OWU Rugby wraps up fall season

By Ross Hickenbottom, Sports Editor

The Ohio Wesleyan club Rugby men’s and women’s squads recently wrapped up it’s fall seasons, both being named semifinalists in their conference championship tour- naments. The women are part of the Ohio Valley Women’s Collegiate Rugby Conference, along with NCAC rivals Hiram, Denison, Kenyon, Oberlin and Wittenberg, and the men are part of the Great Lakes Collegiate Rugby Confer- ence Central Division along with Denison Kenyon and Oberlin.

Both squads began their fall season as early as August 31, just a week after classes began at OWU. Their seasons consisted of games versus much larger schools including Xavier University, Ashland and the University of Kentucky. With only seven weeks of contests before the National Small College Rugby Organization playoffs.

Coach John English, who began coaching the men’s program midway through the spring of 2014, and in the fall of 2015, took over as the Director of Rugby for both men’s and women’s programs, set a goal to put Ohio Wesleyan University Rugby on the forefront of Ohio rugby.

“There has been great support for the rugby program from everyone at OWU, from the President all the way down,” he said.

“The university does a great job in recognizing the success of the players and program as a whole.”

As far as putting OWU on the map for Rugby, he has done just that. Both teams finished with winning seasons, and chalked up impressive numbers against opponents such as men’s wins over Oberlin 68-0 and Ashland 87-14, and a staggering women’s win over Wittenberg 55-7.

The OWU Rugby program continues to grow and gain relevance on campus through constant recruiting and adver- tisement among campus. The men’s team fielded 20 players in their first bout of the 2016 fall season while the women’s team fielded 25. Both numbers have shown an increase as compared to previous years in the program.

On Saturday the 29th, the men ended their season with a hard fought loss against the Jackets from Baldwin Wallace, 14-46 while the women ended theirs with a loss to the Oilers from Findlay 25-0.

The OWU Rugby teams are clubs of men and women student-athletes committed to the constant pursuit of perfect pitch, and are always recruiting.

Sports icons lost in 2016

By Ross Hickenbottom, Sports Editor

On Sunday, the 25th of September, I received two ESPN notifications on my phone of deaths
in the sports world; Miami Marlins ace pitcher Jose Fernandez and legendary golf icon, Arnold Palmer. Two in one day is bad enough, but in 2016 alone there have been over 30 “notable” deaths to accompany these tragic losses. Icons lost in 2016 such as Muhammad Ali, Dave Mirra, Gordie Howe, Pearl Washington, Pat Summitt, Buddy Ryan, Dennis Green, John Saunders and Kimbo Slice impacted their respective sports in ways someone like me could only dream to do.

I’d call myself a lover of anything and everything sports, and I have been for as long as I can remember. My very first sports loss I experienced as a fan was on February 18, 2001. The death of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt. My family, especially my father and late grandfather loved to watch the “Intimidator” race, and succeed while doing so. This love rubbed off on me and developed me into a die-hard “#3” fan, and at the age of 7, his death devastated me. I couldn’t believe it. How could someone so untouchable and godly on the track be so vulnerable?

The fact that these men and women served as such iconic and influential individuals towards the evolution of not only their sports, but social issues like racial barriers, gender equality and religious freedom makes their deaths that much harder to cope, but also makes their legacies left behind that much greater to remember.

Elite human beings, including the names I previously listed, took it upon themselves to improve the culture and competitiveness of their game. Every single day of their professional lives, and the days it took them to become profession- als, were dedicated to “the cause.” Whether it was to become an 8-time NCAA Champion like Pat Summitt, or to become a Gold Medalist boxer like Muhammad Ali, they laid it all on the line for one broad and everlasting asset in their lives; sports. Sports have contributed so many life lessons and opportunities to my life alone, and I’m sure any athlete can say the same.

