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High School Sports

Led by Baughman, historic individual honors, deep tournament runs highlight 2017

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    Medina's senior soccer players pose with the runner-up trophy after losing 1-0 in the second overtime period during the Division I State Championship game.

    RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE

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    Wadsworth's Kacie Evans (27) celebrates during the Grizzlies District championship match against Brunswick.

    RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE

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    Brunswick wrestler Nick Kiussis wins the state championship after finishing second in the previous three years.

    RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE

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    Cloverleaf's Helaina Limas.

    RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE

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    Brunswick's Cassandra Pasadyn was the first Medina county swimmer to win a state championship.

    RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE

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    Medina's Trace Peterson runs back to the dugout after hitting a solo home run in the Regional semi-final game against Avon.

    RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE

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    Medina's Luke Schaefer shoots against Jackson during the Regional semi-final.

    RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE

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    Wadsworth quarterback Joey Baughman is Ohio's Mr. Football.

    RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE

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A record-setting quarterback became the first Medina County player to win Mr. Football, a boys soccer team reached the Division I state championship game, a swimmer earned an individual state title, four football teams qualified for the postseason and area athletes continued to excel in virtually every sport.

There was no shortage of noteworthy accomplishments among local athletes and teams in 2017 — and there were tons of county firsts over the last 12 months — so whittling The Gazette sports staff’s annual list to 10 was not an easy task, by any means.

Feel free to agree or disagree because that’s part of the fun with these kinds of things, but here we go:

1. Mr. Football

Coming into his senior football season, Wadsworth’s Joey Baughman was known more as a wrestler than a gridiron star. That all changed when the Virginia wrestling recruit put up a season for the ages en route to become the first county athlete to win Mr. Football, given annually to the best high school player in Ohio.

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Wadsworth quarterback Joey Baughman is Ohio's Mr. Football.

RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE Enlarge

The 6-foot-1, 192-pound Baughman was so good, in fact, that he withdrew his verbal commitment to accept a Virginia wrestling scholarship in order to weigh D-I college football offers.

In joining the likes of Mitchell Trubisky, Andy Katzenmoyer, Bobby Hoying, Curtis Enis, Robert Smith and Maurice Clarett as a recipient of the Mr. Football award, all Baughman did was lead Wadsworth to an 11-1 record as the Grizzlies broke county records for points (589) and scoring average (49.1).

The senior ended the season with 3,060 yards passing, 1,533 yards rushing and 56 touchdowns (36 passing, 20 rushing) despite playing seven games with a running clock in the second half. The Gazette MVP had 416 yards passing in a 61-28 win over North Royalton, 520 yards total offense in a 49-35 victory at Hudson and threw for five TDs in a 61-42 playoff triumph over Sylvania Northview, all county records.

“It’s kind of crazy to me,” Baughman said of winning Mr. Football. “It’s more than just a singular award. It’s definitely a team award. I’ve got so many people around me who have gotten me to this point, and I can’t thank them enough for that.”

A two-time D-I state runner-up in wrestling who began his senior season in that sport with a 112-17 career record, Baughman twice rushed for 200 yards and threw for 200 yards in the same game, a feat no other county player has accomplished once.

“The best part of the season was just enjoying it with my teammates,” he said. “I have the best teammates in the world, and they made it easy to come to practice and work hard every day. Especially the coaches, too, I had so much fun working with them all year.”

2. Just for kicks

No boys soccer team from the county had ever reached a state final, but Medina changed that in storybook fashion in 2017.

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Medina's senior soccer players pose with the runner-up trophy after losing 1-0 in the second overtime period during the Division I State Championship game.

RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE Enlarge

County firsts on the pitch didn’t end with the Bees, as Brunswick’s Nick Felician, The Gazette MVP in the sport, became the first Blue Devils player to earn All-America honors.

Coming off a controversial 3-2 double-overtime state semifinal loss to St. Ignatius the previous fall, the Bees avenged that defeat by beating the three-time defending D-I state champion Wildcats 2-0 in the 2017 semis at Nordonia’s Boliantz Stadium.

“It’s that feeling that we had that we had to come out and get that revenge,” Medina forward and second-team All-Ohio pick Andy Prostor said. “It was debatable how we went out last year, but to get the result this year, we broke the school record (with 16 wins). It’s history. We’re going to go down in history forever, and it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”

The Bees (16-2-5) lost 1-0 in double overtime to Beavercreek in the state final at Columbus’ MAPFRE Stadium, but not before leaving everything they had on the pitch.

“I have no regrets,” defender Andrew Horton said.

Players like Tyler Glasenapp, Alex Stan, Brandon Leckie, Ian Gummo and Riley Furey, plus veteran coach Simon Spelling, would likely agree.

“This season was nothing short of magical,” Horton said. “You dream of making it here. To actually be here, it’s special.”

3. Four-time finalist

Brunswick’s Nick Kiussis was a groomsman for three straight years. In 2017, he finally got to be the groom.

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Brunswick wrestler Nick Kiussis wins the state championship after finishing second in the previous three years.

RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE Enlarge

After finishing second at the D-I state wrestling tournament three times (at 132, 138 and 152 pounds), Kiussis brought home the 160-pound title as a senior. In the process, he became the first county wrestler to appear in four state final matches.

“I was more determined,” the West Virginia recruit said. “It was my last season for Brunswick, so I just wanted to do the best I could not only for me, but for everyone who has been with me.”

Kiussis wasn’t alone at the state tournament, as the county continued its rich tradition in the sport, with Wadsworth finishing fourth as a team in D-I and Brunswick placing 10th.

Individually, Wadsworth’s Joey Baughman (2nd, 170), Michael North (3rd, 126), Jordan Earnest (4th, 285), Luke Baughman (4th, 132) and Cody Surratt (5th, 217), Brunswick’s Logan Heil (3rd, 132) and Aaron Naples (5th, 195), Buckeye’s Eric Bartos (5th, 120), Medina’s Brady Chrisman (5th, 152) and Cloverleaf’s Caleb Cass (6th, 152) also reached the podium.

Kiussis, though, was the best of the best in 2016-17. He finished 41-3 as a senior and 131-14 for his career.

“Northeast Ohio is so good in wrestling, so I think it’s awesome that people will measure up to me,” he said. “It’s great to be able to leave that way.”

4. Touching first

Brunswick’s Cassandra Pasadyn went where no county swimmer, male or female, had gone before: The senior touched the wall 0.22 seconds ahead of Highland’s Ashley Mennenga in the D-I 100-yard backstroke to become the first area swimmer to win an individual state title.

“I told myself, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is really happening,’” the three-time Gazette MVP said at Canton’s C.T. Branin Natatorium. “I’m looking around. I see my family in the stands. I see my teammates at the end of the pool jumping up and down and freaking out. … The interviews and putting the medal around my neck, it was all just so much.”

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Brunswick's Cassandra Pasadyn was the first Medina county swimmer to win a state championship.

RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE Enlarge

Pasadyn finished the event in a county-record 54.49 seconds, and that Mennenga was right there with her made the day better still.

“It’s awesome to finish one-two and be there as friends,” she said. “I’m so excited to see what she’ll do (in 2017-18). We’re so supportive of each other no matter what happens. It was nice to be able to share that moment with her.”

Now attending Harvard, Pasadyn finished her prep career as a nine-time All-Ohioan and 10-time state qualifier. She entered the 2017-18 season holding county records in four events and school marks in three others.

“You always want to be the best version of yourself so you can be a good role model for others,” Pasadyn said. “You always want to reach your full potential. I’ve always been working toward that.”

5. Gridiron greatness

There are only seven high schools in the county, but four of them had football teams make the playoffs in 2017. Better still, three won at least one postseason game, a county first.

Black River (11-2) led the way, reaching the D-V regional finals before falling 40-16 to South Range after trailing just 19-16 at halftime.

Led by fullback/linebacker Jacob Campbell, fellow running backs Travis Sexton and Riley Gibbs and players like Alex Vormelker, Cole Haswell, Spencer Constable and Jeff Owen, the Pirates joined the school’s 1985, 1999 and 2003 teams as a regional finalist.

“It was a great season,” defensive end Owen said. “It’s one of the best Black River’s ever had, and I’m glad to say that.”

Led by record-setting quarterback and Mr. Football winner Joey Baughman, plus receivers Christian Szalay and Mitchell Blackburn, running back Brock Snowball, offensive tackle Clay McComas and defensive stalwarts Joey Fernholz and Mason McMillen, Wadsworth (11-1) went undefeated in the regular season for the first time since 1996, won the Suburban League National Conference title and advanced to the D-II regional semifinals before falling to Olmsted Falls.

With tailback/receiver/punt returner/kick returner/cornerback Jake Rogers doing a lot of everything and wide receiver/safety Ryan Frederick, linebacker Ethan Gerding and two-way lineman Joey D’Amico making key contributions throughout the season, Highland (9-3) joined the Grizzlies in winning a playoff game before falling to Avon in the D-II regional semis.

Behind quarterback Adam Fauver, receiver/kick returner Justin Canedy and two-way lineman Dom Kriz, Buckeye went 10-0 in the regular season and won its fifth straight Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division title before falling to Tallmadge in the first round of the D-III playoffs.

6. Two games in one

In one of the most memorable games in county history, the Medina baseball team earned its first regional final trip with an 8-7, 14-inning semifinal victory over Avon at Cuyahoga Community College West’s Ron Mottl Field.

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Medina's Trace Peterson runs back to the dugout after hitting a solo home run in the Regional semi-final game against Avon.

RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE Enlarge

The drained and exhausted Bees (19-13) returned to the same field about 14 hours later and fell to Strongsville, but their 5-hour, 16-minute Friday night classic against Avon was something players and coaches will talk about for decades.

What proved to be the game-winning run scored on an Aaron Masek foul out in front of the third base dugout. No one covered home and Cade Pipoly tagged up from third and slid in headfirst just before Avon catcher Will Kocar rushed back and applied the tag.

All this happened after Medina blew a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh, a 6-5 lead in the ninth and a 7-6 lead in the 13th.

