By Greg Gulas
A state championship bowling team and two individual state champions took center stage at Monday’s weekly Curbstone Coaches meeting.
All champions, crowned during their recently completed winter participations, ensured that the area remained well-represented at the state level through their various accomplishments.
Honored were swimmer Ryan Bailey of Boardman High and wrestler Gabe Stark of Howland and the Canfield boys bowling team.
“All athletes honored here today have one very important attribute and that is that they have all worked very hard while pursuing their goals,” said attorney Joe Maxin, the organization’s president. “Each is highly motivated and knows exactly what it takes in order to be a winner. There is absolutely no substitute for hard work in sports or any walk of life.”
Bailey was the Division I, 100-yard butterfly champion, also adding a fourth-place finish in the 100 breaststroke.
A three-time National Interscholastic Swim Coaches “High School All-American,” he finished third in the butterfly and eighth in the breaststroke in 2012 and will swim for the United States Naval Academy this fall.
“I’ve been with coach [Terry] O’Halloran since I was eight and along the way he not only taught me about swimming, but about life’s lessons as well,” Bailey said. “I’m very grateful for all that he has done for me.”
Bailey was also a seven-time, first-team All-Ohio selection, earning both Federal League “Male Performer of the Year” and Northeast Aquatic Conference “Male Swimmer of the Year” the past two years.
He is the current school record holder in the both the butterfly and breaststroke, and was also a part of the school’s record-setting 200 medley relay team as well.
Boardman swimmers have now qualified for 14 consecutive Division I state meets with Bailey’s state title the school’s fourth overall, joining Tyler O’Halloran who won both the 50 and 100 freestlyle events in 2002 and 2003.
“Ryan represents everything great about the sport of swimming,” Terry O’Halloran said. “He dedicated himself to the hard work necessary to be a state champion. His family was always there to support him in all possible ways. The Boardman swimming family is excited to follow his swimming career at Navy and we will also sleep better at night knowing Ryan is training to protect us.”
Stark is second all-time at Howland with 127 career wins, while his 43 wins as a senior and 263 overall points are new Tigers standards.
In addition to his state title this past season, he is a district champion, has won two sectional titles, and is a four-time All-Trumbull County selection and two-time EOWL and All-American Conference “Wrestler of the Year.”
“Everybody wants to be a champion, but nobody wants to train like one,” Stark said. “It takes plenty of hard work, but when you can finally say that you are a champion, it really is a great feeling.”
Howland coach, Bill Beasom added, “Gabe has been a pleasure to coach the past six years, proving anything can be achieved through hard work and dedication.”
Canfield’s boys bowling team entered the season with high expectations, yet it wasn’t until the Cardinals defeated Hubbard High in the final Baker game during the annual MLK Day Bowling Tournament that everything started to some together.
A 300 game by captain Mike Dercoli helped defeat All-American Conference rival Struthers for a second time; a record-setting 813 set by Ben Shoman in sectional action and Paul Harris’ 643 roll, which was good enough for third-place at state also were highlights of their championship season.
“We won the state title when it was hardest with all 308 teams in one division,” Dercoli said. “It’s a great feeling to be the first team to ever win state without any previous state experience.”
Other team members included Andrew Letscher, Anthony Bettile, Tyler Frklech, Andrew Jarvis, Austin Leonard, D.J. Cospy and Pete Bryne, all of whom contributed over the course of the season.
“This team persevered, but the biggest difference is that they grew over the course of the season and realized that they could win,” Cardinals coach Carl Hurd said. “These young men are honor students with true character and enthusiasm.”
Next week, the group’s final meeting of the year will feature NFL official Dick Creed as guest speaker.