position Head Coach
Alma Mater Ohio State
Holly Vargo-Brown is beginning her 10th season as head coach of the Ohio State Synchronized Swimming program in 2021-22. She is just the third coach in the program’s 41-year history.
“I have such great respect for the strong tradition of excellence established within this program by former head coaches Mary Jo Ruggieri and Linda Lichter-Witter,” Vargo-Brown said upon her promotion to head coach in 2012.
Vargo-Brown has played an instrumental role in shaping the Ohio State Synchronized Swimming Program. She’s had a hand in claiming 24 of the program’s 31 national titles as either a student-athlete, assistant coach or head coach. Since taking over as head coach in 2013, she has been named US Synchro Collegiate Coach of the Year four times, has coached 35 individual national champions, has 45 All-Americans and 56 Academic All-Americans.
In her first season as the head coach of the Ohio State synchronized swimming team, Holly Vargo-Brown guided the Buckeyes to six first-place finishes, including their 23rd-consecutive North Regional Championship, as well as a second-place finish at the U.S. Collegiate Championships in Palo Alto, Calif. Behind three silver medals, the Scarlet and Gray claimed fourth place at the U.S. Senior National Championships in Greensboro, N.C.
Under Vargo-Brown’s guidance, Buckeye Paige Ramsey was tabbed the U.S. Collegiate Athlete of the Year, and six swimmers – Chelsea Aton, Lauren Nicholson, Yuliya Maryanko, Paige Ramsey, Katie Spada and Khadija Zanotto – earned U.S. Collegiate All-America laurels. Heidi Liou and Aton collected U.S. Collegiate Academic Team honors and were recognized as Big Ten Distinguished Scholars. Additionally, 11 Buckeyes were named Ohio State Scholar-Athletes, while Julia Gaylard, Samantha Golomb, Tori Hawes, Kristine Irwin, Paige Wells, Maryanko, Nicholson, Spada, Liou, Aton and Zanotto were Academic All-Big Ten selections.
Her second season was just as good as the first. The Buckeyes won the U.S. Senior National Championship in addition to finishing second at the U.S. Collegiate National Championships. Vargo Brown was named the U.S. Synchro Coach of the Year and six Buckeyes earned U.S. Collegiate All-American honors.
In 2015, Brown was again named the U.S Synchro Coach of the Year after guiding the Buckeyes to the US Collegiate National Championship. That was the program’s 29th national title. The team finished first at every event except for the North Regional Championship where it finished runner-up.
Individually, eight Buckeyes were named All-Americans under Vargo Brown in 2015. Senior Heidi Liou was also named to the Us Synchro Athlete of the Year. Out of the pool, a total of 13 Buckeyes earned the USA Sycnhro Academic Award and were also named Academic All-Big Ten. Six Buckeyes took home the prestigious Big Ten Distinguished Scholar award for earning a 3.7 GPA or higher during the year.
The 2016 season was yet again, a successful campaign with seven victories, eight All-Americans, three national champions and a runner-up finish at the US Collegiate Championships. Emma Baranski never lost a solo competition this season and became the first Buckeye since 2012 to win a solo national title. She also finished runner-up in the duet with sophomore Monica Velazquez-Stiak and the two of them went on to share the event’s High Point Award. Junior Elizabeth Davidson claimed the national title in the A Technical event while Stephanie Thielemann took home the title in the B Figures. A total of eight Buckeyes were named US Collegiate All-Americans, the most of any school in the country.
The 2017 season was one of the most satisfying for Vargo Brown and the Buckeyes as they claimed the program’s 30th national title. The US Collegiate title, which came in front of the home crowd, was the Buckeyes’ seventh victory of the season. Baranski dominated the championship event as she defended her solo national title, teamed with fellow senior Elizabeth Davidson to win the duet crown, took the top spot in the Technical Event and then helped the Scarlet squad win the team competition. She was named the high point award winner and US Synchro Athlete of the Year. After being named the US Collegiate Synchro Coach of the Year for the fourth time, Vargo-Brown said the most satisfying thing of the championship was sending out the 10 seniors with a national title in front of the home fans.
