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Bringing the Fire: Dragon Athletics

Fall Winter 2019/2020


Tiffin University’s outstanding student-athletes were honored once again, as TU placed third nationally amongst Division II schools in the D2 Athletics Directors Association Academic Achievement awards.

The Dragons totaled 149 honorees, tying Queens University of Charlotte from the South Atlantic Division (SAC). Independently, the Great Midwest Athletic Conference’s (GMAC) University of Findlay moved up to lead the pack this year with 211 honorees, followed by the Great Lakes Valley Conference’s (GLVC) University of Indianapolis with 163 award winners. The top five concluded with Gannon University out of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) with 144 nominees.

The Academic Achievement Awards, in its 12th year, is a program that recognizes the academic accomplishments of student-athletes at the Division II level. In total, there were 11,660 student-athletes from 185 institutions being recognized for the 2018-19 Academic Achievement Awards. This set the record for the most participation from institutions and the largest number of student-athletes being nominated.

In order for a student-athlete to receive an Academic Achievement Award, student-athletes must:

∙ have a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or higher on a 4.0 scale

∙ have attended a minimum of two years (four semesters) of college-level work

∙ have been an active member of an intercollegiate team during his/her last academic year

The 149 total is an increase of 53 from the 2017-18 season, as the Dragons vaulted from 21st in the nation to third this year.


It was the best Division II season ever for Tiffin University, as the Dragons finished 25th in the Learfield/IMG Director’s Cup standings.

This is the highest Tiffin has been ranked since their move to D2 in 2008 when they placed 205th. It is also the highest they have finished since 2017 when Tiffin finished 36th. The previous highest finish ever for Tiffin came in 2016 when they placed 34th.

Tiffin totaled 477 points and was the highest-ranked G-MAC school, easily outpacing Findlay (42nd with 350.75). No other G-MAC school cracked the Top 50. Grand Valley State led the pack with 1004 points, followed by University of California San Diego with 826.

For the Dragons, it was a magical year that saw 11 teams engage in NCAA Championship competition, eight-team champions, seven Coach of the Year honors, six Player of the Year awards, three Freshman of the Year citations, 140 All-Conference recognitions and a school-record 76 Player of the Week honorees.

Men’s and women’s track and field won both the indoor and outdoor titles, while men’s soccer and men’s tennis also won G-MAC regular season and tournament titles. Women’s lacrosse also won the regular-season championship and baseball claimed the tournament championship.

Jeremy Croy earned four Coach of the Year honors in track, while Phil Conley (men’s tennis), Joey Simcoe (men’s wrestling) and Erica Brown (women’s lacrosse) also garnered top coaching honors.

Kangni Gabianou (men’s soccer defensive player of the year), Miguel Garcia (men’s swimming), Trey Grine (men’s wrestling) and Elle Hamilton (women’s lacrosse) were Player of the Year winners and Miaisha Blair was twice named Field Athlete of the Year for indoor and outdoor track.

Garcia, Amanda Johansson (women’s golf) and Nicole Berry (track and field) were named Freshman of the Year.

Three teams qualified for NCAA postseason play, with men’s soccer, women’s golf and baseball getting the nods.

Tiffin University’s men’s indoor track squad finished third at the National Championships, while Tiffin also had two individual national champions – Jonte Baker in indoor track and Nick Mason in men’s wrestling.

In outdoor track competition, Tiffin finished fifth overall, with Baker winning another title in the 100 meters while teaming with Elijah Gauldin, Zion Cross and Quincy Scott to win the 4×100 national title. Marisa Gwinner also became the first women’s athlete to win a national title, taking first in the high jump.


The Great Midwest Athletic Conference announced the 2018-19 Academic All-Conference Team on Wednesday afternoon, and a total of 228 Tiffin student-athletes received the honor. Those Dragons were named to the list of nearly 2,000 individuals from the conference’s 14 full-member and three associate member institutions competing in the 23 championships sports that the GMAC offers. Tiffin’s total was third in the conference, behind just Findlay and Walsh. Broken down by sport, TU received 19 honors in baseball, 15 in football, six in men’s basketball, six in men’s cross country, 11 in men’s golf, 10 in men’s soccer, eight in men’s swimming & diving, 11 in men’s tennis, 17 in men’s track & field, five in wrestling, 14 in softball, 11 in volleyball, 13 in women’s basketball, six in women’s cross country, seven in women’s golf, 15 in women’s lacrosse, 27 in women’s soccer, five in women’s swimming & diving, eight in women’s tennis and 20 in women’s track & field. Notably, all 13 members of the women’s basketball team received the award. To be named to the Great Midwest Academic All-Conference Team, the student-athlete grade point average must be a minimum of 3.30 based on the 4.0 system, the GPA shall be cumulative for the student-athletes entire collegiate career and the student-athlete must have completed at least one full academic year at the nominating institution. Student-athlete GPAs reported by each institution were reflected through the spring semester.


