The thing about covering the postseason tournament beat — besides 18 straight nights on the job (Sundays were huge writing nights) — is that you ride an emotional roller coaster from night to night.
Or, as in my case on Feb. 21, the huge ups and downs occur on the same night.
State wrestling week is always a blur, especially when the Panthers are starting the week early with their regular appearance in the state duals. But, we also have to keep tabs on the some huge regional basketball games taking place at the same time.
So, since I was primarily writing Class 2A for state wrestling, which was done early in the day on Friday, I headed south on Interstate 35 to Murray for the Lady Mustangs’ regional semifinal battle with Bedford. Scott Vicker had arrived at Wells Fargo Arena to pick me up and handle the 1A wrestling, after road conditions prevented his journey Thursday night as I pulled double duty.
Bear in mind, I had already covered some huge highs and lows for Creston/O-M in wrestling that day. I was just feet away from a leaping Seth Maitlen as he won a consolation match that assured his childhood dream of standing among the medal winners, and participating in the Grand March Saturday night. That was cool.
And, there was the joy of Chase Shiltz winning a tough semifinal match to reach the state finals in his first year of high school wrestling. Again, there was elation and celebration.
But, many of us — none more strongly than the wrestler himself — had been hoping all winter to see what Panther senior Trevor Frain could do in a state championship match. As it turned out, neither No. 1-ranked Adam Drain of Mediapolis (slowed by a broken hand) nor the second-ranked Frain reached the finals.
Coach Darrell Frain said Trevor’s semifinal loss, in which he seemed to secure at least three takedowns that weren’t called at the mat’s edge, was the most gut-wrenching experience of his coaching career, for obvious reasons. And, in the one takedown awarded to Tyler Lutes of BCLUW in a 2-2 regulation tie, Frain was out of it so instantaneously, it almost could have not been a takedown.
Lutes shot in deep early in the overtime period and Frain was unable to ward it off. He stayed lying on the mat for a moment, in apparent disbelief to what had just occurred. It was a tough moment.
I’ve had to interview parents whose children died. Families of victims of all sorts of tragedy, in my news career. So, this wasn’t at that level.
But in sports, this was as tough as it gets, when a really good kid with a solid approach to a dream falls short by the narrowest of margins. It’s certainly no wonder that he wasn’t himself the next day in two consolation defeats. The “edge” was gone from that year-long quest.
So, driving down to Murray, that was on my mind. As a parent I had experienced a one-point state basketball semifinal loss to Harlan, with my son on the court, and in a way I felt coach Frain’s pain. That’s why I didn’t even attempt an interview that evening. Sometimes a little cushion of healing time is needed.
A Murray team with two outstanding seniors — all-stater Kate Patton and all-district Megan Oswald — was battling that night with a sophomore-dominated Bedford team. It was the last shot for a lot of these Murray kids who had a state dream.
But an athletic, spunky Bedford team that would later knock off Stanton just presented too many problems for Murray defensively, and pulled out a 59-54 win.
After the wrestling tournament, it was back to basketball and I saw a Creston boys team hopeful of reaching a substate game against Harlan, fall short at Atlantic. To make matters worse, it was played on the court of a lower-seeded team and the roads were treacherous coming back. But, part of the life lessons of athletics is “dealing” with situations beyond your control.
Meanwhile, Scott Vicker had covered the Creston girls coming up short against Glenwood, and he attended state bowling with some nice individual efforts by Creston/O-M kids.
Then came another snowy trip to Atlantic for me to watch Nodaway Valley take on East Mills in a substate final. Again, there was disappointment felt by the team we covered, as East Mills snagged an overtime win over an NV team many of us hoped to watch at Wells Fargo Arena.
Coach Darrell Burmeister and his squad handled the loss with class, as did the fans. We’re supposed to be detached, but you can’t help but feel bad for people you’ve developed a relationship with by working alongside them over some time.
With Bedford knocked out by No. 1-rated Newell-Fonda this week, I’ve run out of teams with any regional affiliation. I can just go up there and watch games, without an emotional investment.
That might be refreshing at this point. Congrats, again, to all of those kids who provided us with terrific entertainment and competition in the high school athletic arena this winter.
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