Joe Podelco / Lantern Photographer
Near the end of Thursday’s soccer practice, Ohio State senior defender and team captain David Tiemstra stood with his hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath. His gray practice shirt was soaked with sweat.
As associate head coach Frank Speth yelled out instructions for the next conditioning drill, a still winded, Tiemstra stepped up to the line with three of his teammates and begins his sprint: running about 10 yards, stopping on a dime to change direction and then 10 yards back.
He crossed the finish line a step ahead of the others.
Success hasn’t come easily for the senior. He’s worked toward being a great soccer player since his playing days began between the ages of 5 and 6.
“It’s the only thing I’ve done my whole life,” Tiemstra said. “As long as I can remember I’ve been playing soccer and it’s what everything has been centered around.”
As a senior at Hinsdale Central High School of Illinois, Tiemstra was named an All-American and all-state twice.
Tiemstra said he credits his father for teaching him humility and not letting the accolades go to his head.
“(My father) always made sure that I wasn’t getting cocky or anything,” Tiemstra said, laughing. “When I’d talk about upcoming things, he’s always talk to me about how nothing is certain.”
Tiemstra’s father seemed prophetic as few Division I schools expressed interest in his son. The decision came down to two schools: Ohio State and Michigan.
After a visit to OSU, Tiemstra said the Michigan coach dismissed him from consideration, making the choice a simple one.
Coach John Bluem said that Speth, a Chicago native, had been aware of Tiemstra and thought to recruit him.
“He came in right from the beginning and played centrally on our defense,” Bluem said. “We knew we were getting a good athlete.”
Tiemstra has started all 77 games in his career as a Buckeye.
Though a defender by trade, Bluem said Tiemstra’s athleticism has shown in the unlikely form of offense.
“He has scored some very timely goals for the program,” Bluem said. “He was a big part of the 2009 regular season and tournament championship for us.”
Near the end of his sophomore year in 2009, Tiemstra was able to get some revenge against the coach and team who had snubbed him.
On Nov. 7, 2009, Tiemstra fielded a corner kick inside the box and scored with two seconds remaining in the first half to give OSU a 1-0 lead against rival Michigan. That is all the Buckeyes needed as they won the game by the same score and earned the Big Ten regular season championship.
“There was definitely some added motivation,” Tiemstra said, smiling. “I think scoring that goal on Michigan to win the Big Ten really was a highlight for me.”
Then on Nov. 15, Tiemstra scored in the final minute of the contest on a throw-in to give the Buckeyes a 1-0 victory against Penn State for the Big Ten tournament championship.
There were no heroics from Tiemstra on Saturday as the Buckeyes fell to conference foe Indiana in a game that could have locked up a regular season championship for the Buckeyes, but the senior helped hold the Hoosiers to a single goal, fewer than Indiana had scored in its previous five contests.
Junior defender Chris Gomez said he benefitted from playing with Tiemstra.
“I like to attack a lot, so when I go up I know he’s on my side and he’ll defend for me,” Gomez said. “And just watching him defend one-on-one, I try to see what he does so I can put that in my game too.”
“Every time I come out I work my hardest and the guys see that,” Tiemstra said. “I hope they take that away from my game.”
As conditioning concluded during Thursday, Tiemstra, visibly tired with his hands on his hips, smiled and put his hand on fellow senior Nick Galiardi’s shoulder.
Tiemstra had just bested Galiardi in the last sprint of practice.
Coach Bluem smiled too.
“He’s not gonna let anybody beat him,” Bluem said.