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Top 10 local sports stories of year

1. Five state wrestling champions in one night

There has never been a day in the history of Sauk Valley sports quite like the final day of the 2012 state wrestling tournament in Champaign. 

Five local boys won individual state championships in Class 1A. 

Newman’s Maxx Hubbard (42-2) got things going by beating Olympia’s Rook Kassabaum 18-3 in 132 pounds. 

He was joined at the top of the podium by teammates Brian Bahrs and R.J. Troye. 

Bahrs (26-4), a junior, won his second title with a 12-3 major decision over Macomb’s Jacob Rockhold. 

Troye (30-3) beat Grant Park’s Devin Mahnke 10-2 at 182 pounds. 

Twin brothers Mark and Matt McDonnell brought titles home for Morrison. Mark (26-1) defeated Vandalia’s Seth Purcell 12-2 at 145 pounds. Matt (43-2) won with an 18-2 technical fall over Seneca’s Brandon Webb. 

2. Weidners pave way at two state meets

Cousins Adam and Regan Weidner put on big shows on the big stage. Adam, who was a senior last spring, won the Class 1A shot put title with a throw of 57 feet, 10 3/4 inches at O’Brien Stadium in Charleston. He also finished fourth in the discus with a throw of 154-1. 

His younger cousin Regan didn’t win a state title, but she equaled the best finish for any area runner at the state cross county meet this fall at Detweiller Park in Peoria. Weidner finished in second place in Class 1A in a time of 17 minutes, 45 seconds. the Rock Falls girls finished fourth as a team.

3. Missiles third in softball

A day after being shut out by eventual Class 1A state champion Goreville, the Milledgeville bats came alive in a 4-1 win over Tuscola in the third-place game at the state tournament at EastSide Centre in East Peoria.

The Missiles (26-9) prepared for the state-level competition by playing 2A, 3A and 4A teams during the regular season. They survived not having ace pitcher Emily Bush – the eventual SVM player of year – early in the season because of an injury. When she returned, the Missiles now had two pitchers – Bush and Jolee Parks – that they could count on in pressure situations. 

Bush was dominant through the postseason, and she allowed only one run against Goreville’s  potent offensive attack in the semifinal; that came on a solo home run by Goreville slugger Taylor Odom.

Bush was only a junior, and the Missiles have enough talent around her to make a run in 2013.  

4. Interone runner-up in pool

He was the little fish in the big pond at the IHSA state swimming finals on February 25 at Evanston High School.

His name was Keanu Interone, and while most of his opponents came from swimming superpowers in and around Chicago, he was the lone swimmer left from Sterling. 

All Interone did was place
second in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 57.55 seconds. The junior was just behind Edwardsville senior Maxwell Byers, who came in at 57.44. 

Interone attributed some of his success to being from a small school, meaning that he didn’t garner nearly as much attention and pressure as his counterparts. The junior also knew that he was setting a big standard for himself. Interone is back in the pool this season, hoping to become the second Golden Warrior to win a state title in the one-class sport. The other was James Wike, who won four.

5. Rock Falls volleyball makes 3A supersectional

Every challenge was met by this veteran group of gritty spikers. A slow start to the season nearly derailed them. The season seemed likely to end in the regional final against rival Sterling after they dropped the first set. But they rallied, first by beating the Warriors, and then by winning a sectional title for the first time in Class 3A.

6. Newman hoops makes trip to DeKalb

The calendar said March, but the Newman Comets went cold in a 41-35 loss to North Shore Country Day at the 1A Supersectional in DeKalb. The ending was bitter, but the ride to the school’s first boys basketball supers in 32 years was sweet. Most notable was a 61-57, come-from-behind win in overtime against Aquin in sectional final.

7. Dixon accepted into Big Northern Conference

On May 17, the landscape of area sports changed forever as Dixon was accepted into the Big Northern

Conference. Leaving means that Dixon and its closest geographic and traditional rival, Sterling, would no longer be in same conference. This followed an earlier shift where the Three Rivers Conference added six teams.

8. Newman football gets to 3A semifinal

The last hurdle proved too much for a Newman Comets team that made school history by advancing to the semifinal round in Class 3A. In that semifinal, they ran into a juggernaut in Aurora Christian. Before that, the Comets had rolled with 13 straight victories, a Big Rivers title and a No. 1 ranking in 3A.  

9. Tyler Loos makes triumphant return

Tyler Loos’ collegiate career had not gone the way the Sterling grad had hoped. After redshirting his freshman season at NIU, he blew out his knee to start his sophomore year. But this year, he started at left tackle all year for the MAC-champion Huskies before breaking his leg in the penultimate regular-season game against Toledo.

10. Bickett takes over Rock Falls basketball

May 14 was a day many in Rock Falls had waited for, as former Bureau Valley coach and Ohio All-Stater Brad Bickett was approved as boys basketball coach. The hiring concluded a long winter where parents made continual pleas for the firing of then-coach Scott Olson, who  was let go at end of the hoops season.

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