“Year in Review” Quarter One: Trips to Des Moines, State Champions, and Iowa Wesleyan’s Swan Song

This year in review is brought to you by Two Rivers Bank and Trust and it’s time to go back to the first quarter of the year and what a start to a year it was. Mt. Pleasant got us started with four members of the football team garnering Academic All-State honors: Zerek Venghaus, Bowen Davis, Bryce Wilson, and Zach Frasier. The honor goes to a senior starter who earned a 3.7 cumulative GPA at the end of their junior year.

Iowa Wesleyan athletics experience a great amount of success in the first quarter and the Tigers basketball season will get their own spotlight later, but I’d be remised to not mention Head Coach of the women’s basketball program, Steve Williamson, broke Olan Ruble’s career victory mark of 275 games in a victory over Crowley’s Ridge College in early January. It took Williamson only 353 games to accomplish the feat.

We also saw a couple of talented high school athletes commit to play at the collegiate level in January. Jocelyn Fulton, a four-year starter for the WACO/Columbus softball team going back to her first year in 8th grade, signed with Hawkeye Community College. Fulton’s junior season saw her bat 0.500, send 8 balls over the fence, knock in 16 runs, score 28 times herself, and steal 13 bags on 14 attempts. Jocelyn Fulton will be studying Dental Hygiene.

Carter Amos, Mt. Pleasant alum, made his decision to continue playing baseball at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids. In his sophomore and junior seasons, Carter Amos had a combined batting average of 0.270, knocked in 32 runners, scored 20 runs, an on-base-percentage of 0.372, and stole 15 bases on 16 attempts. Amos belted two home runs in his senior season.

Girl’s wrestling was busy making history at the end of January as they set the stage for the first sanctioned girls’ Iowa high school wrestling state tournament. Mt. Pleasant saw Ella McNamee qualify after finishing in 3rd place at the regional. She finished the season 29-8 after going 3-2 at the state tournament and succeeding in her goal [search for soundbite]. WACO had three state qualifiers in Rylee Rice, Grace Fort, and Bralyyn Wagler. Madi Lundvall was the lone wrestler for Wapello that qualified. Teegan Sulentich of Washington qualified and advanced to the second day of wrestling at the state tournament, while Hailey Kemper qualified for Fort Madison.

The Southeast Conference tabbed McNamee, Natalie Parrott, Zenlynn Lee, and Natalie Albright 1st Team All-Conference honors for Mt. Pleasant. Jayden Housh earned 2nd team honors. Sulentich nabbed Conference Wrestler of the Year as she tallied a 38-9 record.

Early February saw the Mt. Pleasant boys’ basketball team enact revenge in the sweetest way against Burlington, as the Panthers took the conference crown for the first time since the 2017-2018 season in a 67-57 victory in front of the home crowd. Payton Hagans led the way for the Panthers with 20 points, Carter Amos and Aaiden Ashton each cashed in 13 points, Nate Stroud finished with 11 points, and Owen Vansickle made three three-pointers on the night to end with 10 points in the winning effort, as all five starters finished in double digits.

Mid-February saw Keokuk take both the girls’ and boys’ SEC titles for Bowling. For the girls’ side of things, Mt. Pleasant claimed 2nd place by over 400 pins as Burlington took 3rd place followed by Fairfield and Washington, respectively. Keokuk and Mt. Pleasant both finished with five SEC All-Conference bowlers, as the Panthers had the top bowler in Addison McGehearty, who finished with 415 total pins. Keokuk had the next five bowlers in the standings with Rachel Moore, Jaelynn Ketterer, Olivia Rule, Sophia Rule, and Natalee Alberts all earning All-Conference. Tori Hixson, Kylie Alldredge, Bethany Drury, and Kya Goodrich were the other Panthers to earn All-Conference. Fairfield and Burlington each had one All-Conference bowler with Rae Ehret for the Trojans and Katelyn Ott for the Grayhounds. Alec Payne was the lone Panther to claim All-Conference on the boys’ side.

