Tahlequah Daily Press


May 24, 2013

Helsley hauls in honors

Sequoyah’s Ryan Helsley caps off his athletic career with accolades in three sports, including an Indian All-State selection.

Few words describe the kind of senior year that Ryan Helsley had. Perhaps the best word is “incomparable.”

It was a year unlike any other for Helsley.

It’s not often a football scandal precedes a state-tournament run in basketball. But that’s exactly what Helsley endured during the 2012-2013 school year.

“It was really crazy,” Helsley said. “A lot of things happened this year that I would’ve never thought would happen.”

Whether he envisioned it or not, Helsley was also recognized for his talents in three different sports this year.

He was an All-District selection in football for the Indians. Helsley, named District 3A-7’s co-Secondary Player of the Year, finished with 94 tackles, four interceptions and a touchdown on defense. He also caught 33 catches for 678 yards and 15 touchdowns on offense.

Helsley followed that up with 15.3 points and 6.2 rebounds a game for Sequoyah during basketball season. And after leading Sequoyah to the Class 3A state tournament, Helsley recently picked up Indian All-State honors.

Then, to cap off his athletic journey, Helsley sported a .407 batting average with six home runs and 27 runs batted in to wrangle All-Region honors in baseball. On the mound, Helsley also picked up three victories while logging 52 strikeouts in 40 innings.

Helsley was the only Sequoyah athlete this year to pick up honors in each athletic trimester.

“It’s really special,” said Helsley, who will participate in the Indian All-State basketball game on June 15 at Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville.

“It feels good to be recognized like that. It just shows that all my hard work that I have put in throughout my life has started to pay off.”

Then a question was posed to Helsley: In which sport does the postseason honor mean the most?

“I think they all have just about as much meaning as the other,” he said. “I’ve played all three sports most of my life, and to be recognized like this is a great honor and a huge milestone.”

When it comes to the football accolades, it’s all that Helsley will have to remember the 2012 season by. After all, Sequoyah was stripped of all nine of its regular-season victories after the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association ruled that the Indians had violated the organization’s summer camp policy.

That meant no district title — which Sequoyah claimed by beating Hilldale in Week 9, before having to give it up a few weeks later. It also translated into no shot at a Class 3A state championship.

“I’m not one to brag, but we had a chance this year to win the whole thing,” Helsley said. “This football team was special and very talented.”

The notion of not getting to play in the playoffs is something Helsley thinks will stick with him for quite a while.

“I think it’ll be something that I’ll think about down the road and always wonder, ‘what if we got to play the rest of our season?’” he said. “We felt like we had all the tools to do something special this year.”

The sabbatical during the football playoffs lit a fire in Helsley to succeed that much more come basketball season. He even admitted that there was added incentive to make the state tournament on the hardwood.

“There definitely was,” he said. “Niko (Hammer) and I talked before our first basketball game and said, ‘let’s get to state since we can’t do anything about football.’ It made it that much sweeter when we made it to state.”

And talk about dramatic fashion in getting to the state tournament. The Indians rallied from 19 points down against the No. 1 team in the state (Oklahoma Centennial) to claim the area title in Sand Springs.

“That was by far the most fun I’ve ever had playing a basketball game,” Helsley said. “I couldn’t even hear it was so loud in that gym.”

The Indians followed the win over Centennial up with a first-round victory over Sperry at the state tournament. The Indians, though, would be bounced from the tournament in the semifinals against Okemah.

Now Sequoyah basketball coach Jay Herrin faces the challenge of replacing Helsley’s production and leadership.

“He had a great senior year for us as our leading scorer and leading rebounder,” Herrin said. “Without his efforts, we wouldn’t have accomplished what we did without him.

“He will be very hard to replace because of the quality of kid that he is. We’ll have to all pull together to replace that.”

Now Helsley will embark on a collegiate baseball career at Northeastern State. But before that, he’s going to sharpen his baseball skills by playing this summer.

“I’m going to play legion baseball with a team out of Muskogee,” Helsley said. “We’ll play around 35 to 40 games this summer.”

As for his immediate impact for the RiverHawks, Helsley isn’t quite sure what his freshman year will entail.

“I think that I’ll be able to start playing for them,” Helsley said. “I’ll mostly be pitching, but I don’t know for sure if I’ll start right off. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

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