Upper Arlington (OH) Worthy of Golden Nickname

By Eric S. Smith

It is a wonder why some teams arbitrarily place a color in front of their nicknames. Honestly, what's the real difference between a blue devil and a red devil? Does Mother Nature really make red storms or green waves more devastating than those of any other pigment?

Yet sometimes, there's a clear reason for a color to be added to the front of a nickname. Take for example, the boys lacrosse team at Upper Arlington High School in Ohio. They have more than earned the distinction of being called the Golden Bears, a nickname they share with their most famous alum, golf legend Jack Nicklaus.

The Golden Bears have won five straight state titles and have been a dominant force in the Buckeye State for quite some time. In fact, legendary head coach Ted Wolford, who is already in the Ohio Lacrosse Hall of Fame, has won 11 state championships in his 17 years at the helm. Plus, Upper Arlington has lost in the title game five times, meaning that only once have the Golden Bears not played in the state championship game under the direction of Wolford.

Wolford has proven over time that he's an outstanding coach and that his teams will always finish near the top of the standings, but this year Upper Arlington has a role it's not used to playing. The Golden Bears are underdogs--golden underdogs.

That's right. The five-time defending state champions are not the favorites to make it six. Instead by many accounts, a team that has never won a state title, Worthington Kilbourne, is expected to hoist its first trophy. Upper Arlington defeated the Wolves in the state final last season, 8-3.

The Golden Bears lost 20 players due to graduation and six of those players were Division I recruits. This year's team has two seniors going Div. I, but has lost some of the goal-scoring abilities of a year ago.

"One of the things we just can't give them is experience," Wolford told the Columbus Local News. "We have to be patient as coaches and help them develop as players."

Kilbourne, on the other hand, is bringing five Div. I recruits back for one more run at a state crown. The majority of the Wolves' talent lies on the offensive end of the field.

But for Upper Arlington, it all starts with defense this season. Senior Phil Gross, who is Yale bound, and junior Joe Benedick, a top-rated prospect for 2010, are stalwarts in the back line. When senior captain and goalie Teddy Dugger is added to the mix, the defense becomes a very formidable unit.

The attack is led by senior Alex Drake and senior middie Kyle Cooper, but beyond that there isn't much experience for Upper Arlington.

The young players will need to quickly learn that there is constantly a target on their backs, and everyone is gunning for them.

"You kind of hope the younger guys are at least aware of it," Wolford told the Columbus Local News. "The guys who've been there recognize it and understand it. They try to measure themselves against the best teams."

The young Bears will get a chance to measure themselves against the best in Ohio both in the regular season and the postseason. Upper Arlington is located just outside of Columbus in the region where most of the premier lacrosse teams in the state reside.

Kilbourne, Thomas Worthington, Dublin Jerome, Dublin Coffman, and others are always talented and are always on the Golden Bears' schedule.

It will certainly be a stiff test for the 2009 version of Upper Arlington to measure up to the pedigree already set forth. But no matter what this team accomplishes, there should be no argument that golden is exactly the right color to use when describing this storied program.


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