In addition to seeing the best 16 High School basketball teams in Ohio, one of the most exciting aspects to the annual OHSAA Boys Basketball Championships at the Schottenstein Center, is the annual “Circle of Champions” which honors former Ohio high school legends.
This year OHSAA recognized Lou Holtz, Troy Smith, Randy Gradishar, Lisa Cline, Chris “Beanie” Wells and Bob Golic. Cline, Wells and Smith were honored during the Division IV game, and Golic, Gradishar and Holtz were honored during the Division II game.
The Arena Guy chatted with several of the Ohio standouts, including Lou Holtz, who like everyone in Value City Arena, got caught up in the excitement of the thrilling Defiance overtime victory over the amazingly talented Cleveland Central Catholic team. As a TV analyst, he agreed that the fact Defiance had not been in the State Championships since 1940 provided a unique story angle to the thrilling victory of the underdog team. Even watching the game in the outside seats of a suite, fans recognized him and he was very gracious and kind to all who wanted to shake his hand or pose for a photo.
Also on hand to congratulate the 2015 “Circle of Champions” was Pittsburgh Pirates baseball great Al Oliver, who was honored in 2010. As a huge baseball fan, it was great to chat about the amazing 1970’s Pittsburgh Pirates teams that included Oliver and fellow All-Stars Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Manny Sanguillen, Bill Mazerowski, Dock Ellis, Matty Alou, Dave Cash, Richie Hebner and many more. Even today, he shakes his head in amazement at the unbelievable amount of talent on that team.
Being a transplant from Illinois and a Chicago Cubs fan, we talked about how a team with such incredible talent like Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Fergie Jenkins, Don Kessinger and more could not make it to the World Series! Oliver is also still baffled how the Cubs blew the 1969 Division title, and seemed proud that the following year the Pirates edged out the Cubs by five games to win the 1970 Division Title.
Mr. Oliver is truly one of the superstars of my childhood, and he was impressed that I have probably a dozen of his baseball cards. He’s moving quite a bit slower these days, but he has great enthusiasm for his baseball career and his association with Ohio sports.
This year’s ‘Circle of Champions’ honorees all have impressive credentials. Their accomplishments are listed below, as they appear on the OHSAA website, ohsaa.org.
Lisa Cline was an outstanding basketball player at Millersburg West Holmes High School and at Ohio State. In high school, she led the Knights to the first two of three-straight state championships in 1984 and ’85 while helping the team string together a state record 108 straight wins. She scored 2,958 career points, currently ranking third in Ohio girls history. She continues to hold the state record for points in a game (76) and points in a season when she averaged 37 points per game as a senior. At Ohio State, she helped the team win three Big Ten championships and a berth in the NCAA Sweet 16 all four years. She was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, league player of the year as a senior in 1989 and finished second on the Buckeyes’ career scoring list. Lisa has been inducted into both Ohio State’s Athletics Hall of Fame and the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame. Her brother, Mike, played basketball at Ohio State from 1976 to ’79 and was a senior captain. Lisa currently lives in central Ohio.
Chris “Beanie” Wells was an All-American running back and ran track at Akron Garfield High School before attending Ohio State on a football scholarship. As a full-time starter during his sophomore year in 2007, he rushed for 1,609 yards and 15 touchdowns, including 222 yards against Michigan. He was named first team All-Big Ten and second team All-American. Beanie gained nearly 1,200 yards his junior season despite missing three games with a foot injury. Ohio State was 33-6 during his three seasons and won three Big Ten championships. After his junior year he entered the NFL, where he was drafted in the first round by Arizona. During his four years with the Cardinals, he set a franchise record with 228 rushing yards against St. Louis in 2011 in a season that saw him rush for 1,047 yards and 10 touchdowns. A torn Achilles tendon in October 2013 has put his career on hold, but Beanie is continuing to rehab for a possible return to the NFL while working to complete his degree, donating time to charity and youth programs and also starting a broadcasting career. He resides in the Columbus area.