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Batting in the bottom of the 10th with the game tied, Avon had runners on second and third with no outs. After a suicide squeeze attempt trickled foul, Pipoly got two strikeouts with left fielder Hunter Havekost coming into the infield to hold a runner on third. Pipoly then hit a batter to load the bases, but got out of the inning by inducing a pop-up.

7. Bees hit by freight train

Led by Gazette MVP Luke Schaefer and knock-down 3-point shooter Jackson Sartain, the Medina boys basketball team reached the Akron Division I Regional semifinals before falling 80-59 to eventual state champion Massillon Jackson.

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Medina's Luke Schaefer shoots against Jackson during the Regional semi-final.

RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE Enlarge

“I would call them a freight train,” Bees coach Chris Hassinger said of the Polar Bears. “I would say, ‘Don’t stand in front of them.’”

With an athletic starting five that stood 6-7, 6-5, 6-5, 6-3, 6-2, the Polar Bears jumped to a 33-19 halftime lead and threw down five dunks after intermission. Three were by 6-5 Toledo recruit Logan Hill, who warmed up before the game by leaping and head-butting the glass, while 6-7 Ohio State recruit Kyle Young finished with 21 points.

“Those guys were jumping out of the gym,” Medina’s Jimmy Daw said. “There’s nothing you can do when they’re dunking. We played our hearts out, but give them all the credit.”

Schaefer scored 16 points in his final game for the Bees, who finished with an 18-8 record.

“I’m just a little upset, not with the loss, but the fact that I’m not going to be back here next year,” he said. “I won’t be around Coach Hass and playing with the guys I’ve been with since I was young. … But that’s what happens. That’s life.”

8. Limas alone

From Dec. 9-20, Cloverleaf’s Helaina Limas went where no girls basketball player in county history had gone before, scoring a record 107 points in a three-game stretch (35.7 average).

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Cloverleaf's Helaina Limas.

RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE Enlarge

It started against Portage Trail Conference Metro Division rival Norton, against whom the senior put up a career-high 31 points to spark a pivotal 69-56 victory.

“She’s great because she has so many aspects to her game,” Cloverleaf coach John Carmigiano said. “She really stepped up and knew what it would take in order to get a win due to her knowledge of the rivalry.”

Turned out Limas was only warming up. A week later, she scored a girls county-record 40 points in a 70-40 PTC Metro rout of Springfield, with her record-setting point coming on a free throw that completed a three-point play.

“I actually didn’t know I had to make the free throw to get the record,” she said. “I just thought 40 sounded prettier than 39.”

Not done yet, Limas returned four days later to pour in 36 points in a 57-46 Metro Division victory over Ravenna.

“I’ve never played like this,” she said. “I don’t even know what’s happening, but I’m feeling good and I’m happy with the way I’m playing. … It’s awesome. I don’t even know how some of my shots go in sometimes.”

9. Third in state

Cloverleaf’s Austin Hanna finished third in singles play at the D-II state tennis tournament, the third-best finish in history by a county boys player. The Colts’ Jacob Dunbar was the D-I state champ in 2013, while Medina’s Patrick Thompson and Mike Noreika claimed the big-school doubles crown in 2000.

On the girls side, Highland sophomore Emily Hadler made her first D-I state tournament appearance in 2017 while winning her second Gazette MVP award.

In a 30-1 senior season, Hanna’s only loss was a 6-4, 6-4 setback in the semifinals to eventual state champion Nicholas Williams of Cincinnati Seven Hills. The four-time Gazette MVP finished his prep career with 105 victories, second in county history to Cloverleaf’s Ethan Dunbar (120).

“To watch Austin grow as a person and an athlete was wonderful to see,” Colts coach Mike McGee said. “From a very shy freshman who didn’t quite know how to take his teammates’ antics, he developed into a team leader who taught them strategy and would happily take part in those antics.

“It was a tremendous four years with Austin, and the team and I are going to miss this very special player.”

10. Powerful performance

With junior and two-time Gazette MVP Kacie Evans leading the way, the Wadsworth volleyball team defeated county rival Brunswick in a five-game classic for the Strongsville D-I District title and Norwalk Regional berth.

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Wadsworth's Kacie Evans (27) celebrates during the Grizzlies District championship match against Brunswick.

RON SCHWANE / GAZETTE Enlarge

“Two words: Kacie Evans,” Brunswick coach Mande Luttner said of the Georgia recruit. “She is the greatest player I’ve ever seen. Any college coach in America who watched her at this district would offer a full ride on the spot, no questions asked. There isn’t a single weakness in her game. She literally can do it all.”

The 6-foot Evans, a first-team All-Ohio pick and district player of the year, led the state with 474 kills. She was also first in the county with 5.75 digs per game while getting help from teammates like Stacy Witschey and Evelyn Haydu as the Grizzlies finished 16-10.

Evans was at her best with a school-postseason-record 31 kills in a four-game district semifinal triumph over North Royalton, which had beaten Wadsworth twice in the regular season.

“Kacie was called for being in the net when we all didn’t think she was,” setter Witschey recalled. “She got very fired up, looked at me and said, ‘Stacy, give it to me!’ Honestly, I laughed because I knew she was about to kill whatever I set her.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.



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