Guess what is back?
If you didn’t guess fall sports, well, that was the answer I was looking for. Sorry Game of Thrones fans.
I’ve had a chance to see a couple teams in preseason action and thought I’d share some of my thoughts, starting with Neligh-Oakdale.
On the football field, the Warriors have some holes to fill after losing an incredibly talented senior class last year. However, they’ve put in tons of work and it shows. The young kids are ready. Hunter Charf will fill in nicely at quarterback and Austin Rice, Andrew Herley and Nate Buck will bring good leadership to the young team.
On the volleyball court, don’t sleep on the young Warriors. They, too, graduated a lot of seniors, but the youngsters are very, very talented. The likes of Kristen Snodgrass, Bailey Frey, Haley Kerkman and Jaclynn Hixson will provide coach Hoefer and crew with a strong base to build on.
For the cross country kids, they return some good experience, led by Cole Belitz and Emma Bixler. No Warrior made their way to state last year, but they weren’t far off from sending multiple runners. Expect that to change this year.
Overall, N-O’s teams are young, but talented. They will have plenty of success in between a few speed bumps.
A year ago next week, I penned my personal feelings on the death of Sam Foltz, unofficially marking the start of my time as the Orchard/Antelope County News sports editor. I just want to take a second here to thank you, the reader, and the team that has made it possible to give you the most thorough sports coverage in Antelope County.
The whole year has been a learning experience for me, and it wouldn’t be possible to have done as well as we have without a team effort. I’m fortunate to have a great group of people to work with that are willing to help out where they are needed and some incredible parents that are willing to step in to make sure the students get the best coverage possible. I try my hardest to be at as many events as possible, but when I can’t be there, its great to know that people are willing to fill in.
I also appreciate the reader. Half the fun of this job is hearing how much people enjoy what we do. I aim to celebrate the accomplishments of all the talented individuals in the area. It’s great to hear the parents, grandparents, siblings and other family talking about our work. It makes it worth the time we put in. Again, thank you.
Finally. After 14 weeks of charging through the mental and physical struggles of prep, its show time. Everything you’ve worked for will be on display for the judges, your fellow competitors and the audience.
The day is a bit of a chore from start to finish. Just to get to the show, get checked in and get any tan touch ups done in time, you have to be up at 5 a.m. All the competitors showed up with the same three things - a cooler full of food, a bag with a change of clothes and confidence that the show is theirs to win.
What I found interesting during the whole ordeal was just how varying the bodies were. In the physique class, for example, there was a man that maybe struggled to top 140 on the scale but he was ridiculously lean. There were guys that looked like your prototypical linebacker. There were guys that clearly hadn’t stuck to their diet well during prep that were going to struggle on stage.
The whole day went by like a blur. You’re constantly eating and always thirsty. Once you hit the stage, any nerves you had are gone. As a matter of fact, all I really thought of up there was how sore I was getting from the constant posing. Then, at the end of it all, everyone went their separate ways in search of their favorite junk foods.
Overall, the experience was incredible. It really rewired my way of thinking when it comes to my health. I’m more lax on my eating, but still very conscientious on what I’m eating. I’m more deliberate with my workouts. Most of all, I’m just hungry to get back on stage next year.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Jason Gutz situation.
I didn’t know the man, but many did. The outpouring of love from the area for the family was outstanding. I was fortunate to see it at the baseball tournaments this weekend. Nobody wants to have to deal with a tragedy like that, but it is comforting to know the community has your back every step of the way.
Good on you, Northeast Nebraska. You make me proud to be back in small-town Nebraska again.
There may not have been a more mentally challenging time during prep for our bodybuilding show than that last week before show time - peak week.
After 13 weeks of prep, you are just ready to be done. You are ready to step on stage, find out your placings and then gorge on food. However, before you get to that point, you have to lock down and finish strong.
Ideally, at the start of peak week, your body looks like it is ready to go on stage. The whole week is meant to be used as one big maintenance week. You maintain a high amount of cardio, focus even more on eating properly and control your water intake in a way that gets your body looking even more lean on show day.
As a side note: for something that is as masculine-sounding as getting shredded and muscular, it really is quite contradictory to have to shave your legs, exfoliate and spray tan during peak week. But, whatever it takes to be ready for the show.
Anyway, once you power through peak week, Friday comes around. Its time to check in, get your tan and rest up before the main event - show time.
One of the most entertaining - and challenging - parts of bodybuilding is all the misinformation that comes along with it.
