2020's top sports stories

Jake Ryder
The Grundy Register

D-NH girls hoops reaches state semis


After a 64-58 loss to Crestwood on Dec. 7, the Dike-New Hartford girls basketball team went on a 21-game winning streak that brought D-NH to the state semifinals before coming up a couple points short against North Polk.

Ellie Foster was named the NICL East Player of the Year and was a first-team all-NICL East selection along with Katie Knock and Morgan Weber. Foster was also a second-team selection on the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association Class 3A all-state team.

The Wolverines' 23 wins were all by at least 11 points, including a 64-24 win in the regional opener against Union, a 67-15 win in the regional semis against Waterloo Columbus and a 54-38 win against Monticello to return to state for the third consecutive season.

D-NH defeated Jesup, 56-43, in the state quarterfinals for the Wolverines' first state tournament victory as a consolidated school district.


Four area wrestling medalists


Three wrestlers from Grundy Register-area teams earned state medals: AGWSR's Ali Gerbracht, Trinity Rotgers and Trey Lashbrook and South Hardin-BCLUW's Carter Kolthoff.

Gerbracht and Lashbrook repeated as state medalists for the Cougars this season.

Gerbracht finished second in the 106-pound bracket at the IWCOA Girls State Tournament in Waverly, finishing her high school career as a two-time medalist after winning the first state title in girls history last season. Rotgers finished in eighth place at 138 pounds. Gerbracht finished her senior season with a 37-8 record and was the second girl in Iowa high school history to reach 100 career wins.

Lashbrook continued his march toward the record books with his third state medal, adding a sixth-place medal to his third-place finish last season and his eight-place medal as a freshman. The senior-to-be is already in AGWSR's top 10 winningest wrestlers of all-time and he will have a shot at 150 career wins next season. Lashbrook was 37-9 this winter.

South Hardin student-athlete Carter Kolthoff represented the Storm at the state tournament this season, earning a fifth-place medal in the Class 2A, 106-pound bracket in Des Moines in the sophomore's first appearance at the state tournament. He finished with a 42-4 overall record and also won the 106-pound title at the NICL Tournament in Denver.

Aplington-Parkersburg/Grundy Center's Zach Klahsen qualified for the state tournament, going 0-2 in his sophomore season.


Governor's COVID-19 order eliminates spring sports


As the school closures extended and the sports schedule delays continued, perhaps the unfortunate result came into view for spring sports athletes and coaches.

The news from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds earlier this year that schools would remain closed through the end of the academic year, and the resulting cancellation of spring sports, stung just the same.

Among the numerous other spring sports options, track and field is the second most-popular sport for girls and boys in Iowa. In 2018-19, 12,012 boys from 350 schools and 9,908 girls from 348 schools went out for track and field.

Teams and individuals in a variety of sports were denied the opportunity to build on 2019's successes, most notably Dike-New Hartford and Grundy Center's boys track and field team, Grundy Center boys golf and Dike-New Hartford girls golf.


D-NH baseball makes first-ever state trip


This summer, the Dike-New Hartford baseball team made history with its first-ever state tournament appearance.

The Wolverines ended the summer with a record of 15-4 in a season that started late for all high school teams in Iowa due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We've had some really nice senior groups come through in the last few years, but this is a special one," D-NH head coach Sean Leonard said. "They're the ones that got this done."

D-NH started the season with a 10-1 record.

After canceling two games while waiting for COVID-19 test results for a member of the coaching staff, D-NH took back-to-back losses to Wapsie Valley and Don Bosco, but regrouped for a big extra-inning win, 3-1 against Mason City Newman on July 8, and a 12-0 win against Gladbrook-Reinbeck on July 10.

Strong defense behind great pitching performances by Reece Beuter and Zak Wauters ultimately wasn't enough for the Wolverines, coming up short, 2-1, in an extra-inning clash in the state quarterfinal with Des Moines Christian. An error on Zach Starbuck's sacrifice bunt scored the Wolverines' only run. Beuter and Wauters combined to strike out 15 batters and allow one earned run on four hits and four walks.


