Meech leaving Smithville with his character intact

Meech leaving Smithville with his character intact

A few thoughts from the week in sports …

Senior Luke Meech was on pace to become one of the best two-sport athletes in recent memory at Smithville.

The 6-foot-3 Meech scored seven touchdowns in football as a sophomore and then averaged 15 points a game in basketball.

Meech had it all — size, speed, athleticism, smarts and good genetics. His dad Scott and mom Lorah (Way) were both basketball players at The College of Wooster.

No one could have known 10th grade would be the athletic high point for Meech, who would go on to tear the ACL in his knees three times.

Counting a torn ACL suffered playing AAU basketball in eighth grade and a torn meniscus as a freshman, Meech had five knee surgeries. Those are statistics I hope no one would wish for their worst enemy.

Meech’s final ACL tear came this past July while working out with a trainer. It cost him his entire senior year of athletics.

However, the character that was revealed in how Meech responded left many in the Smithville community in awe.

“Luke tore his ACL four different times (three times on left knee) during his high school career,” said Corey Kauffman, who coached the Smithies basketball team this past winter. “Luke never complained in practice or made the situation about himself.

“During each period of rehab, his medical team always remarked about his toughness and drive. His persistence, selflessness and maturity have been a model for each of our players.”

Kauffman said, “Luke made the Smithies a better team and strengthened our culture even without him on the floor.”

Despite not playing a single play in football or a minute in basketball, Meech was selected to earn one of the Roy Bates Foundation’s eight prestigious $2,500 scholarships.

The award is based on character, academics and athletics and was founded by legendary coach and broadcaster Roy Bates, who died at age 88 in 2004. The scholarship fund he set up has doled out approximately $430,000 in its 29 years.

I’m proud to be a longtime member of the Bates Scholarship committee. Meech may be the first of the 200-plus scholarship winners who didn’t play a sport as a senior, but in learning his story, the committee felt he was a deserving award winner.

Meech excelled in the classroom with a 3.8 GPA, which ranked 12th in a class of 84. He’s been accepted into the University of Cincinnati’s prestigious mechanical engineering program.

The manner in which Meech bounced back after each surgery, both physically and mentally, was arguably more impressive than anything he could have done on the field or court.

Meech helped in any way he could during basketball practices and sat on the bench during games.

During the football season, he made regular appearances at practices and during games helped lead the student section cheering from the stands.

“Luke had great physical attributes, but his smarts really set him apart as a football player,” Smithies head football coach Phil Olsen said. “A lot of guys might have become bitter after all he went through and maybe not come around the team much, but Luke still really supported us.

“I know it must have been humbling for him to sit in the stands, but that really meant a lot to the team and me to have him as a mainstay leading the cheers.”

There will always be some sadness thinking about missed opportunities, but Meech is long past wondering “why me?”

“The last injury hurt the most because I realized I’d miss my senior year, but the best way to deal with it was staying around my teammates,” Meech said. “One of my physical therapists said he’d been through a similar injury. He told me, ‘If you isolate yourself, that’s how you become really down.’ I’ve actually come to realize some blessings from it.”

Five knee surgeries and Meech sees blessings?

“During my junior year when I tore my ACL, my younger brother, Aaron, actually tore his in the exact same week,” Meech said. “We went through that together, and I was able to help him through the rehab.

“When it came to academics, I really made it a priority to get into an elite college program. I’m excited to be going into chemical engineering at Cincinnati. I don’t think I’d have been able to do that if I’d been playing two sports all along.”

Meech had all of his surgeries at the Crystal Clinic in Akron and rehabbed each time at Wooster’s HealthPoint.

“My family and I discussed switching doctors or physical therapists, but even though I kept having recurring injuries, we didn’t think it was anything they were doing wrong,” Meech said.

Meech thanks everyone who’s supported him, especially his parents.

“My mom and dad were always there for me and never pushed me to try to come back,” Meech said. “They always said it was my decision.”

Meech hopes to recover his knees to the point where he can shoot hoops and play in some intramural games in college.

Here’s hoping Meech’s knees will hold up so he can have some fun again on the court. No one’s worried about his character; it’s as strong as they come.

Bates winners

Congrats to the 2022 Roy Bates Scholarship winners: Northwestern’s Shayna Allshouse, Dalton’s Kole Miller, Orrville’s Amari Slaughter, Triway’s Hailey Massaro, Norwayne’s Isaiah Portis, Smithville’s Luke Meech, Wooster’s Jack Williams and Waynedale’s Josiah Raber.

Massaro added the Roy Bates Clock Award when she was named Player of the Year from that group during a dinner held at the Greystone Event Center on May 3.

Parting shots

My column on April 14 titled “Armchair refs: Put yourselves on the list” has resulted in lots of emails.

Everyone seems to agree with my basic point: Let’s go easy on referees and umpires. There are fewer and fewer of them, and it’s the right thing to do.

A reader from Apple Creek said her son was really enthusiastic about becoming an umpire several years ago, took the required classes and bought the gear. However, a fight broke out between parents, and the police were called during a game he umpired.

“Even though he was not threatened directly, that ended his brief time as an umpire, and I didn’t blame him,” the reader wrote.

—Postseason tournament time is almost upon us, and I wish local high school teams and The College of Wooster lots of success. I plan to write a feature story on the Fighting Scots baseball team.

Aaron Dorksen can be emailed at aarondorksen24@gmail.com.


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