The year of 2012 was certainly a memorable year for area sports. It included five state championships, heartbreaking finishes, a superhero emergence, the passing of area sports legends, the resurrection of programs, a rising star and a promising future for 2013.
Following is the list of the top 12 area sports stories of 2012 as compiled by CNA sports editor Scott Vicker and sports writer Larry Peterson.
• 1 — Record-breaking heartbreaker
The Murray football team entered the 2012 season with high hopes after finishing runner-up in Eight-Man during the 2011 season.
The Mustangs delivered, finishing with an undefeated regular season — the first in school history — while making their way back to the UNI Dome for the Eight-Man quarterfinals.
What ensued was one of, if not the craziest games in state playoff history, as the Mustangs fell to Gilbertville Don Bosco in a wild overtime game, 78-76.
The game was the highest-scoring game in Iowa High School Athletic Association playoff football history.
Senior quarterback Austin Halls’ pass to Sam Rockhold on a 2-point conversion was knocked away at the last second, giving Don Bosco the win in a game that lasted more than three hours.
Murray ended the season 12-1, marking the second-straight season the Mustangs finished the season with 12 wins. Those are the only two such occurrences in school history.
Halls was rewarded for his stellar season by being named to the Des Moines Register all-state elite team as a defensive back, as well as being named first-team all-state as a defensive back by the Iowa Newspaper Association. The INA also named Halls captain of the Eight-Man all-state team.
Receiver Cody Scroggie also made the INA first-team all-state team for the second straight year, after amassing 48 receptions for 976 yards and 17 touchdowns despite missing three games.
• 2 — Panthers finish fourth; Marlin earns third championship
Then-junior Creston/Orient-Macksburg wrestler Jake Marlin cruised through the state wrestling tournament, winning his third state championship in as many tries, giving him an opportunity to add his name to the elite list of 21 athletes who have been four-time state champions.
Marlin scored two wins by fall at the state tournament, one by technical fall and a 10-2 major decision in the championship match at 138 pounds.
Senior Collin Bevins joined Marlin as a state champion, pinning his way through the heavyweight bracket.
Keaton Hulett finished off his junior campaign with a 3-2 loss in the 195-pound finals. Senior Juwan Parrish capped off his career with a fifth-place finish.
Corning senior Kory Schmelzer also finished his career with a fifth-place finish at 170 pounds in Class 1A.
The Panthers finished fourth in the Class 2A traditional tournament, after finishing fourth place in the state duals earlier in the weekend.
Creston/O-M also claimed its first Hawkeye 10 Conference tournament title since 1986 during the season.
• 3 — Wolverines narrowly miss finals trip, finish fourth
After ripping North Iowa 62-40 in the opening round of the Class 1A state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena, the Nodaway Valley Wolverines had top-ranked Danville on the ropes in the semifinals, before Danville outscored the Wolverines 19-6 in the final quarter to pull away for the win and a repeat trip to the finals.
Nodaway Valley tried to rebound from the loss in time for the consolation game, but fell to St. Mary’s, Storm Lake 81-46 in the third-place game after falling behind early during a 19-0 St. Mary’s first-quarter run.
The Wolverines finished the season 23-4 and graduated just three seniors from that team, while bringing back all five starters from the third-place game.
• 4 — The Thing
He signed a National Letter of Intent to play football on scholarship for Iowa State. He pinned his way to a state championship in wrestling. He won his Dream Team Classic match 12-9 over a state champion from Minnesota. He won the CHS Outstanding Male Athlete Award. He qualified for the state track meet in the shot put and the 200 meter dash. He helped the South to a 40-7 win in the Iowa Shrine Bowl. And he was named the Omaha World Herald’s Western Iowa Male Athlete of the Year.
Creston’s Collin Bevins certainly lived up to his Superhero Alliance nickname in 2012.
He did just about everything during the calendar year.
• 5 — Three state championships at girls state track
Corning senior Caitlyn Stroud defended her state championship in the Class 1A 100 meter dash and also won a state title in the 200 meter dash, despite battling back and foot injuries.
