Heidelberg’s football team captured the hearts and imagination of the campus with a stellar 2012 season. Following a 9-1 regular season, the team was given an at-large berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time since the tournament's creation in 1973. The regular season was capped off in dramatic fashion as Quentin Rembert blocked a potential game-winning field goal as time expired as the Student Princes beat OAC foe Baldwin-Wallace.
For one football player, however, there may be more icing on the cake. Senior linebacker Craig Sykes of Centerburg has been named a finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy, awarded to the top all-around student-athlete in NCAA Division III Football. He is the first finalist in Heidelberg history.
Sykes has started for the Heidelberg defense for four years and has served as the defensive signal caller, too. In 2012, he was named First Team All-OAC following a season where he recorded 87 tackles, two interceptions and seven pass deflections. For his career, Sykes finished with 255 tackles, including 22 for a loss. He snared six interceptions and forced four fumbles. In 2011, he was named a Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-American. He was named OAC Defensive Player of the Week twice.
Off of the football field, Sykes is the epitome of the ideal student-athlete. A biology major minoring in chemistry and Spanish, Sykes is preparing for a career in medicine. He is a seven-semester dean’s list recipient. He was selected as a Chester Summer Scholar, a highly competitive research program with MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland. He currently serves as an emergency room scribe at Blanchard Valley Hospital in Findlay. In the community, Sykes volunteers his time working with special needs students at the Seneca County Opportunity Center. He has also participated in Amigos de Arise and Heidelberg’s US-Mexico border trip.
Fitting in with the NCAA Division III ideals, the Gagliardi Trophy honors excellence in academics, athletics and community service. “We are very proud of Craig and his selection as a Gagliardi finalist,” said head football coach Mike Hallett. “His hard work and dedication have earned him great recognition, and is a worthy candidate for this outstanding award.”
The 10 finalists, screened and selected by the J-Club at St. John’s, will be voted on by a panel of 35 individuals which includes media members, former winners and several members of the College Football Hall of Fame.
For the fourth straight year, fans will collectively receive one vote for the Gagliardi Trohpy. To cast their ballot, fans should visit D3football.com.
The four finalists will be invited a banquet on Wednesday, Dec. 12, in Salem, Va., where the winner will be announced as part of the Stagg Bowl festivities.
In other football news, seven players received All-OAC First Team honors, while an additional six were named to the Second Team. Offensively, Rembert, Cartel Brooks and C.J. Powell were first-team selections, while Austin Hunter and Mike Lehman were second team selections. On defense, Craig Sykes, Dawson Gore, Stephen Fejedelem and Ben Poirier received first-team honors and Chadd Williamson, Justin Suddeth and Adam Cepik were on the second team. Robert Gray was a second-team selection as a kick returner. Defensive Coordinator Scott Donaldson was named OAC Assistant Coach of the Year.
Heidelberg volleyball, coached by 13th-year head coach Jason Miller, had a successful season, despite the departure of three key seniors from the 2011 campaign. The team finished with a 19-15 record, despite playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Seniors Marian Bevington, Jacki Street and Rachel Ferguson led the team to the semifinals of the OAC Tournament and into the NCAA Regional Tournament, where they lost to eventual runner-up Calvin College. Bevington, who finished her career second in kills, was named First Team All-OAC and received AVCA All-Region Honors. Street and Amber Welfle received Second Team All-OAC honors. Tessa Benanzer was selected as a CoSIDA Academic All-American.
Men's soccer rebounded after a tough 2011 campaign, finishing fourth in the OAC and defeating Capital in the OAC quarterfinals. The team lost to Ohio Northern, ranked fifth in the nation, in the semifinals. Freshman Chris Koczak and senior Ryan Smith led the offensive effort for Heidelberg. Koczak notched 10 goals on the season and Smith, who converted from goalkeeper to forward this season, scored seven. Defender Erik Furst received All-OAC First Team honors, while Smith and midfielder Hamid Shariff received All-OAC Second Team honors. Koczak and Nico Samaniego were honorable mentions. Dr. Brian Haley, in his 23rd year as head coach, guided the team to a 10-7-3 record.
Women's soccer, featuring a roster loaded with freshmen and sophomores, battled their way to a 3-13-1 record. Goalkeeper Julie Cross finished second in the OAC with 125 saves. Coached by seventh-year head coach Nick Spell, Heidelberg won two OAC matches, 1-0 over Wilmington and 1-0 at Muskingum. Krista Blake, the team's lone senior, was named an All-OAC honorable mention.
Men’s and Women’s Cross Country
The men's and women's cross country teams, under the direction of Briana Hess, worked through a season plagued by injuries. On the men's side, David Kindall and Brad Palocko were the top two runners before they were slowed by injuries. The women were led by Bobbi Custer and Sophie Goobic. Both set new personal records during the season.