The last thing I want to do is undermine or overshadow the tragic losses of anyone else lost in the year 2016, or any year at that. Instead, I wish to shine a light on the toll the world takes when someone belonging to simple as a sports franchise is lost. It goes far beyond athletics. They could’ve stopped at becoming famous for their success in sports, yet these fallen titans took it several steps beyond that by using their success on the field of play to further their influence into aspects of life they cared so dearly for. We’ve all seen or possibly even reaped from the actions and commitments of these worldly figures, and I feel that part of my responsibility as a journalist and sports fan is to help revive their legacies and reflect on their impacts.

2016 has been a year to remember in sports, from celebration to lamentation.

Missler’s mark on OWU baseball

Ryan Missler. Photo courtesy of owu.edu.
Ryan Missler. Photo courtesy of owu.edu.

Ross Hickenbottom, Sports Editor

Anyone strolling along the Ohio Wesleyan campus over the past few years has probably noticed the new and more recognizable red hats the baseball teams wear, but not everyone knows the story behind them.

OWU’s baseball program is well-known among baseball fans in the U.S. because of alumni like Branch Rickey, who helped his agent, Jackie Robinson, break the color barrier of professional baseball in 1945.

Additionally, Tim Corbin, current Vanderbilt baseball head coach, created an elite program at the Division I college in Tennessee by winning multiple SEC Championships and a National Championship.

But among the OWU baseball program, one name is constantly being thought of and commemorated: Ryan Missler.

Missler, who died in August 2014, left a legacy behind at OWU when he graduated in 1998, going down as one of the best baseball players to ever step foot onto the diamond, according to his former coaches.

The former standout third baseman was 38 when he was involved in the crash that served as a loss to not only the OWU community, but to a wife, kids and numerous loved ones.

After hearing the news before the start of the 2014 season, the baseball team, led by the efforts of head coach Tyler Mott, decided that Missler deserved proper recognition and memorial, so they changed their caps to resemble those that Missler and his teammates wore during his career here.

The hat was red and included a black capital “W” as well as the number “7,” Missler’s number, which was retired for the remainder of OWU baseball history.

Missler, with a career batting average of .400, falls into fifth place in the OWU record books, as well as holding the record for most home runs in a season.

Though elite, his baseball skills aren’t entirely what compose the many memories he left behind. Missler was an exceptional person, as well as student, as told by his former coaches, including Fody Frentsos, current assistant coach.

Frentsos recalled a specific story, in which Missler brought humor and positivity to a situation involving quite the opposite feelings felt by a teammate and left-hand man, his shortstop.  He shined in his leadership skills, by not only his words, but through his actions and never-ending thirst to succeed.

Roger Ingles, current OWU director of athletics, used to be heavily involved in the OWU baseball team, serving as a coach for multiple years. He said Missler always showed up ready to play hard.

“Everybody else kind of followed suit, because you had a guy that plays like that every day,” he said. “It just rubs off on everyone else.”

A player like Missler still serves as a mold for current OWU baseball players.

Justin Dages, senior shortstop, said Coach Mott views the hat as something that needs to be worked for and earned.

“The hat is the one thing that coaches hold back until we pass our fitness test, because of what it represents, which is those we have lost in our program: Ryan [Missler], and now [Brandon] Sega as well,” Dages said. “It also represents everyone who wore the uniform before us in this program and every time we put it on we play not only for each other, but for all of those who came before us.”

The players understand that the game of baseball goes past the diamond or batting cage by wearing these caps.

Spring Spotlight: Ahmed Abdel Halim

Ahmed Abdel Halim. Photo courtesy of battlingbishops.com.
Ahmed Abdel Halim. Photo courtesy of battlingbishops.com.

Ross Hickenbottom, Sports Editor

Olivia Lease, Online Editor

Track athlete Ahmed Abdel Halim starts off his senior season on a high, being named athlete of the week twice already and taking home gold in the three competitions he has participated in.

Halim is in his fourth year of competing in the triple jump for the Bishops. He has increased his personal best every track season.

In high school, Halim played six sports. Yes, six of them, but triple jump wasn’t a part of his athletic arsenal back then, just high jump. He had participated in track first when he lived in England, and since then stayed with it.

