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Sports in '12

Dec 31, 2012 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports Editor

College's turmoil atop list for the year; rodeo success also among leading stories

Central Wyoming College was forced this year to vacate its women's volleyball victories from the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons after using an ineligible player and was banned from the Region IX tournament, along with losing both its men's basketball coach and rodeo coach.

The difficulties in three of the college's four sports programs comprised the top sports story in 2012 for Fremont County. A national triumph for CWC in the rodeo arena also ranked among the year's top sports stories.

Staff members of The Ranger, Lander Journal and Wind River News voted on the top 10 county sports stories.

Riverton rower Brett Newlin's eight-man boat placed fourth at the Summer Olympics was voted the No. 2 story of the year.

Dubois High School won the Class 1-A 6-man football championship to earn the No. 3 position.

The Central Wyoming College women's rodeo team placed second in the nation at the College National Finals rodeo and Lacey Tech captured the goat tying title finished No. 4.

Lander Valley High School won its 16th Class 3-A swim title in a row and finished No. 5 on the list.

Wyoming Indian won its sixth straight Class 2-A cross country title, good for No. 6.

In the seventh position was Lander's Jordan Hanson, Brodie Schneider and Andrew Von Rein all winning state wrestling titles.

Wyoming Indian's boys won the Class 2-A state basketball title, and former St. Stephen's boys basketball coach Brady Slack was named the conference coach of the year, tying for the No. 8 position.

All-time Riverton High School basketball great Kristen Newlin had her No. 43 jersey number retired, ranking No. 10 for the year.

Other sports stories receiving votes included the 5-0 Class 3-A East conference football mark by Riverton High School, Shoshoni High School claiming the Class 2-A West volleyball regional title, Riverton's Marcia Ashdown named the Wyoming Gatorade soccer player of the year and Tanner Simpson of Lander winning the Milward Simpson award.

1. CWC sports hurdles

When the bad news came from the National Junior College Athletic Association, the Rustlers were nationally ranked at the time and primed and ready to compete for a Region IX volleyball title.

The team had won 19 matches this year. CWC won 25 matches the year before and 19 in 2010.

The Rustlers also were placed on probation for the 2012-13 academic year.

The story also placed among the county's top 10 general news stories of the year. See more details in Section A.

Rick and Lynn Smith will always remember the 2012 College National Finals Rodeo as their final one at Central Wyoming College. The longtime husband-and-wife coaching tandem guided CWC to a second-place finish in the women's team standings to end a highly successful era at the Riverton campus.

The Smiths are coaching rodeo this season at Cochise College in Arizona. New CWC rodeo coach Drew Schrock has replaced Rick Smith at the helm. Schrock was an assistant coach for the Rustlers under Smith.

During preseason, CWC men's basketball coach Curtis Condie was put on leave from the team effective on Oct. 10, not long before the start of the regular season.

CWC later announced that Condie had been "separated" from the college staff. CWC does not talk about personnel issues.

Condie was replaced by Shelby Lindley as the men's coach. Lindley started out the season as the assistant coach.

The Rustlers are enjoying a 11-3 mark during Christmas break.

2. Newlin fourth in Olympics

Newlin's eight-man United States boat finished fourth -- just .30 second away from a bronze medal in the finals at the Olympic Games in London.

The U.S. boat finished in 5:51.48. Great Britain was third at 5:51.18. Germany won the gold medal in 5:48.75.

The eight-man race was 2,000 meters long (1.4 miles).

"We had a very heartbreaking race," said Newlin, who graduated from Riverton High School. "We found ourselves down off the line and had to work our way back to the race."

Newlin said the tight race is going to stick in his memory for a long time.

"That is going to haunt me for awhile," Newlin said. "As far as I can tell, this was one of the closest eight-man field in history and we just finished on the wrong side of it."

Newlin also rowed for the U.S. in the 2008 Olympics.

3. Dubois wins 6-man title

Dubois won its first-ever football championship with a 54-30 victory over Little Snake River in November in the 6-man title game at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.

The win over Little Snake River completed a perfect season for the Rams at 11-0.

In the title game, Little Snake River was up 24-20 at the break, but the Rams did everything right in the second half to celebrate a state championship.

After the game, Dubois fans and players gave hugs to everybody that made the long trip to Laramie from Dubois.

The win came in a rematch of the 2011 6-man title game, when the Rams lost to Little Snake River.

Coach David Trembly has guided Dubois to two straight championship games after playing in the Class 1-A 11-man division for several years.

4. CWC rodeo places second

CWC placed second in the women's team standings in the finals at the College National Finals Rodeo at the Casper Events Center. The runner-up national finish was the highest ever at the CNFR by either a women's team or a men's team from CWC. The 2011 CWC women's squad finish seventh in the nation.

