By JAMIE BAKER
Prep sports dominated the local sports scene in 2016.
There was success at the state tournament level for area prep teams and athletes, coaches coming and going and the passing of a women’s golf icon during the past year.
We’ve compiled a list of the top local sports stories in the Courier’s coverage area over the past 12 months. The stories were ranked from 1-10 by The Courier sports staff.
Here are the top 10 local sports stories from the past year.
1.) Kalida’s Dick Kortokrax steps aside.
On April 22, in what was more of a forced resignation than a retirement, Kortokrax stepped aside after 41 years as Kalida’s boys basketball coach and a career that spanned 56 years overall.
Kortokrax, whose 890 career wins are a state record, was hoping to win the approval of the Kalida Board of Education to return as the Wildcats’ head coach. When he learned he would not be recommended for another season at Kalida, he announced he would retire.
In a question-and-answer period following the announcement, Kortokrax, who turned 83 in August, said he had hoped to coach at least one more season.
“I wanted one more year, to try to take these juniors and see what we could do,” he said. “I was told it was time for a change. The president of the Board said people came to him and said, “No one supports you (Kortokrax) anymore.”
Kortokrax coached in 1,261 games, posted an 890-371 career record and won 24 PCL championships at three Putnam County schools within 10 miles of each other: Fort Jennings (26-18, 1959-61), Ottoville (199-82, 1961-1974) and Kalida (665-217, 1974-2016). He was named PCL Coach of the Year 18 times, including the past two seasons after leading Kalida to back-to-back league titles. The Wildcats finished 13-10 in 2014-15 and 13-9 this past season after losing their first tournament game both years.
Kortokrax guided Kalida to a 27-1 record during a 1980-81 season that was capped by a Class A state championship. He took Kalida back to state in 1988, and to a Division IV state runner-up finish in 2009.
Kortokrax was elected into the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1999, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002, and the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012. He was also a finalist for the 2003 National High School Athletic Coaches Association boys basketball coach of the year honors.
2.) L-B’s Michaela Butler has historic state track meet.
Liberty-Benton’s Michaela Butler ended her career just like she started it four years ago at the OHSAA Division II track and field championships at Ohio State’s Jesse Owens Stadium — atop the podium as the 200-meter dash champion.
As she contemplated a four-peat in Saturday’s final, Butler said she felt a twinge of butterflies and pressure.
“It was a little nerve-wracking before the race,” she said. “Before I got in my blocks I was able to calm down a little bit, take a couple of deep breaths and lower my heart rate.”
Thus settled, Butler got out quickly from the blocks and dominated the race. She won in 24.65 seconds, a comfortable .34-second margin ahead of Rossford’s Regan Clay.
The 200 win, coupled with Butler’s third consecutive state title in the 100 earlier Saturday, gave the Notre Dame-bound runner seven individual state championships in her career.
3.) St. Wendelin, O-G girls basketball teams fall in state girls basketball finals.
Magical seasons for the St. Wendelin and Ottawa-Glandorf girls basketball teams ended on the floor of Value City Arena on March 12 in the finals of the OHSAA state tournament.
St. Wendelin, which won a lot of close games during its tournament run, lost a close one to Waterford in the Division IV state final.
A steal by Hailee Burns gave the Mohawks possession of the ball with 33 seconds left and the score tied at 27-27. St. Wendelin called a quick timeout to set up the offense.
That opportunity slipped away as a steal by Waterford’s Ali Kern and a layup by teammate Megan Ball with 13 seconds to play sealed St. Wendelin’s fate as the Wildcats won the championship with a 29-27 victory.
St. Wendelin had a chance to tie, but Kamryn Troike’s layup with a second remaining went left of the rim.
For a four-minute span in the third and fourth quarters of Ottawa-Glandorf’s Division II state final basketball game against Kettering Alter, everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Titans.
Starting forward Kadie Hempfling left the game with a broken finger. Starting post Kylie White fouled out. On top of that, Kettering Alter’s Braxtin Miller was unstoppable in the second half.
