2012: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

Kynard’s leap jumps to the top

Toledoan wins Olympic silver medal; Buckeyes perfect; Tigers reach Series

12/30/2012
BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Erik Kynard shows off his Olympic silver medal for the high jump at the London Games.
Erik Kynard shows off his Olympic silver medal for the high jump at the London Games.

The year 2012 was a memorable one for sports in the region, with plenty of noteworthy highlights to pick from.

Here are the top 10 stories of the year involving professional, college, and amateur sports as voted on by The Blade’s sports staff:

1. Erik Kynard, Jr., wins Olympic silver medal.

Since he placed fourth in the high jump at the Ohio Division I state track and field meet as a Start High School freshman in June, 2006, it has seemed as though the sky was the limit for Toledo’s Kynard, who won an Olympic silver medal in London on Aug. 7 while competing for the United States.

“I handle pressure very well,” the 21-year-old Kynard said after receiving his medal for clearing 7-feet, 7¾ inches. “I try not to conform to my environment. The Olympic Stadium is a big stage and I'm a big guy, so it fit me.”

In 2007, competing for Rogers, Kynard cleared 6-9 to place second at state. He jumped 7-0 and 7-1, respectively, to win at the 2008 and 2009 state meets. In May, 2009, Kynard set the Ohio high school record by jumping 7-3½ at the City League meet.

At Kansas State, Kynard was sixth in the NCAA outdoor championships as a freshman in 2010, and won the outdoor title the last two years, clearing 7-6 in 2011 and 7-8 last June.

After winning his Olympic silver medal, Kynard appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman.

READ MORE: 2012 high school sports highlights

2. Ohio State football’s perfect season.

The Ohio State University football program was in turmoil entering the 2012 season in the aftermath of the “Tattoo-gate” scandal and the forced resignation of highly-successful 10-year coach Jim Tressel in 2011.

Ohio State forfeited all of its wins from a 12-1 season in 2010, and was further penalized by being banned from the Big Ten championship game and any bowl-game appearances in 2012.

Urban Meyer, who led Florida to two national championships, was hired to replace interim coach Luke Fickell, who guided the Buckeyes to a 6-7 record, their first losing season since 1988.

Most of those woes were washed away during Meyer first season in 2012, as OSU finished a perfect 12-0 after defeating Michigan 26-21 on Nov. 24.

The Buckeyes, not eligible to represent the Leaders Division in the Big Ten championship game, were declared the official division champion.

3. Detroit Tigers reach World Series.

It wasn’t easy repeating as American League Central Division champions, but the Detroit Tigers pulled ahead of the Chicago White Sox down the stretch, and reached their second straight postseason.

Carrying the club most of the season were eventual AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, free-agent acquisition Prince Fielder, and a solid pitching staff led by 2011 MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander.

The Tigers survived a Game 4 meltdown loss by closer Jose Valverde to win the best-of-5 ALDS series 3-2 over the Oakland Athletics, with Verlander pitching a complete-game 6-0 win in Game 5.

Behind strong pitching, Detroit swept the ALCS 4-0 over the New York Yankees, only to be swept in the World Series 4-0 by the solid pitching and hitting of the red-hot San Francisco Giants.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer talks to quarterback Braxton Miller. In Meyer's first season, the Buckeyes finished 12-0.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer talks to quarterback Braxton Miller. In Meyer's first season, the Buckeyes finished 12-0.

4. Ohio State basketball reaches Final Four.

Aided by the contributions of senior guard William Buford from Libbey High School and sophomore point guard Aaron Craft from Liberty-Benton High School, the Ohio State basketball team won a share of the Big Ten’s regular-season title.

In the NCAA tournament, OSU defeated Loyola-Maryland, Gonzaga, Cincinnati, and Syracuse to reach the Final Four. The Buckeyes led Kansas by nine at halftime, but lost 64-62 to finish the season 31-8 overall.

Buford, Ohio’s 2008 Mr. Basketball as a senior, topped OSU with 19 points in the final game. That lifted his career point total to 1,990, tying him with Jerry Lucas for No. 3 on the school’s all-time scoring list.

