OHIO HEARTLAND CONFERENCE
Post Season Successes
The schools in the OHC, the third Lincoln Highway League, had greater opportunities to advance in the post-season than the earlier NCO and Cardinal Conference. From 1938 to 1972 the Ohio High School Athletic Association tournaments involved just 8 boys sports and the two-class system. In 1972 they ran championships in three divisions and added the football playoffs for 12 teams, which were determined by a computerized poll. By 1987 the first year of the OHC the OHSAA was sponsoring championships in 11 boys sports and 10 girls sports.
The football playoffs of ’87 gave 96 teams in 5 divisions a chance at a State championship. While four teams played in each regional neither of the OHC co-champs Lexington (5th with 103.50) or Malabar (8th with 88.00) earned the Region 7 playoffs. Only third place Ashland was the 4th team (95.00) in Region 6 but they lost to Cleveland Benedictine in the first round.
Over the first eleven years of the OHC no team won a playoff game. Twice Madison (1990 & 1992) and once Mansfield Senior (1993) made the playoffs but always losing the first round game. In 1998 Marion Harding defeated North Canton Hoover 34-33 for the first playoff win by an OHC team.
In 1999 the OHSAA expanded the playoffs to eight teams in each regional. That year Orrville, the defending State champs and newest OHC-member, won three games making it to the State semi-finals or Final Four. Their sophomore QB Justin Zwick of OSU fame led Coach Bill McMillan’s Red Riders.
Over the final three years of the league the OHC fared much better with at least two teams in the playoffs each year, plus Marion defeated the vaunted Massillon Washington 10-7 in 2000. Their overall playoff records were: Orrville (3-1), Marion Harding (3-4) all four years (98-2000-01-02) under Coach Tim Hinton, Mansfield Senior (1-4) all four years (93-2000-01-02) under Coach Stan Jefferson, Mansfield Madison (0-2) twice (1990-92) under Coach Dana Woodring, Lexington (1-1), and Ashland (0-1).
The Ashland Arrows not only won the most OHC championships over the 16-years of the league, but they made the most appearances at the State, too. While 12 sports emerged from the Northwest regional, one team and 11 individuals finished first in the State.
Six Arrow golf teams made it to the Scarlet Course in Columbus. The 1998 golf team coached by Loren Green won the Division I championship. The linksters were: Chris Yoder, Steve Paramore, Bobby Castor, John Locke, Kevin Priest, and Adam Houston. Coach Green’s teams finished second in 1997 and 1999, while his 1995 team finished 3rd. Two other golf teams made it to the State: the 1990 (11th) and the 2000 (2nd). Also, AHS had two State medalists: Steve Paramore in 1997 and Bobby Castor in 1999, plus Chris Yoder in 1997 and Bobby Castor in 1998 were runner-up medalists.
Three other AHS male athletes won 5 State championships. In track Greg Steele won the pole vault in 1996 and 1997. In swimming Coach Bob Henikman’s son Rob won twice: the 1995 100-breaststroke and the 1996 50-freestyle, and Jon Haag won the 50-freestyle in 2000. Also, on the girls' team Jamie Minnich finished second in 1993.
The most outstanding individual performance by an OHC athlete was Beth Mallory of Ashland, who won four State championships and a second place. She won the discus in 1999, 2001, and 2002 and the shot put in 2002. She finished second in the discus in 2000 and 5th in the shot in 2001. Also, in girls’ track Sue Culler was second in the high jump in 1988.
In Cross Country the boys team made it to State 4 times and the girls team made it 5 times. Dave Potter coached eight of those nine teams. His best finish was 4th place: the boys in 1994 and the girls in 1999. The highest individual finish was: 3rd by Carlos De Francisco for the boys in 1988 and 8th by Erin Stauffer for the girls in 2001.
The Boys Soccer team made it to the State Final Four in 1998. The Girls softball team coached Tom Williams made it the State championship game at Ashland’s Brookside Park in 1997. However the pitching of Joni Derr and the hitting of Julie Mulkey could only bring home the runner-up trophy.
The Arrow wrestling team sent a grappler to State every year of the OHC except 1991, however the best finish was a 3rd place by four wrestlers: Toby Kerschner 1995, Clell Cox 1997, Ben Householder 1999, and Zach Andy 2002.
In tennis three doubles teams (two girls and one boys) and one singles (Sarah Juzwik) made it to the State, but no one advanced beyond the first round. Nevertheless, the A’s composite State record was: 12 champions and 9 runner-up spots during the OHC years.
Orrville, the smallest school in the conference, gave the league some outstanding credentials. Before their membership in 1998 the Red Riders won three State basketball championships under Coach Steve Smith and a football championship on the arm of freshman sensation Justin Zwick. During their 5-years in the OHC they accumulated 8 State firsts.
