By Dan Woodlock
Times-Junction Sports Editor
The Ohio Athletic Conference just got two athletes stronger.
Willard High School seniors, Nick Cofer and Lindsay Holbrook announced Tuesday that they have each signed their letters of intent to continue their academic and athletic careers at the collegiate level in the OAC.
Cofer will be joining the Student Princes’ football program at Heidelberg University, while Holbrook hits the water with the Polar Bears swim team at Ohio Northern University.
An imposing presence at middle linebacker for Willard, Cofer also made huge contributions offensively as a receiver in the Flashes’ Air-Raid attack. He posted team-highs in receptions (49), receiving yards (602) and receiving touchdowns (five).
He was a Second Team NOL and First Team North Central Ohio Football Coaches Association choice at linebacker, as well as an Honorable Mention NOL selection at receiver.
Cofer, who was also an All-NOL linebacker as a junior, was selected to represent Willard in the June 10 NCOFCA All-Star Game, along with senior Josh Buerger.
His linebacker roots helped his decision in landing at the Berg, in spite of a recruiting push by Ohio Northern.
“Being closer to home was big for me and Heidelberg was a school that wanted me to play the position I love,” he said. “It really feels like home. It’s quiet and there aren’t people everywhere. It’s a pretty calm campus.”
His father, Kenny, was impressed by Heidelberg’s pursuit and interest in Nick.
“We would go to a number of clinics and combines and the college scouts would be there,” said Kenny. “Heidelberg was always the first school right there, checking on how Nick was doing.”
“The coaching staff is amazing,” noted his mother, Vicki. “They have been so welcoming from the beginning and already consider Nick family.”
Cofer is still undecided on his major, but has considered areas of sports management or possibly athletic training.
Willard head football coach, Britton Devier knows he’s losing a good one.
“Nick is a wonderful young man, and any coach would be lucky to have him,” he said. “He’s an outstanding leader on the field and was the heart and soul for our team. Selfishly, I wish I had a couple more years with him, but I’m excited to see him get to continue to play the game at the next level. Heidelberg has been on the rise.
“Nick loves the game and has a passion for it,” he added. “His motor never stops and he’s always going to go 100 miles an hour for you.”
Cofer knows that he and his WHS teammates grew tremendously throughout his career.
“No matter what, we never quit,” he stated. “It would have been easy to cash it in. Guys always worked hard. The wins just didn’t happen, but it’s been a great experience.
“I would always say to others to keep working hard in-season and in the offseason,” he continued. “The payoff will come. Carry a positive attitude into everything, and no matter what people say, believe in yourself and team and keep working.”
Daughter of Carl and Carey Holbrook, Lindsay capped her tremendous WHS swim career with a memorable senior season that saw her name etched into the record books in two races, the 100 Back (1:07.92) and the 100 Free (59.77), joining her 50 Free mark (27.24) set in 2015.
She was Second Team NOL in the 100 Back and Honorable Mention in the 100 Free and qualified for Districts in the Backstroke and 50 Free.
The pharmaceutical field is where Holbrook’s future appears destined.
“Ohio Northern has one of the oldest pharmacy programs around,” she said, as 9,000 ONU pharmacists have graduated into the profession since 1884. “They actually have a pharmacy museum inside of the campus. That was a big draw.
“They were also the first school who really wanted me,” added Holbrook. “I got an offer from Findlay a couple of weeks ago, but I wanted to be at the school I knew wanted me from the beginning.”
The WHS senior regularly submitted her times to ONU online every opportunity she notched a personal record. She was impressed how much the coaching staff kept tabs on her progress and accomplishments and inquired about her throughout the high school swim season.
Holbrook will compete for Polar Bears Head Coach Peggy Ewald, a former coach of current Willard Head Coach Ashley Wenninger, in her early years of competitive swimming.
“We’re excited for her,” said mother, Carey. “Swimming is something she loves to do and she wasn’t quite ready to give it up yet. It’s a great opportunity.”
She knows making the college leap will be a tremendous adjustment, but is ready to dive off the proverbial board and hit the waters full speed ahead.
“It will be different being on my own, but I’m excited to be able to start my career,” she said. “I like that Ohio Northern’s not in the city and is more of a small town. They basically have a McDonald’s, a Taco Bell, a pizza place and a gas station in Ada. But kind of like Willard, if you want to go to the bigger cities to do things, it’s only a half hour away to Findlay, kind of like Mansfield. I prefer the smaller campus and it’s very pretty out there.”
One season after seeing another of her athletes, Austin Strayer, begin his collegiate swimming career at Ohio Wesleyan, Coach Wenninger has another prepared to launch hers.
“Lindsay’s worked so hard for this,” she said. “She eats, sleeps and talks swimming and this opportunity is so special. She deserves it.
“Last year was so tough on her when she couldn’t swim the first half of the season because she was injured,” added Wenninger. “She sat there in tears most meets. The end didn’t really go that well for her when she came back, either. So it was amazing to see her able to go out on top of her game this season. She’s so strict on herself and is extremely disciplined. Lindsay’s a natural leader and I know she is really going to go places.”