The Greater Columbus Sports Commission’s annual Morning Sports Report breakfast, which highlights the best athletics the city has to offer, was headlined by Urban Meyer and the 2014 national champion Ohio State Buckeyes.
Also honored at the event held in front of nearly 1,000 people at the city’s convention center were OSU wrestler Logan Stieber as well as members of the national title-winning, rowing, synchronized swimming and pistol teams.
The five national champions represented an Ohio State record for one athletics year, and all came from different situations. Rowing won its third title in a row, while wrestling won its first in program history and synchronized swimming reignited its dynasty. The sport that owns this state and city’s imagination, football, overcame tremendous amounts of adversity to win its eighth title, and linebacker Joshua Perry said doing so was fueled by the opportunity to do what many said the Buckeyes could not.
“I think one thing that I enjoyed the most is how we were doubted so many times and how we kept bouncing back and proving people wrong,” Perry said. “I think it takes a lot to do that. Just being able to do something that people say you can’t do is a great thing.”
Of course, that won’t be the case in 2015. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 1 in just about every preseason poll, placing the burden of expectations on the team. Of course, expectations are better than nothing because it means a team has talent, something head coach Urban Meyer is well aware of.
He’s tried to repeat twice before and came up short each time, and the latter failure nearly drove him from coaching. But now, speaking moments after OSU’s 2014 highlights video played for the crowd, Meyer admitted he has a better handle on how he’ll approach the upcoming season.
“I’ve seen that video probably 6,000, 7,000 times now, and I’ll forever remember it,” he said. “From start to finish, it was the most improved team – I know it’s a bold statement – maybe in college football history from game one to game 15.
“I made a mistake in ’06 – you think life gets easier. It gets more complicated. I used to think we’re playing with house money now; we’re not. But what we’ll never change is that brotherhood, that blood transfusion – we’ll be forever brothers with the guys that did that.”
The same could be said of the OSU wrestlers, a team Meyer became a huge fan of as the season went on.
“Luke Fickell is a great wrestling fan and a state champ and always talks about it,” Meyer said. “I’d never really experienced wrestling. It was new to me. (Wrestling coach) Tom Ryan and I became great friends and he would always come over, and I just didn’t really understand much about it. I knew they were tough guys. Obviously, don’t mess with guys like (Stieber).
“But I went over and I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing – the athleticism, the toughness, the grind. You think it’s an individual sport; it’s not. It’s a team sport. I love elite people that act and do the right things, and that’s what wrestlers do. I’m the biggest fan there is of Ohio State wrestling.”
Offensive linemen Patrick Elflein and Jacoby Boren accompanied Meyer and Perry to the breakfast event, with Elflein going into how the line’s “slobs” nickname came to be when the linemen started bonding in 2012.
“If you look at Andrew Norwell, you’re like, ‘Wow, I’d say he’s a slob,’ ” Elflein said. “He’s starting for the Panthers now. We just kind of embraced it, all of us. We called each other slobs last year when we were getting interviews, and the media took it and ran with it and embraced it. It’s definitely an honor to be a slob. Joshua wants to be a slob but he can’t.”
Ashley Bauer of the rowing team, synchronized swimmer Elizabeth Davidson and pistol shooter Greyson McCaig also spoke at the event, while athletics director Gene Smith and basketball great Clark Kellogg held a roundtable at a pre-event VIP social. Smith confirmed that OSU is well on its way toward completing fundraising for its three most important facilities prospects – a new student-athlete development center, the Covelli Arena for such sports as volleyball and wrestling and a new wrestling training center.
Outgoing Columbus mayor Michael Coleman also outlined which sporting events he'd like to see come to the capital city in future years, a list that included an outdoor NHL game in Ohio Stadium, more Women's Final Fours in addition to the one already scheduled for 2018 as well as men's basketball March Madness regionals.