*Information and photos pulled from tomleachky.com
The Tom Leach All-Resilient-Team honors student-athletes from Kentucky high schools who have had to overcome some form of adversity to compete and often excel in sports, within the previous calendar year.
Tom Leach is the “Voice of the Wildcats” for the UK Radio Network, the play-by-play announcer for football and basketball games.
Each year, Leach releases the student-athletes selected for the All-Resilient team, this year five NKY student-athletes made the list.
Jeremiah Israel, Lloyd Memorial
Jeramiah’s adversity began shortly after birth when he and his siblings were sent to live with his grandmother. She had been awarded custody because Jeramiah’s parents were battling drug issues. While in the sixth grade, two of Jeramiah’s younger siblings were diagnosed with autism and he helped to care for them. By eighth grade, Jeramiah was taking on various jobs to provide income for the household. Through all of this adversity, Jeramiah remained focused on his passion for basketball at Lloyd Memorial High School. He scored more than a thousand points while earning all-conference and all-district honors. His 21 point-per-game scoring average as a senior earned him a scholarship to Northern Kentucky University.
Ava Coleman, Scott
Ava had to overcome two ACL tears in her left knee, first as a freshman and then as a junior at Scott High, forcing her to miss two seasons on the basketball court and her senior year on the soccer field. Her doctor told her she might never play sports again but through a strong mindset and a lot of hard work, she made it back for her senior season with the basketball team, serving as a captain. She was also a captain for her soccer team and a top 25 assist leader, earning All-10th Region honors in 2020 and all 37th District in both that sport and basketball. She did all of this plus was a standout in the classroom, with numerous honors including Governor’s Scholar.
Blake Folke, Covington Catholic
If any player would have had a right to just throw in the towel on his athletic career at Covington Catholic High School, it would have been Blake but he came back time and time again to be with his football and baseball teams. Heading into the 2022 season, he was projected to play a key role as a running back for the Colonels’ football team but an injury once again scuttled that plan. Between the seventh grade and his senior year, Blake underwent 11 major injuries. There were torn knee ligaments, two hip fractures, three broken clavicles, two wrist fractures and torn labrum and a separated AC joint. Through all of those injuries, Blake maintained his positive attitude and supported his teammates–and achieved a GPA of 3.7 in the classroom. Blake is headed to the University of Alabama on an academic scholarship.
Vinny Petroze, Newport Central Catholic
A simple cut on a leg suffered in a soccer match rocked Vinny’s world, as it developed into a flesh-eating bacteria that put his life in jeopardy. His condition deteriorated quickly and there were multiple, daily surgeries needed to save his leg and his life. At one point, he was on a ventilator for two days but he recovered and endured one final operation to reconstruct the leg. His doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital attributed his recovery to his excellent overall health before the bacterial infection as well as Vinny’s resilient spirit in fighting this battle. Just 12 weeks later, he was back on the court with the basketball team at Newport Central Catholic, followed by baseball and soccer the next fall. In his first two years as a varsity starter in soccer, Vinny started every game and won a “more than a match” award along the way.
Robbie Verst, Bishop Brossart
Adversity has been a constant companion during Robbie’s high school sports career at Bishop Brossart. As a freshman, a broken back sidelined him for that entire school year. As a sophomore, broken bones in both feet derailed his return to the basketball team and just after making it back for baseball season, he suffered a season-ending wrist injury. As a junior, torn ligaments in a knee ended his high school basketball career. As a senior, Robbie decided to try and make the golf team despite never having played the sport. He succeeded, shot several rounds in the low 40s and helped his team win a 10th Region All ‘A’ title. Robbie then developed a herniated disc but he overcame that, too, and returned to the baseball diamond and got a hit and stole a base in his first game back.