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2016: Quite the year for Sports in Kansas

Riley Pint of Aquinas earned POY honors and was drafted fourth overall in 2016. (Susana Photos)
By: Sports in Kansas - Chet Kuplen
Dec 31, 2016

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Chet Kuplen of Sports in Kansas takes a look at some of the more memorable moments in 2016. 

Kansas State Football

The Wildcats won nine games this year, including a 33-28 Texas Bowl win over Texas A&M, and Bill Snyder went over 200 wins on the season. If you knew where the program was in 1989 when Snyder took over, you would think this is made up. The 2016 Wildcats went 9-4 in 2016, including a 5-0 record against Texas competition, with 48 Kansas players on the roster. The program is known for developing in-state talent consistently under Snyder, including former walk-ons that become starters.  

Kansas Basketball wins 12th Straight

The Jayhawks won their 12th straight Big 12 regular season title under Bill Self with a 15-3 record in conference play. The Jayhawks also won the 2016 Big 12 Basketball Tournament in Kansas City last March. KU would finish 33-5 and lost in the Elite Eight to eventual national champion Villanova.

Baker and Van Vleet Era Comes to End

WSU went 121-13 in the Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet era, arguably two of the best careers ever at Wichita State. That included four trips to the NCAA Tournament under Gregg Marshall, a trip to the 2013 NCAA Final Four, three Missouri Valley regular season championships and one MVC Tournament Championship. Baker, a Scott City native, and Van Vleet both made NBA rosters, where there are only 450 spots. Baker is with the New York Knicks, while Van Vleet is with the Toronto Raptors.

Nico Hernandez

Hernandez, a Wichita North alum, became the first USA Olympic boxer in 28 years to earn a light flyweight medal by taking the bronze in Rio.

Silver Lake coaching

Hamilton went over 400 wins this season as the head football coach at Silver Lake. Hamilton has been the head man for the Eagles for 41 seasons and is the all-time wins leader in Kansas history. Hamilton was ranked #15 among active coaches in wins in the country entering the 2016 season. Hamilton isn’t the only Silver Lake person racking up the wins, Loren Ziegler, in his second stint as the head girls basketball coach, has also racked up over 500 wins as a coach. And the next coach that we will talk about below may just have some Silver Lake ties.

Kruger still has it

Silver Lake native Lon Kruger, a former Big Eight Player of the Year at Kansas State in the seventies, coached Oklahoma into the Final Four in 2016, led by former Sunrise Christian Academy (Bel Aire, Kan.) star Buddy Hield. Kruger was the first head coach in the history of division one basketball to win an NCAA Tourney game with five different programs (Kansas State, Florida, Illinois, UNLV, Oklahoma). The 64 year old had 590 coaching wins entering the 2016-2017 campaign.

Perry Ellis finishes remarkable career at Kansas

Arguably the most successful high school basketball player in Kansas history with four state titles at Wichita Heights and four straight Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year honors, the only one in history, Ellis didn’t disappoint in his four year KU career. He finished his career as a three-time All Big 12 pick and an All-American in 2016. Ellis also got it done off the court as a two time student athlete of the year in the Big 12 conference. Ellis is currently in the NBA-Development League.

High School Football Crowned Eight Champions

Derby (6A), Mill Valley (5A) repeated this season, while Bishop Miege (4A-I) and Rossville (3A) three-peated to round out four of the eight state champions. Pratt (4A-II) got their first state title in 21 years, led by Sports in Kansas 2016 All-Classes Coach of the Year Jamie Cruce, who went 4-5 in 2015. Troy (2-1A) captured their first ever state title in football, while Osborne (8M-I) and Hanvoer (8M-II) added to their trophy cases in the eight man ranks. Sports in Kansas named its players of the year for 2016 that included Jafar Armtrong of Bishop Miege (Offense, All Classes) and Michael Maffry of Blue Valley (Defense, All Classes), while Carter Putz (Offense, All Classes Non-Senior) and Joe Watskey (Defense, All Classes Non-Senior).

Kansas represented in the MLB Draft

Three Kansas high school players were drafted in the first 100 picks of the 2016 MLB Draft including Riley Pint (Aquinas) at the number four overall pick to the Rockies, Joey Wentz (SM East) at number forty overall to the Braves, and Nolan “Nonie” Williams (KC Turner) at 96th overall to the Angels. Pint became the highest Kansan drafted out of high school in the first round, passing Bubba Starling who was drafted fifth overall out of Gardner-Edgerton by the Kansas City Royals in 2011.

