The 2021-22 John J. Wirtz Athlete of the Year Award winner is Marty Lenehan. This award is given to a senior athlete who has made a significant contribution to the sports program in more than one sport and has demonstrated academic ability, coachability, dedication, leadership, exemplary behavior, and citizenship. The nominees are presented to the student body of Saint Ignatius High School, who vote for their athlete of the year, which began in 1958 and was named after John Wirtz in 1974. Lenehan is a dual-sport athlete as a member of the football and rugby programs.
"I'm excited, joining a great group of guys," says Lenehan. "I am honored that I won this award."
The news came in while the rugby program competes for a National Championship in Elkhart, Indiana. Fresh off their win in the National Quarterfinal against Xavier (NY), the team met as the announcement was made that Lenehan was the Wirtz Athlete of the Year winner.
"In a class full of worthy recipients, I think the students got it right, as good of a player Marty is with his athletic ability; he is that much and more of a leader for the team," Head Rugby Coach Dan Arbeznik '00 says. "The guys rise to the expectations of what he has for them on the pitch and he deserves this award."
In the fall, Lenehan was a freight train for the Football Cats and a captain as he was the catalyst to an offense that dealt with multiple injuries at the quarterback position. Saint Ignatius relied heavily on Lenehan's legs each week. As Lenehan's football career at Saint Ignatius ends, he leaves with impressive varsity numbers. In two years as a starting running back, Lenehan totaled 373 carries, 1,897 yards and 26 rushing touchdowns. Lenehan was an excellent receiving back in two years, totaling 27 receptions for 233 yards and three touchdowns.
"The St. Xavier game my senior year comes to mind as my favorite memory with the football team," explains Lenehan. "Our running attack against them in 2020 and 2021 were great; we had a fantastic offensive line."
Lenehan racked up 119 yards on 32 carries and a touchdown in that St. Xavier game at Pat Catan Stadium in Strongsville.
"He is a talented young man and he gave every ounce of God-given talent he has and anyone who watches him play can agree with that," says Head Football Coach Chuck Kyle '69. "As a running back, he had tremendous vision and that goes a long way; he took it to another level."
The numbers on the football field for Lenehan were impressive, considering that the 2020 season was shortened to seven games due to the pandemic. Lenehan, in his senior season, gave it his all. The senior back went over the century mark four times, creating history with fellow teammate Joey Georges. Both backs became the first rushers in program history to go over 100 yards in a single game vs. Mentor in the first round of the OHSAA Playoffs. Lenehan's game-high in touchdowns came in the Archbishop Moeller game as he found pay dirt four times for the Wildcats.
"As a leader, he did so many things behind the scenes," explains Kyle. "I am impressed and touched by his concern for his teammates."
In the spring, Lenehan is found on the Rugby pitch and, as mentioned earlier, is in the midst of a National Championship run. Lenehan is a three-year starter for the Varsity A Rugby Cats. Before the season was cut short due to the pandemic in Lenehan's Sophomore year, he was the starting scrum-half. Rugby has been a part of Lenehan's life since a young age as he was a member of the Saint Ignatius Rookie Rugby program led by coach Arbeznik.
"I remember when he was a freshman, it was an excellent class and obviously, they are seniors now. Freshman coach Tony Vegh '73 and I met about Marty and I said this kid is coming; he's busy playing basketball at the moment, but he is going to be very good," explains Arbeznik. "Marty has that crazy desire to compete in all aspects of life, which I adore about him. We knew Marty was going to be special at a young age.
Lenehan has now experienced two National Championship runs; in his junior year, the Cats fell just short in the National Championship. Now, they are looking for redemption in Elkhart, Indiana. "Being here right now, the coaches and parents put so much effort into this and care so much about us," says Lenehan. "My favorite moment with the rugby team was probably the Midwest Championships last year, we didn't have the seniors with us and we were able to win that tournament."
There are plenty of challenges of being a dual-sport athlete, but the positives outweigh the cons. "Sports should be fun and playing the same sport all year round brings the challenge of burn-out," Arbeznik says. "I love that our guys can hop in and out of other sports. I think it makes them hungrier and gives them enjoyment. I also enjoy being a fan of them when they play other sports."
"Playing rugby in the spring helped get me ready for football in the fall," explains Lenehan. "It is tough to flip back and forth in two physical sports, but with the help of coach AJ Short '09 and Ms. Mo, they make it easier."
Lenehan becomes the 64th Saint Ignatius Athlete of the Year Award winner, joining a legendary list including Garry Roggenburk '58, Mike Buddie '89, Jonathan Gannon '01 and more. A complete list of award winners can be found here. Congratulations to senior Marty Lenehan, the 2021-22 John J. Wirtz Athlete of the Year Award winner.