Injuries are commonplace of any athletic program. Each year, players are affected by varying degrees of bumps, bruises and other, more serious injuries. A mark of the best teams and athletes is how they deal with those injuries.
Hunter Reestman and Tucker Knust are two local athletes that are working their way back after missing time in various sports last year. Both are expected to play vital roles on their teams in the 2017 season.
Reestman is a member of the Elgin Public/Pope John football squad. As a sophomore in 2016, he was expected to play a large role in the Wolfpack’s offense as he took over at quarterback. However, injuries to other teammates moved him to running back before taking away half of his season.
“We were playing High Plains and I got hit from the side and was falling down,” Reestman explained. “Kyle (Schumacher) was returning and got his guy spun around and his knee went straight into my head. My head went into my shoulders, and they sent me in the ambulance to the hospital. They said I strained my neck and had a lot of ligament issues.”
That was just the second game of the season for the Wolfpack. Reestman went on to miss the remainder of the game as well as the next two full games, leaving EPPJ without one of its biggest offensive play makers. However, football wasn’t really the first thing on his mind.
“I couldn’t really feel anything, and I didn’t know if I could play football again. That was kind of a scary thought,” Reestman recalled.
Knust, a member of Neligh-Oakdale’s football squad, also had his career on his mind when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in a junior varsity basketball game in the winter. As a key member of the line on the football team during his sophomore season, his mind jumped right to his career.
“I was just hoping it was bruised, and it came out way different,” he said. “I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to play anymore. That’s what I was most scared of.”
While Reestman was able to get back into action in just a few weeks, Knust was knocked out for the year. With his injury occurring during the winter season, He entered a rigorous rehab to bring his knee back to full strength, a process that was painful but he credits with getting him back in 2017 even stronger than before.
“Rehab went pretty good. It sucks that you have to go through it, but once you get done with it, you realize that you’ve become a lot stronger than you were last year and the year before,” Knust said. “If I didn’t have the rehab, I probably wouldn’t be ready right now.”
Although Knust has had the chance to work his knee out in practice, he has yet to get the chance to put it to the test in a live-speed game so he hasn’t had the chance to work out any bugs left over from his injury. Fortunately for Reestman, coming back after a few games last season put him back on track mentally after his serious injury so that he doesn’t have to worry about it in 2017.
“As soon as I got that first play done, I got hit and was fine, got right back up and it all started back over again. It was great,” Reestman said.
Both players are hoping to improve on what proved to be altogether strong individual seasons. Knust earned all-district honors for an undefeated Warrior squad while Reestman finished as one of the top all-around players statistically for the Wolfpack. He finished as the second-leading rusher for EPPJ and added 33 tackles and an interception on defense, despite missing time.
Now fully healthy heading into their junior season, both athletes are ready to hit the field for another year and neither is letting their injury get in the way. Knust is keeping his focus on racking up the wins while Reestman isn’t even letting the injury come into his mind.
“I just want to go out and win as many as we can now,” said Knust. “Hopefully, we can take home something.
“If you play scared, you’re going to get hurt,” said Reestman. “If you have the mindset that you’re going to get right back up, you’ll be fine. That’s what I’m thinking this year.”
With the school year soon to start, along with it comes football season. For area youth, this means it is time for flag football.
The Neligh-Oakdale Youth Flag Football League will be hosting a sign-up day on Sunday, August 20 from 3:00-5:00 p.m. at the high school. Students will be sent home with more information about this league during the week. For any questions pertaining to the league, contact Logan Lawson at (308) 293-8929.
The Neligh-Oakdale volleyballers are set to take the court in 2017.
With a large influx of young talent, the Warriors are hoping to make a deep run in the district this season. Led by Haley Kerkman, Kristen Snodgrass, Jaclynn Hixson and Bailey Frey, the Warriors will set their sights on the district title beginning August 31 when they head to Santee.
The Elgin Public/Pope John Wolfpack footballers donned their shiny new football helmets this week as they wrapped up preseason work for the 2017 season.
After an injury-riddled 2016 year, the Wolfpack look for much improvement in their young squad, led by Conor Ramold, Hunter Reestman, Liam Heithoff and Kyle Schumacher.
EPPJ kicks off the season at Burwell on August 25.
With the cross country season just around the corner, Neligh-Oakdale is putting in the final work before setting sights on a district run.
Neligh-Oakdale is led by Cole Belitz, Christian Carothers, Emma Bixler and Madi Grosserode heading into the 2017 season. The Warriors will kick off the season on August 31 when they make the trek to Niobrara State Park for the Niobrara/Verdigre Invite.
