Decade in review: A look back at Plymouth County sports in the 2010s
As the 2010s reached their conclusion, we decided to take a look back at the decade of sports with our local teams.
Our local schools qualified at least two wrestlers to the state meet every year of the last decade. The low for Plymouth County came in 2013 when just two wrestlers advanced to Des Moines. Two years later in 2015 we saw our most advance as six made it to Wells Fargo Arena. Over the course of the decade wrestlers made it to state a total of 41 times, averaging out to about four per season. Nearly half of those came from Akron-Westfield who got wrestlers to state on 19 occasions, as many as Hinton and Le Mars Community combined. The Westerners also had the only state champion of the decade in three-time undefeated champion in Class 1A 160, John Henrich.
By the end of the next decade, we hope to have more to report in the way of girls wrestling. The sport has gained popularity over the course of the last decade enough to warrant the first girls state tournament in 2019 sponsored by the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association. There, Le Mars Community’s Jecenta Sargisson claimed a state championship in the 170-pound bracket of the inaugural event.
Le Mars Community was the dominant bowling force in the area for much of the decade. The school made 12 state tournament appearances in the 2010s. The Lady Bulldogs have seven of those appearances as they’ve advanced to state in each of the last five years. The team claimed runner-up at state in 2018 and 2019. The Le Mars boys have earned a trip to state each of the last four years with their other appearance coming in 2013. The boys team’s best finish came in 2016 with a state runner-up trophy.
While Hinton boasted the top girls basketball program in the county in the 2000s with four state tournament appearances, the Lady Blackhawks failed to make it to state in the 2010s. In this decade, it’s been a bit of a grab bag of results for area teams with three different schools combining for four trips to state. Kingsley-Pierson has been the most successful in the latter half of the decade with regional final appearances each of the last six years leading to back-to-back state tournament appearances in 2016 and 2017.
Le Mars Community has been in a few regional finals the last few years as well. They got their state tournament appearance in 2018. The other Plymouth County team to make the girls state basketball tournament this decade was Gehlen Catholic. They did so in 2012 as a very talented class of female athletes also helped the Lady Jays to state appearances in volleyball, golf, track, cross country and softball in the 2011-12 school year.
Just like with girls basketball, we’ve seen four teams work their way to state in boys basketball during the 2010s. If you said on Jan. 1, 2010 that by the end of the decade Remsen St. Mary’s would have three of those appearances, it may have come as a surprise as the Hawks ended the 2009 season with a 4-19 record. RSM wouldn’t have a winning record until the end of the 2015 season before turning into the juggernaut they’ve been the last few years with undefeated regular seasons in 2017 and 2018 as the first two years of their current three year stretch of state appearances.
The other boys basketball state appearance of the decade came in 2015 as Le Mars Community turned their appearance into a state runner-up finish. The Bulldogs fell by a 46-38 score to Dubuque Wahlert in the championship game. That 2015 Le Mars team included Tyler Borchers and Trent Hilbrands who now compete against each other in the GPAC for Morningside and Northwestern, respectively.
Track & field
Hinton, Gehlen Catholic and the combined Kingsley-Pierson and Woodbury Central (KP-WC) teams have led the way in track and field this decade with several state qualifying meet titles among the three of them. KP-WC’s partnership was formed at the start of the decade and has seen successful results just about every season since then. The pinnacle of the success came in 2017 as the boys team tied for the team state championship in Class 2A with Madrid.
There have been 22 state champion events by local schools this decade and KP-WC claims the rights to 15 of those. A majority of those were produced by the talented Phelps family with Kiana Phelps and younger brother Nick Phelps grabbing five apiece in the throwing events. The first of KP-WC’s event titles came in the 2012 4x400 race for the boys followed by a distance medley win in 2015. Nick Scheelhaase and Alec Still won the 800 meter races in 2015 and 2017, respectively. The girls got their first relay win just this past year as the sprint medley team of Aubree Bell, Madison Goodwin, Jayde Barto and Erika Kuntz claimed first in 1:50-even.
Hinton is next on the list with three champions. Two of those came in 2013 with the distance medley boys joining girls high jumper Kasey Reuter for titles. Lauren Hedlund earned the other the following year in the 400 meter hurdles.
Akron-Westfield and Le Mars Community have one title apiece in the decade. The Lady Westerners got theirs the earliest as Karly Groon won the high jump in 2010. The Le Mars boys earned the 2013 state title in the 4x200 with Robert Iron Shell, Gabe Rahn, Chris Hatting and Levi Te Brink combining for a time of 1:29.52.
