Local 2006 sports year filled with major changes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 14, 2007

It was a year of change.

First, Bob Lutz stepped down as the Ironton Fighting Tigers head football coach.

Former Ironton lineman Merril Triplett, who played on the 1973 state runner-up team, had the task of being the man to follow THE man as he replaced Lutz as head coach.

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Next came Amy Hughes’ departure as the Ironton girls basketball coach who accepted an offer from Chillicothe.

A late and surprising change came in August when Chesapeake boys’ head basketball coach Norm Persin was presented with an offer he couldn’t refuse and returned to Oak Hill for a “retirement” job.

Rock Hill and Green also changed boys basketball coaches as Adam Simpson and Dave Hopper, respectively, were hired to fill vacancies.

A change that has yet to be finished came with the announcement of Dan McDavid retiring as the South Point football coach at the end of the season. His replacement has not been named.


Chesapeake boys head basketball coach Norm Persin won his 500th career game as the Panthers beat River Valley 92-38.

Tommy Waginger, a 7th grade student at Ironton Junior High School, won the Elks district hoop shoot to earn a trip to the state meet.


Chesapeake won an 11th straight Ohio Valley Conference boys basketball championship. The Panthers are one title shy of tying the state record for consecutive league titles.

Dennis Gagai scored 29 points in Ironton’s 60-52 win over Portsmouth and became the all-time leading scorer in Fighting Tiger basketball history.

Gagai had 39 points as Ironton upset No. 1 ranked Class AAA Huntington, W.Va., 65-63.

The Coal Grove Lady Hornets and South Point Lady Pointers shared the OVC girls basketball championship.

The Ironton Lady Fighting Tigers won a fourth straight Division III sectional basketball championship.

Tommy Waginger finished second in the state Elks Hoop Shoot contest. Waginger and two others tied for first, but Waginger lost the title in a double overtime shootout.

Ironton, Chesapeake and Fairland boys won sectional titles.


Ironton’s Dennis Gagai was named the Associated Press Division III district Player of the Year and Mark LaFon Tri-Coach of the Year.

For the girls, Ironton’s Amy Hughes shared coach of the year honors.

The Ironton Lady Fighting Tigers tournament run ended with a double overtime 47-42 loss to Sugarcreek Garaway in the regional championship game.

The year’s biggest Cinderella story ended as Ironton shot only 30 percent and lost 57-54 to Wheelersburg in the regional finals.

Gagai was a first team All-Ohio selection in Division III.


Ironton’s Sara Hacker and Dennis Gagai and Chesapeake’s P.J. Rase were chosen to play in the Ohio-Kentucky All-Star Classic. Ironton’s Amy Hughes was named the Ohio girls’ head coach.

Chesapeake won its first outright OVC baseball championship since 1966 and its first sectional title in 20 years.

The Fairland Lady Dragons won the OVC softball title and Symmes Valley’s girls shared the SOC crown.


Ironton’s 34-year legendary head football coach Bob Lutz resigned with 341 wins, 71 losses and five ties, 24 playoff appearances, six state runners-up and two state championships. His team also had four Associated Press poll titles.

Ironton girls’ basketball coach Amy Hughes became the third head coach in less than a year to exit the athletic program after being hired by Chillicothe. Hughes left a 23-3 season at Ironton for the Lady Cavaliers who were only 3-18.

Chesapeake’s All-Ohio basketball standout P.J. Rase signed with Ohio Dominican while football stars Caleb McComas, a quarterback, and Jeffrey Thornburg, a wide receiver, inked to play at West Virginia Tech.

South Point’s boys won the OVC track title and a third straight district crown. The Rock Hill Redwomen claimed the girls OVC title.

The Ironton Lady Fighting Tigers track team finished as district runners-up in Division II while the Chesapeake boys took the Div. III district championship.

Former All-Ohio basketball player and high school coach Carl Large died at the age of 74. Large was a member of the University of Rio Grande Athletic Hall of Fame.

The 1934 and 1935 Waterloo Wonders were inducted into the Ohio Hoops Zone Hall of Fame.


Ironton’s Mandi Boykin qualified for the Division II state track meet along with John Pemberton in the shot put and Marc Carter in the 800-meter run.

South Point qualified hurdler Benji Smith, high jumper Ericka Leighty and 4×400 relay team Zach Norris, Josh Jones, David Absher and Aaron Patterson.

In Division III, Chesapeake qualified high jumper Brent Ransbottom, hurdler Jeffrey Thornburg, 200-meter sprinter Laura Fields and 4×400 relay team Adam Slone, Kenny Morgan, Caleb McComas and Thornburg.

Coal Grove’s Tyler Branch qualified in the shot put and discus.

In the state meet, Ransbottom won the high jump in Division III. Carter took second in the 800.