During my wife and I’s 14 weeks of prep, we heard it all. It seemed like every day someone said something to us in regards to our show that was blatantly wrong. It wasn’t any fault of their’s. I honestly had many of the same impressions before diving into a prep. Therefore, I thought I’d take this week to debunk a few myths of bodybuilding.
1. You have to starve yourself to get into contest shape.
There is no bigger fallacy surrounding bodybuilding than the belief that bodybuilders don’t eat. In fact, we both struggled to eat enough to keep up with the diet demands contest prep puts on your body. People think you’re not eating because you don’t take from the office donut offering or you aren’t indulging in fried foods and drinks together after work.
The thing is, you are replacing those foods with more nutrient-dense foods. Lots of eggs, chicken, fish and beef were consumed in the Lawson household during those 14 weeks of prep.
2. You can’t eat any carbs or fats.
This one I count as a half truth. I say that because one of the primary components of my diet was dropping my carb and fat intake, but I didn’t eliminate the two macronutrients altogether. In fact, it is just as important to hit your numbers for carb and fat intake as it is for protein intake as your body still needs those nutrients to function and keep your muscles intact.
Not all bodybuilders drop carbs and fats like I did. Some follow a high-fat diet, others do high-carb diets and some, like myself, took the high-protein approach. The ultimate goal for all of them is the same - put your body in a caloric deficit so that it must burn stored fat to make up for the lack of calories.
3. Only certain people can do it.
This particular myth really struck a cord with me every time I heard it. I heard reason after reason of why others thought it was a cool thing to do but they couldn’t do it themselves. One of the biggest excuses was that they didn’t have the body for it.
Everyone has a body for bodybuilding. It is how you prepare that body that makes the difference. If you think your genetics will prevent you from getting on stage and competing, you are wrong. I’m not a naturally blessed competitor. I gain fat quickly. I don’t gain muscle easily. However, I was willing to put in the work for 14 weeks to get myself into a place where I felt comfortable stepping on stage and competing. I had a body for it, my wife had a body for it and you have a body for it.
Last week, I competed in my first bodybuilding show. It was an incredible learning experience on many levels, so I thought it would be a good time to share some thoughts with you all.
Bodybuilding is the embodiment of the phrase “tip of the iceberg.” The part everyone sees is much less than what actually is involved in the process.
The part everyone sees is show day. The competitors get up on stage, all tanned out and (mostly) ripped and muscular.
However, the part that no one sees, the iceberg below the surface, is prep. Prep is when shows are really won. I know that sounds cliche, but it is true. Bodybuilding isn’t a sport that one ultra talented individual can walk on stage and come out on top without any prior practice. It takes weeks and weeks of prep to get stage ready. For my wife and I, it took 14 and if you asked me at all during that final week, I wanted even more.
Starting in early March, we began following a more stringent diet, tracking our protein, carbohydrate and fat intake each and every day. We also doubled down on our workout regimens. The wife and I were certainly no strangers to the gym, but we couldn’t use excuses to skip out on a day or two to sleep in. We also had to add some cardio to our routine, which if you ask me was like self mutilation.
Prep is the most challenging part of a show because everything that goes on is a mental struggle. You have to be disciplined with what you eat each and every day. Anytime you are tempted to cheat your diet, you risk putting yourself behind another competitor. If you skip a workout or take it easy on cardio, your body may not be as conditioned as the person you’ll be standing next to on stage. If you skip out on posing practice, thinking its not as important, you guarantee yourself a loss.
Prep was far and away the hardest part of the experience. Motivation is slow coming as you don’t see the fruits of your labor instantly. Its important to look for the small improvements each week rather than hoping to see the big jump all at once.
The all-star season is quickly coming to a close. Some of the most talented athletes in the area have had the joy of competing with and against old rivals one more time before heading off to college. All-star games are a well-earned finish to great careers, and each area athlete earned their spot.
Now, who can we expect to join the all-star clubs in the future? I’m going to take a stab at it. I went ahead and looked through the rosters of Neligh-Oakdale, Clearwater-Orchard, Elgin Public/Pope John and Elkhorn Valley and found plenty of players that stood out to me.
This isn’t intended to leave anyone out, but it is intended to point out who has stood out thus far throughout their high school careers.
Of course, a lot can happen between now and then, but let’s have some fun here. When going through and doing this, my only requirement is that I have had to see them in varsity action at some point. I guarantee this list could be revisited at the of every year and there will be many more athletes in contention.
Now, for some guesses:
2018: Nate Buck, Bailey Frey, N-O; Creston Bertschinger, Dominic Bolling, Allison Kerkman, Skye Schroeder, O-C; Kalen Dittrich, Brayden Effle, EV; Liam Heithoff, Grace Henn, Paige Meis, Calli Krebs, Ashton Evans, Lydia Behnk, EPPJ.
