Ohio State Buckeyes Pre-Nationals Spotlight

Leading into Nationals, we look to spotlight as many teams as we can in hopes of shining a bright light on standouts from participating teams. These glow-ups include up to 2 of each team’s standout rookies as well as a handful of core contributing players that have gotten their respective team to where they are going into the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association’s annual finale. Lastly, we get a glance into each participating team’s mindset and expectations going into Nationals.

Buckeyes’ Rookie Spotlight

With OSU’s strongest recruiting class to date, highlighting just two rookies seemed unreasonable. Like most teams this season, half of the Ohio State roster consists of first-season players. Many members play like experienced vets – like Derrek Kemper who will be recovering from an arm injury this Nationals. (Check out his December BOTM article!) That being said, two rookie Buckeyes have certainly made a name for themselves in the league.

Ethan Lehmkuhl, #13

Ethan Lehmkuhl’s talent and quick learning on the court was evident at the first tournament in September 2021, and he was selected for the starting 12 roster – despite the fact that OSU’s roster was so large they defaulted to a B team. As the semester continued, Ethan found his place on the left side with Captain Ryan Ginsberg and hasn’t looked back since. Together these two have a presence that pushes the other team to the back lines. Ethan is often making throws for the team with a force that literally knocks people over and leaves bruises. But he is also aware of teammates and constantly makes an effort to protect them with counters, catches, blocks, or general pushing up on the throw line. Ethan plays dodgeball like a veteran, and he has been instrumental in the success of OSU’s left side.  

Elijah Thomas, #78

Elijah Thomas found Ohio State’s team during our virtual involvement fair in fall 2020. His first engagements with the team were over Zoom calls where he watched the game from past livestreams, and his first practices consisted of a handful of players at outdoor roller rink courts until OSU eased practice restrictions this season. Elijah stepped into fall as one of the most knowledgeable players on the court despite having no prior tournament experience. He supports the center with nonstop pump fakes, perfect reset throws, and diving catches. Elijah isn’t just a supporting player though; he can be called on for snipes, team throws, and the OT6. He has patiently gained the in person experience that makes him a ROTY candidate. He often comes off as a quiet, unsuspecting player, but his energy and dodgeball IQ will carry the success of the team at Nationals this year. 

Key Contributors for the Buckeyes

Ryan Ginsberg gained league recognition after the first point he played in fall 2019. Livestream viewers were wowed by his catching ability, and he was named the league’s first Rookie of the Month. Little did they know that Ryan was not only a catcher; he is also a lefty thrower – and a good one. Under the guidance of Ben Johnson, Ryan honed in on his throwing ability and took turns making plays. This season, Ryan took Ethan under his wings to lock down the left side. The two of them play together like Ryan did with Ben: one righty, one lefty, one vet, one rookie; two incredible all-around players who look out for each other. Ryan is an All Ohio candidate with throws that seem to come out of nowhere and agility that makes him a difficult target. He also serves as a captain of the team leading with new strategies, developing player skills, and no doubt taking OSU to the National Championships this year. 

Sam Palumbo is perhaps the most underrated player in the league. Now in graduate school, he has years of experience and has seen the region develop since 2012. Sam’s IQ of the sport makes him an invaluable asset in strategy, and he has consistently held up the right side of the court as the top thrower for OSU. Throwing isn’t his only strength. During his last season, Sam has altered the outcome of multiple points at multiple tournaments with unbelievable catches – he can catch at close range, while backpedaling, on the ground (the old man falls sometimes), and even mid followthrough from a throw. Sam’s confidence and skill set on the court is unparalleled, and he is ready to bring his best for his last Nationals. 

Ben Dardia is in his element on the dodgeball court. Keen and quiet, Ben launches himself across the court for catches. He has an innate sense for ball placement and can easily reset the shot clock in a way that forces an opponent to run back and forth. Ben is also arguably one of the best dodgers to watch play – he slips between team throws and slides across the floor always looking to catch a poorly placed throw. Ben serves as the President of OSU’s team and has supported the growth of new players on and off the court. 

Dylan Greer is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable players on OSU’s team – and for that matter, in the entire league. He is adamant that refs and captains are aware of game-deciding rules, and he will likely be proposing more rule changes this year because he is passionate about the game. In between injuries since his first season, Dylan has transformed the club’s dynamics. His extensive experience was called on this season to lead practices, run drills, and host team gatherings. Dylan is just as successful in his own playing abilities. He loves to bait catches, pump fake on unsuspecting opponents, and toe tap from the center of the court. He can make himself small in the corner, jump across the court to dodge team throws; he is agile and always on the move. Dylan’s unrelenting endurance is key for winning the National Championships.

Mindset for Nationals – Several Players

“This will be a great opportunity for rookies to showcase themselves against top tier talent and see different play styles that they haven’t experienced before. If we can make the necessary adjustments to our game plan, then we will be set up for success; we just have to remember that Nationals is a marathon and not a sprint. One game will not define our fate. It’s important to rest, recover, and play to our abilities. As our first overnight tournament this season, I am looking forward to some team bonding.” – Sam Palumbo

“Gonna get the W and knock some domes off.” – Ryan Ginsberg

“My first nationals left me with a love for a sport of which passion I’m happy to share with a team of wonderful friends. I’m beyond excited to watch this similar passion grow full in the players who get to experience this event for the first time. This team’s love for the game will fuel the fire we need to win the cup. We aren’t going home without a fight.” – Dylan Greer

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