Two Hudson athletes aim for the clouds

by Sheldon Ocker

Two Hudson High School athletes are engaging in flights of fancy these days, at least metaphorically. Aidan McStay claimed a top-five spot in the state wrestling tournament, and Aiden Lal was selected to play in the annual Ohio North-South Football Classic at Paul Brown Stadium in Massillon on April 30.

McStay is literally pondering whether to fly or not to fly. His father, Robert, flies cargo planes for Federal Express. Aidan is thinking about earning a pilot’s license and joined the Air National Guard last year, as a 17-year-old.

 “Possibly, but I’m not certain yet,’’ he said. “If I do, I will learn to fly through the Air Force.’’

The chance to acquire a pilot‘s license isn’t the only reason McStay enlisted in the Air Guard, which will require him to go through basic training during the summer followed by tech training. All of that will precede attending one meeting a month and two weeks of summer camp for six years.

“I just wanted to be part of something and have the opportunity to serve,’’ McStay said. “It also will help pay for college.’’

In addition to finishing fifth in the state wrestling tournament at 165 pounds, McStay got a little vengeance. He was denied a trip to the state last year when he lost by one point to William Scavuzzo of Highland High School in the district tourney. This year, McStay kept his chances of qualifying for the state alive by defeating Scavuzzo in triple overtime at the district tourney.

“I always knew that making it to the state tournament was a big challenge,’’ McStay said. “The only thing I could do was it give everything I had and hope for the best.”

As his coach, Joe Caniglia said, “Aidan is a fantastic young man. He is an incredibly hard worker and comes from a great family.’’

If McStay decides to continue wrestling, he will do it at Kent State, otherwise he will matriculate at Ohio State.

Lal’s connection to flight has nothing to do with piloting aircraft. The Division II third team All-Ohio running back will take his football career to the next level by enrolling at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“From the start [of the recruiting process], the way they pursued me and the relationships I built with the coaches – there was no better choice for me,’’ he said. “And being one of the [military] academies, they’re about more than just football.’’

But doesn’t everyone who joins the Air Force want to become a jet pilot?

“Personally, I don’t want to fly,’’ Lal said. “I feel cramped up in the air. I’m looking to get into management.’’

Lal’s senior season at Hudson was cut short when a Nordonia tackler fell on his ankle, and he needed surgery to repair two ligaments. Nevertheless, Lal rushed for 1,096 yards, averaging 7.3 yards per carry in seven-plus games.

Although Lal was a running back almost exclusively last season, he played slot receiver and linebacker during his high school career.

“If he wanted, he could play another collegiate sport,’’ said Hudson Coach Jeff Gough. “He is just that kind of athlete.’’

That said, Gough touts Lal as a superior running back. And his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame is one reason that Lal is a formidable offensive weapon.

“I think he can play a number of positions, but he certainly has a knack for playing running back,’’ Gough said. “We saw that last season when he had several 100-yard games. Aiden is just a huge, bruising athletic back. When his body fills out and he gets into a true college weight room program, the sky’s the limit.’’

The design of the offense at the Air Force Academy is a running back’s dream. It is called the triple option, and the few college teams that use it seldom throw a pass. At Hudson, as at the vast majority of high schools, the triple option didn’t exist.

“The [Air Force] coaches have been teaching me everything about it,’’ Lal said. “And now I’ve watched their games.’’

Lal knows that attending college two times zones from home, facing a rigorous curriculum and rigid environment will necessitate an adjustment in thinking.

“I’ll be really far away from my family for the first time,’’ he said. “But I like taking on new adventures, and I’ve already made some good friends at the Academy.’’ ∞