Top Five Athletes
1. Braxton Miller: You can't argue that Braxton Miller was the biggest star of the year in Ohio State athletics – well, not named Urban Meyer. After leading the Buckeyes to a 12-0 record, Miller just missed out on making the Heisman Trophy ceremony in his sophomore year. The Big Ten MVP after accounting for 28 touchdowns on the year, Miller showed the Buckeye football team is in good hands for years going forward.
2. Logan Stieber: The 133-pound wrestler lost only twice on the year, sweeping through the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments in March on the way to titles in his redshirt freshman season. Stieber is a perfect 15-0 to start the 2012-13 season, as well, and has won every match with bonus points. He could be on the way to one of the great all-time college careers.
3. Christina Manning: What else was there for the senior track star to do in 2012? Manning won the national championship in the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA indoor meet and then captured the 100 hurdles at the outdoor meet. She also claimed All-America honors in the indoor 60-meter dash and the outdoor 4x100 relay. Manning was also dominant at the Big Ten outdoor meet, winning three events.
4. Zain Shaito: The fencer was named Ohio State's Male Athlete of the Year for the 2011-12 season; a national championship and Olympic appearance will do that for you. Shaito won the men's foil title at the NCAA championships and then represented Lebanon at the Summer Games in London. Not a bad year for the native of Texas.
5. Samantha Prahalis: An All-American and finalist for the Wade Trophy and the Lieberman Award, the senior point guard capped a fantastic career for the Buckeyes by winning the Big Ten Player of the Year Award. A first-round WNBA draft pick, Prahalis finished her career in 2012 as the Big Ten's all-time assists leader and placed fourth in the all-time OSU scoring list.
Top Five Teams
1. Football: Hey, it's Ohio State. Some other teams had great years, but the "great state of Ohio" is all about its gridiron squad, and the 12-0 season had by the Buckeyes means the football team gets the top spot. It was just the sixth undefeated and untied season in more than 120 years of playing football, and for that, the Buckeyes should be saluted.
2. Fencing: You can't argue with a national championship, and that's what the Buckeyes achieved in St. John Arena in March. Vladimir Nazlymov's fencers won the fourth NCAA title in school history, dominating the field on the way to a 21-point victory over Princeton. Shaito and women's epee athlete Katarzyna Dabrowa captured individual national titles as well.
3. Synchronized swimming: Again, you can't beat a national championship, even in a sport that is not sponsored by the NCAA. Still, the Buckeyes added to their long legacy in the sport with their 28th national crown. Yuliya Maryanko was the individual high point winner at the national meet. Head coach Linda Lichter-Witter retired after the season with 11 U.S. collegiate titles and four straight crowns.
4. Wrestling: After a really rough 2011 campaign, the Buckeyes bounced back to take fifth at the national tournament in 2012 under Tom Ryan. In addition to Stieber's national crown, the Buckeyes saw Cam Tessari (fourth place), Nick Heflin (fifth) and Hunter Stieber (sixth) earn All-America honors. Stieber also had international success and the Buckeyes restarted the fall campaign with an undefeated dual mark and Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invite crown.
5. Men's tennis: The Buckeyes had another strong year under Ty Tucker, reaching the NCAA quarterfinals despite seeing a 92-match Big Ten winning streak end in the conference championship. OSU also kept alive its home winning streak, which got up to 146 at season's end. There were also individual accolades, as the doubles pair of Chase Buchanan and Blaz Rola won the NCAA championship and Peter Kobelt won the ITA Midwest regional in fall play.
Top Five Plays
1. Braxton Miller's juke at Penn State: Ohio State fans won't soon forget the play that best illustrated the standout quarterbacks moves in 2012, a 1-yard touchdown run that gave the Buckeyes a 21-10 lead at Penn State. Miller looked dead to rights in the backfield on third-and-goal even after having the presence of mind to pull the handoff from Carlos Hyde's stomach, but one Xbox juke later, he was past Gerald Hodges. From there, Miller leaped into the end zone over two players for the spectacular score.
