Photo at W-MU kick starts coverage memories

A photo can sometimes be worth a thousand reactions.
I was at Winfield-Mount Union High School last week for Holy Trinity’s girls basketball tournament game when I saw a photo of Jess Settles from his high school days hanging in the hallway.
Naturally, I had to get a photo of it. I covered Settles in his last two years of high school and his six seasons at Iowa. I know him well — he’s a friend and a good source when it comes to college basketball.
I also had to post it on social media, because Settles has always been a favorite of Hawkeye fans, both for his play and for the length of time he spent with the program.
It didn’t take long after the photo was posted before my phone started beeping with the reactions. Everyone liked the photo, and many commented, some wanting to joke with Settles about how young he looked in the photo, or to give him a hard time about the longevity of his college career.
What was interesting, though, were the memories of southeast Iowa fans about the high school basketball during Settles’ time at W-MU.
There were the battles between Settles’ teams and Marquette High School. They were two of the top teams among the small schools in the state, and when they met during the regular season, you had to get to the gym early to get a seat. I remember covering one game while sitting on the stage in the Marquette gym, because the bleachers were crammed beyond capacity that night.
Both teams qualified for the Class A state tournament in 1992, put in different district/substate brackets by the IHSAA. W-MU reached the championship game, losing to Aplington, the only defeat for the Wolves that season. Marquette lost in the first round to Pomeroy-Palmer.
A year later, W-MU was favored to win the state title, but the Wolves lost in the semifinals, and ended up finishing third. The program would make five consecutive state tournament appearances overall, winning the championship in 1995.
Those teams were part of a greater era for boys basketball in southeast Iowa. Marquette reached the state tournament championship game in 1987. Fort Madison had Ryan Bowen, who would go on to play at Iowa and then in the NBA. Harmony High School played in its only state tournament in 1991.
As a young sports writer, I got to see a lot of these teams play. It’s where I learned my lesson about getting to the gym early, because it was always difficult to find a seat anywhere you went. Games on Tuesdays and Fridays were must-see events in gyms around the area. There were stories that were fun to tell.
The talent that was on display was fun to watch. W-MU’s Klay Edwards went on to a great career at Iowa State. Another player from the program, Burt Lappe, went on to play at Northern Iowa.
There are good memories from those years, and it was interesting to see the reactions of people who were there, either as players or spectators.
It’s funny what an old photo can do.
John Bohnenkamp is a national award-winning reporter and editor and is a contributor to Pen City Current. He can be reached at editor@pencitycurrent.com

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