Throughout 35 years of coach, one will meet many faces, learn and teach many lessons, experience many high points and impact hundreds. Neligh-Oakdale’s Rick Eickholt has done just that in his time in Northeast Nebraska.
Eickholt was honored at the Nebraska Coaches Association awards banquet on July 23 for 35 years of coaching high school athletes throughout the state.
A 1977 graduate of Woodbine High School in Woodbine, Iowa, Eickholt showed an interest in coaching and teaching at an early age. As a track standout himself, it was easy for him to find a connection with his own coach, Hall of Famer Phil Hummel, who himself coached track for 41 years and was the first non-football or basketball coach to be named the Omaha World Herald coach of the year award.
“He was very influential in what I’ve been able to do. He took me under his arm when I told him that I was going into education and wanted to coach,” explained Eickholt. “One of the quotes I always try to remember and he gave me was, ‘Surround yourself with good people.’ I think I’ve tried to live by that motto with the coaches I’ve worked with and the athletes I’ve had around me.”
Eickholt went on to run track in junior college and at Wayne State. After graduation, he took over at Spalding Academy, where he stayed for four years. After a short time there, he decided it was time to move on and chose to make Neligh his home for the next 31 years, a decision he is grateful to have made.
“I like the community, I like the people I work with. I feel very comfortable here and very at home,” he said. “I’ve said it in a few of the pep rallies over the years, I don’t bleed red anymore, I bleed maroon.”
Eickholt’s dedication to Neligh-Oakdale’s students is evident in his work in athletics. During his time, he has coached numerous track and field medalists, including two all-class gold medal winners. However, his work in building the cross country team from scratch may be what truly represents his dedication to the students.
“When we started the program, that was my selling point is that there are people that either don’t want to or can’t play football or volleyball and this is an option to give them an opportunity to be successful,” he said.
With over three decades of coaching experience under his belt, Eickholt has plenty of stories to tell and has made many memories. Some of his favorites include his own daughter sprinting from the finish line into his arms after qualifying for state as a freshman, the 2010 boys cross country team’s success and this year’s boys track conference runner-up.
He also recalls the joy he felt when Heath Murray cleared 6-08 at the state track meet. That is a common occurrence for Eickholt and a reason why he connects with his athletes so well. When they find success, he feels as much excitement as anyone.
“I feel what the kids do,” he said. “Even being out of it for 40 years, I feel their successes, their joys, their pains. Whatever they go through, I’ve been there and I feel it right along with them. The great thing is just watching the enjoyment they get out of their successes.”
In his time as both a runner and a coach, Eickholt has seen numerous changes throughout track and field and cross country. When he first started running, it was rare to run on the all-weather tracks that nearly every school has today. The scoring system for meets emphasized the relays and competitors were allowed to run in five events instead of just four. One of the biggest changes, however, is the declining numbers as a result of lower enrollment.
None of those changes has stopped Eickholt from loving every day he has as a teacher and coach for Neligh-Oakdale.
“I truly enjoy what I do, although I get tired a lot easier now,” he joked. “I truly enjoy it. The kids keep me young.”
While he doesn’t have any immediate plans to hang up his clip board, Eickholt does know he still has a few things he wants to get done as a coach. Those goals include earning the Platinum Award through the coaches association and coaching the children of some of his former athletes. Whether he is able to attain those goals or not is still up in the air, although not far off. However, one thing is certain, if you ask his former athletes, they’ll likely tell you he’s reached his personal goal many times over.
“My own personal goal is to touch all the athletes I work with in one way, shape or form to make them a better person. I want them to somehow walk away from being in one of the programs I’ve been apart saying, ‘Hey I’m better because of him.’”
With fall sports season just around the corner, the Cyclones are ready to go.
The Cyclone football players met at Orchard on Monday night to kick off conditioning week for the fall sports season. Led by coach Jeff Shabram, the players did cardio outside and a weight room session inside.
The Cyclones kick off the 2017 season on August 31 against St. Mary's.
The O'Neill Pinnacle Bank Irish Seniors are state bound.
The O'Neill Pinnacle Bank Irish Seniors claimed the Class B5 Championship on Tuesday night at Wayne's Hank Overin Field with an exciting 8-7 victory over West Point.
Orchard's Brenden Cleveland got the win on the mound, his second of this Area tournament, as he started and went 2 2/3 strong innings to start the pitching plan for the Irish. Esteban DeLaO came on in relief to throw 2 2/3 innings also and lock down the West Point bats. Combined Cleveland and DeLaO gave up only two runs and one hit. After DeLaO, the Irish went to Wyatt Liewer. Liewer came in and recorded two quick outs in the sixth setting the stage for a dramatic seventh inning.