After Hempfling’s injury, Kettering Alter went on a 19-1 run in the third and fourth quarters to build a 22-point lead. The Knights cruised the rest of the game as they defended their state title with a 74-48 win.
4.) Findlay native, women’s golf pioneer Peg Kirk Bell dies at age 95.
Findlay native and Ladies Professional Golf Association pioneer Peg Kirk Bell died in her North Carolina home on Nov. 23 at the age of 95.
Bell was one of the most respected golf advocates and teachers in the country.
She was named the Findlay area’s top sports personality during the 20th century in a special series of stories published by The Courier in 1999.
How much of a mover and shaker was Bell?
In Bell’s obituary, her local newspaper, the Moore (N.C.) County Pilot, wrote that Bing Crosby serenaded Bell in the Pine Needles bar. Perry Como played her course. Jimmy Carter stayed at the lodge during the National Governors Convention. Rudy Vallee was a guest and she played golf with Jackie Gleason, Michael Jordan, and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
She spent most of her life in North Carolina at the Pine Needles golf resort and lodge that she and her late husband Warren “Bullet” Bell, also a Findlay native, bought in 1953 for $50,000
Bell’s roots were in Findlay.
A 1939 Findlay High graduate, Bell won three Ohio Amateur titles along with championships in the North-South Amateur, International Four-Ball, Everglades Two-Ball, Palm Beach Amateur, Titleholders and Eastern Amateur. Bell was a member of the 1950 Curtis Cup team and a year later took part in the Weathervane Team competition, the first LPGA event.
Bell was also the only woman golfer to compete in the four inaugural national events for female golfers. She played in the first National Intercollegiate Golf Tournament (1940); the first National LPGA Tournament; the first U.S. Women’s Open; and the first LPGA Seniors Teaching Division Tournament, which she won by eight strokes.
5.) Elmwood’s Dave Lee becomes Ohio’s first wrestling coach with 500 wins.
On Jan. 15, Elmwood wrestling coach Dave Lee because the first coach in Ohio prep wrestling history to win 500 career dual matches when the Royals stopped McComb 75-3 and Van Buren 69-12 in dual matches.
Already the Ohio’s all-time leader in dual-match wins, those two victories that night gave Lee a career record of 500-211. Second on the list is current Maple Heights head coach Jamie Milkovich who was 434-117-1 through last season.
In an age where schools are seemingly looking for head coaches for various sports every year, Lee has been a mainstay at Elmwood ever since taking over the school’s wrestling program during the 1987-88 season. Lee is the longest-tenured head coach among the 112 schools with wrestling in the Northwest District.
6.) Leipsic’s Gavin Cupp signs with Ohio State.
“Go Bucks,” Leipsic senior Gavin Cupp said, placing an Ohio State cap on his head after signing a national letter of intent with the Buckeyes.
That Feb. 3 signing with Ohio State’s football program completed a storybook — and at times stormy — recruiting journey for the 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman, who began drawing considerable Division I college interest after attending a number of camps between his sophomore and junior years.
A die-hard Ohio State fan, Cupp was hoping the Buckeyes would offer him a scholarship.
Wanting to make a decision before his senior season, and with no OSU offer yet on the table, Cupp made a non-binding verbal commitment to accept a scholarship offer from Michigan State.
Cupp then took part in an event called Friday Night Lights, a showcase held at Ohio State that brought in many of the top prep football prospects in the country. Cupp, who had attended a number of summer camps at Ohio State, has said he had Friday Night Lights penciled on his schedule before making the verbal commitment with Michigan State, and that he tried to contact MSU about taking part in the event, but could not reach anyone at the school.
Cupp was not the only MSU recruit at the 2015 Friday Night Lights. But when Michigan State learned he was the only one who took part in drills, his scholarship offer was withdrawn.
7.) McComb, Patrick Henry fall in football state semifinals.
In the end, a couple of teams from the Midwest Athletic Conference were too much for McComb and Patrick Henry to handle in the Division VII and VI state football semifinals respectively.
