TERRE HAUTE —
A two-time state finalist in wrestling and a two-time all-Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference football player and wrestler, Tsali Lough of Terre Haute South was named the male recipient of the 2012 McMillan Award on Monday night at South’s Senior Awards Night.
“There was some shock, some surprise and a lot of happiness,” Lough said Monday after receiving his award. “I’m definitely blessed to win this award, and it definitely made my night.”
Lough also won the Mike Wilson Award and received the Sgt. Dale Griffin Memorial Scholarship on Monday, and said afterward the McMillan Award was something he’d dreamed about.
“Ever since I knew what the McMillan Award was I’ve always wanted to win it,” he admitted. “It’s kind of like a dream come true … it makes me happy that people think so highly of me [to win the three awards].”
Lough, who will attend Indiana State University to play football, leaves the Braves with two career records in hand — the all-time leading tackler on the football team and the all-time winner on the wrestling team — and will be missed just as much for the intangibles he brought to both teams.
“We’ll really miss his leadership,” coach Mark Raetz of the football team said Monday. “He’s someone you could always depend on, day in and day out, to give you everything he had.”
“He’s a hard-working kid,” said coach Gabe Cook of the wrestling team. “He was always there; he never missed a match in four years … he’s a great kid. He had a lot of success on the mat, but we did a lot of things that were great off the mat as well.”
Lough’s high school football career still has two events left: he’ll be in the Wabash Valley Football Coaches Association All-Star Game next month and the Indiana Football Coaches Association North-South All-Star Game in July, the first Brave in 10 years to appear in the latter game.
He was also a two-time team captain of the Braves, Raetz pointed out, and was named to the IFCA’s Top 50 players in the state. He also won the Humphrey Award in the fall, presented annually to one Vigo County football player.
As a wrestler, he won two MIC championships, got to the state finals as a junior and finished seventh in the state as a senior — often as the underdog, Cook noted. His total of 126 wins is one better than his friend and former teammate P.J. Montgomery — the 2011 state runner-up — achieved.
Cook pointed out Monday that Lough is the first McMillan Award winner who had been a wrestler since Cornell Brooks of Terre Haute North in 1992. Cook also gave some credit for the award to Jeff Lough, Tsali’s father.
“Tsali’s father has been a great influence,” Cook said. “I’m going to miss Tsali, but I’m going to miss his dad too; [Jeff Lough] motivated me as well [as Tsali].”
The McMillan Award has been presented since 1939 to the athlete or athletes chosen as the best in Vigo County. It was established by Vern McMillan, founder of McMillan Sports, in memory of his wife LaVerne and was later amended to honor the memory of both McMillans.
Female athletes were honored for the first time in 1982, and since 1986 the award has been presented annually to both a male and a female athlete.
The 2012 female winner will be announced at a later date.