He said, “I really wanted to focus on track to see what my potential could be if I put absolutely everything into it.”

Halim is currently the top-ranked triple jumper in the state of Ohio and third in the United States for Division III schools. He said, “It’s just a huge honor to be in the position I’m in at this point and I want to capitalize on this opportunity I have in front of me.”

He said he hopes to ultimately qualify in the long jump and triple, and go on to win in the triple jump on the national stage.

So far, Halim is reaching that goal seeing as he broke a school record on March 26 at the Cedarville Yellow Jacket Collegiate Outdoor Open.  On his first triple jump of the day, he turned in a 47-9¾, which helped win the event and break the school record of 47-7¼ set by Craig Neeley in 2000.

Coach Kris Boey is in his 14th season as head track coach at Ohio Wesleyan, where he has witnessed plenty of successful track athletes and says that Halim is ” definitely a team player. He personifies what we would want from any of our athletes. He cares as much, if not more about others success, compared to his.”

Assistant Coach Seth McGuffin said he has seen Halim grow as an athlete since his freshman year.

OWU track and field just won the indoor conference title for the first time since 2010 and McGuffin said, “Ahmed was a huge part in that and it will carry over for us this outdoor season as we look to win the outdoor title.” He said he is proud of Halim for earning the title of All-American honors indoors since that has been a goal his whole career.

Words used to describe Halim from his coaches, whom are around Halim more than most, are, “persistent, hard-working and passionate.”

The same sort of compliments on behalf of Halim were given by his teammate and friend, Aaron Port, a fellow senior track athlete, who said, “the guy is just day in and day out with taking care of his body so that he can perform to his full potential and being one of the hardest workers as well.”

Port added, “Not only does he worry about himself though, he is always reaching out to help other people on the team. The record and NCAA championship aren’t out of the picture.”

Along with the team’s success, Halim looks to continue his own, as the indoor season progresses and the outdoor season approaches.

The men’s track and field team will compete next at the All-Ohio Division III Championship on April 16, in Selby Stadium on the George Gauthier Track.

Halim is majoring in international studies and minoring in religion. His hometown is Cairo, Egypt but he grew up in England until moving to Toledo, Ohio. His parents now reside in Sparks, Nevada.

Reflecting on a record-breaking season

Ross Hickenbottom, Sports Editor

“Fun.” “Immaculate.” “Unforgettable.”

Those were some of the words Ohio Wesleyan men’s basketball team used to describe the record-breaking season that, just as every other season without an NCAA Championship, ended too soon.

The team traveled to Lisle, Illinois on March 11 for their game against Benedictine, who handed them their fifth and final loss of the season.

“I have never enjoyed the game so much in my life,” said senior Matt Jeske.  “All of that is attributed to my exceptional teammates, coaches and the chemistry between all of us.”

Along with Jeske, the underclassmen will say goodbye to three other seniors, as well as key players: Claude Grey, Zak Davis and Joey Kinsley.

Jeske has “no doubt that the work ethic and desire for success will remain constant, and these guys can have an even better season next year.”

Sophomore Seth Clark, junior Ben Simpson and Nate Axelrod, who was recently named Division II All-American, said they are ready to continue the winning tradition they have experienced for the past two years.

Simpson, who finished the season averaging a double-double and shooting .567 from the field, said, “This team this past year was probably one of the teams we’ve had here at OWU, and we will play with a chip on our shoulder next year.”

Seth Clark is one of the younger guys on the team and has scored 15.5 points per game and 30 out of 30 games played.

He said he also believes that the underclassmen on the team learned positive habits and consistency through this season’s seniors. “We have some young guys [who] have learned from the seniors and are ready to take on a bigger role,” Clark said.

Coach Mike DeWitt said he credits his strong winning tradition to the “quality of players I’ve had the opportunity to coach here.”

Jeske said DeWitt taught him “a lot throughout the years, but most importantly, he has shown me how to expect success, yet be humble when it comes.”

Along with some new faces, the All-NCAC trio of Simpson, Clark and Axelrod said they are looking forward to picking up where they left off next season.