2. The Ball fumble: The stage was set for a moment Wisconsin fans would never forget. After staging a persistent comeback from an early 14-0 deficit in Camp Randall Stadium, the Badgers had fourth down from the 1 late while facing a 14-7 deficit. In addition, running back Montee Ball was one touchdown away from setting the NCAA all-time record. It looked to all the world that Ball would set the record, but as he tried to jump over the pile and into the end zone, he was met by Ryan Shazier and Etienne Sabino, causing the ball to pop directly into the arms of OSU safety Christian Bryant. OSU ended up winning the game in overtime, and the goal-line stand remains one of the indelible images of a perfect season.
3. Purdue for two: Ohio State was in danger of seeing its undefeated gridiron season end vs. Purdue, but Kenneth Guiton brought the Buckeyes back with a last-gasp drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown to Chris Fields. But Ohio State still needed a two-point conversion to tie the game, and Guiton masterfully ran a throwback pass to Jeff Heuerman for the points needed to make it 22-22 with three seconds to play. Guiton rolled right, waited for Heuerman to slip off a block and hit the tight end in the end zone for the score.
4. Stieber's takedown: The star grappler fell behind early to top-seeded Oklahoma State wrestler Jordan Oliver in the first period of the national championship match at 133 pounds but came back to knot the score at 2. Near the midway point of the second period, he was able to snag Oliver's left leg then finally was able to take him down near the 20-second mark, sweeping out the right leg and spinning to the top position to take a 4-2 lead. When he limited Oliver to only a one-point escape in the third period, Stieber was a national champion.
5. William Buford's shot to beat Michigan State: All year, Ohio State fans wondered if senior William Buford would have a defining moment. He waited until about the last chance to make it. The Toledo native made a jumper with one second to go in the last regular season game of the year, giving Ohio State a 72-70 win over Michigan State in the Breslin Center. The buzzer beater from near the arc overturned a huge early MSU lead and clinched a share of the Big Ten title for OSU.
Top Five Disappointments
1. The NCAA tournament loss to Kansas: The men's basketball team led Kansas throughout its Final Four game only to see the Jayhawks come back from a 13-point deficit to take a 64-62 victory. The season overall was a success, but the Buckeyes missed out on giving a loaded Kentucky team a run for its money in the national championship game.
2. The men's hockey team's collapse: The Buckeyes were 14-4-1 and ranked second in the nation when the calendar turned to 2012. It looked like the team was in line for a possible CCHA championship and trip to the NCAA tournament, but the team won only one of the last 16 games of the year and lost in the first round of the league tournament. Head coach Mark Osiecki has the team on the right track, but the ending to the campaign was a downer for Buckeye fans who became interested in the hockey team after its hot start.
3. The women's basketball NCAA tournament loss: The Buckeyes, who finished second in the Big Ten, groused about being given a No. 8 seed in the postseason event with undefeated Baylor and star Brittney Griner looming in the second round. Instead, Prahalis saw her OSU career end with a 69-65 loss in the first round to Florida in Bowling Green.
4. John Simon missing the Michigan game: Head coach Urban Meyer called the senior defensive end the heart and soul of the Buckeye team repeatedly during the season, but Simon – coming off a legendary four-sack performance at Wisconsin – was unable to play because of a knee injury. The Buckeyes played well in his honor in the win vs. Michigan, but seeing one of the most impactful players in recent OSU history walk across the field on Senior Day was disappointing to say the least.
5. Losing senior associate athletic directors Pat Chun and Ben Jay: Both became athletic directors, with Chun being hired at Florida Atlantic in July and Jay being tabbed to take over Hawaii's program in December. The moves were obviously great for the two administrators, but Ohio State lost some hard-to-replace individuals.
Top Five Under-The-Radar Performances
1. Buchanan and Rola sweep: The men's tennis stars didn't just win the NCAA championship in doubles at the end of the season, they dominated the field during the 2011-12 season. Buchanan and Rola won the two fall national titles then swept to the NCAA victory in May. The two All-Americans became the first tandem in the nation to win all three of those titles in the same academic year, finished 36-4 overall and were 14-0 in tournament play on the year.