Boykin was fourth in the 100 and 200, Pemberton fourth in the shot put, Branch sixth in the shot put and seventh in the discus, and the Panthers 4×400 relay team was eighth.

Former Ironton running back Darius Lewis and Rock Hill defensive back K.C. Christian played in the North/South All-Star Classic. Rock Hill coach Todd Knipp was an assistant for the South team.

Shawnee State signed several local players including: Symmes Valley’s Mandi Estep (softball) and Megan Coomes (softball), and Green’s Derek Lewis (basketball), Brian Ramey (baseball) and Odie Kelly (baseball).

Merril Triplett was hired as Ironton’s new head football coach as he took on the difficult task of following the legendary Bob Lutz.


Clemson offensive guard Roman Fry, a former All-Ohio lineman for Ironton, was named one of 54 preseason candidates for the Outland Trophy that honors college football’s top lineman.

Ironton Lady Tigers forward Danielle Henderson signed to play basketball at Ohio Northern. Fairland All-Ohio guard Brianna Davis also signed to play basketball with the Lady Polar Bears.

West Virginia Tech signed two Ironton Fighting Tigers: catcher Dustin Preston for baseball and fullback Jared Murphy for football.

Rock Hill offensive lineman Ryan Bunker signed to play football at West Virginia Tech.

Ironton hired Doug Graham as the new girls head basketball coach.

Adam Simpson was named the new boys basketball coach at Rock Hill.

Norm Persin retired as the Chesapeake Panthers basketball coach after 21 seasons, and then took the job as the Oak Hill Oaks boys basketball coach.

South Point quarterback Chris Smith verbally committed to play football for Marshall University.

The Ironton Senior League All-Stars and Fairland Junior League All-Stars advanced to the state tournament.


Chesapeake High School named former Russell, Ky., and Ohio University Southern coach Ron Reed to replace Norm Persin as the boys basketball coach.

Ironton sophomore Nathan Kerns won Player of the Year honors for the 13-15 age division of the Tri-State Junior Golf Circuit.

Marshall head football coach Mark Snyder was given a contract extension through 2013.


Tyler Whaley, the All-Ohio lineman from Ironton who spent three seasons as a walk-on, was awarded a scholarship at Ohio State by head coach Jim Tressel.

In the meantime, former Ironton running back Marcus Williams and Rock Hill defensive back K.C. Christian earned a spot on the Ohio State roster as walk-ons.

Former Ironton All-Ohio lineman Roman Fry was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week for his play in a 27-20 win over Florida State.


Fry, a senior All-American guard and Outland Trophy candidate, suffered an ACL injury and was sidelined the last five regular season games.

South Point won the Ohio Valley Conference golf championship. The Pointers Justin Lewis was medalist.

Fairland won the OVC cross country championship and took third place as a team in the district meet. Chuckie Wentz was first overall in the OVC and third in the district for Fairland.

The Ironton Lady Tigers won the Division II sectional volleyball title and the Symmes Valley Lady Vikings claimed the Division IV sectional crown.

Ironton junior tennis standout Halee Hilgenberg qualified for the girls’ district tournament.


Fairland senior cross country runner Chuckie Wentz ran in the state meet, then later signed a letter-of-intent with Shawnee State University.

Ironton, under first-year head coach Merril Triplett Jr., was the only team in Lawrence and Scioto counties to qualify for the postseason playoffs. It was Ironton’s 25th appearance, tied for second in state history.

Coal Grove senior four-sport standout Tyler Branch announced he will attend Ohio State as a member of the men’s track team.

Trevor White, a sixth grade student at the Ironton Middle School, won the local and sectional Pepsi Punt, Pass & Kick competition and competed in the Ohio regionals at the Cincinnati Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium complex.

The Ironton Lady Fighting Tigers won their season opener over Fairland to give Doug Graham his first career victory.

Dan McDavid made it official when he resigned as the South Point football coach after guiding the team to the Ohio Valley Conference title and an upset win over Wheelersburg.

Marshall defensive lineman Albert McClellan was named the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year.

McClellan was joined on the C-USA first team by Marshall’s Ahmad Bradshaw, Cody Slate, Doug Legursky and Curtis Keyes. On the second team was Matt Couch and on the third team was Emmanuel Spann.

Herd defensive coordinator Jim Collins resigned.


Sara Hacker transferred from Glenville State to Marshall to play basketball for the Lady Herd.

The local sports world mourned the loss of colorful basketball coach John Eaton, a Fairland graduate, who had successful stops at Oak Hill, South Point and Wheelersburg where he led the Pirates to their first-ever state tournament appearance.

Green beat Portsmouth East for Dave Hopper’s first career wins as a boys’ basketball coach. Hopper replaced longtime Green coach Kevin Lewis who retired.

Also winning his debut was veteran coach Ron Reed for the Chesapeake boys who downed Portsmouth.