Meanwhile, Creston senior Audrey Bolinger pulled away from the field in the final 150 meters of the Class 3A 400 meter hurdles, bringing a state championship back to Creston.
Bolinger won in dominating fashion, finishing a full two seconds ahead of second place in the race.
It capped a successful season for Creston girls track, which saw the Bolinger break the 400 meter hurdles school record, and run on the school record breaking 4x800 relay team along with Taylor Hudson, Katlin Briley and Emily Wignall. The Panthers also sent 10 events to state track.
Both Bolinger and Stroud elected to continue their track and field careers in college. Bolinger chose Northwest Missouri State, while Stroud selected Simpson College.
• 6 — Whittington fifth at state, selected for North & South Junior Championship
As a sophomore, Creston/O-M’s Carson Whittington finished fifth at the state golf tournament after leading the Panthers to one of its most successful seasons as a team.
With Whittington leading the charge, the Panthers went undefeated until an untimely off-day at the sectional meet.
But, Whittington placed well enough to advance to the state meet, where he finished in a respectable fifth place.
Then, Whittington was selected to compete in the North & South Junior Championship at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina, where he competed against golfers from 15 different states, as well as Canada and Brazil.
Whittington earned his invitation after winning an AJGA tournament in Indiana during 2011.
Whittington finished the first round of the North & South Junior Championship tied for ninth after shooting a 1-under 71.
He finished the tournament in a tie for 44th, shooting 9-over for the tournament.
• 7 — Four football teams make playoffs
Along with Murray, Creston/Orient-Macksburg, Mount Ayr and Lenox all made the state football playoffs.
Mount Ayr finished the season 11-1 in one of the most successful seasons in school history, eventually losing out to Council Bluffs St. Albert in the quarterfinals.
The Panthers entered the final week of the regular season with just one loss and hopes of winning Class 3A District 1. But, a loss to Lewis Central in the first round dropped the Panthers all the way to the four-seed, sending them to a first-round matchup with Sioux City Bishop Heelan.
The Panthers gave Heelan a run for its money before a late scoring flurry propelled Heelan to a 47-20 win over Creston/O-M.
Lenox drew a tough matchup in the first round, losing to Exira/EHK to finish the season 6-4.
After the conclusion of the season, the Raiders and the Panthers were rewarded for their successful seasons as each put three players on their respective class’s first-team all-state.
Luke Neitzel, Keaton Hulett and Trevor Frain each made it onto the INA Class 3A first-team all-state defense for the Panthers.
Jacob Sobotka and Braydee Poore made Class 1A first-team offense for the Raiders, while sophomore Joe Ricker was named to the first-team defense. Mount Ayr offensive linemen Mason Mercer (second team) and Levi Martin (third team) also made all-state.
Corning’s Nick Spring made the Eight-Man third team as a punter.
• 8 — Two eras come to close
Creston softball and East Union volleyball suffered similar finishes, as two of the most successful dynasties barely missed out on trips to the state tournament.
For the fifth consecutive year, the Panther softball team walked off an opponent’s home field in a regional final or semifinal loss — this time in a 2-1 loss to Indianola.
Creston seniors Madison Frain, Katlin Briley and Maddie Haines competed in three regional finals during their five years with the program. During those years, the Panthers finished with an overall record of 150-32 and four conference championships, comprising one of the most successful senior classes in school history.
Frain and Briley both made the Iowa Girls Coaches Association Class 4A first-team all-state, marking the fifth year the pair had been named to the all-state team at some level. The duo also shared the 2012 CHS Outstanding Female Athlete Award, and later played in the IGCA all-star softball series.
Briley is continuing her playing career at DMACC, while Frain is continuing her career at South Dakota.
After making back-to-back trips to the state volleyball tournament, East Union had hopes of making a third straight trip.
But, the Eagles gave up a 2-1 lead in sets as Grandview Park Baptist came from behind to knock off the Eagles and send a successful senior class home without another opportunity at the state tournament.
The senior class of Amber Friend, Rochelle Means, Shelby Smith and Dusti Carlisle went 121-24 over their four years with the program, for a winning percentage of .834.
Friend and Carlisle will continue their careers at Graceland, while Means has committed to Southwestern.
