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Wooster captures first-ever state wheelchair basketball title

Players from the state championship game receive their medals.

Rhonda Edgerton

If you’ve never seen a wheelchair basketball game, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Wooster is no longer missing out as Wooster High School hosted the first high school wheelchair state basketball tournament the weekend of March 9, where the Generals bested the Tallmadge Blue Devils 31-23 for the crown.
“We’re very proud to have hosted this event,” said Andy Kellar, Wooster High School athletic director. “We’re very encouraged that the other schools participating (the Tallmadge Blue Devils, the Plain Local Eagles, the Massillon Tigers and the Austintown Falcons) also see what we see as the value of providing these students with disabilities with competitive sports opportunities.”
Kellar said the event could not have happened without the help of Adaptive Sports Ohio.
ASPO is a nonprofit organization established to promote the health and wellness of individuals with physical disabilities through competitive and recreational adaptive sports opportunities. The organization not only provides basketball wheelchairs to all five districts, but also provides training to school staff and manages three of the teams.
Games in this sport are fast-paced — even rough at times — and highly competitive. There’s a premium on ball handling, passing and teamwork every bit as much as in typical basketball.
Wooster’s Ashton Mohn, who has spina bifida, is one of the team’s standouts. He started playing in sixth grade but then took seventh grade off.
“I couldn’t wait to get back. I really love it,” he said.
Mohn said the tournament was great. “It’s so cool to be part of something bigger than [myself,]” he said.
Ashton’s mother Rhonda said this of the tournament, “Oh my gosh, I loved it! It was so exciting.”
She said it really makes her son feel like more of a part of the school. “The school is so wonderful about it. His teachers come to cheer him on, and they post things on the school website about it. There’s even a game where the kids play the faculty, and so all of the school is there to watch and cheer," she said.
She said her son also has made wonderful friends through the experience.
Greg Michalec of Tallmadge said, “We’d drive to Wooster every day for something like this for the kids.”
It is just these kind of scenarios ASPO director Lisa Followay envisioned when she began working at providing expanding opportunities for disabled athletes nine years ago. “It is very exciting to see something you’ve worked for for so long finally come to fruition,” she said.
Followay said the over-arching goal is to provide the students with opportunities right where they attend school. Actually federal legislation mandates inclusion for those with disabilities, but Followay said this is a murky area.
“Schools have gotten around this for years by saying that positions such as statistician or water boy fulfill the obligation,” she said.
Followay’s passion is shared by the whole family with daughter Madison playing for the Generals, husband Brett as head coach and son Casey as assistant coach.
The wheelchair basketball season is a 12-week one, running from November through February. The program is co-gender, and it includes athletes from first grade through 12th grade in the district-wide program.
The league is not limited to wheelchair users. Nondisabled players are eligible to play, limited to five per roster and three per game. The rules are similar to typical basketball with slight modifications.
Followay and Kellar both cited expense as a significant challenge to many schools with basketball wheelchairs costing $2,000. That’s where an organization such as ASPO comes in.
“ASPO helps with everything,” Kellar said. “We wouldn’t be here today without their support.”

Published: March 12, 2018
New Article ID: 2018180319999