GLADWIN COUNTY – What a difference a year makes. At this point last year we were anticipating a highly competitive winter season and looking forward to the spring. Gladwin County had several athletes and teams that were sure to be among the best in the state.
The Gladwin Boys Bowling team was the defending state champion and expected to be in the title hunt again in 2020. They lost three of their top bowlers to graduation, but Kent Crawford’s Flying G’s reloaded rather than rebuilding. Beaverton bowling returned five of six boys from the previous year giving Coach Ty Hansen hope that they challenge Gladwin in the Jack Pine Conference standings. The Gladwin girls lost a pair of All Staters in Mackenzie and Bailey Weston, but also returned a number of experienced veterans. The Beaverton girls were young with only one returning bowler leading Coach Troy Frasher to mention that it is going to be an interesting year.
The Beaverton and Gladwin wrestling teams each returned a strong core group of athletes who were hoping to make some noise at Ford Field in March. Beaverton’s Bryan Cassiday and Gladwin coach Buddy Goldsworthy have presided over two of the most successful winter sports programs in Gladwin County.
The Beaverton boys’ basketball team was poised for another Jack Pine Conference run under co-coaches Roy Johnston and Shad Woodruff. Every win for the Beavers would add to Johnston’s state record total. Josh Pahl was back for his second year at the helm of the Gladwin boys’ team. With three returning starters and a transfer from downstate things were looking up for the Flying G’s. On the girls side Jerome Smalley took over for Emily Cote at Gladwin. As a native of Flint, basketball is in his blood and he relished the opportunity to return to coaching the sport he loves. Beaverton returned only two starters on the girls’ team, but while being young Coach Renee Inscho expected this years edition of the Beavers to be very skilled.
January was a successful month for several of our local teams especially on the ice. The Squirt and PeeWee Gladiators traveled to Niagara Falls, Ontario to compete in the prestigious Silver Sticks International Tournament and both came away victorious.
A huge crowd (remember those?) turned out in Gladwin to see the Flying G’s and Beavers battle for Butch and the Cedar River Cup on January 17. The Jack Pine Conference allowed the games to be played back-to-back on a Friday night making for an electric atmosphere. Trent Reed scored 16 points leading Beaverton to a 56-39 win in the boy’s game. Chloe Kokotovich had 20 points for Gladwin in the Flying G’s 55-39 win in the girl’s contest.
Several Gladwin wrestlers achieved milestones during the month of January. Dillon Kroening notched the 150th win of his career while James Bailey picked up his 100th win. Beaverton bowler Ellie Minkina won the Jack Pine Conference Mid Winter Single Tournament by 106 pins over the second place finisher. Gladwin and Beaverton also welcomed new members to their respective Hall of Fames in January. Dennis Cantrell and Mike Fleming were inducted for Gladwin. Jennifer Johnston, Bill Arnold and Allen Friday are the newest Beaverton members.
Gladwin County wrestlers continued to excel in February. Gladwin won a Team District crown before falling to Chippewa Hills in the first round of Regional action. Beaverton’s Jacob Cassiday won the 150th match of his career and he and Jake Fischer also qualified for the state tournament when they finished second and third respectively in the Carson City Regional.
Gladwin traveled to Boyne City for their Regional where they qualified four wrestlers for states. Dillon Kroening (1st), Randy Pyrzewski (2nd), James Bailey (2nd) and Kyle Campbell (4th) all made the state tournament for the Flying G’s. Lena Leddy and Meriah Huguelet both qualified and competed in the MIGWAY Girls State Championships at Adrian College. Leddy finished third in her division, Huguelet finished fifth.
Gladwin County was well represented at the NEMWA State Wrestling Championships in Petoskey. Beaverton’s Eric Lason and Archer Coppola were state champions. Kenlynn Nau , Mason Barth, Bensen Hogue, Landon Terrell, James Andrist, and Owen Larson also qualified for Beaverton. Gladwin wrestlers included state champions Malachi Muma, Asher Muma, Kolten Greaves, and Bryson Hernandez. Elijah Muma, Dale Grubb, Liliana Gutierrez, and Evan Vanwezel finished second. Lehlan Overton, Renner Fritz, and Eisen Corlew came in third. Fourth place place finishers included; Kamren Greaves, Connor Shea, Cooper Fritz, Matthew McDonald, Eli Roe, Drake Ross, Harvey Grove, and Tricia Pyrzewski.
