COLUMBUS - Each year at the Ohio State Wrestling Tournament the Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Association honors a coach from each division as coach of the year for accomplishments during the previous wrestling season.
At the 2013 state tournament the OHSWCA will honor Big Red head wrestling coach Mike Blackburn as Coach of the Year in Division II.
"It's one of the biggest honors a coach in Ohio can receive besides being voted into the hall of fame," said Blackburn. "It's an award voted on by your peers on what happened in the past season. It's humbling to be added to a long list of great coaches have who have won the award.
"To be part of something like this is a pretty exciting thing."
During the 2011-12 season Blackburn, who is to be honored along with Oregon Clay's Ralph Clubberly in Division I and Applecreek Waynedale's Louie Stanley at the 2013 state tournament, led Big Red to a 19-1 dual meet record along with an OVAC Class 4A title and overall second-place OVAC tournament finish, district and sectional titles, and a fifth place finish at the 2012 state tournament.
"Coming into last year we had a great group of seniors," said Blackburn. "We also had a great group of juniors. We had a group of kids that had been in the program for about eight years. We knew we had a pretty good team coming in. I wasn't sure if it would come together.
"Things started rolling and we gained more steam. When we went to the Wheeling Park Duals and wrestled Parkersburg South nip and tuck it showed them what they needed to do. At the OVAC tournament we wrestled a great tourney. Coming into the Claymont dual we knew how great they were. You couldn't ask for a better meet than the one we had with them. For it to come down to the eighth tiebreaker criteria and for us to beat a team the caliber of Claymont was huge.
"We went on to win sectionals and districts, sending eight guys to the state tournament and putting five on the podium, it was just a really great season. The guys putting is the hard work is why this program is heading where it is.".
Blackburn saw five of his grapplers stand on the podium in Columbus last season. With a host of returning talent, including Kent State signee and 2012 195-pound runner up Charlie Keenan, Big Red looks to improve on last season's mat performance.
"We have a majority of solid team from last year back," said Blackburn. "Some new faces are mixed in. Some of those guys are older and are just breaking in at varsity and we have some freshmen with a lot of potential.
"Winning the Marlington tourney this weekend was a good start. We want to win OVAC 4A again and South has won overall the last three years so we want to knock them off.
"We want to go to Top Gun next weekend and see what we have. IT's a tough tourney and we'll see how we deal with the best in state.
"We want to be OVAC champs and eventually be at the state tournament and have some our guys up on the podium.
"If we work hard I see us being able to accomplish that."