Winter Inhuman Awards announced
This year's winter sports season took on a rebuilding tone for the local varsity teams.
A large majority of the teams dealt with major restocking efforts this season.
A few, particularly the New Richmond wrestling team, were at the opposite end of the spectrum, with an outstaning group of seniors.
To recognize some of the best efforts of the season, we present the Inhuman Awards for the 2008-09 winter sports season.
Most Valuable: New Richmond's top defensive tandem, Eric Wergin and Zach Kier.
Honorable Mention: Tanner Milliron, Jake Bellows, Joe Bowar, New Richmond; Cory Erchul, Mitchel Benson, Somerset.
This was not a great offensive season for the Tigers, so they had to lean heavily on their defense. Wergin and Kier emerged as one of the best defensive pairs in the area. They played a ton of minutes and they matured steadily as the season progressed. With both of them coming back for next season, the Tigers have a strong defensive nucleus they can build around. Wergin and Kier blossomed into a top quality pair of defensemen. The coaches leaned heavily on them and they proved they could handle the heavy work load.
Most Improved: Tyler Montgomery, New Richmond.
Honorable Mention: Cory Erchul and Sean Conrad, Somerset; Taylor Moening, New Richmond.
Montgomery was thrown into varsity play at the start of the season and looked a bit timid. With each game he became more reliable. With Montgomery, Wergin and Kier returning next season, the Tigers have the potential to have one of the best defensive units in this part of the state.
Most Valuable: Derek Sabby, New Richmond.
Honorable Mention: Lance Bauer, New Richmond; Bryan Witzmann, Somerset; John Peper, New Richmond; Luke Brown, St. Croix Central.
Sabby's style of play is subtle, but the more you watch him play, the more you have to be impressed. There isn't a more natural rebounder around. He's the role model for why the Tigers were successful this season. They didn't overwhelm opponents. Instead, they won because they executed their individual responsibilities so well.
Most Improved: Michael Jansen, New Richmond.
Honorable Mention: Cole Cloutier, Somerset; Jared Kidder, New Richmond; Kyle Cress, St. Croix Central; Justice Harvieux, New Richmond.
Jansen filled a pivotal role for the Tigers this season as a much needed physical presence in the paint. When the Tiger offense struggled in the final games of the season, he stepped up to try to get the team through the difficult stretch.
Best Defense Award: John Peper.
Honorable Mention: Jonathan Stephens, St. Croix Central; Luke Brown, St. Croix Central; Cole Cloutier, Somerset; Luke Buerkley, Somerset.
Peper's best asset in being one of the best defensive players in the Middle Border Conference was willpower. He drove himself to be in the right position so much of the time. If you were looking for a shut-down defender in the MBC, Peper would likely have been your best choice.
Most Valuable: Kellie Ring, Somerset.
Ring was a standout in a season of outstanding performances in the Middle Border Conference this season. Ring has the confidence to think that no player can stop her on a drive to the basket. She may just be right.
Best Defense Award: Hayley Peterson, New Richmond.
Honorable Mention: Karli Solum, Somerset; Amy Wells, Somerset; Nikki Brooks, St. Croix Central.
Peterson was the leader on a Tiger team that played strong defense every second of the season. The Tigers' effort didn't translate into many wins, but that didn't stop them from coming back game after game with a relentless defensive effort.
Most Improved: Amy Wells, Somerset.
Honorable Mention: Kendra Mitchell, New Richmond; Lindsay Chinander, St. Croix Central.
Wells filled a critical role for the Spartans this season. Wells is better suited to play at a small forward position. But the Spartans needed a post player badly, so she took on the role. She became a tough post defender and she found a way to be a scorer in the Spartan offense.
Most Valuable: Bradley Gartner and Tom Volkert, New Richmond.
Honorable Mention: Zack Gillis, St. Croix Central; Jared Kerr, New Richmond.
Gartner and Volkert are practically inseparable in the Tiger record books for all the accomplishments in their careers. They rank in the top five in most Tiger wrestling career categories. Gartner is second in career wins for the Tigers with 134 and Volkert is third with 124. They rank second and third in career team points. They were the leaders in one of the most successful classes ever to go through the Tiger wrestling program.
Most Improved: Jared Kerr, New Richmond.
Honorable Mention: Luke Henry, Somerset; Joel Neumann, New Richmond; Chris Halvorson, St. Croix Central; Blake Jacobson, New Richmond.
Kerr stepped up to become an elite level wrestler this year. He finished with 36 wins this season and he beat several outstanding opponents along the way.
New Richmond Girls Hockey
Most Valuable: Rachel Mullendore.
Honorable Mention: Ellie Tylee, Paige Charland and Chelsea Singerhouse.
Mullendore gave the Tigers a presence, a maturity, on the ice this season. She seemed to be on the ice for 80 percent of the minutes of the game. Her reliability and durability made her an invaluable asset for the Tigers.
Most Improved: Shelby Melby.
Honorable Mention: Maddie Kelly; Cat Atwood.
Melby developed a knack for scoring this season. Having a player who can win the individual battles in front of the net is critically important. Her linemates knew if they fired the puck toward the front of the net, Melby had a good chance of converting the pass into a goal.
Top Newcomer: Ellie Tylee.
Honorable Mention: Paige Charland.
Tylee and Charland not only played at a high level as a freshman, they filled two critical roles for the team. With no experienced goaltenders returning to the team, Tylee's emergence as a top-flight goalie was a revelation. Charland stepped in to give the team a badly needed first line forward.
Coach of the season: (tie) Rick Montreal, New Richmond boys basketball, and Mark Neumann, New Richmond wrestling.
Honorable Mention: Bill Powers, Somerset girls basketball; Mike Fern, St. Croix Central boys basketball; John Larson, New Richmond girls hockey.
After New Richmond won the 2008 Middle Border Conference boys basketball title, graduating its top eight players, very few people gave the Tigers a second thought heading into this season. Montreal got the Tiger boys to believe in the system and it led to a conference title.
For the Tiger wrestlers, this season was the culmination of many years of effort. Under coach Neumann, the Tigers became a force in wrestling at the state level this year.