It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy!
Last week, veteran Aurora schools physical education teacher and Harmon School assistant wrestling coach Mike DeMay saw the Harmon wrestlers win their 300th and 301st matches since he started coaching there 31 years ago.
His wife, Sue, and his parents witnessed the milestone, along with Ron Hegedish, who was Harmon wrestling's head coach for 22 of DeMay's 31 years.
During my 26 years covering the Aurora schools for the Advocate, many teachers and coaches have come and gone, but two have remained during my entire tenure -- DeMay and the legendary Dick Bliss, who's been with the high school varsity wrestling program for 41 years.
Bliss was named to the Ohio High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in the late 1990s and reached his 300th dual meet victory recently. I don't think there's a Hall of Fame for longtime assistant coaches, but if there was, DeMay would -- or should -- be among its ranks.
I've been a friend of DeMay's for many years. About three years ago, I took him down to my native Tuscarawas County to see the grave of Major League Baseball's all-time winningest pitcher -- Cy Young.
DeMay is a huge sports fan and has backed many Aurora High School and Harmon teams. His son and daughters have competed with the baseball and swimming programs, and his wife runs distance races several times a year.
AND HE especially loves baseball -- he was longtime AHS baseball head coach Jeff Pettitt's assistant coach for many years -- so I thought a trip to the hills of Tuscarawas to see Cy's final resting place would be an exciting day for him.
He really enjoyed it, seeing the grave with a baseball with wings carved into the tombstone in the cemetery at a former church outside of Peoli.
DeMay is a laid back guy, who never seems to get angry at anything. But that doesn't mean he's a quiet guy. He loves to talk about sports.
When I emailed him a photo that I had in my archives of him kneeling beside Cy's grave prior to the Advocate's Jan. 9 story about him nearing his 300th victory, he responded: "The Tribe sure could use two or three Cys right now!"
Dedicated coaches like DeMay and Bliss are why I enjoy following high school sports more than the pros. They can positively shape the lives of those they coach.
They put in long hours, but don't get the big bucks that big-time college and pro coaches get. But their guidance can help athletes to become hard workers as adults.
I've been privileged to follow the accomplishments of many longtime high school coaches over the past half century, and will remember some of them as long as I live.
Just last week, the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced it will recognize longtime boys basketball coach Richard Potts at the state tournament in March.
WHEN I began my journalism career in Belmont County in the 1970s, he was coaching at River High School in Monroe County, the county just south of Belmont, and I remember his name well.
He coached for 40 seasons -- also at Bethel and Skyvue in Monroe County -- and amassed 589 victories, the most of any Ohio Valley basketball coach and among the top 10 winningest in Ohio.
In 1957, his Bethel Blackhawk team advanced to the Class A state finals and lost by one point. The entire school had 13 boys and all but one of them was on the basketball team. Amazing!
Of course, Aurora had another longtime coach who compiled a lot of wins -- Dick Doughman -- whose boys basketball teams registered 329 victories.
Some other longtime Ohio high school basketball coaches who I'm familiar with are Charlie Huggins (398 wins), Jack Van Reeth (844 wins guiding boys and girls teams), Jim Lower (453 wins), Dan Schwieterman (449 wins), Frank Lupica (430), Karen Wittrock (657 wins), Perry Reese (321 wins) and Dave Schlabach (439 wins).
Dick Kortokrax of Kalida, Ohio's all-time winningest boys basketball coach, is in his 52nd year!
The teams that those veterans have coached have provided hundreds of thrills for myself and many high school fans. And many younger ones will follow in their footsteps.
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