Girls golf has been one of the most successful sports in the county over the last decade. Three schools have combined for 12 state tournament appearances in the span. Akron-Westfield has made the state tournament each of the last six years. The team was runner-up in 2016 and won a state title the following year with Bailey Davis, Ann Hedlund and Brooke Koele leading the way with individual medalist honors. The team finished as runner-up again this past season in Koele’s last season and the Westerners are poised to continue their success into the 2020s with everyone else set to return.
The Hinton girls team had a run of six appearances in a row split between decades as they finished off the stretch with a state appearance in 2012 before their most recent in 2018. The Lady Jays made back-to-back appearances in the 2012 and 2013 campaigns.
Boys golf has been more quiet this decade after Hinton’s dynasty of the 2000s, which included a state title in 2006, fell off with only one state appearance in this decade. That came in 2011 as the Blackhawks finished as state runner-up. While typically one of the better teams in the area, Hinton hasn’t made a state trip since then.
The only other boys golf appearance of the decade came in 2012 as Akron-Westfield earned a trip.
The Le Mars Community tennis team has had a decade worth celebrating. The boys team has made five trips to state, which has meant a top four finish in those years. Le Mars earned back-to-back state runner-up finishes in 2016 and 2017 for their best finishes. The team also made appearances in 2011, 2015 and 2019. Jake Malik won an individual state championship in the 2017 season for the Bulldogs.
The Lady Bulldogs had three state appearances in the 2010s. Those came in 2013, 2015 and 2016. All three resulted in losses to Waterloo Columbus, the same team Le Mars lost to in the 2019 regional final.
The school has been represented at either the boys or girls individual tournament every year of the decade by a singles player or doubles team. In total, 10 girls made the individual singles tournament led by Elizabeth Ihrke and Emily Ahlers with three appearances each. On the boys side there have been seven singles players to qualify for state. Mike Ahlers started the decade with back-to-back appearances while Zach Wingert ended the decade with back-to-back showings as the only singles players with multiple trips to state. The Bulldogs also sent five doubles teams to state. Kyle Marek was a member of three doubles pairs to make state, joining Thomas Havey in 2015 and 2016 and then teaming up with Jake Thompson for his 2017 trip.
Akron-Westfield won’t come as a surprise to anyone, but Plymouth County has had some quality softball teams this decade as five of the county schools made at least one trip to Fort Dodge.
The Lady Westerners made seven trips to the state tournament this past decade and came home with four state titles. They won in their first four appearances of the decade with championships in the 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014 seasons. The A-W championship teams relied on several different players including in the circle where Jordan Harris (2010), Brandi Davis (2011) and Kayla Tindall (2013 & 2014) served as winning pitchers for the team.
Plymouth County players and teams hold several state tournament records, many of which were set in the 2010s.
The 2010 A-W team holds the record in the four class era for most hits (35) in a tournament including Jordan Harris and her eight hits which is tied for most in state history. The following year Sarah Parkinson drove in six runs in the tournament which still stands as tied for most in the four class era while Brandi Davis allowed no earned runs in 24 innings of work which made her the ninth in the four class era to accomplish that feat.
Melinda Gerrietts of Remsen St. Mary’s tied for the most hits by an individual in a game with five in the team’s game against Martensdale-St. Marys. That 2013 contest saw the Hawks tie the 1A record for most runs in a game in an 18-11 win, a game which went to extra innings tied at 9-9. The nine runs scored in one inning was the most by a 1A team at state and the combined 29 runs is still most in a state tournament game ever. Anyssa Trejo also found her way into the record books in that game with four runs scored.
The 2014 and 2016 A-W teams were tied for most doubles and triples in a state tournament in the five class era, respectively.
Akron-Westfield’s Kiana Appley swiped her way into the record books with five steals in a 2018 game against AGWSR.
Four of Plymouth County’s schools have made a trip to Principal Park over the past decade. Leading the way with six of the 11 appearances is Remsen St. Mary’s. The Hawks are in the midst of their longest stretch in the storied history of the program with state appearances in each of the last four years. The first of those four resulted in a state championship in 2016. The team earned their 2016 trip to state by walloping No. 4 Lawton-Bronson 16-1 in five innings in the substate game before beating Highland, Riverside and then top-seeded Mason City Newman Catholic in the semifinals. The championship game was a first in the 81-year history of the state tournament as two small school teams from the same conference met in the title game. The Hawks topped War Eagle Conference rival West Sioux by an 8-5 score, avenging a pair of losses during the regular season.
RSM finished as state runner-up at the start of the decade, losing to Martensdale-St. Marys in the 2010 championship.
