A state championship in softball and a pair of first-team all-state football players were just two of the stories that made local sports headlines in the County Post West in 2013.
Here’s a look back at some of the biggest stories of the year:
• Waupaca High School graduate Brock Jensen led North Dakota State to its second consecutive FCS football championship running for three touchdowns Jan. 5 in a 39-13 win over Sam Houston State in Frisco, Texas. NDSU has another player and a pair of coaches with local connections. Iola-Scandinavia High School graduate Lucas Albers is a redshirt freshman tight end on the team and two former I-S players and coaches, Tim Polasek and Nick Goeser, are assistant coaches for the Bison.
• A 23-point second quarter helped the Waupaca girls’ basketball team pick up a 58-21 Eastern Valley Conference win Jan. 4 over Ripon.
• John Prahl and Connor Lodewegen turned out to be an effective one-two punch for the Iola-Scandinavia boys’ basketball team, as they combined for 31 points Jan. 8 in a 48-42 Central Wisconsin 8 conference win over Weyauwega-Fremont. Prahl led all scorers with 17 points, while Lodewegen added 14.
• Weyauwega-Fremont wrestlers Brandon Loehrke and Oliver Radtke finished second at 170 pounds and third at 120, respectively, Jan. 12 at the Bulldog Cutler Classic in New London.
• The Central Wisconsin Ice Racing Association opened its 2013 season Jan. 5-6 with races on Fremont’s Partridge Lake.
• Weyauwega-Fremont girls’ basketball team picked up Central Wisconsin 8 Conference wins over Wittenberg-Birnamwood and Amherst. Amherst was ranked No. 1 in Division 4 coming into their game with the Indians, while the Chargers were seventh in Division 3. W-F defeated Amherst 47-46 and W-B 56-46. “I’m not really sure what to say,” coach Joe Titus said. “The girls played with more heart and selflessness this week and I have ever seen. Sharing the ball, playing outstanding defense, it was an effort that our entire program can be proud of.”
• Waupaca High School’s dance team won state championships in the Pom and Jazz divisions at the state pom and cheer championship. Several hundred fans of the team showed up at the school Feb. 4 for a pep rally and to see the 24-member team perform again.
• Weyauwega-Fremont wrestler Trevor Potratz notched his 100th career victory Feb. 9 with a 2-1 win over Shiocton’s Jacob Dahlke at a Division 3 regional at Little Wolf High School. He became the first W-F wrestler to hit the century mark since Jared Gruetzmacher.
• The Waupaca Area girls’ hockey team wrapped up its first season of competition Feb. 4 with a 4-0 loss to Brookfield Central. The team, which included players from Waupaca, Iola-Scandinavia and Little Wolf high schools, had advanced to the second round of the state tournament with an 11-0 win over Beaver Dam.
• Hortonville eliminated Waupaca from the WIAA state boys’ basketball tournament by handing the Comets a 59-41 defeat Feb. 23.
• Weyauwega-Fremont, Amherst and Wittenberg-Birnamwood tied for the Central Wisconsin 8 Conference girls’ basketball championship. All three teams had 12-2 records in conference play.
• Three area wrestlers competed at the State Individual Wrestling Tournament Feb. 21-23 in Madison. Clintonville’s Jake Reiter placed fifth at 195 pounds in Division 2; Manawa’s Casey Johnson placed sixth at 182 in Division 3; and New London’s Brett Handschke competed at 170 pounds in Division 1, but did not place.
• Eventual Division 4 state champion Algoma ended the season for Weyauwega-Fremont by handing the Indians a 68-44 loss March 2 in a regional final. The Wolves took a 42-15 lead into the locker room at halftime and never let W-F get any closer than 22 points in the second half.
• A pair of new coaches took over the Iola-Scandinavia boys’ and girls’ track teams. Brad Brookins coached the boys’ squad, while Bethany Nelson worked with the Thunderbird girls.
• A record-setting performance was enough to knock Amherst out of the boys’ state basketball tournament. Auburndale defeated the Falcons 49-29 March 7 in a Division 4 state semifinal game in Madison. Auburndale advanced to the state championship game, but fell to Whitefish Bay Dominican.
• Central Wisconsin 8 Conference coaches named Amherst’s Caleb Glennon and Jaimee Pitt as the players of the year in boys’ and girls’ basketball, respectively.
