Kotterman held consecutive FT record
On a team of pure shooters, Tom Kotterman might have been the best of them.
Kotterman made 25 consecutive free throws, an Upper Sandusky High School record that stood for 34 years. On Friday night, Kotterman will be inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame.
Also a Northern Ohio League champion in the shot put and discus, the 1950 USHS graduate qualified for the state meet in the discus his senior year. Kotterman also played football his senior year and earned seven varsity letters.
Upper Sandusky’s basketball team went 14-8 during Kotterman’s senior season with a 5-2 mark in the Northern Ohio League. Shelby and Willard tied for the league championship with 6-1 records.
Kotterman said the Rams won most of their NOL games despite making fewer field goals than their opponent because the team excelled at the foul line.
“From the first night we walked into the gym to the last night we walked out before the last tournament game, we made 50 free throws,” Kotterman said. “You didn’t shoot 50. You made 50. The coach (Newt Oliver) thought it was a psychological advantage to make 50 and write down how many it took you. I think I only missed five free throws (all season). I went seven games without a missed free throw.”
Scott Elchert finally broke Kotterman’s school record in 1984.
Kotterman, who earned All-Ohio honorable mention, said he thinks his scoring average was between 10.5 and 11 points per game. Roy Moses led the team at 12.8, and the entire starting lineup scored at least 9.5 points per game.
“That’s about 60 points and that’s about all teams scored back then,” Kotterman said. “We were really balanced.”
During the team’s seven NOL games, Kotterman actually led the Rams in scoring at 14.0 points per game. Bob Long also outscored Moses in league games and Frank Leightey was in the top 10 in league-only scoring, exemplifying the team’s balance.
Upper Sandusky rolled past Madison in its opening tournament game but was topped, 41-30, by Ashland in the sectional championship.
In track and field, Kotterman cruised through his senior season, losing only once all year in the discus, getting edged out by Mansfield Senior’s A.J. Jenkins in one meet.
Upon reaching the state meet, though, Kotterman had a slight setback when his discus did not pass the weigh-in. Fortunately, Sycamore’s Bill Bogard agreed to let Kotterman borrow his because he would not be competing until later that day in class B.
When another class A competitor from Dayton Stebbins also was in need of a discus, Bogard agreed to let him also borrow it. It worked well for that athlete, who shattered the state record on his first attempt.
When everything was said and done, Kotterman missed a place on the state podium with a ninth-place finish.
“I wish I did,” Kotterman said. “The guy who was giving out medals that day was none other than Jesse Owens. I got as close to the podium as I could. At that time, Upper Sandusky was with the Marion Harding and the big schools. There was only A and B and the competition was pretty tough.”
Kotterman said he was not the strongest guy among his competitors but had solid technique.
“You don’t have to be a great big guy if you’re quick in the ring,” Kotterman said. “You just have to get your body behind it. It’s technique. We didn’t practice that much like they do now. About two weeks before the season opened up you started throwing some. I think I had pretty good technique. I was 6-3.5 and I had pretty good arm length. If you could keep it from wobbling, you could get pretty good leverage.”
Kotterman also credited some of his success to conditioning. He made a last-minute decision to play football his senior year, got a late start at practice and was worried he would be lagging behind his teammates, but he found that was not the case.
“We bailed hay all summer,” Kotterman said. “There wasn’t no horsing around.”
Although Kotterman’s playing days came to an end, his involvement in sports did not. His son, Bill, played basketball at Riverdale High School, the University of Findlay and professionally in Iceland.
Kotterman had five grandchildren play collegiate athletics in all three divisions of the NCAA. Ashley Warren competed in volleyball at Georgia Southern University, Kyle Decker was a backup quarterback to Ben Roethlisberger at Miami University, Kory Kotterman played golf at the University of Findlay and twins Kristi and Kelli Kotterman played basketball at Otterbein College.
“The most enjoyable thing I’ve had in sports I had the privilege of being the grandparent of five kids playing college sports,” he said. “I don’t think too many can say that. … I was really proud of that.”
With the exception of a few years, Kotterman said, he had someone to follow athletically since 1975 when Bill was a high school sophomore. With Kristi and Kelli’s graduation, that is no longer true.
“I haven’t got anybody to follow this year,” he said. “I’m going to have to find somebody.”