Their track teams made their greatest achievements during the OHC years. DeAnna Caldwell doubled twice winning the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash in 2000 and 2001. Dru Robinson won the 100-meter dash in 1999. The boys’ 4 x 400 meter relay team of C. J. Handwerk, Michael Robinson, Ben Gadfield, and Chris Bowman finished first in 1999. That 1999 boy’s track team won the Division II State championship under Coach Mike Burkholder. Andrew Brown won the 400-meter dash in 2003, and Joel Beichler won the discus in 2001.
Their golf team qualified for the State tournament in 2002.
Lexington High School experienced perhaps the most unifying school spirit in high school sports a State basketball championship twice. The Minutemen won the Division II in 1989 and 1991 under Coach Gregg Collins. The 1989 team was 27-1, and had the famous “Three Amigos:” Tom Scholl, Jeff Hoeppner, and Donn Restille. The guards were Mike McGuire and Brian Thompson. The Minutemen set a State record by demolishing an undefeated and No. 1 ranked West Geauga team 89-57 by 32-points.
One great player led the 1991 team: Jamie Feick. The other starters were: Matt Shuler, Buck Morton, Brian Lesch, Matt Byrne, and Scott Cooper, the sixth man. Feick went on to play in the NBA, and Coach Collins, also, led Mansfield Senior to the Final Four in 1999.
In minor sports Mark Simmons won the State championship in the shot and the discus in 1997. In tennis Melissa Schaub went to the State four straight years 1998-2001. She finished: 4th, 2nd, 3rd, and 1st her senior year. Her Dad Ron is the very successful Lex coach. In 1989 doubles team of Ward Fisher and Toby McCammon was a runner-up at the State.
The Purple & Gold finished with 5 State championships in their OHC years.
The pride of Madison sports has clearly been the volleyball program under Coach Sue Subich. In 1997 her team won the only team State championship in the Ram’s history. Her rotation featured Micki Sawyer, Heather Blaising, Michelle Bartlett, Megan Pease, Lora Wisenbarger, Kristen Brandt, Abby Lowe, Bethany Brafford, and Katie Angelas. They defeated perennial State finalist Stow-Monroe Falls in the Division I title game.
Coach Subich’s teams not only won every OHC title except 1989, but also they earned a statewide reputation and twice won the Associated Press polls in 1994 and 1995. She was named Division I Coach of the Year in 1994 and 1995. Her 1993 team made it to the Final Four. The fantastic program had four Ohio Player of the Year winners: Jennifer Bartlett 1995, Megan Pease in 1998, Bethany Brafford in 1999, and Carrie Ritchie in 2001.
The Rams had two other State champions. Sprinter Mike Blevins won 1st place three times and led the Rams to second in the State in 1996. In 1996 he won the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes, and the next year he repeated with 1st in the 100-meter dash. In wrestling Nate Yetzer won the 145-pound championship in 2000.
The Ram had two State semifinalists. The Boys soccer team made it to the Final Four in 1992, and the Girls softball made it in 1995. However, each team lost the first game at State.
The Boys baseball program under Doug Rickert made it to the Regional championship game four straight years 1999-2002, however they were unable to win and move on to the State.
The Green and White on Esley Lane ended up with 5 State champions during the OHC years: the volleyball team and four individual firsts.
Marion Harding’s best success was in wrestling. Jeff Ratliff won the State three times in Division I between 1997 and 1999. In 1997 J. P. Felty, also, finished first which gave the Presidents third in the State tournament team standings.
Mansfield Senior had three first-place finishes in track. In 1992 the girl’s 4x100 relay team of Dion Turner, Jane Parker, Nikki Stewart, and Monica Bessick won the Division championship. In 1997 another girls 4x100 relay won the State. The members were: Shauntoya Jones, Teaka Davis, DeKila Taylor, and Deneiaka Howard. In 2002 Brandon Woodson won the Division I high jump.
Two Tyger basketball teams made it to the State Final Four. In 1999 Coach Gregg Collins guided a team of six seniors to their 3rd straight OHC and his fifth straight league title (two with Lex). The six seniors, who were led by 2nd team All-Ohio Marquis Sykes, had played together since the sixth grade team at the Friendly House in Mansfield. In 2003 the Mansfield girls under Coach Andrea Thompson made it to the State, and Canea Williams was their MVP. Nevertheless, both squads lost their opening game at Columbus.
The other Mansfield school was Malabar until 1989 when they consolidated with Senior High. The Falcons had one State champion. April Robinson won the Class AA 400-meter dash in 1988. Also, in 1988 the Boys basketball team coached by Steve Miller made it to the Final Four. Brian Beauford was their star player, but they lost in the semi-finals to the eventually State champion Portsmouth.
Although Vermilion made the football playoffs four times before entering the OHC, and they enjoyed some success in the post season in other sports. However, they did not do well during their five years in the league.
When the OHC ended in 2003 the eight schools had 38 State championships. Five teams won first: the Lexington boys basketball in “89 and ’91, the ’97 Madison girls volleyball, the ’98 Ashland boys golf, and the ’99 Orrville boys track team. Thirty individuals were gold medal winners and 3 relay teams finished first at State.