Year in Sports: 2018 | Sports |

2018, we hardly knew you.

The time has come again to turn the calendar to a new year, the swan song of a decade that has come and (nearly) gone faster than an eager child opening presents on Christmas.

With this almost-complete year came plenty of national and statewide sports memories. Whether it be the Minneapolis Miracle, Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, the Timberwolves’ return to the playoffs or Joe Mauer’s retirement, there is plenty to take from this year.

In addition to such headlines on the national scene, there were plenty of headlines to be had on the local sports scene as well. Many athletes had tremendous accomplishments, and it’s never easy compiling a list of them all.

Nevertheless, here is a list of the top 10 sports stories in the Independent Review for 2018.

Honorable mention: ACGC wrestling wins section title; EVW/K’s Matthew Notch has three top-five finishes at state track and field meet; EV-W boys basketball misses state on buzzer beater; former ACGC coach Doug Torgerson inducted to Minnesota Football Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame.

10.) Boys tennis sends three to state

In addition to the team’s success (more on that later), the Litchfield boys tennis program sent three players to the Class A state meet in June.

Matthew Wedin and Jordan Green won the section’s doubles championship to qualify for state. The duo won their first round matchup before losing 6-4, 6-4 in the quarterfinals to the eventual state runner-up.

Fellow senior Trevor Meyer qualified for state after finishing runner-up in the section singles tournament, and he also won his first round match at state. He was eliminated in the state quarterfinals by the eventual state champion to close out his career.

9.) Berghuis wins rodeo national championship

ACGC alum Tyler Berghuis won the Bareback Bronc Riding Championship at College National Finals Rodeo in June, taking home the prized title the senior had been striving for.

Riding collegiately in Texas, Berghuis fought tough competition and a ruptured appendix on his way to the national championship.

8.) VFW returns to state tournament

Despite an early-round loss at its district tournament, the Litchfield VFW baseball team won five straight elimination games to win the town’s first VFW district title since 2002.

The team rode its hot streak all the way to August’s state tournament, where it won its opening game against Luverne before suffering two losses to be eliminated.

7. Foley foils wrestling’s run, again

Unfortunately for the Litchfield wrestling team, one of its two spots on this list is not for a reason it would like to remember.

For the third consecutive season, the Litchfield wrestling team faced off against rival Foley in February’s team section final. And for the third consecutive season, the Dragons were eliminated by the Falcons.

Litch lost its bout with Foley following an overtime loss in the heavyweight match, keeping the boys in green one team win shy of the state tournament.

6.) Seven wrestlers head to state

Even if the Litchfield wrestling team didn’t advance to the state meet, it had its largest contingent of individuals in recent memory representing the Dragons at the state meet.

Jerry Simes, Ezra Kaping, Afton Kaping and Logan Nelson all earned state spots after winning section titles, and teammates Eddie Simes, Kal Jackman and Chase Liestman also earned state bids.

Of the seven wrestlers, Jerry Simes, Afton Kaping and Liestman performed well enough to earn medals at the state tournament. They finished finish fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, to close out the season.

5.) Orzolek medals at state in shot put, discus

Litchfield senior thrower Steve Orzolek finished his career in style, collecting two medals at June’s Class A state track and field meet.

Orzolek finished fourth in the shot put with a toss of 54-3, three inches further than his second-place throw the year prior.

The following day, he also reached the medal stand in the discus. Orzolek’s longest toss of 144-10 earned him a seventh-place finish in the event to close out his high school career.

4.) Fourth-place state finish for boys tennis

The Litchfield boys tennis team earned the title of back-to-back champions in May, winning the Section 5A title for the second year in a row with a 5-2 win against Pine City.

The Dragons weren’t satisfied with just earning a spot in the Class A state tournament, however. They earned a fourth-place finish for one of the best state performances in the program’s history.

Litch defeated Mounds Park Academy in the first round, before losing to Thief River Falls and St. Paul Academy to close out its season and bring home the fourth-place trophy.

3.) Doubles duo finishes state runner-up

It’s not every year that Litchfield athletes are vying for a state championship, but that’s exactly what Avery Stilwell and Shanna Kinny reached this past girls tennis season.

The duo earned runner-up at October’s Class A state doubles tournament, reaching the championship match after a three-set bout in the semifinals.

Teammate Elise Bierbaum also left her mark on the state tournament, finishing fourth in the singles tournament to earn herself a state medal.

2.) Girls tennis second at state

While the accolades of the individual performances by members of the Litchfield girls tennis team were impressive, perhaps even more so was the run the Dragons had as a team through the state tournament.

Litchfield won the Section 5A title for the second year in a row, and were one of the top-ranked teams in the state through much of the season. The Dragons swept Osakis 7-0 in the quarterfinals of the state tournament, and were dominant in a 6-1 victory against St. James in the state semifinals.

Four-time defending champion Blake defeated Litch in the state championship, but the Dragons’ runner-up performance is the best state finish in program history.

1.) L/DC boys hockey reaches state

For the second time in three season, the Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato boys hockey team brought home a section championship. With it, the Dragons earned a bid in the Class A state hockey tournament, the third appearance in the tournament in program history.

The team entered the postseason with a 3-5-1 record in its final nine games, but it hit its stride when it mattered most. L/DC came from behind to win 5-2 at home against Windom in the section opener, and used two first-period goals to win 2-1 against Marshall in the section semifinals. The Dragons faced top-seed Luverne in the section championship, and never trailed in a 4-1 victory to clinch their spot at state.

A week later, swarms of Dragons fans descended upon the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul to cheer on L/DC at the state tournament. L/DC was defeated 6-1 in the first round of the tournament by Wright County Conference rival Orono, which went on to win the state championship. The Dragons concluded its state run at Mariucci Arena on the University of Minnesota campus, coming up short in a 3-2 triple overtime thriller against Mankato East/Loyola.

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