Tuesday, February 18, 2020
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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Metro Sports Report

McLaughlin takes over in OT for Xavier boys

OTTUMWA -- The mark of a true competitor is to never back down, come ready to play and fear no one.

The Cedar Rapids Xavier boys hoops squad got the memo.

The Saints (7-15) and Coach Matt Jenkins made the long haul down to Wapello County and promptly knocked off the Ottumwa Bulldogs, 61-54, in overtime in a Class 4A substate quarterfinal at Evans Middle School Monday night.

"Our guys just made plays. That's what it boils down to. Guys gutted it out. We sensed the moment," said Jenkins.

Up next for the Saints is the top dog in the state, in the form of undefeated and top-ranked Linn-Mar (21-0) in the substate semifinals Friday night at Linn-Mar.

Xavier is no stranger to its league rival. It played the top power in the large-school class twice and lost by 19 and 20 points, although the Saints were tied at halftime in the first fray.

"They are a phenomenal team. We wouldn't have it any other way," said Jenkins. "To be the best, you've got to beat the best. We'll see what happens."

Xavier senior point guard Mitch McLaughlin drained seven free throws in the extra session and accounted for nine points in overtime. McLaughlin talked about playing in the extremely strong Mississippi Valley Conference,­ a big reason the Saints came ready to play right off the bat.

"Everyone asked, 'What's wrong with your record?' We kind of just ignored it. We knew we were better than what we were showing," said McLaughlin, who finished with a game-high 19 points.


J-Hawk booster club has raised $1.8 million

“It’s amazing how much money can be made by selling a candy bar or bag of popcorn one item at a time,” says Mark Fiala, technology facilitator at Jefferson High School.

Is “amazing” a bit of an exaggeration?  Well, recently the Jefferson Athletic Booster Club, of which Fiala is currently president,  gave JHS athletics  a $50,000 contribution, and it was the second $50,000 check the club has given this school year. That brings the total to more than $1.8 million over the years.

 Yes, ”amazing” sums it up pretty well.

 “Vital” would work, too.  Just ask Athletics Director Scott Kibby.

The club has been in existence since the 1957-58 school year, but “Most of that ($1.8 million) has come recently,” said  Kibby, “about $800,000 in just the past nine years.”

The club’s goal is $100,000 per year. Of that $100,000, Kibby said about $60,000 is needed “just to make ends meet,” to cover operating expenses.  Hiring officials, alone, costs about $45,000 a year, he said.


J-Hawks' Herman trims Nagle for state title

DES MOINES -- Conner Herman waddled around Wells Fargo Arena at the state wrestling tournament last year as a 250-pound heavyweight. Or maybe it was 260.

"I was pretty big," he said Saturday night. "I was not the healthiest person ever."

Now he's the picture of good health, and the trimmer Cedar Rapids Jefferson senior has the Class 3A 215-pound state title as a satisfying reward.

Herman beat Ben Nagle of North Scott, 5-3 in overtime, Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena to claim Jefferson's first title since Tim Ironside won a championship for the J-Hawks in 1998.

Herman thanked Jefferson assistant coach Matt Orton, a former J-Hawk state champion himself in 1989, for "beating on me" in practice and giving him dietary advice.

Orton's advice?

"Eat stuff that spoils," Herman said. "Don't eat anything that doesn't spoil."

Nagle, ranked second in the state, tried to spoil Herman's goal of winning Jefferson's first state title in 13 years by taking a 2-0 lead with a reversal in the second period, but Herman fought back.

Herman got an escape and a takedown for a 3-2 lead with 30 seconds left in the third period, but Herman locked his hands while trying to protect the lead and was called for a penalty point to tie the match 3-3 with 11 seconds to go.

"It was a dumb move on my part," he said.


Tara Trcka, Linn-Mar girls in at state

Xavier sophomore Tara Trcka has qualified for Thursday's Class 1A bowling meet, and the Linn-Mar girls have qualified as an at-large team for Class 2A meet Friday.

Trcka shot a 388 in Saturday's regional tournament at May City Lane. Her name was not on the list when the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union released the names of qualifiers Saturday night, although her 388 was better than several of the scores that had been reported as at-large qualifiers. By Sunday, she was on the list.

Trcka is one of 16 qualifiers for the individual championship.  Hope Seyb of Keokuk had the top score in regionals with a 490.

Trcka's cousin, Allie Trcka of Cedar Rapids Jefferson, qualified for the Class 2A individual championship.

Linn-Mar finished third at the Class 2A regional at May City Bowl on Saturday. But both at-large teams to fill out the 10-team tournament field came from that regional. The Lions join regional champ Jefferson and second-place Muscatine in the 2A field.


Witte wins a thriller for 145-pound title

DES MOINES -- Zach Witte could write a thriller about his high school wrestling career someday.

Chapter 1: Witte finishes a surprising second at the 2009 state tournament as a starry-eyed freshman.

Chapter 2: Witte fails to qualify for state as a sophomore in 2010 and dedicates himself to winning the 2011 state title, vowing to climb to the top of the podium.

Chapter 3: He does it.

Witte became Cedar Rapids Prairie's first state champion in five years Saturday night when he edged Gabriel Moreno of Urbandale, 6-5, for the Class 3A 145-pound crown at Wells Fargo Arena.

"I've done it. I've finally done it," an exuberant Witte declared. "Wow. Wow is all I've got."

Wow was good enough.

Witte capped his perfect season with a 38-0 record and became Prairie's first state champion since Phil Sexton won the 140-pound crown for the Hawks in 2006.


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