Troy Smith was a standout quarterback at Cleveland Glenville High School who also played basketball and ran track. He then attended Ohio State on a football scholarship, redshirting during OSU’s National Championship season in 2002 and becoming a starter midway through his sophomore year. Troy’s memorable senior season in 2006 saw him pass for 2,507 yards and 30 TDs, earn All-America honors and culminate with his selection as the Heisman Trophy winner, the sixth Buckeye to win the honor. He was especially effective during his career against Michigan, going 3-0 as a starter while accumulating nearly 1,200 total yards and accounting for nine TDs. This past fall his number ‘10’ was enshrined and permanently put on display at Ohio Stadium with other Buckeye greats and Heisman winners. Since leaving Ohio State, Troy has played in the NFL with the Ravens and 49ers and in the United and Canadian football Leagues. He is currently taking graduate classes at Ohio State, is a graduate assistant in the athletic department and is an advocate for youth fitness and health programs. Troy resides in the Columbus area.
Bob Golic was a standout football player and wrestler at Cleveland St. Joseph High School, where he won the state championship as a heavyweight wrestler in 1975. He went on to the University of Notre Dame, where he helped the football team win a national championship in 1977 and earned All-America honors in both football and wrestling. Following graduation in 1979, Bob spent 14 seasons in the NFL. Seven of those seasons were with Cleveland, where he was a three-time Pro Bowl nose guard, was twice named All-Pro and helped the Browns make the playoffs his final four years. His time in Cleveland was sandwiched by stops with the Patriots and Raiders. Following retirement in 1992, Bob has worked as a television actor, radio personality and sports commentator. He currently lives in Solon with his wife Karen and owns Bob Golic’s Sports Bar and Grille in downtown Cleveland. He is the older brother of ESPN sports personality Mike Golic, the co-host of the popular Mike and Mike in the Morning show.
Randy Gradishar was a standout football and basketball player at Warren Champion High School. He went on to star as a linebacker at both the collegiate and professional levels. While at Ohio State, Randy was a three-year starter who helped the Buckeyes win two Big Ten titles. In his senior year, Ohio State defeated Southern Cal in the 1974 Rose Bowl to complete a 10-0-1 season. He was a two-time consensus All-American and an Academic All-American. A first round draft pick of the Broncos, Randy played 10 years in Denver and was the centerpiece of the Orange Crush Defense. He was a seven-time Pro Bowl and five-time All-Pro selection, played in the 1978 Super Bowl and was the ‘78 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Never missing a game, many considered him one of the smartest and most instinctive NFL linebackers ever. Among his many accomplishments are selections to the Ohio State Athletics and College Football halls of fame and the Broncos Ring of Fame. In addition to his storied athletic career, Randy made three Goodwill USO tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. He currently works for Phil Long Dealerships and Mt. Carmel Center of Excellence, which provides wellness programs and transitional programs to veterans and their families. Randy and his wife Beth reside in Denver.
Lou Holtz grew up in East Liverpool before attending Kent State, where he played football for two years and earned his bachelor’s degree. He then embarked on a long and successful college football coaching career beginning in 1960. He was a grad or assistant coach at five schools over the next nine years including Ohio State, where he was on Coach Woody Hayes’ staff of the Buckeyes’ 1968 National Championship team. Next, he served as a collegiate head coach for 33 of the next 36 years before retiring from coaching following the 2004 season with 249 wins. His most successful stint was at Notre Dame, where his 11 teams won 100 games, ranking second to Knute Rockne in Fighting Irish victories. The 1988 Notre Dame team won the national championship and he was national coach of the year. Coach Holtz is currently seen on ESPN as a college football analyst and is a frequent motivational speaker. In 1998, he also helped form the Lou Holtz/Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame back in East Liverpool, where Ohio Valley greats in all fields are recognized and scholarships and grants are presented to students and teachers. Lou and his wife, Beth, reside in Orlando, Fla., and have four children including son Skip, the head football coach at Louisiana Tech.
Among the past inductees in the OHSAA Circle of Champions program include Archie Griffin; Clark Kellogg, LeBron James, Jerry Lucas, Al Oliver, Jesse Owens (posthumously), John Havlicek; Phil Niekro, Earle Bruce, Chris Spielman, Paul Warfield, and 33 others.