We also saw the boys’ wrestling state tournament take place. For Class 1A, WACO had Gage Samo, Louden Huisenga, and Drew Diers qualify. Spencer Kessel qualified for Louisa-Muscatine. Wapello had two qualifiers: Codder Malcom and Zach Harbison. Dom Lopez, Gage Burden, Michael Raines, and Trent Wilkerson all qualified for New London and Josh Glendenning qualified for Mediapolis. Class 2A saw Burlington Notre Dame’s Carter West, Kael Cook, C.J. Davis, Kaiden Dietzenbach, Isaiah Fenton, and CJ Walrath qualify as they were looking to defend their team title. For Washington: Aaron Boone, Caden and Chase Greiner, and Curtis Stender qualified. Fairfield had four wrestlers qualify: Cael McCabe, Cason Miller, Dre Smithburg, and Brandon Brinkschroeder. Tate O’Shea represented Keokuk. Dante Zuniga, Triston Miller, Cole Storm, Kai Malone, and Russel Coil all qualified for Columbus/Winfield-Mt. Union. For Class 3A, Noah Swigart, Logan Pennock, Nolan Riddle, Aidan Pennock, Teague Smith, Isaac Thacher, and Daniel Sokolik qualified for Fort Madison. Lastly, Saloman Cordero and Braxton Hutchinson qualified for Burlington.

The Nikes had a nice run through the tournament with Kaiden Dietzenbach claiming 3rd place, Carter West grabbing 2nd place, and two state champions in Isaiah Fenton and CJ Walrath, who finished his illustrious career with a 160-1 three-year record. The Nikes claimed 2nd place as a team. Tate O’Shea of Keokuk finished as the Class 2A 138-pound runner-up. Dom Lopez claimed 2nd place for New London in a thrilling championship match as he finished his career as the all-time winningest wrestler in Iowa state history. Lastly, Josh Glendening of Mediapolis finished as the Class 1A, 195-pound weight class runner-up.

To round out boys’ high school wrestling we look at conference awards for the Southeast conference. Bowen Davis, a senior wrestler for the Panthers, was recognized as All-Conference 2nd Team for the 145-pound weight class after his 27-13 season that saw him finish in 3rd place at Districts. Davis was also named Academic All-Conference. Franklin Tousignant, a junior for the Panthers, was also named All-Conference 2nd Team for the 285-pound weight class after going 9-8 last season. Jamal Dodson was named to the Academic All-Conference team.

Tate O’Shea of Keokuk was named Wrestler of the Year after finishing in 2nd place at the State Tournament in the 138-pound weight class.

At the end of February, Gabe Feldman announced his decision to take his talents to Central College and run both Cross Country and Track and Field for the Dutch in the fall. Feldman will be studying to become a history teacher at the conclusion of his collegiate career. He was two-years old he was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, a lung disease, and saw running as an opportunity to keep himself healthy,

Owen Vansickel committed to playing football at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. Vansickel plans on majoring in communications and becoming a sports broadcaster for his future career.

We also saw the girls’ basketball season come to an end in early March when the Winfield-Mt. Union girls’ team fell in the state tournament quarterfinal to North Linn. The Wolves had a fantastic season, collecting 22 wins, which included a flawless conference record and 19 straight wins, to just two losses, three 1st-team All-Conference selections in Melina Oepping, Keetyn Townsley, and Bradie Buffington, who also took home conference player of the year. Buffington finished her career with 959 points and decided to bring her talents to Cornell where she will be studying special education or behavior disorders. It was Winfield-Mt. Union’s first trip to the state tournament since 1998, when first year head coach Mendy McCreight was donning the Wolves jersey.

The Southeast Conference awards put an official end to the girls’ basketball season as Mt. Pleasant finished in 3rd place in the conference standings and Keokuk finished as conference champions with a 16-6 overall record and a 9-1 record in conference play.

Andrea Lopreato was one of two unanimous selections for the All-Conference 1st Team after averaging a double-double on the year with 20 points per game and 13.2 rebounds per game. The senior also ranked in the Top 50 of most statistical categories in Class 4A and finished her career with 1,416 points. Shooting nearly 50% from the field, Lopreato also took home Co-Player of the Year honors, along with Camille Kruse of Fort Madison, and was named to the Academic All-Conference roster.