Garrett Appier & Kearsten Peoples

Two former Frontier league state shot put champions represented Kansas in the 2016 Olympic Trials. Peoples, an All-American at Missouri from Ottawa, was a finalist in the women’s shot put, while Appier of Paola was a finalist in the men’s shot put. Appier took sixth at the Trials with a throw of 66-03.75. Appier owns all 10 of the best throws in the history of Division II shot put, including winning the last two national titles. His father, Kevin, was a former pitcher for the Kansas City Royals.

Pitch count changes for KSHSAA effective in 2017

KSHSAA has changed its baseball pitch count rules to prevent injuries. It’s too much to explain so here it is - http://www.kshsaa.org/Public/Baseball/PDF/PitchCountRule.pdf

Brylie Ware with the Triple Crown

The Sedgwick High School 2015 alum had one of the best seasons in junior college baseball history, earning the Triple Crown in 2016 for Neosho County Community College. Ware was the NJCAA National Player of the Year as a freshman for the Panthers. Ware hit 29 home runs, hit for a .560 average and drove in 125 RBI. Despite having zero division one offers at graduation time from high school, Ware had multiple after his freshman campaign at Neosho, and is now a sophomore at the University of Oklahoma.

Aryus Jones

After breaking his leg in football for Junction City in the fall of 2015, Jones went undefeated and won the state 6A wrestling title just three months after his injury. 

Mid-America Nazarene tops Baker in NAIA Womens Title Game

Mid-America Nazerene, located in Olathe, won the 2016 NAIA Womens National Basketball Championship with a 49-35 victory over Baker University in the all-Kansas final back in March. 

Romero Cotton

After spending time in prison right out of high school, former Hutchinson multiple-sport all-state athlete Romero Cotton has overcome obstacles and turned his life around. At 26 years old he became a 3x NCAA-II Wrestling Champ at Nebraska Kearney last March. He is now a professional MMA fighter. Cotton, who originally signed to wrestle at Nebraska out of high school, won 10 high school state titles in football, wrestling and weightlifting. 

Hoxie streak ends, but what a streak it was

Shelly Hoyt won a state reocrd 107 consecutive girls basketball games at Hoxie from 2012-2016, beating the all-time record of 91 held by Little River and Shane Cordell. Hoyt is now the head coach at Madison. 

Mikayla Smith

Smith, now a freshman soccer player at UMKC, set the girls state reocrd for goals in a career with 103 at Spring Hill from 2013-2016.

Ryan Schraeder doing big things with the Atlanta Falcons

Schraeder, who didnt play high school football at Maize, graduating in 2006, is now one of the best players in the NFL. The former Butler County and Valdosta State All-American, was ranked as the 72nd best player in the NFL entering 2016 by Pro Football Focus. Schrader was under 6-foot tall when he was a junior in high school and is now 6-foot-7 and weighs nearly 300 pounds, after hitting a late growth spurt in college. He signed a five year multi-million dollar deal with the Falcons this August. 

Pitt State women capture first outdoor Track and Field Crown

The Gorillas, led by head coach Russ Jewett, edged Augustana 52 to 51 to claim the 2016 NCAA-II National Track and Field Championship last May. PSU previous best at the outdoor was ninth back in 2014, and overall fourth at the 2016 indoor.

High School Volleyball Crowns Eight Champions

Olathe Northwest (6A), Shawnee Heights (5A), Rose Hill (4A-I), Topeka-Hayden (4A-II), Silver Lake (3A), Heritage Christian (2A), Centralia (1A-I) and Axtell (1A-II) all claimed state titles in their respective classifications this October. Centralia, under legendary head coach Kimbrook Tennall, had a 44-1 record, Tennal has 700 wins as a head coach with a 94% winning percentage, that also included time at Nemaha Valley.

Comeback of Jordy Nelson

Nelson, a former walk-on from Riley County High School that turned All-American at Kansas State, missed the entire 2015 NFL season with an ACL injury. His comeback didn’t disappoint as he leads the entire NFL with 14 receiving touchdowns and ranks near the top in receiving yardage with 1,192 yards for the Green Bay Packers.