"I spent 17 years of my life building the program," CWC rodeo coach Rick Smith said. "With the help of Lynn and a lot of student athletes, I had a vision for it, and I stuck with it."

CWC's Lacey Tech produced times of 6.7, 6.8, 6.3 and 6.6 for a total of 26.4 in winning the national goat tying championship.

The 6.3 in the third go put Tech as the leader heading into the championship finals.

"We are so proud of what Lacey did for us at the national finals rodeo," Smith said.

Smith resigned later in the year to accept the job at Cochise College in Arizona.

5. LVHS wins No. 16 swim title

The Lander boys swimming and diving team now holds 16 consecutive Class 3-A state titles and reportedly is tied for seventh best on the nation's list of consecutive swimming and diving titles.

So much time has elapsed that nearly half of this year's team wasn't even born the last time Lander lost the crown.

"This is a unique way to win a state title," said LVHS coach Bruce Gresly after the victory. "We didn't take one first-place finish. That's never happened before. It was absolutely a team effort. Everybody stepped up."

"I've never seen anything like it," said assistant coach Lantien Chu. "Twenty of the 22 swimmers we had seeded in the preliminaries swam personal best times, placing them in the top 12 at finals, many of them in two events."

"The boys really jelled as a team in the last couple of weeks," added assistant coach Hester, "They trained hard, and they came to win."

6. WIHS captures XC title

Wyoming Indian High School swept the top three individual spots in the Class 2-A boys cross country race on to win its sixth straight team championship.

Wilson Clifford won the individual title for the Chiefs in a time of 17:43.37. Teammate Tyler Penatac finished second in 17:49.70, and Alvin Spoonhunter placed third 17:56.80.

The Chiefs scored 20 points in the team standings for their team title.

"I have been lucky to work with a lot of outstanding young men and ladies and some outstanding family support," Wyoming Indian coach Chico Her Many Horses said. "That is our biggest key, right there. We have a lot of competition among our own team. We just worked our way up," Her Many Horses said.

"At the mile marker, we made our move. They did an outstanding job. They were hugging everybody after the race. They were all excited."

7. LVHS wrestlers win three titles

Andrew Von Rein opened the Class 3-A wrestling finals by winning his first championship for Lander Valley High School at the Casper Events Center.

Teammate Brodie Schneider and Jordan Hanson put an exclamation point to the season by winning back-to-back titles.

Hanson won his second heavyweight title, and Schneider his first in the 220-pound weight class.

"It's just like my dream," Hanson said after winning his title. "The only goal for Brodie and me was the end. It's not how you start, but how you finish."

Von Rein now is a sophomore on the LVHS wrestling team and one of the top-ranked wrestlers in the Class 3-A division in the 126-pound weight class.

8. (tie) WIHS boys win Class 2-A state title;

Slack named conference coach of year

The Wyoming Indian Chiefs had their third fire truck ride in four years after they stunned the Lovell Bulldogs, a team that had buried them twice in the regular season, to take their Class 2-A state basketball title 68-57.

In the title game, the Chiefs overpowered the Bulldogs in the second half with quickness, outstanding passing and unparalleled team play. After trailing by six points at the half, the Chiefs erupted for 45 points in the second half and cruised past the Bulldogs for the title.

Former St. Stephen's boys basketball coach Brady Slack was shocked to learn the news in March when he was named the Class 1-A Northwest coach of the year.

Slack was let go of his coaching duties during the regular season.

The Eagles were 6-13 overall and 2-3 in conference play when his season was finished.

The coaches in the league rewarded Slack with the postseason award because of his passion for the game the way he was handling the players at St. Stephen's.

10. Newlin's 43 retired

During her freshman season of girls basketball for Riverton High School, Kristen Newlin was the last player to get to pick her jersey.

She selected No. 43.

"Everybody had their jerseys," said Newlin in recalling how she picked her number.

"I think there was No. 43 and a single-digit number. I said that I'm the tall player and that I have to have the bigger number. It waited for me."

Newlin's No. 43 jersey was officially retired in a ceremony at Wolverine Field in August.

Newlin graduated from RHS in 2003 as the all-time leader in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots by a wide margin over any other player.

"I didn't want to change," Newlin said. "It felt like it was part of me. When I hear No. 43, it always has a special meaning for me."

After playing at Stanford University, the 6-foot-5 center continues to wear her No. 43 jersey playing professional basketball in Turkey. She also has gained dual citizenship and plays on the Turkish national team.

The ceremony featured the RHS band and cheerleaders and drew about 250 spectators.

-- Staff writer Randy Tucker contributed to this story

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