In the seventh, the West Point bats started to warm up as they drilled five singles to go with two Liewer walks to plate five runs and make the score 8-7. The Irish then called on Justin Appleby to close the door. Appleby came in from shortstop with the bases loaded and promptly sent two West Point hitters back to dugout with strikeouts before allowing an infield single before getting West Point to pop out for the win.
O'Neill will head to Alliance for the Class B State Tournament, beginning Saturday. They will take on B4 Champion Wahoo at 4 p.m.
The Neligh Seniors saw their season come to an end earlier than anticipated on Sunday at the hands of the B5 Area Tournament host.
Neligh led only briefly as the Wayne bats were on fire all afternoon, leading them to a 17-12 victory over Neligh.
Neligh couldn't get much going in the first inning, going down in order. In the second, they found runs from Tyson Zegers and Austin Miller thanks to their back-to-back doubles. In the third, a Jordon Murray double scored Clayton Anderson and Tyson Belitz. Meanwhile, Wayne totaled up five runs of their own to take a 5-4 lead after three.
The fourth inning saw Neligh take its only lead of the game as Damon Arehart, Cole Belitz, Luke Jacobsen and Tyson Belitz all come across the plate to give Neligh an 8-7 lead heading into the fifth. However, the Neligh momentum quickly halted while Wayne kept on rolling. Wayne held Neligh scoreless over the next two innings while adding nine runs to enter the seventh with a 16-8 lead. They added one more in the seventh while Neligh plated just four, sealing the game.
Tyson Zegers got the start on the mound for the Seniors. He was relieved in the fifth by Cole Belitz, who himself was relieved by Jayden Arehart to finish the game. The three combined for five strikeouts on the day.
Nine O-C powerlifters traveled to Lincoln on Saturday, for the Cornhusker State Games.
"The O-C lifters were up for the challenge, and represented our team and school very well," said coach Jeff Shabram. "All Cyclone lifters medaled in their respective age/weight class. Excellent job lifters."
The powerlifting championships were held on Saturday at Lincoln Christian High School. It was a sanctioned AAU meet with numerous state and national records set by many adult and teen lifters. This was a large meet (120+ lifters) with a full line-up of extremely stiff competition from around Nebraska along with some Missouri & South Dakota lifters.
"It was a great time to be in Lincoln last weekend which kicked off Friday night with the opening ceremonies at Seacrest Field near Lincoln East High School," Shabram said. "Athletes and fans were in attendance to watch the grand march and all the outstanding performers at the ceremonies.The night was highlighted by the skydivers bringing in the American Flag, the athlete pledge, the torch lighting and fireworks display."
Gold medalists were as follows:
Wyatt Shabram 88 lb raw class, Coy Wickersham 88 lb raw (open) class, Cash Wickersham 97 lb raw class, Rafe Grebin 114 lb raw class, and Logan Mueller 242 lb equipped class.
Silver medalists were as follows:
Cade Mlnarik 123 lb raw class, Gunnar Shabram 148 lb raw class, and Zane Herley 275 lb raw class.
Houston Marino earned a 4th place medal in the very large & competitive 165 lb raw class while setting personal bests on all three lifts (squat, bench, deadlift).
The O-C powerlifting season will officially begin for the 2017-18 season on Saturday, Dec. 2, with the Lexington High School Powerlifting Meet.
If the Neligh Seniors are going to come out on top of the B5 Area Tournament, they'll have to do so after battling through the consolation bracket.
The Seniors fell in the opening round of the area tournament in Wayne to Lakeview in a close 3-1 loss.
Lakeview jumped on top early, taking a 2-1 after two innings of play. However, defense continued to win the day, as the only other run came when Lakeview took advantage of a Neligh error.
On the mound, Tyson Belitz got the start on the mound before giving way to Jayden Arehart. The Neligh coaches kept both pitcher's pitch counts to a minimum, as Arehart threw just 29 pitches before Cole Belitz took over. Beau Murray then came in to close out the game.
The loss actually gives Neligh a day off, as they get a bye to start the consolations. They will be back on the field on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. They will take on the winner of tomorrow's 2 p.m. game.
With football season just around the corner, Neligh-Oakdale got started a bit early on their preparations.
The Warriors have taken to the field all week, working on the basics and installation in anticipation of the 2017 season.
With a large senior class having moved on from last year, fans will get a chance to see many new faces. Led by senior Nate Buck and juniors Andrew Herley, Austin Rice and Tucker Knust, the Warriors will get the season started against Creighton on August 25.