Sproles keeps rolling

The former Olathe North graduate (2001) has been one of the best Kansan’s ever in the NFL. Sproles has racked up nearly 19,000 all-purpose yards, which ranks 8th all-time in the NFL, where he has played since 2005 after an All-American career at Kansas State. Standing only 5-foot-6, a lot of college programs back in 2001 wouldn’t take the chance on Sproles, who rushed for well over 2,000 yards back in 2000 in leading the Olathe North Eagles to a 6A state title. He has recently announced that 2017 will be his last season in the NFL.

Basketball crowns 16 state champs

Yes, we have 16 total champs crowned in basketball, that’s a lot. Boys titles were captured by SM North (6A), Mill Valley (5A), Miege (4A-I), Collegiate (4A-II), Osage City (3A), Jackson Heights (2A), Centralia (1A-I), Attica (1A-II). Girls champs were Wichita South (6A), Aquinas (5A), Miege (4A-I), Clay Center (4A-II), Silver Lake (3A), Central Plains (2A), Centralia (1A-I), Dighton (1A-II).

High school baseball crowns six champs

SM East (6A), Aquinas (5A), Buhler (4A-I), Baxter Springs (4A-II), Nemaha Central (3A), and St. Mary’s Colgan (2-1A) were crowned as state baseball champs this May. Mike Watt of Colgan picked up his 16th state title as the head coach of the Colgan since 1986, including four in a row. Watt was named the National High School Baseball Coach of the Year by the ABCA.

High School softball crowns six champs

Olathe South (6A), Topeka-Seaman (5A), Spring Hill (4A-I), Frontenac (4A-II), Riverton (3A), Valley Falls (2-1A) claimed state titles this May. The game of the year may have come in the 3A title game where Riverton beat Oskaloosa 2-0 in 11 innings on a two-run walk-off home run by Riverton all-state selection Taylor Compton, who also pitched a complete game shutout.

Emporia State Football getting use to success

The Hornets have become the most consistent Division II program in Kansas over the past four seasons, making the playoffs three of four years. Garin Higgins has won at least 10 football games in three of the last five seasons and at least nine in four of the last five seasons. The Hornets have went 22-5 over the last two seasons, four of those losses have come to back-to-back national champion, Northwest Missouri. The Hornets finished 11-2 in 2016 and beat all three other Kansas MIAA programs (Pitt State, FHSU, WU)

Blue Valley Quarterbacks impress in College

Kyle Zimmerman (Blue Valley’12) led Northwest Missouri State to the National Championship this season, was the MIAA Conference Player of the Year, Harlon Hill Trophy Runner-Up, and an All-American. Not bad for a guy who waited five years to become the starter at Northwest. He helped lead Blue Valley to the 2010 state championship as a junior, including that semifinal win over Gardner Edgerton that featured Bubba Starling. Logan Brettell (Blue Valley ’14) was the NAIA National Player of the Year for Baker University as a junior and led them to a National Runner-Up Finish. Blue Valley head coach Eric Driskell runs perhaps the most consistent program in Kansas and had the most players from a Kansas high school playing in the college ranks in 2016.

LaRoche retires after successful MLB career 

On March 15th, LaRoche walked away from a 13 million dollars to play for the Chicago White Sox in 2016. Whitesox GM Kenny Williams wouldn’t allow LaRoche to bring his son to the clubhouse, Drake, who had always been allowed with LaRoche in the past with all of the teams he has played with. LaRoche hit 255 home runs and drove in 882 runs in his MLB career that saw him make a debut back in 2004. LaRoche showed that family is bigger than money or baseball. The state of Kansas will miss cheering for the Fort Scott High School alum in the MLB.  

Small town Kansas to the NBA

Baker will get another mention, as he deserves so. But this sounds made up, right? Spearville (population 773) has Willie Cauley-Stein in the NBA with the Kings, while Scott City (3,816) has Baker with the Knicks in the NBA. What are the odds? Cauley-Stein, a second year player in the league, was highly regarded out of high school with multiple offers before choosing Kentucky, while Baker had to walk-on his first year at Wichita State.

Matt Strahm to the bigs

Strahm, who was an All-American at Neosho County CC in 2012, provided a big spark for the Royals this season. He made his debut on July 31 and went 2-2 on the season with a 1.23 ERA. Not bad for a 21st round pick back in 2012.

Frontenac Little League almost reaches Williamsport

Frontenac Little League got used to playing on ESPN this summer in the 12 year old Midwest Regional as they were just one win away from becoming the first ever team from Kansas to punch their ticket to Williamsport this past August. Frontenac, led by head coach Dan Raio, fell to Iowa in the regional championship but became the first ever Little League team from Kansas to advance to the Midwest Regional Final with their 5-2 win over the Nebraska (Kearney) state champ. Shortstop Logan Myers even made the SC Top 10 plays. Not bad for a town of 3,400 in the southeast corner of the state.