The Gladwin High School basketball teams participated in the Coaches vs Cancer series. The program is designed to raise awareness nationwide in the fight against cancer. Both the boys and girls participated in the event wearing purple jerseys sponsored by Farm Bureau Insurance of Gladwin. Each player’s jersey was adorned with the name of a family member who has been affected by cancer.
February was a successful month for the Beavers on the court. The boys maintained their hold on Butch with a 57-43 win on the 28th. They also exited the month tied for first in the Jack Pine with Meridian at 11-2. The girls’ team also defeated Gladwin by a score of 52-43 to take possession of the Cedar River Cup. These games were also played as a double header this time in Beaverton.
Wrestling continued to dominate the high school sports scene in early March. Six county wrestlers competed on the states biggest stage at Ford Field in Detroit. Gladwin’s Kroening won the Division 3 171 lb. bracket to bring home a state championship. This was the second year in a row that Kroening made it to the final match. He finished second last year. Randy Pyrzewski also made it to the final match on Saturday afternoon. He finished second in the 160 lb. class. James Bailey and Kyle Campbell both won one match in the tournament.
Jacob Cassiday and Jake Fischer from Beaverton also competed in Detroit. This was Cassiday’s third trip to the state finals. After losing in the first round he battled back winning five straight matches to earn his way into the third place match. He dropped a 7-2 decision to finish fourth place overall in the Division 4 171 lb. class. Fischer wrestled at 189 lbs. going 1-2 in the tournament.
The Gladwin PeeWee Gladiators finished the season with a stellar 52-0 record and another tournament victory when they won the 2020 State Championships in Plymouth.
All four local high school basketball teams bowed out of the state playoffs in district round. In the boys tournament Beaverton lost to Beal City and Gladwin fell to Tawas. In the girls tournament Gladwin lost to Standish Sterling while Pinconning defeated Beaverton. The coming COVID-19 closure didn’t affect any on Gladwin County winter teams.
Sports came to a halt in mid March. On March 13, the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) suspended all sporting activities effective on March 16. The original pause was supposed to be through April 5. On April 3, the MHSAA cancelled the rest of the winter season and the entire spring season in compliance with the “state of disaster” declaration from Governor Whitmer.
The cancellation of the remainder of the winter seasons left multiple sports without champions. Boys and girls basketball, girls’ gymnastics, boys’ hockey and boys swimming and diving were halted as they approached their final days. The hockey, gymnastics and swimming finals all had less than a week to go when they were stopped.
High school athletics weren’t the only causalities of the pandemic. Two Gladwin County athletes were scheduled to compete in the NCAA Indoor Track Meets over the weekend of March 13-15. Pole vaulter Heather Beecher and thrower Ali Aldrich were scheduled to compete for their respective colleges over the weekend. Beecher attended the University of Wisconsin-Stout and Aldrich goes to Saginaw Valley State University. Both were already onsite preparing for the meets when they were cancelled and the athletes sent home.
As bad as the cancellation was for winter sport athletes it was much worse for those that played spring sports, especially the high school seniors. This loss was compounded by the loss of many of the other traditional spring activities that are often highlight of a students high school career. Prom, graduation ceremonies and open houses were all affected.
We at the Record and Clarion felt that loss on a personal level. Several of us had students in school last year; one was in the final semester of his senior year. All of us knew many of the seniors affected. For myself on a personal and selfish level high school sports and students are my job and passion. It was difficult to watch so many great kids have to adjust to the sudden shutdown and change of plans. That is why this section of the season in review is dedicated to as many senior athletes as possible. Many of the following athletes would have been found in our pages last spring so we decided to honor them as 2020 comes to a close.