While many towns struggle to find coaches or maintain a consistent coaching staff, Neligh doesn’t struggle at all. With five coaches on staff, the Neligh Junior and Senior Legion boast an impressive staff with varying degrees of experience and expertise.
Headed up by Dan Murray, who has been head coach for five years, the five coaches combine for more than 50 years of baseball coaching experience.
“I’ve surrounded myself with people who know a lot about baseball,” Murray said. “Boyd (Batenhorst) played at Kentucky, played at Nebraska. He’s probably forgotten more about baseball than I even know. He’s been around baseball his whole life. Ethan Larsen, same thing. He’s grown up playing baseball and he’s very good, very knowledgeable. We have Garrett Jacobsen who played here and I actually coached him two years. He just thinks baseball, drinks baseball, he just loves it. He’s very good with kids and the kids look up to him. Then we have Chase (Kallhoff) who just last year played. He’s extremely knowledgeable in baseball and just knows all there is to know about baseball and everyone looks up to him because he was such a good player last year.”
All five coaches agree that the love of the game and the chance to work with the players was the biggest draw for them to join the staff. The diversity of the staff in age and experience allows them to connect with those players in different ways.
“It’s a challenge that some of these kids are only four or five years younger than me. But it’s also an advantage because I can relate to them because it wasn’t too long ago that I was in their shoes,” said Jacobsen.
Kallhoff echoed that sentiment, noting that his age is both a challenge and a reward.
“I’m friends with a lot of these guys so they don’t always look at me just as a coach. But a reward is I get to spend time with my friends,” he said.
On the more experienced end of the spectrum, Batenhorst has more than 30 years of wisdom to share with the kids.
“There are things I can show these kids and help them improve on,” he said. “The challenge is me figuring out kids because I don’t have any of my own and they are so much younger than I am.”
Larsen, who spends nearly the whole year as a coach as he also helps coach boys basketball at Neligh-Oakdale, knows many of the kids as they are his students as well.
“I enjoy being around the kids. I enjoy coaching and it’s a fun environment. It’s rewarding to see the kids grow, learn a new skill set and improve,” he said.
The five coaches have all used their own skill sets to help coach the kids. Under the eye of Murray, that has led Neligh to great success over the last few years, including a near-trip to the state tournament for the Juniors this year, a feat the Seniors hope to accomplish this weekend.
“The time and effort that they put in to these two teams is extraordinary,” said Diann Arehart, a member of the Neligh Ball Board. “It’s unbelievable. For example, Dan was out here for the Junior tournament well past when we left at 10:15 p.m., working on the warning track.”
That type of dedication from Murray and his staff is what has set Neligh up as a hub of Antelope County baseball and gives the Legion hope of prosperity in the future.
It has been a little while since the Neligh Seniors have been in action and they will jump right back into the thick of the season in a big way. They now must take on some of the strongest teams in Class B this weekend at the B5 Area Tournament in Wayne, with a trip to the state tournament on the line.
1. The who and what
You won't find too many tournaments as deep as the B5 Tournament. With a top seed like West Point, it's already a daunting task to make it to the finals. They will have a bye to start the weekend and will face the winner of Neligh, the five seed, and Lakeview, the four seed. Taking the second seed is O'Neill and they will take on the seventh seed, Schuyler. Ponca earned the three seed and will take on sixth seeded Wayne to start the tournament. Neligh's game is scheduled for a 2 p.m. first pitch on Friday, followed by O'Neill's - including Orchard's Brenden Cleveland - game at 4:30 p.m.
2. How's the weather?
Surprise! Its going to be hot. Fortunately, it is supposed to progressively cool down as the weekend rolls on. Highs for Friday are predicted for 97 degrees, dropping to a forecasted high of 87 on Championship Tuesday.
Now last time we talked, the forecast called for no rain at all and there was rain aplenty. This time around, we promise it won't rain, at least until Tuesday. There is a fairly good chance of rain on championship night. Then again, even trained meteorologists are only right half the time, so we can be too, right?
3. Neligh needs the pitching staff's best
The amount of firepower in this tournament is outstanding. To keep up, Neligh is going to need to get more performances similar to Tyson Belitz's 18-strikeout gem last week. Pitching staffs generally make or break a team in these long tournaments, so it'll be important for the likes of Luke Jacobsen, Tyson Zegers, Jayden Arehart and Cole Belitz to step up.
4. O'Neill will be a tough out
Cleveland and the O'Neill Irish Seniors are an athletic group and they use it well on the diamond. Coming in as the second seed is just a formality - they should be the favorite to lock of the B5 Area's state tournament spot. Expect them to see little resistance, at least in the first two rounds. They are deep on the mound and can score in droves.
