The year 2013 was full of highlights and memories, as was evident by the NewsTribune Sports Staff’s Top 10 Stories of the Year list, which ran on Dec. 26.
So many incredible coaches, athletes and individuals made our year — and specifically mine — so amazing, but most all of my favorite moments from last year came in personal encounters and interactions.
So, to officially close 2013 and usher in the New Year, below are four of my favorite moments from last year, as well as a handful of things I am looking forward to in 2014.
Alex Fuentes’ pride
Last February, the 195-pound then Ottawa junior placed sixth in Class 2A to earn his first state medal at the IHSA state wrestling meet in Champaign.
Following his final match of the season, I sat next to Fuentes — who had lost back-to-back matches to end his state run — and expected him to be sad and bitter over his finish, but Fuentes did something I never expected: he had a smile that lit up the University of Illinois’s State Farm Center.
Yes, Fuentes wished he would’ve placed higher, but the Pirate wrestler had an immense amount of pride in what he, then sophomore teammate Daniel Close and then junior teammate Cyrano Rayfield had accomplished.
Together, Close and Fuentes earned Ottawa’s first state medals since 2008 and, along with Rayfield, the three had helped put Pirate wrestling back on the map.
That, as Fuentes showed, was something of which to be proud.
Dave Garcia’s enthusiastic embrace
From Day 1, I always gravitated toward former Putnam County baseball coach and athletic director Dave Garcia.
I always assumed it had to do with our shared loved for America’s pastime — as well as my perpetual nature to pester him — but one moment at last June’s Class 1A state tournament really stuck with me.
After the Panthers rallied to beat Salt Fork 3-1 in last June’s 1A state semifinal and advanced to the 1A state title game, Garcia and a handful of players made their way to the postgame interview. Surrounded by nearly two dozen people, Garcia sought me out and gave me one of the hardest and loudest celebratory hand slaps I’ve ever received, which led to plenty of skeptical looks from other media members and IHSA staff.
It was a rare moment of satisfaction that Garcia allowed me to share with him and something I won’t soon forget.
Mike Rosploch’s bright green shoes
In fall 2012, I wrote a column on Mike Rosploch and his daughter, Lily, who through social media has had her battle with cancer well documented and followed.
After the story, I stayed in touch with Rosploch, who returned to the sidelines last season as an assistant football coach at St. Bede. I spent nearly 13 months talking with Rosploch — predominantly through Facebook chat — before I finally saw him in person this fall at the St. Bede at Princeton football game, where I first noticed his bright green shoes.
I’m not certain why, but those shoes always made me chuckle. Given the recent passing of Cora Peters — a Bureau Valley student who became close friends with Lily and had her own battle with cancer documented on Facebook — Rosploch’s unique sense of style is a constant reminder of all that the Rosploch family has been through, as well as how precious every moment of life truly is.
La Salle-Peru volleyball at state
In 2013, we had four area teams qualify for a state tournament and two played for a state championship, and I was lucky enough to be part of state coverage of all four.
One in particular, however, stood out.
The L-P volleyball’s team weekend at state is something that I will never forget simply because it had a different feel and a different look. I’m not sure if it was because of the coaches, the players, the fans, the super fans or something else, but there was a different energy and look when the Lady Cavaliers played at state.
I will always remember sitting on press row during L-P’s Class 3A state semifinal against Chicago Payton and realizing how unique of a moment that game really was.
While 2013 was a great time, 2014 offers to be equally as exciting.
I’m looking forward to the loaded Class 1A Ottawa Marquette boys basketball Regional at Marseilles, which includes St. Bede, Putnam County, Marquette and Henry.
I’m also interested in seeing the first season for Joey Ohnesorge as the Putnam County baseball coach, as well as finding out if Fieldcrest football will continue its rise?
I want to see if the Putnam County softball team can win a state title, and how the L-P volleyball team — which returns a wealth of experience — will fare without all-everything setter Katie Olson, the 2013 NewsTribune Volleyball Player of the Year.
I’m curious how this year’s Ottawa boys basketball team will fair in Class 4A, and how the Mendota girls basketball team will do in Class 3A.
I also want to find out if any of our track and field athletes will win a state title and if any local wrestler can win state, as well as hopefully seeing the true potential from a healthy Regan Weidner of Bureau Valley.
Yes, I’m looking forward to all that and so much more.
Jared Bell is a NewsTribune Sports Writer. He can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.