Our list may not be complete or totally accurate because practices were just getting started. Teams had not made cuts and established rosters. As such we have decided to err on the side of caution and include everyone that had indicated interest in participating last spring. Those athletes included:
By mid summer sports started to make a comeback in Michigan. Terry Brokoff’s Post 171 Baseball team returned to the diamond at the end of June as the Gladwin Thunder. The American Legion decided not to sponsor baseball teams last summer so many Legion teams competed as independents in other leagues. Brokoff had his typical collection of talent and the team completed a successful season in August going 29-7.
Several local softball teams also had successful seasons this summer. The Mid Michigan Heat 14U team won the National Softball Association State Championship and finished 7th in the NAS World Series in Crown Point, Indiana.
As fall approached the MHSAA issued a series of announcements that at times seemed contradictory, as they tried to comply with the various health orders. Eventually teams were able to begin practice outdoors using masks. By the end of August local cross country, soccer and volleyball teams were back in action though football was still on hold.
Several Gladwin High School teams were under new leadership last fall. Jordan Strohkirch took over as cross country coach and Dominic Lake replaced long time soccer coach Jerome Smalley. Stohkirch got immediate results with the cross country team increasing participation and winning several meets. By the end of the month they had already won three invitational. The soccer team was young and experienced some growing pains early, but continued to show improvement as the worked to implement Lake’s system. They ended the month 6-6.
Football finally returned on September 18 with both Beaverton and Gladwin picking up wins in their opening games. The Beavers scored on a late Trent Reed touchdown run to beat Meridian 6-0. Quarterback Nick Wheeler accounted for six touchdowns as Gladwin pounded Farwell 46-0. Both teams lost in week two to finish the month 1-1.
Coach Steve Evans challenged his team Beaverton volleyball team with a tough schedule in the early going which left the Beavers 6-4 in September. While the Beavers suffered several nonconference losses they continued to dominate the Jack Pine Conference going 4-0 in the month. Gladwin volleyball finished September with a 5-5 record.
The annual football “Battle for Butch” was a highlight of the high school sports scene in October. The game went into two overtimes with the Beavers coming away with a 29-21 victory. Cam Mishler scored both Beaverton overtime touchdowns after replacing starting quarter Trent Reed who was injured late in the game. Beaverton was 4-0 during the regular season in October while Gladwin was 2-2.
Both Gladwin and Beaverton hosted first round playoff games at the end of the month and both came away victorious. Gladwin defeated Hancock 33-14 and Beaverton beat Leroy Pine River 35-0.
The Beaverton volleyball team clinched their second straight Jack Pine Conference Championship in late October when they defeated Meridian in straight sets to take an insurmountable 11-0 lead in the conference standings. The Beavers also retained the Cedar River Cup with a victory over Gladwin early in the month. While winning their second straight conference championship was nice the highlight of the month came on back-to-back weekends when the Beavers played host to some of the top teams in the state. Wins over Traverse City St. Francis, Beal City and Swan Valley along with a close loss to Valley Lutheran indicated that Beaverton was ready for the upcoming playoffs.
Gladwin and Beaverton Cross Country both had multiple runners qualify for the Regional meet at the end of the October. Wilson Bragg. Dakota Leddy, and Ethan Edgar qualified for the Gladwin boys. Kylee Zietz and Racheal Nyarko for the girls. Beaverton runners Nic Claypool and Tessa Wohlschlegel qualified for Beaverton.
November brought another stoppage in play when the incomplete Fall Tournaments were suspended on November 15. At that point on the Beaverton Volleyball team was still alive. Both the Beaverton and Gladwin football teams lost in the second round early in the month. Beaverton lost to Oscoda while Kingsley defeated Gladwin.
The Beaverton girls have been in limbo since they defeated McBain in the Regional Finals back on November 12. They were originally scheduled to play Calumet in the quarterfinals on November 17 at Houghton Lake. That game is on hold while the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the MHSAA determine how the tournament will be completed. The MHSAA is adamant that all seasons will be completed this school year, so for now we wait.