• 9 — Legends pass away
Early September marked the passing of two icons of southwest Iowa athletics — former Creston athletic director Curt Olson and retired Nodaway Valley football coach Bob Daut.
Daut, a Hall of Fame coach with 200 wins, was honored twice shortly before his passing, first with the inaugural “Battle for the Rock” between Mount Ayr and Nodaway Valley, and then with the Wolverines playing the inaugural Bob Daut Kickoff Classic.
Olson, meanwhile, suffered a stroke and passed away shortly before being inducted into the Creston High School Hall of Fame. At the time, Olson was coaching on the eighth-grade football staff.
He was honored during Creston/O-M’s homecoming football game, as Panther paws with his nickname “Oly” painted onto the field.
• 10 — Southwestern softball makes regional final
Southwestern Community College softball, under the direction of head coach Lindsay Stumpff, finished with one of its best seasons in school history.
The Spartans became just the third SWCC team to reach a regional final, finishing the season 43-21.
Southwestern fell 5-1 to DMACC in the regional final to finish its season. The Spartans entered the Region XI Tournament as the four-seed, but went undefeated until losing two games in a row to the Bears.
The 43 wins by the Spartan team set a new school record for victories. Leah Kipfer, London Miller and Danyielle Barger all surpassed the previous single-season school record for hits.
• 11 — Three unbeatens entering 2012 holiday break
Nodaway Valley, ranked first in Class 2A, Creston, ranked third in Class 3A, and Murray, ranked fifth in Class 1A, all enter the 2012 holiday break undefeated.
The ranking for Creston marks the highest the Panthers have been rated since the 2005-06 season, when the team finished fourth at the state tournament.
The Panthers also snapped a 25-game losing streak to Harlan during the eight-game winning streak to open the season.
Nodaway Valley has cruised through the early portion of its schedule, while Murray has survived a close game against Lamoni.
• 12 — Panther boys put together best season under Schlapia
The Creston boys track team, though small in numbers, had plenty of quality in those numbers, as it put together the best season of head coach Pat Schlapia’s career.
The Panthers finished second at the Hawkeye 10 Conference meet, edging out Harlan 105-103 thanks to a fourth-place finish by the 4x400 relay team. It was the best team finish for the boys at the conference meet in Schlapia’s 22 years as coach.
Sophomore Brandon Phipps also became just the second athlete in Creston’s history to qualify for the Drake Relays in the 3,200 meter run. He followed that up by placing fifth in the event at state and seventh in the 1,600.
Freshman Jay Wolfe finished second in the Class 3A 800 meter run, coming out of the slow heat and setting a new school record in the process.
The Panthers sent eight events to the state meet, including the 4x800 relay team of Wolfe, Luke Powell, Bryce Briley and Travis Miller giving the Panthers their first representatives in that event since 1981.
Bedford girls basketball finishes second at state after 40-31 loss to North Mahaska; Creston baseball field damaged in storm; Mount Ayr’s Braydee Poore and Corning’s Caitlyn Stroud earn Drake Relays medals; Creston’s Colby Taylor and Bryce McIlravy win Hawkeye 10 tennis doubles crown; Creston boys second at district tennis and advance to substate in team duals; Creston baseball defeats Lewis Central for first time since 2008; Corning softball reaches regional final; Collin Bevins, Mount Ayr’s Dustin Pritchett, Bedford’s Cody Morris and Nodaway Valley’s Greg Smith play for South in 40-7 victory at Iowa Shrine Bowl; Creston cross country sees best combined boys and girls finish at Hawkeye 10 Conference meet in Pat Schlapia’s coaching career; Six area athletes compete at state cross country, Corning’s Shepherd ends career in heartbreak after finishing 11th for second straight year; Jake Marlin signs with University of Iowa for wrestling; Creston volleyball finishes 13-13 in first season under Polly Luther, marking first regular season above .500 in 20 years; Southwestern women finish 31st, men 33rd at cross country nationals; Keaton Hulett and Jake Marlin finish second at Kansas City Stampede, Trevor Frain fifth; Murray’s Halls delayed in attempt to reach 2,000 career points milestone.