2015 was a big year for sports in the Upper Peninsula. From championships to job changes to professional debuts, here’s a look at the top ten sports stories of 2015 with ABC 10’s Sam Ali.
It’s been quite a year for sports in the U.P. and it has taken quite a toll on me. This is me earlier in the year, so full of life. And this is just last week. I have lost my mind. But if you asked me if I would do it all over again, I would say “pass me the Red Bull”. So take my hand as we reminisce on the top ten sports stories of 2015.
We start the list off with a girl who’s going from being a Redette to a Spartan as Marquette cross country runner Linday Rudden committed to Michigan State and the defending national champs.
It’s the debut of the Finlandia division three football program. Former Michigan Tech defensive coordinator Tim Driscoll was brought in to start the program from scratch and the Lions finished the season strong with a 3–7 record. No where left to go but up for this promising program.
We stay in the Copper Country as Hancock–native and Huskies hockey star Tanner Kero signed a two–year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. And after dominating in the AHL, he was brought up to the main roster and then on November 6th…
It was a tough one to swallow as the Forest Park football program decided to move to 8–man football beginning next season. It was a controversial and necessary move for a number of reasons.
“When you get down to 110 or 111 kids, you just don’t have the numbers to compete and that’s where it’s going to be in three years. In two years it’s 122, so you know that in a couple years, you cannot sustain an 11 man program,” Graff said.
The Trojans finished the season 7–4, losing to St. Ignace in the regional finals.
The Westwood/Ishpeming rivalry is one of the fiercest around and it was taken up a notch this year as two coaches switched sides. Ryan Reichel went from coaching the Westwood boys basketball team to coaching the Ishpeming girls basketball team. And Scott Syrjala went from assistant football coach at Ishpeming to head football coach at Westwood. The Hematites knocked off Syrjala’s Patriots in the pre–districts.
It was a very successful year for Michigan Tech sports as they sent three teams to the NCAA tournament. The men’s and women’s basketball teams both made it to the tourney but were eliminated in the first round. The Huskies hockey team made the tourney for the first time in over 30 years but they were knocked off in the first round as well.
American Legion baseball is very competitive in the Upper Peninsula and after Gladstone won the state title last year, Derek Swajanen and the Marquette Blues said hey can we get one of those too?! Marquette would defeat Gladstone in the championship game on Coach Swajanen’s birthday.
More championships and we got a pair here from the same school as North Central captured the Class D state basketball title and in their first year of 8–man football, they win the state title there as well, scoring almost the same amount of points as the basketball team was.
It was a big year for girls hoops in the Upper Peninsula as Yoopers accounted for two of the four state championships. Abby Ostman and the St. Ignace Saints won the Class D state championship down at the Breslin Center. And Calumet, who were considered massive underdogs during their entire run, brought home the Class C state championship.
Was there any doubt here? After falling short last year down in Ford Field, Jeff Olson and the Ishpeming Hematites made it back to the mountain top for the third time in four years, thanks to quarterback Ozzy Corp, who became the first player in MHSAA history to score a touchdown in four straight championship games.
Thanks for joining me on the epic ride down memory lane and I’m looking forward to better things to come in 2016. For ABC 10 and CW 5 News, I’m Sam Ali.