Ballpark Frank: Despite the current state of affairs, the 2019-20 school year was a beautiful one for Tallmadge sports

FRANK ACETO
Reporter
Tallmadge's Isaiah Johnson defends Austintown Fitch's Jackson Detchon during the winter.

Now that we’re about halfway through the year, we have learned this painful lesson about our once normal planet.

2020 has been downright repugnant thus far.

Due to a deadly respiratory tract infection known as COVID-19, our lives have gone through a massive overhaul in the last three months.

We’ve been forced to stay home where we’ve become restless, impatient and most of all, scared out of our wits.

Fortunately, a return to normal life is slowly making a comeback as businesses have reopened across the nation. Some sports have returned to their respective domains as well.

When you work in my profession, that’s definitely a beautiful thing.

Trust me, I was 100% sincere when I came to this conclusion: Typing out results from recent golf tournaments put a bigger smile on my face than anything else I’ve typed since the pandemic began.

“Yay, I finally have something to report!” I thought to myself.

Nevertheless, I, along with the rest of the human race, yearn for the days when I didn’t have to feel terrified if I got an occasional sniffle.

It may seem like it happened in the middle ages, but it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t terribly long ago when our daily routine didn’t include social distancing, wearing masks and worst of all, staying home 24/7.

As for Tallmadge fans, it wasn’t terribly long ago when they witnessed an extraordinary amount of excellence from their favorite athletes.

Remember the wheelchair basketball team?

Thanks mainly to the amazing talents of 2020 Tallmadge graduates Isaiah Johnson and Brennan Heavilin, the Blue Devils’ wheelchair squad advanced to The Adaptive Sports Program of Ohio state championship game for the third consecutive year.

Tallmadge finished 13-4 during the winter and all of its losses took place against the same team: Wooster, which has won three consecutive state titles.

I’m sure you remember Jesse Kanatzar, right?

The 2020 Tallmadge graduate concluded his brilliant career when he advanced to the Division II state wrestling tournament for the first time.

Sadly, COVID-19 robbed the 182-pound Kanatzar of his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Since the virus had been spreading rapidly throughout the world, the Ohio High School Athletic Association suspended and then eventually canceled the rest of its winter sports season.

Therefore, Kanatzar, who plans to wrestle and play football at John Carroll University in University Heights, didn’t get a chance to participate in Columbus.

Thankfully, the Tallmadge girls cross country team didn’t get cheated.

What did the Blue Devils accomplish on the trails during the fall? Quite a lot, actually.

Led by 2020 Tallmadge graduates Kenna Loveless and Ravyn Edge, the Blue Devils had their greatest season ever.

Tallmadge finished third at the Division II state cross country meet. Such a fact is pretty amazing since the Blue Devils had never reached the promised land as a team prior to 2019. Perhaps this could be an annual occasion on North Munroe Road. That’s because Katherine Carter, who, along with Loveless and Edge, qualified for the state competition as an individual, still has three more years of eligibility.

It seemed like it was only yesterday when bowling was not part of Tallmadge’s vernacular.

It’s safe to say that everybody knows the language now.

The boys bowlers had their greatest season ever after finishing sixth at the Division I state tournament. It was the Blue Devils’ second appearance at the state competition in the last three years.

Josh Parry, a 2020 Tallmadge graduate, was the first Blue Devil boy to advance to the state tournament as an individual.

Not to be outdone, the Tallmadge girls also made their second appearance in three years on the sport’s finest stage.

Like their male counterparts, the Blue Devils had their greatest season ever after placing eighth at the Division I state competition.

The girls team also featured a once-in-a-lifetime performer.

Kirsten Moore, a 2020 Tallmadge graduate, concluded her amazing career with a 12th-place finish in Columbus. She was a three-time state qualifier, which included a second-place finish in 2018.

Is Moore the greatest female bowler in Tallmadge history? My response? Absolutely!

As for Tommy Naiman, I can say with absolute confidence that he’s not the best distance runner in school history.

Not yet, at least.

The rising senior has a chance to add to his already impressive legacy after advancing to the Division II state cross country meet last year.

As always, the Tallmadge volleyball team continued to electrify its fans on a regular basis. The Blue Devils finished 19-6 last fall and advanced to a Division II district title match for the third consecutive year. Prior to its loss in the district final, Tallmadge won eight consecutive matches.

Much like Moore, 2020 Tallmadge graduate Lizzie Bickar can make a strong case for being called the greatest girls golfer of all time.

I won’t argue with that.

Bickar won a Division I sectional title during the fall and set three school records.

She’s pretty decent at basketball, too.

Bickar scored more than 1,000 points during her stellar career and led Tallmadge to district play. Not bad for a team that featured two freshmen and a sophomore in the starting lineup throughout the season.

Rising senior Darin Hudak hopes to become the Blue Devils’ first state qualifier on the golf course since Zach Mosholder in 2012.

Regardless if he reaches his coveted destination, Hudak will go down as one of the all-time greats. He advanced to district play last fall and his nine-hole score of 32 back in August tied a 20-year school record.

Last but not least, I want to give a shout out to Brandon Heigelmann.

Although the Tallmadge boys basketball team didn’t have a winning season, its scintillating 6-foot-4 guard concluded a brilliant career on the hardwood with more than 1,000 career points.

Heigelmann earned All-Ohio honors during the winter and his 45-point effort during the Blue Devils’ double-overtime victory over Aurora is one of the greatest performances this reporter has ever witnessed.

As for the spring athletes, I feel your sorrow. Due to the pandemic, the entire spring season was canceled. Thus, a handful of promising athletes did not get a chance to showcase their talents on the baseball and softball diamonds, the track or the tennis courts.

My heart goes out to those young men and women, particularly the graduating seniors, who saw their athletic swan song ruthlessly taken away from them.

Congratulations to all of the athletes for their spectacular accomplishments during the 2019-20 school year.

Stay safe and whenever the world allows us, I hope to see many of you again down the road.

Without the masks, of course.

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, faceto@recordpub.com or @Faceto_Gannett.