Congratulations, intrepid Ohio State fan. You've somehow summoned up all of your powers of perseverance and survived for the past 48 hours. You've read every tweet making comparisons between Jim Tressel and Hitler, listened to every radio show telling you about how you (yes, you) are personally responsible for the predicament Ohio State football currently finds itself in, and read every article gleefully detailing the staining of a decent man's overall image using florid, apocalyptic imagery more suitable for an account of the overthrow of Housni Mubarak.
Of course, given the general chaos of the last few months (Tatgate, the Sugar Bowl, the basketball team, Tresselmania), you could be forgiven for having a slightly skewed sense of scope when it comes to Ohio State athletics. Eleven Warriors isn't immune from this either of course; football and basketball naturally dominate what we write about because A) they're both extremely popular, B) people enjoy reading about them, and C) surprisingly we do not have a women's ice hockey expert on staff. With that said, today I wanted to focus not on shenanigans related to Jim Tressel and the football team, but on other student-athletes and varsity sports at Ohio State that don't begin with the prefix "basket-" or "foot-".
The Midwest Fencing Conference Championships took place on March 5th and 6th, and the Ohio State teams flat out dominated. The men took first place in Epee, Foil, and Sabre, while the women won in Sabre. Overall, Ohio State managed to grab 7 of 24 possible medals in the individual competition. In the team portion of the event, held on March 6th, Ohio State ultimately finished second to top ranked Notre Dame. Tough loss, but OSU fencing remains a powerhouse, and has won 4 of the last 6 MFCCs.
Erika Benford, a coxswain (she's in charge of the boat) for the women's rowing team, was named as a semifinalist in the Coach Wooden Citizen's Cup. Erika is a huge fan of the American Cancer Society, and in her four years at Ohio State she's helped raise over $20,000 for various cancer related causes, including personally raising $4,200 dollars in 2009 for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. Given the other charities and volunteer organizations she's involved with (Habitat For Humanity, 2nd & Seven Reading Foundation, the Girl Scouts) and the fact that she's a rower, she is likely to be an extremely gracious winner when she beats you at arm wrestling.
In one of the 8 NRA Air Pistol Sectionals, which was hosted in Columbus, pistol team member Aaron Tourigny finished with a score of 558 and placed first in the competition. The top scores from sectionals held around the country will converge on Fort Benning in Georgia for the NRA Intercollegiate Pistol Championships on March 17th-19th. The US Military Academy is currently the top team in the country, but honestly this is probably a competition that they might have something of an advantage in. Best of luck to Aaron.
On a recent road trip, the athletic department asked pitcher Audrey Plant to write a blog about the goings on with the softball team on their trip. It's a pretty terrific account of goofy bus drivers, her getting stuck in fences, her teammates getting stuck in stairwells, and her getting hit in the face with luggage. Summarized in a video:
The softball team isn't very good, but from Audrey's blog it's pretty evident the kind of camaraderie they have, and that they all really enjoy doing what they do. Teams don't have to be world-beaters to be easy to root for, and I think Audrey and her teammates exemplify that.
Shawn Sangrey was recently named Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Offensive Player of the Week. Shawn averages over 5 points per set, and leads the team in a bunch of categories, including kills and aces per set. I consider myself to be a semi-athletic dude, but volleyball was a sport I could never wrap my hear around, so I'm definitely envious of another big lanky dude who can do all that stuff that I can't. OSU men's volleyball on the whole is also pretty good, and are ranked 4th in the country. They'll be playing at St. John's on Friday at 7, so check em out.
Ohio State sponsors 39 varsity sports. One of them, the one we all stake our happiness on for about 5 months every year, is going through a scandal. Fans and the media will grind their teeth and spit fire and brimstone for months, alternately slandering and venerating a man who made a simple, and foolish mistake. Meanwhile, the 38 other teams and hundreds of student-athletes will, in relative anonymity, continue to devote an enormous amount of time and energy to the sports they love.
My point with this post isn't to divert your attention away from what's been going on at the WHAC (not totally, anyway). The Tressel story is a big one, and we'll have plenty to talk about and dissect over the coming weeks and months. But what I want to make clear is that nothing Jim Tressel or a few of his players has done should color the perception of the work that other Ohio State athletes do in other sports. Audrey Plant didn't get discounted tattoos by selling a pair of gold pants. Aaron Tourigny didn't file a report to the NCAA last September saying his teammates were compliant with NCAA rules, even though he knew they weren't. Erika Benford didn't convince the NCAA to let her teammates row in a competition even though they had already been suspended.
It's been pointed out on this site before, but the nature of the beast when it comes to college sports fandom is that entire universities can be defined by the worst actions of the most visible team. That's unfortunate, especially when other Ohio State athletes are doing great things, and doing them the right way.