By Greg Gielczyk

(The feature photo above includes from left to right; David Nemecek, Jaden O’Hagan and John O’Hagan)

John O’Hagan had a bucket list when he started officiating 37 years ago, in 1985, and that was to work a state final in each of the sports he officiated.

He checks off the last one at 10 a.m. Saturday when he officiates the MHSAA Division 4 girls basketball championship pitting Fowler (23-3) against Plymouth Christian (22-4).

The 54-year old worked his first boys basketball and baseball state finals in 2005. He was selected for a softball final in 2009.

Girls basketball was the only one he was missing. Until this year.

“I had three semis in girls (basketball). I had one last year. So, I knew I was close,” said O’Hagan. “I had two semis in boys (hoops). I’ve been very blessed in that way to be selected.

“It’s kind of like hitting for the cycle. I got those four, and that was what I really wanted to do in my time. I just don’t know much time I have left to do this every year.

“We get a little older. You’re a little more injury prone. You’re feeling (muscle) strains and different things. There are days when we’re done, I sit down … honestly, I can’t get out of the chair.

“Getting out of the car at night, after sitting riding home. Everything tightens up.”

For years he would go everywhere to work a game. The last four or five years, O’Hagan says he’s been kind of selective, keeping his traveling radius south to Ludington, Scottville, Hart and Shelby while going as far north as Frankfort and Mesick.

He tries to stay close to home, and works a lot of Manistee High, Manistee Catholic, Onekama, Brethren and Bear Lake games.

Over the years he’s been selected to work so many district, regional and quarterfinal games that he says he’s lost count.

“Quarterfinals, honestly because there are so many officials that once you get one of those it’s pretty special, too,” O’Hagan said. “Because, think about it, there’s only so many of them, and three-man crews.

“There’s literally thousands of officials. In this case, they told us there were 600 and some officials that were qualified to do tournaments this year.

“Qualified means you have to be part of the association, you have to go to meetings, you have to submit your schedule, you have to take an online test.

“So, if you do all those things, you’re considered. In the finals, there are four games and 12 officials. So, your chances aren’t super great.”

O’Hagan was with the Manistee County Sheriff’s Office for 31 years, the last three as Sheriff before retiring with one year left in his term for a full-time faculty position as a law enforcement instructor at West Shore Community College in Scottville.

His biggest thrill, of course, has been being able to work a district tournament this year with his son, Jaden, who officiated his first varsity game last year.

But he’s worked primarily with David Nemecek, himself a former law enforcement officer with the Manistee City Police Department.

Now that he’s checked off every box on his bucket list, anything more will be frosting on the cake for O’Hagan.