Best of Columbus 2019: Editors' Picks for Sports

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly
Dwayne Haskins

School for Padawans

Columbus Saber Academy, 6400 Huntley Road, offers lightsaber training for aspiring Jedis of all ages. The techniques in the lightsaber training are martial arts based, but the weapons are the glowing, colored swords used by those in the Star Wars franchise. The classes run on Tuesday and Thursday nights, with open bouts on Sundays starting at 5:30 p.m.


The first two rounds of March Madness make for the wildest weekend in sports, and after the chaos this year, Columbus neuropsychologist Gregg Nigl had the only perfect bracket remaining in the country. He correctly predicted all 48 games of the opening weekend, an unheard-of feat, and got one more matchup right the next weekend before Purdue busted his bracket with an overtime win against Tennessee. Upside: unimpeachable bragging rights. Downside: He’s a Michigan fan.

All-Purpose Athlete

Instead of focusing on a single event in track and field, Olentangy Orange’s Grace Frye competes in just about everything. She is ranked in the top 16 in the area for discus, shot put, long jump, 100-meter hurdles, 200 hurdles, 300 hurdles, and the 4x400 meter relay team. Frye holds 12 school records and will continue her track and field career at Kent State University.

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Ohio State football fans came into the 2018 season wondering who could replace J.T. Barrett at quarterback. Then Dwayne Haskins set college football on fire, throwing for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns, breaking more than 20 Ohio State and four Big Ten Conference records and being named a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Haskins looks to continue his success in the NFL after being selected 15th overall by the Washington Redskins in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Rivalry Result

Last fall, George Labecki opened the door to his home near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to find Lindsay Arnold Wenrich dressed in the mascot’s costume of his favorite team, the Penn State Nittany Lions. Wenrich, a lifelong Ohio State devotee, put aside her fandom for the special visit to inform him that she would donate her kidney to Labecki, whom she’d never met. News outlets reported after the surgery that both were recovering well.

Odds Busters

To call the Tampa Bay Lightning a lock in the opening round of the playoffs against the Columbus Blue Jackets seemed like an understatement—the Lightning cruised to the NHL’s best record in decades, and the hot-and-cold Jackets had never won a series. But when the puck dropped, Columbus knocked out Tampa in one of the most improbable yet convincing beatdowns since Buster Douglas dethroned Mike Tyson nearly 30 years ago.

Stanley Cup Shade

Nationwide Arena’s Twitter account isn’t really known for talking trash, so people took notice when a tweet went out asking Jackets fans to leave their brooms at home before Game 4 against the Lightning. Sure, the tweet cited security concerns, but it seemed like a shot across the bow, albeit a prescient one as the Jackets completed the sweep later that day.

High School Signing Day

The big local winner of college signing day 2019 was New Albany High School, which saw 48 of its student-athletes win scholarships to continue their athletic careers, the most among Central Ohio high schools. The total more than doubled last year’s signing class, which featured 23 student-athletes with scholarships. From football to equestrian, New Albany will see many of its former athletes on the field at colleges including Ohio State, Georgia and Notre Dame.

Faceoff: Dynasties

Most championship teams do not become dynasties. It’s rarefied air. Yet Columbus lays claim to two at once—the Ohio State synchronized swimming team, which has dominated the sport from the start, and the Africentric Early College girls basketball team, which has reigned over high school’s Division III for more than a decade. Here’s the highlight reel:


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1996: Reason to Hire a Translator

“Mayor Greg Lashutka. Explaining the creation of a $70,000-a-year position in his office, he said, ‘I think as the issue of devolution continues to provide challenges, what we want to do is make sure we’re having some harmony in the strategic area—both outside and inside City Hall—one that allows us to keep monitoring and be an additional thinker on some of these more global issues.’ ”