• New London’s 68-game winning streak ended March 15 with a 48-47 loss to New Berlin Eisenhower in the Division 2 semifinals of the state girls’ basketball tournament at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon. The Bulldogs had won the previous two Division 2 championships.
• A former local standout basketball player helped lead the women’s basketball team at Maranatha Baptist Bible College of Watertown to a national championship March 9. Autumn Peotter, who played high school basketball at First Baptist School in Waupaca, was named the National Christian College Athletic Association national tournament’s most valuable player after averaging 15.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game in the tournament.
• Mother Nature decided that winter would last a little longer at the expense of area high school sports teams. As of April 15, Waupaca High School had yet to host a single spring sports game or meet, but athletic director had already rescheduled almost 50 events. “We’re dealing with it the best we can,” Waupaca boys’ golf coach Tom Noltner said. “I actually talked to a couple coaches from our area in the Appleton area. Their ADs won’t let the go into the gym to hit (golf) balls and the nets are too big, so they’re not even practicing.” On the other hand, Weyauwega-Fremont’s softball team opened the season with a handful of games in Florida. “They’re getting antsy,” Waupaca softball coach Kevin Guyant said. “It’s tough to keep the girls entertained. You can only do so many drills.”
• Iola-Scandinavia High School senior Travis McKinney competed at the High School national Power Lifting Championships in Aurora, Colo. He broke the previous national record with a lift of 470 pounds in the bench category. “Lifting is my favorite sport,” he said. “You can start at any time in your life. I save seen people in their 60s start lifting and by the time they are in their 80s, they are lifting over 400 lbs.”
• Weyauwega-Fremont’s boys’ and girls’ track team returned from the Plainfield Tri-County Invitational April 22 with first-place finishes. The boys and girls also finished first and second, respectively, April 16 at a Central Wisconsin Conference meet in Weyauwega.
• Iola-Scandinavia’s Brianne Huettner had four hits – including a pair of grand slams – and drove in 11 runs April 20 in a doubleheader sweep of West Salem.
• Weyauwega-Fremont pitcher Kelsey Akey held Iola-Scandinavia to one hit April 29 in an 11-0 win over the Thunderbirds. I-S had come into the game with a 10-0 record.
• Weyauwega-Fremont’s boys’ track team and New London girls’ squad won team championships April 27 at the annual Waupaca County Meet in New London.
• Weyauwega-Fremont’s softball team wrapped up at least a share of a Central Wisconsin 8 Conference championship May 6 with a 17-3 win over Wittenberg-Birnamwood.
• Joe Nelson had a big day for the Waupaca baseball team May 4. He held Appleton Xavier to two runs and scored the game-winning run in a 3-2 win over the Hawks and also had two of his team’s eight hits in a 5-3 win in the second half of an Eastern Valley Conference doubleheader.
• It’s hard to score on Waupaca goalkeeper Josee Waitrovich. Three girls’ soccer teams learned that lesson the hard way May 11 as Waitrovich didn’t allow a goal to help the Comets win the 18th annual Comet Invitational. Waupaca shut out Mosinee 3-0 and Marshfield 1-0 before Holly Johnson scored during the shootout of a scoreless tie with Menasha in the title game.
• Weyauwega-Fremont won a Central Wisconsin 8 Conference boys’ track championship May 11 in Manawa. The W-F girls weren’t far behind, as they finished second.
• The Waupaca Lakemen scored nine unanswered runs May 12 in a 12-2 Badger Amateur Baseball Association win over Scandinavia.
• Iola-Scandinavia finished five strokes ahead of Weyauwega-Fremont May 16 to win the Central Wisconsin Conference boys’ golf tournament at Waupaca’s Foxfire Golf Club. Besides winning the meet, the Thunderbirds also wrapped up the team’s first conference title since 2009. “I am very proud of our team and how they have been consistent this season,” coach Alan Bauer said. “Each player on our team has added to our success.”
• Waupaca won its first Eastern Valley Conference baseball championship since 2009 and the team’s fourth in 11 years.
• Boys’ golf teams from Waupaca, Iola-Scandinavia and Weyauwega-Fremont advanced to the sectional round of the state boys’ golf tournament. Waupaca won a two-hole playoff with New London May 28 at the Division 1 De Pere Sectional; and I-S and W-F finished second and third, respectively, May 21 at a Division 3 regional at Iola’s Glacier wood Golf Club.