2019: Austin Rice, Andrew Herley, Jayden Arehart, Kristen Snodgrass, Cole Belitz, N-O; Chris Kester, Blake Hoke, Jacob Long, Ryan Wilhelm, Clay Thiele, Katie Stearns, O-C; Josh McFarland, Sierra Rystrom, Amber Miller, Hannah Ollendick, EV; Hunter Reestman, Kyle Schumacher, Allyson Wemhoff, EPPJ.
2020: Hunter Charf, Kaleb Pofahl, Shelby Pitzer, N-O; Gage Clifton, O-C; Prestin Vondra, Olivia Nall, EV; Conor Ramold, Kayce Kallhoff, EPPJ.
In a spring game that included arguably some of the most intriguing storylines in recent memory for Husker fans, it was Boone Central alum Wyatt Mazour that stole the show.
A crowd of nearly 80,000 fans packed into Memorial Stadium for the annual spring practice finale. Much of the focus was on the quarterbacks, with three of the four on the roster participating in their first action as Huskers. They certainly lived up to the hype, combining for 62 completions, 693 yards and five scores on the day.
Aside from the signal callers, the Albion alum proved to be the story of the day. The sophomore entered the game hoping to battle for a spot in the team's running back rotation. It may be safe to say after the game he more than got the attention of the coaches.
Mazour finished the day as both the leading rusher and receiver of the game for either team. Putting in work for both the white and red squads, he finished with six carries for 60 yards as well as six catches for 81 yards, totaling 141 yards on the day.
The performance from Mazour may have came as a shock to many fans on the day, but it was expected from the coaches. He nearly saw the field last season as a redshirt freshman until a concussion put him on the bench for the season. He returned from the injury this spring and was immediately expected to compete for a spot on special teams as a return specialist, but Saturday's performance will likely get him on the field a bit more often.
In fact, his performance was simply the culmination of a strong spring from Mazour. He's performed so well that he actually has earned his own nickname from head coach Mike Riley - Danny Woodhead. The comparisons between the two are endless. Both running backs came from small towns, where they were well-known locally for their talents.
However, neither garnered much for Division I football attention, mostly due to their small stature. What they lack in prototypical size, they make up for with speed and impressive quickness. Both also have a knack for doing everything well, whether it be running, receiving or protecting their quarterback. In fact, Mazour prides himself on being a complete back.
"I think I'm balanced. People see me and see my short stature, and they're just 'Oh he's a little small so he's going to try to make people miss.' I think I demonstrated this spring that I can run through tackles and that I can block when I'm needed to. Honestly, it just drives me more," he said.
While his impressive performance on Saturday was a great start, Mazour still must continue to battle to see the field. Once fall practice starts, he will be battling with returning backs Mikale Wilbon, Tre Bryant and Devine Ozigbo as well as incoming freshman Jaylin Bradley for playing time in the rotation. He also has history to fight, as the list of players that starred in the spring game only to never be heard from again is endless.
What he does have going for him is consistency. That consistency is what has continued to help him impress his coaches and make his case for nearly a year to see the field. If he continues his consistent rise as the season draws near again, Husker fans will see plenty of the pride of Albion, Nebraska on the field come Saturdays.
Week one of March Madness was full of plenty of thrills, excitement and surprises. Honestly, who among us thought Crofton would fall in the opening round to an eighth seed after winning five-straight state titles?
Now moving on to week two, the boys are setting up to take the floor. While the girls tournament featured plenty of recent experience from the Local County News area, the boys tournament features a couple of teams that haven’t been to Lincoln nearly as often.
Neligh-Oakdale - The Warriors are off to their first tournament since 1991. The team lacks a true center, although 6-0 Chris Bentley rarely has a problem banging around down low with “true centers,” they more than make up for it with athleticism and strong defense. They are led offensively by three 1,000-point scorers in Grant White, Tyson Belitz and Alex Kerkman. Bentley and Austin Rice are rebounding machines and are both athletic enough to guard most big men. They kick off their first title hunt in 26 years at 3:45 p.m. against Amherst at Lincoln Southeast.
O’Neill - The Eagles are on their way to a second-straight state tournament after not qualifying in almost two decades. Many of the core players from their state championship football squad took to the court this year and they continued to dominate, losing just two games all year. Tyler Regan leads O’Neill in scoring on the year with 13 points a game, but Alex Thramer and Justin Appleby are both capable of taking over games as well, each scoring in double figures on the season. The entire O’Neill squad has great length and will give team fits all tournament. They kick off the tournament against Bishop Neumann at 2 p.m. at the Devaney Center.