Tristian Shull, a senior for the Panthers, was also named to the All-Conference 1st Team after hitting 31% of her shots from three-point range. Shull also averaged 11.9 points per game and averaged 2.7 steals per game. She was also named to the Academic All-Conference team.

Kate Schimmelpfennig and Andi Scott earned All-Conference Honorable Mention. The SEC Coaches award went to Irelynd Sargent of Fort Madison after guiding her team to a 16-7 record. The award was in memory of Tony Sargent, the late head coach for Fort Madison.

Boys’ basketball was the next season to end, but not before an incredible run by the underdog New London Tigers led by seniors Kade Benjamin and Blaise Porter, which saw the Tigers defeat WACO on a buzzer beater and Marquette Catholic in overtime after a thrilling game from start to finish to make the state tournament. Head Coach Bryant Porter said the Tigers were entering the game with “house money” mentality and that thought process saw the Tigers hang in with the eventual state champions Grand View Chrisitan for all four quarters in a 61-51 final. Blaise Porter finished the season with Class 1A First Team All-State honors as the Tigers finished 19-7.

The Southeast Conference awards saw Payton Hagans as a unanimous selection for the All-Conference 1st Team after the phenomenal season for the junior guard. Hagans averaged 20.7 points per game and led the Panthers in just about every statistical category throughout the season. Hagans was also named Second Team All-State. Aaiden Ashton also took home All-Conference 1st Team honors for the Panthers. He was second on the team in points as he averaged 14.5 points per game. Owen Vansickle, a senior guard, was recognized as 2nd Team All-Conference after averaging 7.3 points per game. Carter Amos and Nate Stroud were both recognized as All-Conference Honorable mentions. Tim Cam earned Academic All-Conference for his senior season.

Merquiche Lewis Jr. for Burlington was named Conference Player of the Year along with All-Conference 1st Team and Academic All-Conference as Lewis nearly averaged a double-double with 24.2 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game. Lewis also earned Third Team All-State Honors for Class 4A.

Lastly, Max Weaton of Fairfield was named to the Class 3A Third Team All-State. The senior led the Trojans as he averaged a double-double with 19.5 points and 13.6 rebounds per game.

The beginning of March saw a horde of WACO Warriors commit to competing in collegiate athletics. Simeon Reichenbach signed with Grand View University to continue playing football. Loras College added Drew Diers, who will be studying Kinesiology. Ellah Kissell chose to drive the lane and look to score at Kirkwood Community College to begin her collegiate career. Buena Vista picked up a talented volleyball player in Grace Coble. Lastly, Avery Waterhouse ran her way to William Penn University as she will be running cross country and track for the Statesmen. She will be studying nursing.

We also saw changes for Mt. Pleasant football. The IHSAA decided to take the data for school enrollment and free and reduced lunch percentages into account for classification placements. This resulted in the Panthers moving down from Class 4A to 3A. We also saw Danville placed in Class A as they resurrected their football program after seven years.

The Panthers also hired a new head coach in a familiar face to Mt. Pleasant, John Bowlin. He had been teaching and coaching at Iowa Valley Community High School for 15 years before making the move back to his alma mater.

The best has been saved for last as we focus on Iowa Wesleyan’s winter athletics. In what turned out to be their final season, the Tigers saw records fall and incredible seasons experienced. Ruble Arena was where winners played as both programs combined to go 18-0 at home and had an overall record of 50-11. And for Jordan Ashton and the men’s team, the Tigers kept winning, and winning, and winning, which led to their first top-25 ranking since the 2010-2011 season and win streak of 20 games, the most in program history.

The women’s team, led by Isabell West and Kyla Moore, would capture the #1 seed for the Continental Athletic Conference (CAC) tournament as they were looking to repeat as champions. They would succeed in that mission as they came back from behind against Haskell Indian Nations to take it 64-59. West secured a double-double with 25 points and 14 rebounds in the win. The Tigers did not lose a conference matchup for the two years they were in the CAC.