• Shiocton overcame a 5-0 deficit May 28 and rallied for an 8-6 win over Iola-Scandinavia in a Division 3 softball sectional semifinal in Amherst. “It was a disappointing end to our season,” coach Tom Anderson said. “After jumping out to an early 5-0 lead, you have to credit Shiocton for settling down, making some nice defensive plays and getting some key hits to get back into the game.”
• Local athletes that competed in the WIAA State Track and Field Championships May 31 and June 1 at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse included Waupaca’s Tatiana Sotka and Alisa Blank and New London’s Amber Pethke and Brenna Heise in Division 1; Weyauwega-Fremont’s Luke Rohloff, Corey Zeutzius, Nick Thomas, the boys’ 400-meter relay team and Elizabeth Abhold and Amherst’s Lindsay Rutz, Alissa Niggeman and Ashley Pionkowski in Division 2; and Iola-Scandinavia’s Shelby Trzebiatowski and boys’ 800-meter relay team in Division 3.
• Weyauwega-Fremont and Iola-Scandinavia competed June 3-4 at the WIAA state boys’ golf meet in Verona. W-F placed seventh in Division 3, while I-S finished eighth.
• Appleton Xavier eliminated Waupaca from the state girls’ soccer tournament with a 3-0 win June 8 in a Division 2 sectional final. Waupaca had advanced to the final with a 1-0 win June 6 over Winneconne.
• Abby Elsholtz and Kansas Walbruck scored on Molly O’Connell’s double to give New London a 2-1 win over Baldwin-Woodville June 8 in the Division 2 state softball championship game in Madison. The Bulldogs had advanced to their first state championship game since 2005 with a 6-0 win over Monroe.
• The County Post West and County Post East named Waupaca’s Beau Ash and Iola-Scandinavia’s Brianne Huettner as the county’s male and female athlete of the year. Ash stood out in football, hockey and baseball, while Huettner played volleyball, hockey and softball.
• Four area athletes suited up for their final high school football game July 20 at the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association’s annual all-star games in Oshkosh. Amherst defensive back Ryan Makuski, linebacker Max Strand and quarterback Chris Zblewski played in the small schools game, while Waupaca running back Beau Ash played in the large schools game.
• Waupaca’s Legion baseball team advanced to the Class AA state tournament, but lost its first two games to Beaver Dam and Menasha. Beaver Dam handed Waupaca a 10-0 decision Aug. 2 and Menasha scored five times in the sixth inning in a 10-5 win the following day.
• Siblings and Waupaca High School graduates Mark and Dan Buchholtz and Megan Hladilek each competed Aug. 17 in the 13th annual Waupaca Area Triathlon. It was the first time the three had competed in the same event. Mark Buchholtz and Hladilek now live in the Twin Cities area, while Dan Buchholtz lives in Appleton. “Every mile and every turn was memory lane,” said Hladilek, who ran on WHS cross country teams in the late 1990s. “I used to bike these backroads when I was a kid. It was absolutely wonderful.”
• Plover shut out the Waupaca Lakemen 2-0 Aug. 18 in the Badger Amateur Baseball Association South-Central Division final. Lakemen pitcher David Yeska received the division’s pitcher of the year award.
• Waupaca’s football team overcame a 6-3 halftime deficit Aug. 23 and rallied for a 30-12 win over Ripon in the season opener for both teams.
• New Waupaca volleyball coach Chelsea Benitz is aware that the Comets haven’t had a lot of wins on the court the past few seasons. “It’s exciting coming into a new program and not knowing anything about it,” she said. “The tryouts were great. They put in a lot of effort and I think it’s starting to show.” The Comets opened the season Aug. 26 at a quadrangular meet in Amherst.
• Waupaca’s boys’ and girls’ cross country teams placed first Sept. 5 at the Winneconne Invitational. “We knew because of the workload during the summer that the kids were going to be in better shape, but you never really know exactly what’s going to happen until you put them out on a race course,” coach Mark Unertl said.
• Iola-Scandinavia’s football team ran for 314 yards Sept. 13 in a 42-0 Central Wisconsin 8 Conference win over Weyauwega-Fremont.
