SIOUX CITY, IOWA (KCAU) – The winter of 2022 had seasons to remember for Siouxlanders, and it started on the mats. West Lyon heavyweight Easton Fleshman emerged as the lone Iowa 2A State champion in three extra periods while the girls wrestled their way into becoming a sanctioned sport. In Nebraska, seven champions shared between the boys and girls in various weight classes in the first ever co-ed State tournament, but it was the South Sioux City girls who stole the spotlight. Winning the first ever sanctioned girls wrestling State match and team title in Nebraska history.
“It feels awesome we got the wrestle with our other guy teammates we got to support them and they supported us and the crowd is just crazy like I mean we’re in Omaha and last year we were in York,” South Sioux City 152 state champion Yohaly Quinones said.
Back in Iowa for basketball. Siouxland sent nine teams to Wells Fargo Arena with MMCRU, Central Lyon, and Bishop Heelan finishing as State runners up. But it was Estherville-Lincoln Central who stood tall in 3A, outscoring Ballard 34-17 in the final 16 minutes to claim the program’s first State championship since 1982.
“I mean we all believed all season we could beat anyone with our defense, so just trusting ourselves even if people didn’t know who we were we just kept trusting them we would show them,” Estherville-Lincoln Central freshman guard Haylee Stokes said.
More hardware given out for the boys. Three State qualifiers tripping to Des Moines with Remsen St. Mary’s heading all the way to the 1A State semis. But sparks flew for the 2A final featuring an all-Siouxland title game of Rock Valley and Central Lyon. The Rockets soared high behind a consistent effort on the court, winning all the marbles to snap its 12-year 2A crown drought.
“All the hard work, I mean all the hours we put in as a team since we were young,” Rock Valley senior guard Bryson Van Grootheest said. “When we started out our goal was to win a state championship, but putting in all the hours, working our butts off, and finally achieving that is amazing.”
Nebraska saw 12 teams among boys and girls head to State while the Dakota Valley girls made a quarterfinal appearance in South Dakota. The DV boys shone the brightest though, pulling off an undefeated season towards their first State title in a redemption win over Sioux Valley. Stamping their mark as the top dog in Class A while etching their names in Panther history.
“This group of kids has had a special vibe that we couldn’t put a finger on since day one,” Dakota Valley head coach Jason Kleis said. “Today is a culmination of so many years of so many kids before them and families and community and this team will never be forgotten.”
In the GPAC slate, the Briar Cliff men grabbed a share of the regular season title with Mark Svagera earning GPAC Coach of the Year. The women’s side saw even greater success. Briar Cliff, Morningside, and Dordt all appearing in the NAIA national tournament, as the Defenders became the Cinderella team of the tourney advancing all the way to the national championship at the Tyson Events Center. They’d fall in the title game, but still an unforgettable season that had proved so much to so many along the way.
“I don’t think really anyone besides ourselves really believed we could get here as a five-seed and we pushed and we fought every game and it brought us to the national championship,” Dordt junior forward Ashtyn Veerbeek said. “We’re not gonna let this game hold us back from the awesome accomplishments this season brought.”
And how could we forget about the Sioux City Musketeers. The Muskies fending off multiple deficits in the USHL playoffs, ending a magical season in Madison, Wisconsin. Nick Pierre netted a game-winning overtime goal in the championship for their first Clark Cup in 20 years, giving them a perfect note to cap off the franchise’s 50th season.
“It’s been great, I mean we’re doing this out of love, the game we love,” Musketeers forward Kirkland Irey said. “But seeing the fans come out and support us, it’s what we live for, and we’re so grateful for that. So we share the experience, and it’s unbelievable.”