Olentangy Orange 17-25, 26-24, 25-23, 25-21 for the regional title before falling 25-17, 15-25, 25-21, 25-23 to Parma Padua in a state semifinal. Orange had been the district’s No. 1 seed while the Eagles were seeded third.
“Stephanie's success started way back before this year,” Etgen said. “The thing I appreciate most about Stephanie is she’s a fierce competitor and doesn't apologize for having that fire to succeed.”
2019: Brenden Pence, DeSales; 2018: Jen Chapman, Olentangy Liberty; 2017: Mary Ann Souder, Dublin Coffman
Bryan Johnson, Westerville North
In his third season, Johnson was named Division I state Coach of the Year after leading the Warriors to their first winning season since 2004 and first playoff appearance since 1999.
North went 6-4 overall and 5-1 in the OCC-Capital, finishing second behind Westerville South (5-0). The Warriors, who finished 3-7 in 2018 and 1-9 in 2019, fell 34-3 to New Albany in the first round of the Region 3 playoffs.
The 2000 Westland graduate went 19-23 at Liberty Union from 2014-17 and led the Lions to the playoffs in 2014 and 2016. He previously was an assistant at Gahanna and Grandview and was the offensive coordinator for Maple Heights’ 2010 Division II state championship team.
“First things first, he’s a really caring guy,” said Sylvester Bockarie, a starter at running back and linebacker. “When he came here, he made a promise to change the culture and that’s exactly what he did. The energy on the field and throughout the whole program was just different beyond our record. He promised us he was in it for the long haul and he is.”
2019: Bryan Schoonover, Groveport; 2018: Buddy White, Reynoldsburg; 2017: Mike LoParo, Hilliard Bradley
Nate King, Hilliard Davidson
Girls cross country
King helped direct the Wildcats to another strong season, highlighted by their ninth top-10 finish at the Division I state meet in the last 10 years.
The Wildcats finished second (138) behind Centerville (128) for their best state performance since winning the title in 2002.
Davidson also won its third consecutive regional title and 11th consecutive district championship, making it 19 district titles in 22 seasons.
King, who completed his eighth season, also guided Davidson to its sixth consecutive first-place finish in the OCC-Central.
“He’s just so dedicated to his athletes and really to getting the best out of them,” senior Lindsay Stull said. “He’s so knowledgeable and he’s really in-depth and goes all in and focuses on the athletes and makes us the best that we can be.”
King also is the distance coach for Davidson’s girls track and field team in the spring.
2019: King; 2018: King; 2017: Darrell Dewese, Olentangy Liberty
Johnny Ulry, New Albany
In his sixth season with the Eagles, Ulry led his team to its first Division I regional championship and a state runner-up finish.
New Albany went 18-4-1 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Ohio, losing 4-1 to Cleveland St. Ignatius in the state final.
A 2004 graduate of Westerville North who played at Ohio Dominican, Ulry is 87-23-6 overall and 27-3-2 in league play with the Eagles after going 44-33-2 at Hilliard Darby from 2010-14. His New Albany teams have won four league championships the last five seasons and won a district title in 2016.
Ulry also coached girls lacrosse at Darby and formerly was an assistant coach for New Albany’s perennially successful lacrosse program.
“He always puts players first and does what’s best for us,” midfielder Kameron Kist said. “He implemented more of a possession style this year because that’s what was best suited for the team and our talents. He’ll do what’s best for us to succeed as a team and as individuals.”
2019: J.J. Bain, Wellington; 2018: Mark D’Auteuil, Olentangy Liberty; 2017: James Gerdes, Grandview
Dave Wadenstierna, Dublin Jerome
Boys cross country
Despite losing Elliott Cook to graduation after he placed fourth in the 2019 Division I state meet, Wadenstierna helped Jerome produce one of its greatest seasons.
The Celtics won the OCC-Cardinal meet with 31 points and followed by scoring 53 points to place first in the section 2 race at the district meet. It marked the first time the program had won titles at either level since 2013, when it followed a league title by capturing district and regional championships and then taking second at state in Wadenstierna’s second season.
After placing fourth (138) at regional, Jerome scored 363 points at state to finish 15th as freshman Sam Ricchiuti led all central Ohio runners by placing ninth in 15 minutes, 48 seconds.
“David does a wonderful job of training the individual runners but also builds a great team chemistry with the boys,” athletics director Joe Bline said. “As a former Jerome student-athlete, I believe he understands the pressures the boys are going through and does his best to balance their athletic and academic workload.”
2019: Ryan Beck, Gahanna; 2018: Beck; 2017: Pat Schlecht, Hilliard Davidson
Marc Wurtzman, Columbus Academy
In his first season, Wurtzman guided the Vikings to success at the individual and team state tournaments.
Academy qualified for its fourth consecutive Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division II team state tournament, finishing second with a 3-2 loss to Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown.
Senior Sydni Ratliff finished as runner-up in singles at the individual state tournament, losing 7-6, 7-5 to Eaton’s Macy Hitchcock in the final.
The Vikings went 16-2 overall and 7-0 in the MSL-Ohio for their 17th consecutive league title and 19th in 20 seasons.
“I had him as a coach since seventh grade,” senior Lauren Motta said. “I love Marc. Since he’s been with me for so long, he’s definitely helped me grow, not just with my tennis strokes, but mentally as well. He’s always there to critique you, but in a nice way. He cares about the people that he’s coaching. It’s very apparent.”
Wurtzman was an assistant under Tom Haddow in 2019 after previously guiding the middle school team. He also is the boys coach at Academy.
2019: Shaun Stamps, Upper Arlington; 2018: Susan Storerr, Olentangy Orange; 2017: Ken Berlin, Dublin Jerome
Craig Yakscoe, Columbus Academy
Under Yakscoe, who completed his seventh season, the Vikings won their fourth consecutive Division II state title – the longest streak of state titles in school history.
The Vikings finished with a 615, ahead of runner-up Kettering Alter (629). They held a 300-315 lead over Alter heading into the final round, with the 300 representing a Division II record for the opening day.
Stephen Ma earned medalist honors with a 144, the program’s first individual state champion since 1999.
Academy also won sectional and district titles and finished first in the three-round MSL-Ohio tournament at 14-0 for its fifth consecutive league championship.
“I’ve been on the varsity team since I was a freshman and he’s always been my coach,” junior Russell Ahmed said. “He’s really good energy on the golf course, whether you’re playing really well or not your best. He’s pretty much even keel. He always has the same positive attitude when he approaches you. That’s helped me and I know it’s helped a lot of other players.”
Yakscoe also coaches the school’s swimming and diving program.
2019: Taylor Harle, Dublin Jerome; 2018: Craig Mosier, Wellington; 2017: Yakscoe