Detroit's Miguel Cabrera hits a two-run home run in the ACLS against the Yankees. Cabrera was selected as the AL MVP and was the first player to win the batting triple crown since 1967.
Detroit's Miguel Cabrera hits a two-run home run in the ACLS against the Yankees. Cabrera was selected as the AL MVP and was the first player to win the batting triple crown since 1967.

5. Miguel Cabrera wins MVP, batting triple crown.

Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera became the first major-league player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win a batting Triple Crown.

Cabrera, who had won American League home run, runs batted in, and batting average titles individually in prior seasons, led the AL in all three in 2012, with 44 homers, 139 RBIs, and a .330 average.

Cabrera was named AL most valuable player award, following teammate/pitcher Justin Verlander, who won the 2011 MVP and Cy Young awards.

6. UT football reaches top 25, Potato Bowl.

After a season-opening 24-17 overtime loss at Arizona, the University of Toledo football team reeled off eight straight wins under first-year head coach Matt Campbell to crack the Top-25 in the Associated Press poll.

After winning 25-20 at Buffalo, the Rockets climbed to No. 23.

That rating was short-lived as UT dropped its next game to visiting Ball State, then fell on the road at Northern Illinois.

The Rockets closed the regular season by beating Akron and played in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise against 18th-ranked Utah State.

Toledo trailed 13-9 midway in the fourth quarter before being outscored 28-6 by Utah State in the final 6:57 to fall 41-15 and finish 9-4 overall.

Five Rocket players earned first-team All-MAC honors — Bernard Reedy (receiver and punt returner), David Fluellen (running back), Zac Kerin (center), Dan Molls (linebacker), and Jermaine Robinson (safety).

7. BGSU hosts NCAA women’s tournament, loses coach.

In its inaugural season of operations, the 4,700-seat Stroh Center at Bowling Green State University played host to first and second-round games in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament March 18-20.

Included in the four-team sub-regional field was eventual national champion Baylor, led by 6-foot-8 star Brittney Griner. She became only the second women’s player to ever dunk in an NCAA tourney game.

Baylor defeated UC-Santa Barbara in its opening-round game, then beat Florida to advance to the Sweet 16.

On March 28, BG women’s coach Curt Miller departed for Indiana.

In 11 seasons, Miller went 258-92 overall and the Falcons won seven outright Mid-American Conference regular-season crowns and reached the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2007.

8. BG football plays in Military Bowl.

The Falcons began the season with a 1-3 start, including a 27-14 loss in their opener at Florida. But Bowling Green used solid defensive play to reel off six straight wins under coach Dave Clawson.

A loss to Kent State snapped that string, but BG closed the regular season with a win over Buffalo to finish 6-2 in MAC play. The Falcons played in the Military Bowl in Washington, losing 29-20 to San Jose State to close at 8-5 overall.

BG tackle Chris Jones was voted MAC defensive player of the year and was named to the AP All-America third team. Joining Jones on the All-MAC first team were linebacker Gabe Martin and defensive back BooBoo Gates.

9. Lions reach NFL playoffs.

The Detroit Lions ended a run of futility when they posted their first winning season since 2000 and reached the NFL playoffs for the first time since 1999. On Jan. 7, Detroit, which closed the regular season under coach Jim Schwartz at 10-6, lost an NFC wildcard game 45-28 at New Orleans.

In their 10 straight losing seasons between 2001 and 2010, the Lions posted an NFL-worst 39-121 record.

10. Walleye’s Bryan Rufenach dies.

On June 5, during a backpacking trip through Europe, Toledo defenseman Bryan Rufenach was killed when he touched the overhead line of a stationary train car in Grindelwald, Switzerland.

A native of Barrie, Ontario, Rufenach was a rising prospect in the Detroit Red Wings' system, a seventh-round pick in 2007. The 23-year-old played in 54 games during the 2011-12 season for the Walleye and was the team's third-leading scorer, scoring 13 goals.

He was the team's top scoring defenseman and was ranked third among all ECHL defensemen in goals scored.

In July, the Red Wings honored Rufenach during rookie training camp and the Walleye held a ceremony on opening night.