• Waupaca High School learned in October that it will likely be placed in a new conference for football starting in 2015. The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association released its latest conference realignment proposal that calls for the Comets moving from the Eastern Conference to the Bay Conference for football.
• Waupaca’s football team put itself in the driver’s seat for another Eastern Valley Conference championship Oct. 11 with a 36-20 win over Appleton Xavier at Haberkorn Field. The Associated Press also singled out the Comets as the top-ranked team among medium-sized schools.
• Alexis Colden represented the Waupaca girls’ golf team Oct. 8 at a Division 1 sectional in Hartford.
• Iola-Scandinavia’s girls’ cross country team won a conference championship Oct. 17 at the Central Wisconsin Conference meet in Wittenberg.
• Amherst handed Iola-Scandinavia a 50-15 defeat Oct. 18 in a Central Wisconsin 8 football matchup. Both teams came into the game with 7-1 records.
• The season ended on a positive note for the Weyauwega-Fremont football team, as the Indians overcame a 26-6 deficit to defeat Stevens Point Pacelli Oct. 18.
• Waupaca’s football team wrapped up an Eastern Valley Conference championship with a 35-0 win Oct. 18 over Fox Valley Lutheran.
• Iola-Scandinavia’s Leighten Fischer and Emily Sether qualified for the WIAA State Cross Country Meet Oct. 26 by placing 10th and 11th, respectively, at a Division 3 sectional at Standing Rocks County Park. Amherst’s Alyssa Niggeman also qualified.
• First Baptist School’s volleyball team won its second straight Wisconsin Association of Christian Schools state championship by taking three of five games from Faith Baptist of La Crosse Oct. 26.
• Waupaca came up short in the second round of the state football playoffs with a 34-7 loss Nov. 1 to Seymour. Meanwhile, Amherst and Iola-Scandinavia advanced to Level 3. I-S defeated previously unbeaten Algoma 46-27 in Level 6, while Amherst handed Westby a 42-16 loss in Division 5.
• Two Iola-Scandinavia runners and one from Amherst competed at the WIAA State Cross Country Meet Nov. 2 in Wisconsin Rapids. Fischer and Sether placed 29th and 41st, respectively, in Division 3, while Amherst’s Alyssa Niggeman placed sixth.
• Waupaca linebacker Zander Neuville was named the Eastern Valley Conference’s defensive player of the year. Another linebacker, Amherst’s Garth Groshek, received defensive player of the year honors from the Central Wisconsin 8 Conference. Both players also received first-team all-state recognition from the Wisconsin Football Coaches Association.
• Eventual Division 5 state champion Stanley-Boyd eliminated Amherst from the state football playoffs Nov. 15 with a 28-21 win over the Falcons in a Level 4 matchup.
• Weyauwega-Fremont High School inducted Gilman Hertz, Jim Steinberg, Sue Brogaard, Jordan Baitinger and Don Chase into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame Nov. 16.
• Waupaca County led the state in deer harvested during the first two days of Wisconsin’s nine-day gun deer season, which began Nov. 23. According to preliminary numbers from the state Department of Natural Resources, hunters bagged 2,359 bucks and 2,532 antlerless deer.
• A one-goal lead with six seconds to go in regulation wasn’t enough, as the Waupaca boys’ hockey team dropped a 4-3 overtime decision Dec. 7 to Northland Pines at the Waupaca Expo Center.
• Mandy Tomlinson’s hat trick helped the Waupaca Area girls’ hockey team pick up a 9-7 Great Northern Conference win at Medford. The teams combined to score 11 goals in the second period alone.
• A 51-27 win over Wittenberg-Birnamwood gave the Iola-Scandinavia boys’ basketball a 7-0 record.
• Three Waupaca wrestlers – Levi Petroske, Logan Bernhardt and Mitchell Rotta – won individual championships Dec. 14 at the Akey Duals in Weyauwega.
• Brock Jensen, who quarterbacked the Waupaca Comets to a state football championship as a senior, is one step from leading North Dakota State to its third straight national championship. Jensen, a senior, threw three touchdown passes Dec. 20 in a 52-14 win over New Hampshire in a FCS semifinal game.
• Former Waupaca football player Zach Nellis, a starting defensive back at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, helped the Warhawks win a NCAA Division III national championship Dec. 20. UW-Whitewater defeated Mount Union 52-14 in Salem, Va.