On the surface, it was a major basketball milestone for Western Reserve senior standout Cora Wyers. She had scored her 1,000th career point in Saturday’s win over Monroeville.
It was celebrated as the significant crowning achievement that it is. The fact that she shared the floor with her freshman cousin only added to a family passion that produced such a strong moment on Saturday.
However, the path to get there is very distinctive in itself. Like most players of her caliber, Wyers grew up around the game of basketball.
But she also grew up in another setting. It’s a passion that is sending her to the University of South Carolina of the Southeastern Conference in a sport not often mentioned in mainstream conversations.
Wyers will compete as a member of the school’s equestrian team.
“I’ve shown horses ever since I could walk,” Wyers said of her family’s decades-long background in equestrian. “I grew up around horses, and it’s just something that always stuck with me because I love it.”
The two sports are not often associated with ever being connected. But as Wyers pushes down the backstretch of her high school basketball career, the balancing act between her two passions has played a key role in her success.
Where it began
As a kid, Wyers had her own miniature wheel barrel, complete with a small pitchfork to take care of her first pony, Josie. Every night, she was at The Stables at Chappel Creek Farm in Berlin Heights with her mother, Michelle.
“Every night I would look forward to cleaning her stall and being able to brush her,” Wyers said.
Through the years, Wyers has racked up impressive awards while showing her horses. Since 2015 alone, she’s been recognized more than 30 times at various shows and has traveled to Oklahoma for the American Quarter Horse Association world show for the past three years. She’s made many lifelong friends in the process.
But it’s also created an interesting and challenging balancing act.
Her horse, Waylon, is with a trainer in Oxford, nearly four hours from the Wyers family home.
“With basketball all week, we go down to Oxford on Sundays — which are really long days,” Wyers said. “When the basketball season is over, we’ll go down several times per week.
“My competitions are March through October, so it matches up perfectly with the basketball schedule,” she added.
Western Reserve coach Brenda Friend said Wyers’ dedication to the team and basketball in general hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“She does a lot of road travel besides also taking college courses,” Friend said. “She exemplifies being a student-athlete. People want to say stuff about kids these days, but Cora is having success because her family supports that. We sometimes take for granted kids who don’t miss anything.
“Cora communicates her schedules, and she shows up every single day,” she added. “It matters to her how she is involved in the community and the school. She has two loves in her life and has put so much time into both. She commits to something and follows through.”
The milestone moment
It was hardly a culmination.
After all, there is still another two-plus months left in Wyers’ basketball career.
But after becoming the fifth player in program history to reach 1,000 points — a scoring list she will rapidly continue to climb — Wyers was asked where it started.
“My earliest memory in basketball is playing on the Vermilion YMCA teams with my brother (Luke) and cousin, and our uncle (Rob Zvara) as our coach.”
Which all led back to this past Saturday. With the game in hand, on the floor for Western in the final minute was Isabella Zvara, her cousin.
That alone brought out emotions when the 1,000th point swished through the net that many couldn’t begin to understand.
“She recently got pulled up to the varsity,” Wyers said of her cousin. “My grandfather passed away my freshman year, and it was his dream to see us on the court together.”
Terry Hall died in December of 2015. He is also where the family legacy of horses at Chappel Farm began. Hall wore many hats in the horse community, from a 4-H adviser to director of the Northern Ohio Quarter Horse Association.
“To have that happen with Isabella on the floor and with my teammates and family behind me, that was the most exciting part of the whole thing,” Wyers said.
But it may not be the last milestone this season.
Wyers is averaging 18.2 points, eight rebounds and three blocks per game while shooting 50 percent from the field and 65 percent at the free-throw line.
She will soon surpass her teammate from the last three years, Andrea Robson (2018 graduate), in career points. She is 37 shy of Robson.
Ahead of her remains Vicky Mahl (1,182), the current head coach at St. Paul, along with Theresa Jackson (1,104) and Danielle Sidell (1,048). At her current pace, she’ll pass all four players to be the all-time points leader, possibly before the Division III sectional tournament begins.
She is already the program leader for blocks in a game (9) and season (111).
“It’s definitely on the horizon,” Wyers said of the scoring record. “But I know I’ll have to work hard to get it, and if it happens, that will be really special. But the focus is to finish the season strong as a team.”
The big finish
A year ago, Western Reserve reached a Div. III regional championship game, where it fell to powerhouse Ottawa-Glandorf.
This season, the ‘Riders are again atop the Firelands Conference and looking to win the league title yet again. Their lone loss is a 44-41 setback at Div. II Perkins (10-4), and a big matchup with Margaretta (11-1) is set for next Wednesday.
Western topped the Bears in double-overtime in the district title game a year ago.
A huge reason for the success has been the play of Wyers in the middle.
“I certainly can’t take any credit for what type of player she is,” Friend said. “Cora really exemplifies the culture of Western Reserve girls basketball.
“With the work she has put in, along with Laura (Pierson) and her staff before me, she’s probably one of the best post players I’ve ever coached,” she added. “She just wows me. For her to be able to do what she’s done in three-plus years is a testament to her quality as a post player.”
Before heading off to embark on a collegiate equestrian career, Wyers is hoping to lead the ‘Riders to another strong finish.
“We have high goals for ourselves, and one of the main goals is to leave the program in a strong place,” Wyers said. “When we’re done, we want to leave the next group with high goals and expectations to continue.”
Wyers said both sports demand perseverance and passion, things she learned over time. Equestrian and basketball require a lot of time and practice. She also credits her parents, Eric and Michelle, for allowing her and her siblings to have opportunities in both sports.
“I’ve enjoyed practicing and striving to be the best I can at both,” Wyers said. “Equestrian is an individual sport with my partner, Waylon (Good N Certain show name). My horse holds a very special part of my heart, and I would consider him my once in a lifetime.
“Because of our successes together, I was able to have the opportunity to ride for USC,” she added. “Basketball is obviously a team sport, so that brings in a whole new perspective. I love the team atmosphere, and playing basketball has helped me become a leader to my peers — and I know that will help me in college.”