2024-25 Coaching Staff

Thunderbirds College Prep Coaching Staff

Justin Cohn

Head Coach

Justin Cohn was born in Exton, PA. He grew up playing for Philadelphia Jr. Flyers. He played in various Junior Hockey Leagues, including the NA3HL, EHL, GOJHL and NCDC. Justin commitment the game led him to Alvernia University, where he committed to play NCAA Division III hockey.

He started his coaching career early and coached in the NA3HL with the New Mexico Ice Wolves. Last season he was the head coach for the Decatur Blaze in the USPHL. During the summer he runs a summer program MOLE HC and has been doing this for over 3 years. Justin's extensive network of connections has been instrumental in guiding players toward their next steps- whether it's college or junior hockey. His commitment to their development is unwavering.

18U AA Thunderbirds Coaching Staff

Tom Latvala

Head Coach 18U Tier II

Coach Latvala grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where he played his youth/travel hockey for the Copper Country Junior Hockey Association in Houghton-Hancock, MI. His travel days took him throughout Michigan, Wisconsin and the Iron Range of Minnesota.

Tom, who is a Level 5 USA Hockey certified coach, enters his 28th year as a coach primarily at the AA and AAA level. He has been behind the bench for nearly 2000 games. Besides the last four seasons with the Thunderbirds, Tom has held coaching positions with the Columbus Vikings 14U, Dayton Stealth 15O AAA and 16U AAA, Queen City Steam 16U AAA, Columbus Capitals, Columbus Cardinals and CCYHA Blue Jackets. Throughout the years former players have moved on to AAA, Prep School, Juniors, College and the NHL.

Tom has been part of many championship teams including the Columbus Cardinals Peewee AAas they were crowned North American International Silver Stick Peewee AA Minor champions in 2004-2005 (Newmarket, ON). Along with his coaching responsibilities, Tom also scouts for the Anchorage (AK) Wolverines from the NAHL.

Tom has been married to his wife Melissa for 31 years and they have a 30-year-old son Alex,who as a goalie, grew up playing AA and AAA hockey in Ohio and Michigan and eventuallyplayed ACHA DII at Northern Michigan University. He currently lives and works in the Chicagoarea along with coaching high school hockey.

16U AA Thunderbirds Coaching Staff

Jeff Waselko

Head Coach 16U AA

Jeff Waselko, a level 4USA Hockey certified coach, brings a wealth of experience and dedication to the rink. With 10 seasons of coaching under his belt, Jeff has worked with players of all ages, from mites to 18U. Whether as a head coach or an assistant, he consistently fosters growth and skill development. 

Jeff's journey in hockey began later in life, but his 15+ years of playing adult hockey at the B and C levels have honed his understanding of the game. As a relentless student, he constantly seeks ways to elevate players' performance and propel them forward in their hockey careers. 

Off the ice, Jeff resides in Powell with his wife, Andrea. Their two sons, Jon and Sam, grew up immersed in the world of hockey—a testament to the family's passion for the sport. 

14U AA Thunderbirds Coaching Staff

Chris Watts

Head Coach 14U AA

Chris is currently a level 4 USA Hockey certified coach and this spring will be pursuing his level 5 certification. Chris played since he was a kid but became active in the sport over 10 years ago. He has coached for over 7 years and at all levels. In addition to hockey Coach Watts has also coached soccer, baseball, and junior high lacrosse.

Chris holds a bachelor’s degree in Sport and Lifestyle studies from Ohio University and has a minor in coaching. He is also level 4 USA Hockey certified.

His coaching philosophy can be summed up in the phrase “humans, athletes, hockey”.

Coach Watts lives in Pickerington with his wife Kirstin and their sons, Ian and Connor.

David Hirsch

Head Coach 14U A

David is a level 4 USA Hockey certified coach and this spring will be pursuing his level 5 certification. Growing up in Columbus, Dave started ice hockey later than most. However, he began playing roller hockey at a young age. At 12 years old Dave hit the ice for the first time and never looked back. From there he played at Bowling Green State University and even took advanced hockey eight times.

After graduation Dave moved to Colorado for a few years to explore his love for the outdoors at Copper Mountain. He worked many different jobs from lift operations to ski instructor. The next chapter in his life began when he joined the United States Air Force and became the first F-22 Avionics Demo Team technician for three years. This led to later finding his love for teaching at Sheppard Air Force Base. There he became a Master Instructor on the F- 22 airframe. Unfortunately, after many surgeries, Dave retired from the Air Force.

After retirement Dave and his family returned to Columbus where his son started playing hockey and Dave joined the Columbus Men’s League. Dave is a level 4 USA Hockey certified coach and Bronze level goalie coach. Dave believes that we can push ourselves to the next level while having fun with an overall goal of safety.

12U AA Thunderbirds Coaching Staff

Neil Ritzert

Head Coach 12U AA

Neil, a native of Cleveland's east side, discovered his love for hockey in Mentor and continued to play throughout his high school years in Central Ohio. His passion for the sport led him to participate in intramural hockey while pursuing a degree in Computer Science at Bowling Green State University.

As a Certified Level 2 USA Hockey Coach, Neil began his coaching journey when his son took an interest in the game. His coaching portfolio includes the Mite division at CAHA, Capitals 2011/12 Select, CCYHA 2012 A, and most recently, the 2011/12 Thunderbirds. In addition to hockey, Neil has coached a variety of other youth sports for his son and two daughters.

Neil is thrilled to continue as the 12U head coach for the 2024-25 season. He is deeply committed to the organizational goals of developing not only exceptional athletes but also outstanding individuals, fostering a lifelong love for the game of hockey.

Off the ice, Neil leads Software Engineering teams at a prominent aviation company in central Ohio. He resides in Worthington with his wife Ann and their three children, James (11), Libby (10), and Abigail (8). When he's not at a rink or at work, Neil enjoys boating, fishing, skiing, and spending time with his extended family.

Specialty Coaches

Anthony Luckow

Goalie Coach 16U & 18U Tier II

Anthony is a goaltending coach in Columbus with years of playing experience. Anthony grew up in Metro Detroit playing for a variety of teams at the travel and AAA levels. Once graduated, he moved to Canada and played for the Strathroy Rockets for two seasons setting records in Shutouts and Save Percentages. From there he was offered an opportunity to play NCAA hockey for Utica College in New York. In his sophomore year, he placed in the Top Five in the nation for Save Percentage and GAA, along with numerous nominations for Player of the Week in his conference during his four-year tenure. After college, he spent time playing in Slovakia and Norway before finishing his career while playing minor pro in the United States. 

Anthony has 15 years of goalie coaching experience in the US and Canada. Many of his goaltending beliefs were shaped by his goalie coach, who was the former goalie coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ed Belfour. In Columbus, Anthony is a coach for the U16 Thunderbirds, Westerville Warcats High School, a number of CAHA travel programs, and is also a private goaltending instructor through the Chiller arenas. 

When Anthony is not coaching, he is a real estate agent for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Professional Realty.

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