People say you can use numbers to say anything. I agree. Let’s see what the numbers say about the fall 2019 athletic season at Tiffin University.

1. The number of times Tiffin had beaten Findlay in football prior to this season. Hadn’t been done since 1993. After this year’s 52-45 win at Findlay, a win which won the team the GMAC Championship and sent them to the NCAA Division II playoffs for the first time in their history, it will not be a win soon forgotten.

2. The number of men’s soccer players to earn All-Region honors. Leo Hasenstab and Joel Daly both were named Daktronics All-Region honorees after Tiffin’s men’s soccer team won their second consecutive GMAC Tournament Championship.

3. The number of Tiffin University volleyball players on the All GMAC team. Jenna Huffman, Loryn Huffman and Sam Fallis all were honored, with Jenna Huffman landing her fourth consecutive First Team honor. In her senior campaign, Huffman had a season for the ages, leading all of Division II with 4.75 kills per set, 522 total kills, 5.35 points per set and 13.09 attacks per set. All four of those marks are in line to be new GMAC records.

4. The jersey number of JaQuan Hardy. A number that opposing defensive players probably have imprinted on their brains, that they have nightmares about when they sleep. Hardy was named GMAC Player of the Year. Hardy led the GMAC in rushing and yards per carry. In Division II, he is seventh in yards per carry, sixth in rushing yards per game and 12th in rushing touchdowns. He equaled the GMAC single-season record for rushing yards with 1554. An amazing season in the books, one that sets the stage for an exciting senior season next year.

5. Number of major award winners on the GMAC Football team. Besides Hardy, quarterback Nick Watson was named Offensive Player of the Year, Stanley Jackson Jr. was named Offensive Back of the Year, Charlie Cleveland was named Defensive Lineman of the Year and Cris Reisert was named Coach of the Year in his debut season. All of the athletes ranked high in the national standings in numerous categories.

6. The seed of Tiffin’s men’s soccer team as they entered the NCAA regional for the fifth time in seven seasons. Quite the run for the Dragons, who seem to battle and leave it all on the field every time they play a game. Despite entering the GMAC tourney as the fourth seed, they won the title with two upset victories, bouncing back from some tough luck losses late in the season.

7. The jersey number of defensive lineman Charlie Cleveland. Just as Hardy’s number terrorized defenders, Cleveland’s number is seared in the brain of offensive linemen and quarterbacks. The sophomore was second in the GMAC in both tackles for loss with 15.5 and sacks with 8.5. He also ranks second on the Dragons with 55 total tackles.

8. The number of GMAC Athletes of the Week Tiffin University received in one monumental week (November 18 – 22). Unprecedented. Maybe the single most glorious week in TU athletic history. Hardy and A.J. Nickoli (football), Fallis (volleyball), Jairus Stevens (men’s basketball), Caleb Gibbons and Pace Thomas (men’s soccer), Bryan LaVearn (men’s wrestling) and Jonah Sumfleth (men’s swimming) all landed selection in the same week. Six separate sports all earning at least one Athlete of the Week honor in one week.

9. The number of wins for the football team. TU finished 9-2, winning the GMAC Championship and earning selection to the NCAA Super Region 1 playoffs for the first time ever. It is hard to emphasize how big some of the wins this season were, or what it means for the football program moving forward.

10. The number of conference wins for the volleyball team. With a 10-2 mark, it is the first time in TU history that the volleyball team has finished second in conference play since they went to Division II, back in 2007. They entered the GMAC playoffs as the second seed (their highest seed ever) and reached the GMAC championship game, their first-ever Division II conference finals appearance. What memories this fall’s performances have left all fans of TU athletics! I guess what they say is true. You can say a lot with numbers.

Shane O’Donnell, Sports Information Director