Day, Kvale earn XC medals


Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck senior Kenny Day and Dike-New Hartford junior Taylor Kvale earned state cross country medals at the state meet in Fort Dodge.

Kvale crossed the finish line in 14th place for her third state medal in as many tries.

Kvale finished in 20 minutes and 26 seconds to lead the D-NH girls to an 11th-place team finish. The Wolverines were making their third-consecutive appearance as a team.

GC/G-R made it back to the state meet for the third-consecutive season, and Day got his chance in the sun after a 10th-place run to earn his first state cross country medal in his final high school cross country race.

Day finished in 17:19, one second behind Central Decatur's William Gillis in ninth. Tipton senior Caleb Shumaker won the individual title in 16:13.

As an individual, Day was 70th in 2018, and climbed to 45th in 2019.

"My preparation for this year really drove me," Day said. "It brought me up to the point where I could have a possibility of the top 15 and it worked out great. … It was my last race, and I wanted to put everything out there."


D-NH wins 2A volleyball title, G-R falls in 1A finals


Dike-New Hartford volleyball returned to the state tournament after missing out on last year's competition, and the Wolverines left a mark by sweeping their opponents en route to the program's 14th state championship.

D-NH ended the season with a 32-4 record, defeating Sumner-Fredericksburg, Wilton and Denver in Cedar Rapids to win the state title.

In addition to defeating two NICL East opponents in the state tournament, D-NH did not drop a set to any East opposition this fall, and won its fourth consecutive division title with a perfect 8-0 record.

This run was even more impressive given that all nine NICL East teams were ranked in the final state-wide rankings from the IGHSAU.

Payton Petersen was named the captain of the Class 2A All-Tournament Team as a freshman, joining her twin sister, Jadyn Petersen, and Madelyn Norton.

For the first time in 32 years, Gladbrook-Reinbeck volleyball ended its season in the state championship game, falling in four sets to Burlington Notre Dame in a battle for the Class 1A title. The Rebels were making their second state appearance in the last three years.

G-R ended the season with a 34-3 record, defeating Springville and Council Bluffs St. Albert to reach the championship game.

In a first since 2009, a team other than Grundy Center took at least a portion of the NICL West title, as Gladbrook-Reinbeck split the regular-season title with the Spartans and South Hardin.

Saari Kuehl was named the NICL West's Outstanding Player, and ended her high school career as a four-time All-NICL West pick, which included three first-team selections.

Kuehl and sophomore Ava Wyatt were named to the Class 1A All-Tournament Team.


Grundy Center football returns to state final


It had been 364 days since the Spartan football team tasted the sting of defeat against West Hancock in the UNI-Dome in last year's championship game, and this year's crew, which featured many of those same starters from last year, were determined to find redemption, especially after unseating the defending champs in Britt.

And after a competitive start with perennial power Iowa City Regina, a sequence of unfortunate events put the Spartans on their heels and, eventually, left Grundy Center ultimately unfulfilled.

The Regals, dropping down to the smallest 11-man class this year, won 52-28 in Cedar Falls for their first state title since 2015, and their eighth in program history.

"This was what we've been waiting for," Grundy Center quarterback Logan Knaack said. "We went out there, gave it what we had and people made plays, but they were just the better football team."

The Spartans finish with an 11-1 record, runners-up for the second consecutive season.

Zajac, in his second year of coaching the Spartans, has helped lead the team to back-to-back 11-win seasons and two state runner-up trophies to add to the trophy case, as well as encouraging the Spartan football team, and the Grundy Center community at large, to carry their S.H.I.E.L.D. – Strength, Honor, Integrity, Effort, Leadership, Discipline.

"It has absolutely nothing to do with me," Zajac insisted. "It has everything to do with the kids and their families, the assistant coaches and their families. I walked into a fantastic situation, and I couldn't ask for any more for my players, my coaches and the Grundy Center community."

Grundy Center had six all-state football selections this year: Zach Opheim, Kolby Muller, Wes Willis and Logan Knaack were first team selections and Brayden Sawyer and Trevor McMartin were third-teamers.


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