2. Tiffany Cameron's season: The women's soccer senior from Mississauga, Ontario, wanted to set the school record for career goals in her final year. Entering the campaign, she needed 16 goals to do so – three more than any Ohio State player had ever scored. All Cameron did was finish with 21 tallies, obliterating the school one-year record and the all-time mark while leading the Buckeyes to the Big Ten championship.
3. Samantha Prahalis' home finale: The senior point guard finished her career in Value City Arena in style, to put it lightly. "Pistol Pete with a Ponytail" lived up to her name on Senior Night, setting the program record with 42 points in her final home contest to lead the Buckeyes to a win over Minnesota. Prahalis made 15 of 27 shots, 7 of 12 threes, and dished four assists with six rebounds.
4. One boat dominates: The First Varsity Four isn't the sexiest boat when it comes to NCAA rowing, but the Buckeyes had by far the best 1V4 in the nation in 2012. The Buckeyes' crew of coxswain Alexandra Sawatzki, Taylore Urban, Katie King, Stephanie Johnson and Emily Ralph beat Virginia by two seconds in the national championship race, earning the NCAA gold medal and helping the overall team to a fifth-place national finish.
5. Hjelle is jellin': The men's hockey goaltender had an amazing start to the 2012-13 season. Even though the Buckeyes struggled to a 7-8-3 start, Hjelle was almost unbeatable in net, placing second in the nation in goals-against average (1.43) and third in save percentage (.951). He was named the CCHA goaltender of the month in November when he allowed just three goals in six games, going 3-1-1.
Top Five Cool Moments
1. Ryan Shazier shines in No. 48: Honoring a high school friend who passed away, the OSU star linebacker had the No. 48 put on his white road jersey for the Buckeyes' game at Penn State. Shazier then went out and dominated in Gary Curtis' memory, finishing with eight tackles, two sacks and a pick-six that changed the game early in the third quarter. The TD, returned 17 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the half, gave OSU a 14-7 lead it would not give up.
2. Bob Knight inducted: The legendary coach hadn't quite gotten his due over the years from Ohio State – largely because of his affiliation with basketball rival Indiana – but the university has gone about righting that in recent years. The biggest honor came in 2012 when Knight was inducted into the school's Varsity ‘O' Athletics Hall of Fame. The legendary coach, a reserve on Ohio State's great early 1960s teams, was honored for his contributions to athletics over the years.
3. Devin Smith's catch: The OSU wideout's grab was so good that even though it happened week one, it was later named college football's play of the year. Ohio State struggled in the first quarter of the Meyer era against Miami, but Smith ignited a blowout win when he skied for a one-handed grab of a Miller pass in the right side of the end zone. The 23-yard score drew audible gasps in the press box and elated the Buckeye crowd, setting off a big win and a big season.
4. The band's video game show: It's not called TBDBITL for nothing. The Ohio State University Marching Band wowed Ohio Stadium and the nation with its halftime performance during the Nebraska football game Oct. 6. The video game-themed show featured music and clips from both classic and newer games, and it featured such scenes as a galloping horse and an Ohio State flag being raised on Bowser's castle after the Princess was saved from the Michigan-themed lair. The nine-plus-minute show was so cool it was watched more than 10 million times on Youtube.
5. A Scarlet and Gray Olympics: In the end, 11 current or former Ohio State athletes competed at the London Olympics over the summer, including Shaito and his sister, Mona, and junior rifle shooter Amanda Furrer. Two stars included former soccer player Roger Espinoza, who led his Honduras team to an upset of Spain and the quarterfinals of the men's tournament, and Canadian swimmer Samantha Cheverton, who finished fourth on a relay, celebrated a birthday in London and got engaged.
Top Ten Stories
We'll leave you waiting for this one. Check out the top 10 stories of the year in the upcoming print edition of Buckeye Sports Bulletin as we do our annual Year in Review story based on the votes of the entire BSB staff.
While this piece was mostly a celebration of the year that was, we must mention the passing of a number of individuals associated with Ohio State athletics during the calendar year. Associate athletic director Bill Jones, sports information legend D.C. Koehl, former men's basketball player Brent Darby, former football player Jason Winrow, former football player Don Steinberg and others should be remembered.