Coming off winning a national title and seeing 10 seniors graduate, the 2018 season provided a bit more uncertainty. But the Buckeyes didn’t miss beat as they once again navigated the regular season in dominating fashion and came out on top as U.S. Collegiate National Champions for the 31st time in program history. Monica Velazquez-Stiak was the Individual High Point Award winner as she won three medals – two golds and a silver – at the championships. She joined Alyssa Hoying to win the duet title and then was part of the national title winning Scarlet team. Vargo-Brown was named the US Collegiate Synchro Coach of the Year for the fifth time.
2019 proved to be another dominant season. Holly helped the team to sweep the U.S. Collegiate Championship winning the team, solo, duet, trio, and overall National Championship. Nikki Dzurko claimed the Individual High Point Award and Solo Championship and paired with Laila Huric to secure gold representing Ohio State in duet. The trio of Wenjing Deng, Rachel Jager, and Stephanie Thielemann took first place after an impressive performance. The Scarlet squad came together after a season of changing rosters to secure the team championship while Gray brought an impressive third place finish back to Columbus. After the technical and artistic excellence presented by Ohio State, it was no surprise that the Overall Collegiate Championship was awarded to the Buckeyes. Ohio State is just one of three college programs to ever clinch four first-place finishes at the U.S. Collegiate Championship. To cap off the success, Holly was once again named the US Collegiate Synchro Coach of the Year.
Vargo-Brown began her coaching career at Ohio State as an assistant coach in 1986 and after a brief hiatus following the 1990 season, she returned as assistant coach in 1993.
In 2004, Vargo-Brown served as the Ohio State interim head coach while then-head coach Linda Lichter-Witter was assisting the U.S. Olympic Team in Athens, Greece. During that campaign, Vargo-Brown led the Scarlet and Gray to their fifth-consecutive U.S. Collegiate national title, coached three All-Americans and was later named United States Synchronized Swimming Coach of the Year. Vargo-Brown also led Ohio State in 2005 when Lichter-Witter was on medical leave. Vargo-Brown coached the Buckeyes to a runner-up finish at nationals, while mentoring five All-Americans at the conclusion of the season.
The 2012 U.S. Synchronized Swimming Collegiate Contributor of the Year, Vargo-Brown has played a pivotal role in the growth of the sport collegiately, nationally and internationally. As a swimmer, she earned a spot on the 1985 U.S. National Team II squad. Vargo-Brown’s coaching stints include leading U.S. Olympic Festival Teams in 1987 and 1988. She also was the assistant coach to the Venezuelan National Team at the 1987 Pan-American Games.
A Buckeye letterwinner from 1981-84, Vargo-Brown was an All-American in 1984 and member of the 1982 and 1983 U.S. Collegiate championship teams. A four-time Ohio State Scholar-Athlete, she was the recipient of the Melvin and Irving Schottenstein Post-Graduate Award, which was first designed specifically to recognize and promote women’s achievements in intercollegiate athletics at The Ohio State University. Vargo-Brown graduated from Ohio State in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education.
A Toledo, Ohio, native, Vargo-Brown attended Morrison R. Waite High School. She was inducted into the Morrison R. Waite High School Athletics Hall of Fame in February of 2009 for her athletic and coaching successes. While attending Morrison R. Waite, Vargo-Brown was the 1978 Ohio junior champion, 1980 Ohio Region 6 champion and 1979 and 1980 Northwest Ohio AAU Athlete of the Year. In 1979, Vargo-Brown went on to finish 11th at the Junior National Championships. Additionally, she was a two-time member of the varsity cheerleading squad.
Vargo-Brown and her husband Breck have three daughters, Taylor, Jordan and Grayson and a son, Chase.
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