No community, big or small, had a better 2017 than Beaver Dam as far as basketball goes. The year began with the high school’s girls team ranked No. 1 and the boys team ranked No. 6, and the boys would only climb higher en route to the program’s first conference championship in 19 years, a trip to the sectional finals, and a program-record 23 wins. The girls, of course, won the WIAA Division 2 state championship with a perfect 28-0 record – and they didn’t win a single game by less than double-digits. Even better, the championship ended a 38-year drought for Beaver Dam dating back to the football team’s D2 championship in 1979. And as if all that wasn’t enough, Garrett Nelson graduated as the boys all-time leading scorer while Cassidy Trotter did the same as the girls all-time leader.
2 WILD RIDE FOR WAUPUN AT STATE
The Warriors’ prep baseball program has a proud history, with a Class A runner-up finish in 1983, a D2 state title in 2007, and six trips to state in all through 2016. Make it seven. The Warriors returned to the field of dreams in June and then Brenden Bille very nearly became an immortal, weaving a no-hitter that was broken up with two outs in the seventh inning of Waupun’s 6-0 win over Mosinee in the semifinals. Unfortunately for Waupun, the perfect ending wasn’t to be as West Salem capitalized on the mistake-prone Warriors in the championship game and won, 8-6.
For the first time ever, students at Dodgeland High School could utter the words “team” and “champion” in the same sentence. They had Meygan Benzing, Jamie Huber, Kaitlin Pickart, Julia Holtz, and Rachel Parbs to thank as those five combined for an eye-popping score of 56 points to almost lap Lancaster (97 points) in winning the Division 3 girls state title at the WIAA State Cross Country Championships Oct. 28 in Wisconsin Rapids. Also racing for Dodgeland at state were Jada Kohn and Kelli Kjornes.
4.) GREAT GOLDEN BEAVERS
Big hair was fashionable the last time Beaver Dam’s prep girls cross country team ran off to state, but tied to the sneakers of Paige White, Jada Donaldson, Mariah Alvarez, Hailey Stofflet, and Rachel Uhrich, the Beavers rode their way back this fall. They dominated the field (outpacing runner-up Slinger, 48-94) at sectionals to end the 32-year drought (1985), but the state meet itself was a tad bittersweet as Beaver Dam finished 19th out of 20 teams.
5.) TWO TEAMS RAISE THE BAR
Only once before had Markesan made the state quarterfinals, and Fall River never had. But paced by balanced offenses, dominant defenses, and experience across the board, both set new high-water marks in 2017, advancing to the state semifinals in D6 and D7, respectively. They ran into buzzsaws – Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs and Black Hawk – on the season’s penultimate Friday, but they were still seasons to remember for two programs that charted new territory to be further explored in years to come.
6.) SPECIAL SENIOR YEAR
Already having helped Columbus’ football team to the D4 state quarterfinals to ring out 2016, Cardinals’ senior Josh Seltzner had an even greater 2017 in store, announcing in early January his intentions to join Wisconsin as a preferred walk-on and then winning the D2 shot put championship in June at the WIAA State Track and Field Championships in La Crosse. Talk about going out in style!
7.) PLAYOFF-BOUND, FINALLY
Beaver Dam and Mayville’s prep football teams missed out on the chance to compete for state titles for a combined 12 years (2011 was Beaver Dam’s last trip, 2009 was Mayville’s), but both were back in the postseason this year. The Golden Beavers got a date with Waunakee in round one and were promptly blown out by the eventual D2 state champs, while Mayville led Lodi 31-24 in the fourth quarter in round one but lost 38-31 in a near-upset of the eventual D4 state champion Blue Devils. Still, it was a step in the right direction for both programs as they try and recapture past glory.
8.) ALMOST FAMOUS
Wyatt Wells was the one to beat at 220 pounds in Division 1, topping the rankings all year and entering the individual state tournament with a perfect 46-0 record. Unfortunately for him, the magical ride ended one match too soon as he suffered a 3-1 loss to Mukwonago’s Aric Bohn in the semifinals before rallying to notch a pair of victories and take third, returning home with bronze.
9.) SKIPPER SIGNS OFF
When practice begins for Beaver Dam in March, it’ll be the first time in 40 years that Joe Loizzo won’t be wielding a fungo bat. That’s because the wise-cracking coach retired from the job following last season after 14 years at the helm of the varsity squad (2003-2017) and 28 steering the JV squad (1977-2002). In all his time involved with the program, the Golden Beavers made it to the state tournament six times, most recently in 2008.
10.) JUMPING FOR JOY
It was déjà vu for Waupun’s prep gymnastics team, which a year after making it to the state meet for the first time in program history booked a return trip in 2017. The Warriors took eighth in D2, just narrowly behind Dodgeville/Mineral Point. A day later in individual competition, Warriors’ freshman Isabella Doege took ninth in the uneven bars and 27th in the vault, sophomore Eryn Hautamaki took 10th in the vault, and senior Sara Kroeze took 24th in the balance beam. All in all, it was a memorable two days for the Warriors.
Fall River’s prep girls basketball team has established itself as one of the preeminent programs in Wisconsin, but with a large graduating class in 2016 off of a team that had made it to state two straight years, 2016-17 was supposed to a rebuilding year. It wasn’t, as the Lady Pirates won a fifth straight conference title and darn near made it three straight trips to state, suffering a 76-74 loss to Milwaukee Academy of Sciences in the D5 sectional finals … Randolph’s girls volleyball team returned to sectionals a year after advancing to state but couldn’t quite make it two trips to Green Bay in as many seasons, losing to Burlington Catholic Central in a semifinal match. Also in 2017, Rockets’ head coach Jeff Kohlbeck notched his 300th career victory. … Waupun boys basketball players Owen Theune and Marcus Domask both went over 1,000 career points in the span of two weeks, with Domask doing so as only a junior and on pace to become the program’s all-time leading scorer. … Columbus senior Tanner Perry set the Cardinals’ boys basketball team’s single-game scoring record with 44 points vs. North Fond du Lac on Feb. 28, eclipsing the previous mark of 41 points set by him a year earlier. ... The Beaver Dam girls hoops team is sending kids off to DI or DII programs at an eye-popping rate, with 2017 graduate Cassidy Trotter now at DII Michigan Tech, 2017 grad Kara Crowley at DI Wisconsin as a walk-on, senior Afton Bartol is headed to DII University of Mary (Bismark, N.D.), junior Aly Van Loo verbally committed to DII University of North Dakota, junior Tara Stauffacher verbally committed to Wisconsin, junior Paige Schumann verbally committed to DI Eastern Illinois, and likely more to come in 2018. ... The Wayland boys soccer team endured a renaissance, winning its first-ever Flyway Conference title before eventually losing 1-0 in the D4 sectional finals to finish just one game short of state. ... Beaver Dam sophomore Morgan Nelson advanced to the D1 girls tennis individual state tournament for the second year in a row and this year was joined by teammates Ashley Saniter and Abby Kiesow, who qualified for state in doubles. ... Beaver Dam’s girls hockey team joined up with the Fond du Lac Warbirds for 2017-18 and so far this season the co-op is off to a good start, ranked sixth in the state as of the latest Wisconsin Prep Hockey/Coaches poll released the day after Christmas.