5. It all ends here
The x-factor for the weekend is the same for all seven teams in the tournament - win and you keep your season alive. The Juniors are done so now the spotlight is all on the Seniors. Many of these kids are prepping for their last ball games ever and likely aren't ready to call it quits yet. Don't be too surprised if there is an upset or two thanks to some gutsy play by a few of those kids that aren't ready to see their careers end.
The O'Neill Irish Seniors kept their impressive season going this weekend, adding another title to their names.
The Irish took home the Elkhorn Valley League Tournament title after three big wins. They started the weekend off with a bye thanks to owning the top seed. They then took on Randolph, downing them 16-5. That put them in a showdown with cross-county rival Atkinson. They took them down 11-3 to advance to the championship against Crofton. It turned out to be an easy disposal of Crofton as the Irish won 8-0 to earn first place.
The Neligh Seniors ended their league tournament run Saturday night against Crofton.
Crofton jumped out to 5-0 lead over Neligh after two innings. Neligh fought back to make it 4-1 in the fourth, but the bats continued to be cold for Neligh in the 8-1 loss.
The Seniors will be back in action this weekend in the Class B Area 5 district tournament in Wayne. Also in the district are Schuyler, West Point, Ponca Columbus-Lakeview and O'Neill.
For quite some time now, anyone who has attended games at Neligh’s Riverside Park have been blessed by Tyler Doerr’s announcing at nearly every game. His smooth and direct announcing style can be heard from blocks away on the right night.
“I started helping out with announcing when I was about 10 or 12 years old,” Tyler said.
While Doerr’s voice may sound like most great public address announcers, his story is anything but typical. After being born premature, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a permanent disorder of the development of movement and posture, causing activity limitation.
“I would classify it as moderate,” said Tyler’s father Jeff Doerr of Neligh. “He’s able to walk with one crutch, he’s ambulatory and he gets around real well.”
Physical limitations did little to stop Tyler from developing a love of America’s pastime. He played all throughout his formative years, including some time with the Neligh Legion teams. While it wasn’t as easy for him to play as some of his teammates, his coaches made sure he didn’t miss out on the childhood experience of playing baseball.
“We have an extremely supportive community here in Neligh,” said Jeff. “His Legion coach, Doug Dennis, at the time when he was a Legion-aged player — and he wasn’t really able to play — but with agreement from the other coach, he had a few at-bats where he actually batted from his knees. He was able to go into the outfield. It was really nice what the coach did and the Legion program in general.”
However, his dream was always to be a sports announcer, rather than an athlete.
“Growing up, I always wanted to be a sports announcer,” Tyler said. “My parents thought it would be a good idea for me to do baseball games when I was little, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
After high school, Doerr perfected his craft as a broadcast major at Northeast in Norfolk. After that, he just learned to put himself in the bleachers to make his announcing better.
“I try and envision myself as somebody sitting in the bleachers and how they might want to hear somebody announcing the game,” Tyler said. “I try to make sure I’m nice and clear so people can hear me.
Tyler admits that being at the field nearly every night for games can be a bit taxing, but the appreciation from the fans makes it all worth it.
“I like baseball, I love sports, and it’s a way to help out the community. Everybody likes it,” he said.
And fans are quick to say home much the like having Tyler at the games.
“He has a repertoire. I’m a little biased obviously, but I think he sounds pretty good,” Jeff said with a smile. “We do get a lot of compliments when he does peewee, pony and Legion ball. A lot of people will stop and tell him that he does a good job. I think he’s a pretty confident announcer at this point.”
Always humble, Tyler’s smile has hidden the pride he feels from those compliments.
“I really do like it when people tell my parents they like me announcing,” Tyler said.
During the last week’s Junior Legion Area Tournament, Doerr has been busy with four games a day. He doesn’t mind, except for during the four-hour long games such as the Creighton and Crofton dual.
“I really do enjoy watching the kids play baseball. It kind of makes you visualize being a baseball player in your own mind. It kind of takes you back to when you were little,” Tyler said.
With the baseball season winding down, the fields at Riverside Park will give way to fair events as well as various other gatherings before the winter covers the park in snow. Rest assured, though, that come Opening Day 2018, Tyler will be back in the crow’s nest of the Legion field. In fact, if he has his say, he be back up there for a number of summers to come.
“I’ll keep doing it until they tell me not to do it anymore,” Tyler said with a grin. “I’m here until further notice.”
314 M Street
Neligh, NE 68756