Troy Athens soccer star Ryan Gruca is all smiles after scoring a goal vs. Grand Blanc this past fall.
Troy Athens soccer star Ryan Gruca is all smiles after scoring a goal vs. Grand Blanc this past fall. (Athens Boosters)

Ryan Gruca is joining Ohio Northern University after winning a national championship with his club team and a state championship with Athens a few years ago.

Ohio Northern University … That’s former Troy Athens High School soccer star Ryan Gruca’s college choice.

Gruca joins the Division III men’s soccer program at the rural Ada, Ohio, school after winning a national championship with his club team and a state championship with Athens a few years ago.

Athens boys soccer coach Todd Heugh thinks Ohio Northern could be a perfect fit for Gruca.

“Ryan can make an immediate impact in a Division III program,” Heugh said. “He hasn’t reached his full potential as a soccer player.”

Gruca brings versatility to Ohio Northern. He can play defense, midfield or forward, although he feels forward is his best position.

Ohio Northern went 11-7-3 last season against a tough schedule (six games against top-25 teams). None of the seven losses was by more than two goals.

The Polar Bears lost in the Ohio Athletic Conference tournament semifinals.

Ohio Northern lost 14 seniors from last year’s team, so fourth-year coach Chris Matejka has some holes to fill in his lineup. 

The Polar Bears’ season opener is Sept. 1 at Kenyon.

It was the summer of 2018 when Gruca helped the U15 Waza Football Club nationals team win a U.S. Youth Soccer national championship.

A little more than a year later, in the fall of 2019, Gruca scored two of Athens’ three goals in the second and final overtime period in the Red Hawks’ 4-1 win over Traverse City in the Division 1 state championship game.

“Ryan always gave us everything he had athletically, emotionally and mentally, and he was always dialed in and ready for big moments, even when he was a sophomore in the state championship game,” Heugh said.

Gruca was the Athens team leader in goals, assists and points as a junior and senior. He had 10 goals and 12 assists in 2020 and 17 goals and six assists in 2021.

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