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Reflecting on a passing year
Ogden column: A look back at the top stories of 2022
Here we go again.
As we head into a new year, we also reflect on the one we’re leaving behind.
Who knows what 2023 will bring? State championships for high school high school teams and athletes in Eastern Iowa? NCAA tournament berths and titles, conference championships for our college teams in the state?
Will Spencer Lee become of the first four-time NCAA champion in the storied history of Iowa wrestling?
It’s a new beginning for many with new challenges, new goals and probably more than a few bumpy roads.
It always is.
But before we turn the calendar, let’s look back at what happened in 2022. Not so much a ranking of the year’s top stories, but a reflection of what just happened.
The year began — actually 2021 ended — with the death of an icon in the world of sports. Christine Grant was born in Scotland, but was an Iowan who helped shape women’s sports across the country and at the University of Iowa as its athletics director.
Two outstanding high school coaches also died in the last year — Larry Niemeyer and Frank Howell. Niemeyer was one of the greatest girls’ basketball and softball coaches in state history and Howell left his mark on girls’ basketball in Cedar Rapids and Audubon.
The year also brought plenty of positive news. And it started with quite a bang.
The Iowa women’s and men’s basketball teams swept Big Ten basketball tournament titles. It was the second time Iowa had won both in the same year, an accomplishment it shares with only Indiana (2010 and ’11).
The women, led by Caitlin Clark, also shared the regular-season title. Clark very well could become the most decorated women’s basketball player in state history, if she isn’t already.
Last year alone, Clark was — among many other things — the Big Ten Player of the Year, the Nancy Lieberman Point Guard of the Year and the Dawn Staley Guard of the Year Award. She earned four All-America honors and led the country in points per game (27.0) and assists per game (8.0) — the first Division I player to do that.
The list goes on and on, including making Iowa’s dean’s list.
The Iowa men’s team had a breakout player in Keegan Murray, a former Cedar Rapids Prairie prep who ended up an NBA lottery pick of the Sacramento Kings. He was, among other things, a consensus first-team All-American, the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year, the “Outstanding Player” in the Big Ten tournament and averaged 23.5 and 8.8 rebounds a game.
Not to be outdone, the Iowa State men’s and women’s basketball teams also had excellent seasons.
The women, led by two-time Cheryl Miller Award winner (best small forward in the country) and former Iowa City High standout Ashley Joens, won a school-record 28 games and made it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
The Cyclone men were an even bigger story, becoming the first team in NCAA history to go from two wins to a Sweet 16 appearance. And they did it in T.J. Otzelberger’s first year as head coach.
The Cyclones won 22 games, tying the third-best turnaround in Division I college basketball history.
And that was just college sports, in the winter season.
The high school winter season was highlighted by one of the biggest announcements in state history. The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union, during the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association girls’ state tournament in Coralville, announced it would sanction wrestling for the first time in 2022-23.
So far, it has been an even bigger success than anyone anticipated. There are nearly 200 schools and 2,500 wrestlers competing in the first season. IGHSAU Associate Director Erin Kirtley told The Gazette’s K.J. Pilcher she hoped for maybe 1,600 participants.
The IGHSAU announced late in 2021 it was ending its 31-year relationship with Cedar Rapids and moving its state volleyball tournament to Xtream Arena in Coralville. By all accounts, the move was a success.
“Xtream Arena hosted its first state volleyball tournament this week, and the folks in Coralville delivered,” The Gazette’s Jeff Linder wrote in November. “... The experience — for players, for fans, for officials, for media — was championship-worthy.”
Cedar Rapids Xavier had a heck of a 2022, too. The Saints won a girls’ basketball state title in March and followed that up this fall with volleyball and football championships in the fall.
Other high school highlights in 2022 include the Iowa High School Athletic Association getting the wheels turning on a socio-economic factor to determine classification in football starting in 2023, Iowa City High and Liberty opening the football season in front of 10,000 fans at Kinnick Stadium and City High’s Ben Kueter winning the UWW U20 World Championship.
Some other college highlights include Iowa’s Lee returning from surgery to repair ACLs in both knees to provide the Hawkeyes with a much-needed major decision in a win over Iowa State; former Western Dubuque standout Calvin Harris winning an NCAA World Series title at Mississippi; Iowa’s football team struggling on offense all season, yet still managing a four-game winning streak in November that propelled it to the Music City Bowl; ISU beating Iowa on the football field for first time since 2014; and the continuing saga of Iowa women’s basketball recruit Ava Jones. who was severely injured last summer in an accident that killed her father.
There also is former Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy going from “Mr. Irrelevant” in the NFL draft to rookie starter for the playoff-bound the San Francisco 49ers. His story still is being written.
There were many other memorable moments in 2022, but we have to stop somewhere. Let’s hope 2023 is at least as good.
Happy New Year.
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