Dan Weber’s Just Sayin’: Mike Bankemper’s four decades as Campbell County matman honored

Dan Weber
Dan Weber
Dan Weber is LINK nky's sports editor-at-large. Contact him at [email protected]

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Really nice job by Campbell County High School last Friday night the way the school honored recently retired coach Mike Bankemper at the halftime of the Highlands game – with his family and so many of the wrestlers he’d coached in a 42-year career (40 as head coach) for the Camels’ program.

But Mike wasn’t just a coach — he started as a wrestler at the Alexandria school, earning a state runner-up spot in his four-year career before going on to be awarded NKU’s Athlete of Distinction as a scholarship athlete. His next stop – and last stop — was back home at Campbell County: assistant coach from 1980-1982 and head coach from 1982 to 2022.

Mike has been inducted into three Halls of Fame – Northern Kentucky Sports, Northern Kentucky Athletic Directors and Kentucky Wrestling Coaches. He was a three-time Kentucky Wrestling Coach of the Year and National Wrestling Coach of the Year in 2016. His pupils went on to win 27 state championships, made the finals 91 times, with 10 high school All-Americans and seven Division I wrestlers.

His teams won 24 NKAC championships, 18 regional titles, and four state championships — with five more finishing as runners-up with the 1991 team ending the season as No. 24 in the nation. All told, Mike’s teams were 802-172-6 in dual meets, a winning percentage of 82.4.

But as the dozens and dozens of his athletes of all ages made clear Friday, Mike did much more for them than make them winners on the mat.

Keeping the math up with the kicks
Sometimes it happens. A player does something special and, for one reason or another, it slips through. That happened Friday night at the Campbell County-Highlands football game when Highlands’ place-kicker Davis Burleigh nailed three field goals.

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That included a pair of 29-yarders in the second quarter, although those weren’t the takeaway for the night. That was reserved for the 46-yarder (maybe just a tad past the 46 if truth were told) that hit the crossbar and bounced through in the fourth quarter of the Bluebirds’ 44-13 win. But as fate would have it, those two same-quarter 29-yarders were conflated into one in the box score. And in our story, that’s how it ended up as a two-field goal game.

But the official stats this week look good for Davis, who is the second-leading field goal kicker in the Commonwealth with five field goals in six attempts. It’s second only to Louisville Trinity’s Kellan McLaughlin, who has hit on seven of eight. McLaughlin’s longest is from just 44 yards out, so there’s that. And both kickers are capable of sending kickoffs into the end zone where they’re unreturnable, something Burleigh did at least three times Friday. Burleigh is also a perfect 11 of 11 on PATs.

But Burleigh is hardly alone in Northern Kentucky, where there are more top kickers than in any year in recent memory. With two field goals in three games each, Newport Central Catholic’s Ryan Barth and Ryle’s Josh Line are tied for seventh in the state with 0.67 per game. Bishop Brossart’s Tyler Smith has one in his two games but the soccer guy has a cannon for a leg. He’s tied for No. 13, as is Ludlow’s Jaxson Rice. With one in three games, Walton-Verona’s Lincoln Mann is tied for No. 24, the same as Beechwood’s do-everything Mitchell Berger who kicked one in the opener at Louisville Fairdale just for the heck of it.

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