Riverside - The Chargers have been just as dominant on the basketball court as the have the gridiron since their inaugural season. This year, they boast an incredible scoring attack, averaging 70.5 points a game. They are led by two scorers averaging at least 20 points a game in Noah Valasek and Tredyn Prososki. Few teams can make it rain from 3 like the Chargers as they have hit 233 treys on the year. They have finished third each of the past two seasons, but this year likely could be their year. They kick off their title hunt against Garden County at Lincoln Southeast. Tip off will be bright and early at 9 a.m.
Working at the state wrestling meet certainly gives you a different perspective than simply attending as a fan. I learned that for the first time this year.
I spent a lot of time on the floor, surrounded by the crowd, up close to the action. I spent time in the tunnel, seeing the intense emotion that the wrestlers dealt with, both good and bad. Every competitor there spent the past three months or more cutting weight, practicing and battling with every opponent just to earn a spot at the meet with the goal of returning home with a gold medal around their neck.
For most, that dream was crushed. Just 56 wrestlers realized that dream of being the champion. However, one thing I learned was that state wrestling defines champions in other ways than just the color of the medal around their neck.
No other wrestler exemplified that more than West Holt’s Jake Judge.
Most, if not all, of the folks reading this have heard his story. In case you hadn’t, let me give you the Cliff Notes version. In the championship match of his district meet the week before state, Judge was accused of biting his opponent and was disqualified, subsequently disqualifying him from the state meet, despite finishing among the top four in his district. After an appeal from the West Holt administration and staff, Judge was graciously reinstated by the NSAA a few days later.
On Thursday, he hit the mat like a man possessed. He won his two bouts fairly easily. He looked to be poised to make a run at the finals until he ran into Cole Aschoff, who knocked Judge out of contention. Fortunately, he rebounded and finished third at 145 pounds.
I had the opportunity to talk to Jake afterward. The full conversation will be released in a story soon enough, but I don’t think I can do real justice to him and his outlook on the whole situation. I talk to young athletes on a regular basis and many of them are very gracious and humble kids. However, Judge absolutely blew me away.
Here was a young man who nearly had everything he worked for taken away from him in his senior year. He had every opportunity to be spiteful and bitter, especially after watching the same wrestler that he was disqualified against win the state championship. He could have joined in the loudest chorus of boos I have ever seen an individual high schooler receive in competition. He could have at least frowned.
Judge did none of those things. He was simply grateful for the opportunity he was given. He had a natural smile on his face before, during and after every match at state. He actually admitted to me that he really isn’t very good at not smiling. He made a point to compliment each of his opponents at the meet. He knew that each one of those kids had earned the right to be there, just as he had, through their hard work and dedication, and he appreciated that, no matter who came out on top.
He was a bit of a celebrity at the meet, as his story had clearly made it’s way across the state. Many people saw the video of the alleged biting incident on Facebook and formulated their opinion. He had folks cheering his name from all corners of the arena, many of whom he admitted he had never met before. That could have made his head swell a bit. However, he simply thought it was neat and admitted it was a bit strange.
The most incredible moment, however, came during the medal ceremony. Jake took the stand along with five other medalists. One of those wrestlers ended his chance for a state championship the day before. One nearly ended it a week before. At a time that many other wrestlers were posing for pictures with their new swag, Jake kept being Jake.
He applauded when the sixth-place finisher was given his medal. Then the fifth and fourth-place finishers. He took his medal with a smile. Then he applauded Aschoff when he got his runner-up medal. When the championship medal was given out - to the same wrestler who nearly ended his season a week too early - Judge didn’t change his attitude one bit. He smiled, clapped and then stepped off the stand and shook each competitor’s hand.
He didn’t hold a visible grudge. Despite all he had gone through that week - the highs and the lows - he stuck to his morals. He continued to be the humble, grateful young man he has been all season long. When many other wrestlers are understandably dealing with anger, sadness or pride, Judge stayed humble. He was an example of how young athletes should handle adversity.
Heck, he was an example of how many of us adults should handle adversity. He didn’t let it set him back, change his morals or grow spiteful. He stayed Jake. He was one of the truest champions of the meet.
Good for you, Jake.
Sports Editor at Antelope County News/The Orchard News, Logan is from Kearney and has a diverse sports background, including several seasons playing semi-pro football. All columns here are the opinion of the writer only and do not represent the views of the Antelope County News or Pitzer Digital.