East tops West in Shrine Bowl in Emporia

East best the West 48-27 in the highest scoring Kansas Shrine Bowl game in the 43 years of existence. The East was coached by Blake Pierce of Seaman, while the West was coached by Randall Zimmerman of Junction City. Mike McCoy led the offensive charge for the East with four touchdowns, while Jace McDown led the East defense with 12 tackles.

100 wins for Schurig

Craig Schurig has put the Washburn football program on the map since arriving in 2002. He has had 11 win seasons for the Bods including a 103-67 record. Washburn finished 7-5 in 2016 with an appearance in the Mineral Water Bowl.

KJCCC Changes Scholarship Limits

Beginning the 2017-2018 academic year, the KJCCC will be comprised of institutions competing at the NJCAA DI and DII levels and will follow NJCAA roster limits for all participating sports. This change removes previous KJCCC out-of-state and roster size limitations. This means that the 20 out of state rule in football has been lifted allowing as many out of state players that they want on the roster. This has caused uproar across the state with high school football coaches and recruits, as many programs have depended on Kansas kids to get the job done for years.

Bob Davis retires

The legendary voice of the Jayhawks, Bob Davis, retired after 32 years. Davis will long be remembered for his 2008 National Championship call of Mario Chalmers 3-point shot to send the game into OT against Memphis, before defeating the Tigers for Bill Self’s first national title. Brian Hanni replaced Davis as Voice of the Jayhawks after he was hired in the summer of 2016.

Cailie Logue is among the nation’s best

Logue, a senior at Girard High School, who has signed to run at Iowa State in college, became just the fifth Kansas girl ever to win four straight cross country titles. Logue, who is one of the nations best and was ranked first in the US at one time this season in cross county, has also won six state individual titles in track and field with one outdoor season remaining. Her mother, Christie Allen-Logue, was a former multiple time national champion at Pittsburg State

KSU OL in the NFL

Cody Whitehair (Abilene) and B.J. Finney (Andale), both 4A high school players, were starting lineman in the NFL this season. For Whitehair, a rookie this season with the Bears, it may have been expected after being a second round pick in 2016. For Finney, a former walk-on at KSU that went undrafted by the Steelers, he keeps beating the odds. KSU is becoming a factory for developing in-state offensive lineman.

Baker University Football

The Wildcats finished 14-1 in 2016 including a National Runner-Up Finish, losing to St. Francis in the title game in Daytona Beach, Florida. It marked the first title game appearance in 30 years for Baker.

Garden City captures National Football Title

The Broncbusters football team captured the 2016 NJCAA National Title, 25-22 over Arizona Western, under head coach Jeff Sims. It was the first ever national title in football for Garden City CC. The final touchdown to win was a TD pass from Peyton Huslig (Andover Central) to Harley Hazlett (Abilene).

Chuck Smith retires

Coaching legend, Chuck Smith of St. Mary’s Colgan High School in Pittsburg, retired after 37 years as the head man. That included a 343-75 record with five state championships, including four straight from 2000-2003. Smith also held a 66 game winning streak, then the state record before it was snapped in 2004 by Smith Center, who went on to later break the record with 79.

KU Football beats Texas

KU beat Texas 24-21 on a 25 yard field goal by Matthew Wyman back on November 19th for their first Big 12 conference football win under David Beatty and first since November 8th of 2014. Wasn’t the best season in the world for the struggling Jayhawks, but to beat Texas is a step in the right direction. This game is ultimately what got Charlie Strong fired at Texas.

Wichita South girls first to 4-peat in 6A

Led by all-state selections Ericka Mattingly and Kendrian Elliott, the South girls led by head coach Antwain Scales, became the first 6A girls program to win four straight state basketball titles.

Pitt State women’s basketball reach Elite 8

Lane Lord has been outstanding at Pittsburg State and may have had his best season in 2016, with 29 wins, including 15 consecutive, both school records. The Gorillas beat Emporia State in the 2016 Regional Final and made just their second ever appearance in the NCAA-II Elite 8, both under Lord. The former Wichita South and Barton CC head coach is 183-69 at Pittsburg State, including three seasons with at least 27 wins, three of those coming in the last five years.