Minster’s Jared Huelsman scored on a 3-yard touchdown run that gave the Wildcats, who were on the verge of blowing a 21-0 first-half lead, a 27-23 victory over McComb in a Division VII state semifinal on Nov. 26 and a spot in the OHSAA state championship game.
Caden Schroeder scored on runs of 2 and 5 yards while Dakota Larue hauled in a 56-yard touchdown pass from Malachi Abbott for the Panthers’ other score.
In the Division VI state semifinals Marion Local had huge holes to run through and Patrick Henry had none as the Flyers rolled to a 36-7 win over the Patriots.
Marion Local outgained the Patriots 503-198. The Flyers gained 369 of those yards on the ground, paced by Nate Moeller’s 215 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Moeller added a 20-yard TD reception and had 100 receiving yards on six catches.
Patrick Henry, meanwhile, rushed for 90 yards on 36 attempts. Senior Donny Johnson, who ran for more than 2,400 yards this season and more than 5,000 in his career, was held to 86 yards on 29 carries. His longest run of the night was for 8 yards.
Patrick Henry finished its season at 13-1.
8.) Kasey Petty finishes second in NCAA women’s golf tournament.
University of Findlay senior Kasey Petty’s national championship hopes came down to the very last hole on May 23.
Grand Valley State’s Gabrielle Shipley scored a birdie on No. 18 to edge Petty for medalist honors by a single stroke on the final day of the NCAA Division II golf championships in Aurora, Colorado.
Petty and Shipley were tied for the lead entering the final hole at 5-under par.
Shipley drained a seven-foot birdie to finish the day with a 3-under par score of 69 in the final round. It was the lowest round of her career.
Petty, meanwhile, quickly took a lead on the fourth day with two birdies and an eagle during her first six holes. She then birdied the seventh hole after a bogey on six to get to 5-under. She closed her round with two straight pars while Shipley birdied two of her final four holes.
Petty finished the day with a 70 and completed the 72-hole tournament with 283 strokes. She helped the Oilers finish ninth with a school-record final score of 299-303-297-307–1,206.
9.) Arlington’s Thomas, Van Buren’s team finish second at state golf.
Van Buren’s boys golf team and Arlington’s Cole Thomas couldn’t help but feel mixed emotions following the final round of the OHSAA Division III state tournament at NorthStar Golf Club in Sunbury on Oct. 15.
Both were in contention to win a state title after Friday’s round. Both came up just short.
Van Buren, which entered the second round nine strokes back and in second place, shot a 330 on Saturday and posted a two-day total of 658 to finish runner-up to first-round leader Cincinnati Seven Hills (648).
Thomas, meanwhile, shot a 5-over 77 and finished runner-up as well with a 148. Columbiana’s Jared Wilson, who shared the first-round lead with Thomas, shot a second consecutive 71 to finish as the state champion with a 142.
10.) Bill Inselmann returns as Patrick Henry’s head football coach.
When Joe Kirkendall stepped down as the head football coach at Patrick Henry, Bill Inselmann stepped up.
“I’m looking to get back into coaching at Patrick Henry and not just for a couple of years,” Inselmann told The Courier when he was hired to return to the sidelines as PH’s football coach.
“This is a commitment to the players and the community. I’m coming back, and the good Lord willing and my health stays good it will be for one, two, three, however many years.”
Inselmann, who teaches in the Napoleon School District, opted to step down as Patrick Henry’s football coach after the 2013 season. He led the Patriots to a Northwest Ohio Athletic League title and Division VI state semifinal appearance in his return.
10.) Findlay Country Club hosts the Ohio Amateur.
On Jan. 19, the Ohio Golf Association announced that the 2016 Ohio Amateur Championship would return to the Findlay Country Club.
Findlay County Club last hosted the Ohio Amateur in 2008, the year the local club celebrated its 100th anniversary. The club was also the site for the Ohio Amateur in 1973.
The 112th edition of the Ohio Amateur was held July 12-16.
Dover native Ryan Troyer, carded 16 pars, a birdie and a bogey to fire an even-par 70 in the final round to win.