John Klanac is no stranger to winning volleyball championships. The 2006 Orchard Park High School graduate led Ohio State University to a National Championship victory in 2011. Before that, he helped the Western District win gold at New York’s Empire State Games in 2010. Now Klanac is looking to help his professional team, Kokkolan Tiikerit, capture the Finnish National League title.
“It’s not every day that you’re able to win one of the top honors in America,” Klanac said of the win at Ohio State. “Then go and do it in Finland on a professional level. It’s pretty humbling.”
Klanac signed with Kokkolan Tiikerit in June 2012, a year after a season with RWE Volleys Bottrop in Germany, and has been a starting outside hitter for the Tigers in a city desiring a successful season.
“The city would be super excited if we just made playoffs,” said Klanac. “The fact that we will be playing for a Finnish championship has caused quite a bit of excitement. There is some real excitement around town.
“Volleyball is number one in Kokkola right now, and never in its history has the club played for a championship. The finals are being moved to the hockey arena in Kokkola because there is no way the gym we usually play in can fit everyone.”
With Klanac’s history of winning titles, he said he experienced a familiar feeling when the Tigers won the semis, and is hopeful another championship follows.
“I had the same feeling after we won (the semis) as the night we beat Penn State to go to the National Championship,” said Klanac, who will return home to the United States in late April. “Hopefully I’m coming back with a gold medal.”