The Top 10 Eastern Iowa sports stories of 2017

Ogden column: Kinnick wave, Kurt Warner top our staff's picks

The Gazette sports staff voted on the top 10 Eastern Iowa sports stories of 2017.
The Gazette sports staff voted on the top 10 Eastern Iowa sports stories of 2017.

The journey into 2018 begins Monday morning and, as often is the case, this unknown adventure will be met with excitement and a little trepidation.

Even in our little corner of the world — sports in Eastern Iowa — we have no idea what will happen over the next year.

There will be thrilling wins, heartbreaking stories, woeful performances and tough defeats.

There are things we know — the NCAA will conduct its national championship tournaments in March, the Freestyle World Cup will be held in Iowa City in April, the spring will bring the Drake Relays and high school state track, the summer will offer high school baseball and softball and the fall will usher in a new season of football and volleyball.

Those things are on someone’s schedule everywhere.

What we don’t know are the stories behind those events, the people who will stand out or stumble, the coach who will lose his or her job, the legendary figure who will leave us.

Instead of looking ahead, today we celebrate the best of 2017 as we bid another year goodbye. Our staff picked the favorite stories they told this year and also voted on the top stories in Eastern Iowa.

Following are our favorites for 2017:

10. Xavier captures second straight boys' state basketball title

 

The Saints finished the season with a so-so 16-11 record, but won their final six games to capture another championship.

9. Iowa's Ally Disterhoft sets scoring record

 

The Hawkeye senior and former Iowa City West prep broke the school record in a first-round WNIT game.

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8. Iowa wins Big Ten baseball title

 

The Hawkeyes won their first conference title in program history and Coach Rick Heller later was awarded a contract extension.

7. Iowa's Cory Clark captures NCAA wrestling title

 

Clark overcame a serious shoulder injury to win 133-pound national title, flipping coach Terry Brands to the mat after the win.

6. Xavier rules Class 3A football

 

The Saints capped a perfect season with a methodical win over Pella with Duane Schulte’s third son, Quinn, directing the offense.

5. Iowa's roller coaster football season

 

The Hawkeyes took Ohio State to the woodshed, lost at home to Purduerolled over Nebraska in Lincoln and capped the season with a come-from-behind Pinstripe Bowl win. Josey Jewell and Josh Jackson were unanimous All-American defenders.

4. Dyersville Beckman's baseball season

 

The Blazers won a state title while Coach Tom Jenk watched from press box. He died three months later of brain cancer.

3. Iowa State's football rise

 

The Cyclones knocked off two top-five teams and won the Liberty Bowl in Matt Campbell’s second year. Joel Lanning became a national story, playing linebacker and quarterback, and Campbell was honored as Coach of the Year in the Big 12.

2. Kurt Warner enshrined in Pro Football Hall of Fame

 

The former Regis and UNI quarterback is the first native Iowan to earn this honor. He played for 12 seasons and won a Super Bowl title with the St. Louis Rams, passing for 32,344 career yards and 208 touchdowns.

1. The Kinnick Wave

 

Iowa introduced a way to honor those in the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital by having fans and players wave toward the hospital after the first quarter of home football games. It captured the hearts of many across country.

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Several other stories made our list and received votes, including Iowa State’s run to another Big 12 men’s basketball tournament title, Cedar Rapids’ Scott Schebler leading the National League in home runs early in the season, former Hawkeye Thomas Gilman capturing a freestyle silver medal in his World Championship debut and Iowa State hiring former Hawkeye Kevin Dresser — who then hired several other former Iowa wrestlers — to guide its wrestling program.

This was another great sports year, filled with fantastic stories of the people who make these events even more interesting.

Let’s hope 2018 gives us even more the cheer about, more stories to tell.

Happy New Year.

l Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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