Hemminger excelled in 3 sports for Rams
Former three-sport standout athlete Jessica (Falk) Hemminger will be inducted into the Upper Sandusky Athletic High School Hall of Fame on Friday at the Rams football game.
Hemminger, a 2000 graduate, ran track and played basketball and volleyball during her time as a Ram, earning a slew of accolades and setting several records along the way.
“I want to thank my coaches for teaching and motivating me, my teammates for making it fun, the high school for making it all possible and my parents for loving and supporting me,” Hemminger said.
Hemminger was a three-year letterwinner in track and a four-year letterwinner in basketball and volleyball.
She was a part of a Division II state championship (2000), a regional championship (1999) and three Northern Ohio League and district championships in track. Hemminger was a part of relay teams that set USHS records in the 1600 (3:56:75) and the 3200 (9:21:37), and she broke the school’s 800 run (2:15:71) record at the regional meet in 2000, which still stands. That most cherished accomplishment during Hemminger’s senior season, however, was winning the state championship in the 800 run, in spite of placing second in the run at regionals.
“I remember it being pretty surprising,” said Hemminger, who placed eighth and seventh at the state meet in the 800 run as a sophomore and junior. “I definitely wasn’t a favorite, but was able to pull it out. It was a great way to end my high school experience.”
Above all, she made former coach Jim Clifford’s job, who is now the principal at USHS, a lot easier.
“She was the most competitive athlete I ever coached, both mentally and physically,” he said. “She put forth her best effort in everything that she did and that’s why she is where she is today.
“Her competitiveness and ability to reach her potential are exemplified through her school records that still stand to this day,” Clifford added.
Hemminger won the Most Valuable Player award at USHS and was named Academic All-Ohio in track that year.
Clifford said he does not know if the 1600 record that Hemminger and her teammates set in 2000 will ever be broken, and that she was the nucleus of her relay teams that year.
“She was an athlete that never missed practice and never missed school,” Clifford said. “She bought into the program and set an example for the kids around her. If you have kids like Jessica (Hemminger) around, you’ll have success.”
The Jessica Hemminger and Jim Clifford eras ended the same year and on the same note: a state championship. Tim Pohlman took over at the helm the following season and the USHS girls won a second straight title.
On the hardwood, Hemminger averaged 11.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and four steals per game and maintained a 47.1 percent field goal percentage for the Rams. She was a part of two district championships, one sectional championship and a share of an NOL championship. Hemminger was named to the All-NOL and All-District 6 second teams twice and won the school’s Best Defensive Player Award as a senior.
“She was a wonderful, wonderful kid and a fine athlete,” said Andra Bell, who coached the Rams while Hemminger was on the team but has since retired. “She was steady and consistent as a player, and always gave the same, solid performance (every night).”
Hemminger won the USHS volleyball team’s MVP award and played in the sixth annual Fostoria Athletic Boosters East-West All-Star Volleyball game as a senior as well.
She took her running talents to the Division I collegiate level at the University of Toledo, and, much like high school, set several records during a two-year stint with the Rockets. She was a member of the relay teams that set program records in the 6400 (20:26:18) and the distance medley (12:03.60), and holds the 24th-best time in program history in the 1500 run (4:44:91).
“We ran that meet in Florida during spring break and it was really warm out, so we all ran fast times,” Hemminger said, of setting the two relay program records. “That was a good group of girls, many of which were very good runners.”
She earned the Downtown Coaches Association Scholar Athlete Award in 2001 while on the Rockets cross country team.
Hemminger’s athletic career came to a close when she studied abroad in England her junior year. She said she chose to trade in her running shoes for the books at that time, as academics were always as important to her as athletics.
“That was all I did (while playing sports) — go to school and practice,” Hemminger said. “When you’re that busy, you have to stick to a strict schedule.”
She graduated suma cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology in May 2004, before obtaining a medical degree from The Ohio State University College of Medicine in June 2008. She recently finished her residency in combined anatomic and clinical pathology, and is currently in the midst of earning her fellowship in hematopathology.
Hemminger is married to Orin Hemminger, with whom she has two kids, Elliot (2 years old) and Sean (8 months old), and lives in Columbus. She said she is happy to finally come back and see a football game in Upper Sandusky, a city of which she is fond.
“I miss the small-town feel of things and knowing everybody, and the overall quiet,” Hemminger said. “In the city, it’s a lot noisier.
By LONNIE McMILLAN