Hinton was the only other local school with multiple state appearances this decade, making three in a row in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons. The Blackhawks had never made a state baseball appearance before the 2014 season.
Akron-Westfield also made their first appearance at state this decade in the 2017 season in a decade dominated by the War Eagle Conference. The Westerners joined RSM at state in 2017 with both teams winning their quarterfinal games, but dropping their semifinal contests in what could have been the second all-War Eagle Conference final in as many years.
The other state baseball appearance of the decade featured Gehlen Catholic in 2014, the first year in which the storied programs of Gehlen and Spalding Catholic took the field together.
Local cross country teams qualified for state seven times in the decade. The decade started off with back-to-back trips from the Gehlen Catholic girls and ended with a trip from the Gehlen boys, led by two-time medalist Will Roder.
Three other appearances came from the WC-KP girls who made the trip to Fort Dodge in three straight years starting in 2017. In that first year of team qualifying for WC-KP, the group managed a third place finish. That team had two individual medalists with Rylee Wright and Suzanne Putze. It was the second medalist honor for Putze as she was 14th the year before and joined her boys teammate Eric Hoffman who ended 11th in 2016. The next year the team was the youngest in competition with all freshmen and sophomores and they scored another third place trophy even as the team didn’t medal any individuals. In 2019, Sarahy Hamman worked her way to the podium even as the team missed out on a trophy for the first time.
The other team to qualify in the decade was the Remsen St. Mary’s boys squad in 2016 as they advanced to state despite having just the minimum of five runners to be able to post a team score.
Other top runners for the decade included the Le Mars Community trio of Maddie Hurt, Chloe Calhoun and Kara Albrecht. The first two scored trips to state all four years while Albrecht finished with three appearances at Fort Dodge. Hurt earned medalist honors as a freshman in 2015, the first season of the girls running the 5K, with a 15th place finish. Earlier in the decade, another Lady Bulldog claimed medalist honors as Kenzie Theisen was fifth in 2012.
Gehlen Catholic dominated the decade in volleyball with state appearances in nine of the 10 years. The team made their first state championship match appearance in 2011. They fell to Tripoli in the title match with their only other loss that year coming to 3A state runner-up Bishop Heelan at the CYO Tournament as the Lady Jays ended 34-2.
Gehlen’s return to the championship match came in 2017 on an improbable state run. The team rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat Tripoli in the quarterfinals and won another five set match in the semifinals by outlasting Springville 16-14 in the fifth set. A fatigued Lady Jays squad fell to Janesville, who secured their third consecutive state title, in the championship match.
Several Gehlen girls hold state tournament records in Class 1A. Karly Bunkers currently holds the state tournament digs record in 1A for her 38 digs against Central Lyon in 2015. In that same match, Catalina Uribe had 49 assists, which was the record until this year’s championship match when Olivia Larsen had 51 for Sidney. Bailey Wiltgen holds the five-class era record for service aces as she had nine against Stanton in 2013. Sydney Livermore is tied for most block assists in 1A state tournament matches after posting seven against Holy Trinity Catholic in 2018.
2013 was a good year for volleyball in Plymouth County as along with a trip to state for Gehlen, who was a state semifinalist that year, the county sent Le Mars Community and Hinton to state as well in their only state appearances of the decade.
All seven Plymouth County schools had their football teams qualify for the postseason at least three times in the decade. Hinton led the local schools with seven postseason appearances in the decade. The best finish for the Blackhawks came in the 2012 season as they were state runner-up in Class A. The Blackhawks lost their championship game to Wapsie Valley by a 21-14 score as they finished 10-4 on the season. All four of their losses were by one possession.
Akron-Westfield followed with six postseason appearances in the decade as they also had a state runner-up finish. The Westerners finished second in the state in 2015 behind the play of Cal Eskra who still holds the state record for most combined passing and rushing yards in a season. A-W converted a 2-point conversion with just over a minute left to beat Mount Ayr in the semifinals before dropping the championship game by a 52-20 score to Gladbrook-Reinbeck.
Remsen St. Mary’s added the third runner-up finish for Plymouth County in 2017. It was one of their four playoff appearances of the decade. The Hawks went undefeated up until the championship game when they lost to Don Bosco by a 52-14 score. RSM made another trip to the UNI-Dome in 2019.
Gehlen Catholic made three postseason trips in the decade with the first in 2010 going the furthest with a semifinal appearance.
Remsen-Union made playoff appearances in the first four years of the decade before they joined with Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn in 2016. Prior to their joining, MMC won a pair of 8-player state championships in 2012 and 2015.
Le Mars Community and Kingsley-Pierson made three playoff appearances each, but lost in their first postseason game all of those years.