Patriots Claim 4th State Title

By Dave Morrison

Staff Writer

WHHELING – It wasn’t a clean sweep for the Northern Panhandle.

It was close.

Cole Hand repeated as the Class AAA medalist and led Wheeling Park to its third state championship in four years, and Madonna’s Michael Rogers won the Class A medalist to help the Blue Dons finish second behind three-time champion Charleston Catholic at the state golf tournament at the Robert Trent Jones course at Oglebay Park.

For Hand, the repeat was better than the first time.

“To repeat is great, but to get to celebrate with the team, that is the best,” Hand said. “I’ve been part of a state championship team (as a freshman) , but this is bigger than that. My freshman year, we were supposed to win it. But we came in this year, nobody expecting us to win this. We weren’t a favorite. This is sweet.”

Hand finished with a 73 Wednesday and a two-day total of 149.

“He’s our leader, our captain,” coach Don Headley said of Hand. “He’s the kid who does everything. He is a grinder when he has to do that. He didn’t have the best year, he will tell you that, but when he needed to, he came through and defended his title. My hat’s off to him.”

“I didn’t have the best year, even going back to the summer,” Hand said. “We had to go on the road to the regionals and there are four pretty good teams in there. We just wanted to make it. I felt like if we could get back here we’d have a chance to win it. I looked at it like it would be hard to beat us on our own course.”

That is the way it played out.

Dylan Wojcik finished with a two-day 161 and Kyle Wensel had a 162.

It started early for Hand, who birdied his second hole. He had a couple of bumps along the way but his 73 was a lesson in grinding out a round.

“I made so many up-and-downs, so many clutch putts for par,” Hand said. “I felt as long as I could keep the ball in play, I would be in good shape and I was able to do that.”

Playing with his closest competitors – Parkersburg South’s Alex Schreckengost, who finished second, Shady Spring’s Drew Green and Oak Hill’s Craig Buchanan – helped the cause.

“I love the way they do the state tournament,” Hand said. “Getting to play with those guys, to know what they are doing, it was important. You know where you stand.”

Excpet that, a hole ahead, Tyler Hillyer of Princeton, was making noise.

“I was 1-under at 11, and we caught up with those guys and I found out he was 2-under,” Hand said. “I knew I had a three shot lead on him, but you never know. After that, I didn’t hear anything else.”

Hand didn’t find out until he was in the clubhouse that he had won.

The team title, he felt that on the course.

So did Headley, noting his team didn’t win the Region 1 title, falling to Parkersburg South in Parkersburg.

“Everybody knows this is our home course,” Headley said, who took the proverbial Gatorade bath after the tournament ended, courtesy of Hand and his teammates. “We were just hoping we could sqeak by there. If we get here, we wanted to defend our home turf and that is what we did.”

The golf title was Park’s fourth overall. The Patriots have also finished second four times.

For Rogers, his title was the second for Madonna in four years. He joined former teammate Andrew Gobleck, a former teammate who was on hand for the state tournament, as the Blue Dons’ two state champions.

Standing on No. 15, his final hole, Rogers knew he had a 3-shot lead on Charleston Catholic’s Aaron Persily, who he was tied with entering the final day.

He continued to take practice swing and alternated that with throwing blades of grass in the air, checking the wind direction.

“We didn’t say a word about the tournament,” Rogers said. “I knew I had a three shot lead. I knew after I birdied No. 13 I had given myself a pretty good opportunity to win it.”

He bogeyed No. 15, and ended up winning by one.

“It’s unforunate that I gave back two strokes but fortunate that I had the three-shot lead to work with. It’s a great feeling to win medalist, but we were hoping we could take home the state championship.”

Down by nine to Catholic, which has won three straight state titles, Madonna actually got back into contention.

“We cut it to four shots, and I’m thinking, ‘OK, we have a chance,'” coach T.J. Brancazio said. “We were there, we just didn’t have enough steam left. We gave it one heck of a run but Charleston Catholic has a great team.”

Madonna has a state championship and three second-place finishes in the last four years.

“It’s been a battle with (Charleston Catholic),” Brancazio said. “The year we won it they were second, the three times they’ve won it we were second. You have to give them credit.”

Hand was also named to the Class AAA all-state team, as was Rogers in A. Madonna’s Alex Colantonio was also an all-state member (the top eight finishers are automatic all-state selections.

The runner-up trophy was Madonna’s fourth overall and they also won the title in 2010.

Roane County had the top three finishers in Class AA (Alston Spears and twins Cole and Cam Moore) and easily won the AA championship.