The men’s team entered the CAC tournament as the #2 seed and almost on the wrong end of an upset in the opening round against Haskell Indian Nations. Nevertheless, Henry Shannon would tip the ball in at the buzzer to end up taking the game 67-65. After skating past Washington Adventist University, the Tigers would be matched up against the team that ended their win streak, the Florida College Falcons. This rematch would go the Tigers way 70-66 as Joey Brown IV splashed 5 three-points in the contest to end the game with 19 points. Gacoby Jones was named CAC Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament with Joey Brown IV, Henry Shannon, and Hakeem Odunsi named to the CAC All-Tournament team. This was men’s first time winning the conference championship since 2011.

In terms of conference awards, Kyla Moore captured 1st Team All-Conference. Breanna Wendland took home 2nd Team All-Conference. Brielle Baker was recognized as the Champion of Character. Steve Williamson was named CAC Coach of the Year for the 2nd year in a row. Lastly, Isabell West took home three awards in 1st Team All-Conference, Newcomer of the Year, and Player of the Year as she averaged 18.7 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.

For the men’s team, Henry Shannon was named 1st Team All-Conference as he averaged 12.9 points per game and 1.5 blocks per game as a freshman. Shannon was also an Honorable Mention for the NAIA, the first Tiger to receive NAIA honors since 2010-11 season.  Gacoby Jones earned honorable mention All-Conference honors along with Joey Brown IV. Jones averaged 11.7 points per game and Brown averaged 10.3 points per game. Additionally, in his first year at the helm, Jordan Ashton took home CAC Coach of the Year as he led the team to a 24-2 regular season record and a #23 ranking after the program finished 12-19 last season.

For the women’s team, Isabell West and Kyla More were tabbed Honorable Mention NAIA and for Moore it was the second time in her career. This was the first time in school history that two players earned Honorable Mention honors in the same season.

The Indoor Track and Field Teams for the Tigers had 7 members named to the All-Conference team for the North Star Athletic Association. KeRon Blackwell won the men’s high jump with a leap of 6 feet 7 inches to be named conference champion and All-Conference. He was the first Tiger men’s conference champion since 2011.

Daron Jackson finished in 2nd place in the men’s triple jump with a jump of 43 feet 2.5 inches. This jump earned him All-Conference honors and placed him 4th all-time in school history.

Bri Hunter broke her own school record in the women’s shot put with a heave of 45 feet 1.75 inches as she earned 2nd at the meet and garnered All-Conference honors.

Lastly, the men’s 4×400 meter relay team of Angel Lottie, Judah Rivers, Jabez Rivers, and Daron Jackson all earned All-Conference honors after breaking their own school record with a time of 3 minutes 27 seconds. The time was good enough to place in 2nd.

Lastly, we look at the Tigers wrestling program. Lane Scorpil, the freshman from Columbus Junction, finished 2nd at the Heart of America Conference Championships and punched his ticket to the NAIA Men’s Wrestling National Championship.

On the women’s side, Adaugo Nwachukwu entered the year as the #1 wrestler in the 136-pound weight class and she would dominate going undefeated in the regular season leading her to be the favorite heading into the Heart of America Championships. She would be awarded her second Heart of America title after 1 minute and 8 seconds. All that was left to do was defend her National Championship from a year before. Nwachukwu would breeze through the competition until the championship match was set against #7 Mea Mohler. Mohler would attack quickly to score an early take down taking a 2-0 lead. That would be it for the challenger as Nwachukwu would score the next 15 points to score a tech fall and become the first two-time National Champion in school history. She also earned All-American honors for the second consecutive year as she ended the year undefeated.

To summarize, Adaugo Nwachukwu won the Heart of America Conference title twice, was named NAIA Outstanding Wrestler of the Year, and finished as a two-time NAIA Champion. Nwachukwu is the first in program history to win multiple National Championships. With a laundry list of accolades, she was put on the ballot for the first USA Wrestling Women’s College Wrestler of the Year Award where she finished as one of the six runners-up.

And just like that, it’s time to take a breather with the first quarter now over. Tune back in tomorrow for the second quarter as spring sports are on the rise. I’m Slaten Swords and we thank Two Rivers Bank and Trust for sponsoring “Year in Review.”