Today, nothing is Beside the Point

Sorry, but Beside the Point’s a little late this morning.

Saturday was a bittersweet day and just chalked full of emotion for this spent editor, father, uncle, brother, and friend.

I’m a homer for sure and when Fort Madison loses, I lose. When Fort Madison wins, I win. My heart is invested after five years of chasing coaches and kids around the state.

That heart goes out to Tony Sargent and the Lady Bloodhounds who were beyond something special this year. He’s done more with the girls in the past two years than in the previous 24, dating back to Matt Aultman who took the Lady Hounds to the tourney in 1997.

They lost to eventual champion Ankeny that year 54-39. This year’s loss might be tougher to swallow with the anticipation we all held.

But any coach will tell you, the lid can go on at the worst time. And it did for most of the night as the Lady Hounds fell 43-29 to a Fairfield team they beat twice during the regular season.

That’s a young team with solid players coming back and they have a very bright future. Today stings… a lot. But if they can get a full season of workouts this year, things could be just a bit different in the winter.

That game came hours after three days of watching what’s quickly becoming one of my favorite sports.

In a testament to the program ushered now by Ryan Smith, and built by many others before him; and the athletes being built under the watchful eye of most FMHS coaches led by Derek Doherty, watching the Hounds’ Owen Kruse and Gavin Wiseman leave it all on the mat at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines was exhausting.

Wiseman took Cedar Falls Dylan Whitt, who was pinned in the championship match Saturday night by Iowa City West’s Hunter Garvin, to the brink in his opening round match. Wiseman had control of that match and a 4-4 tie with less than a minute to go. The junior, who had a smile on his face Friday night after being eliminated in consolation wrestling during the morning session, said he’ll be back.

I’d bet on that.

Kruse scored a medal in the second round of consolation with literally a last second reversal and 2-point near fall for a 7-4 come-from-behind win.

Most people just see the media sitting on the mat with a camera and trying to get the picture. I was talking under my mask, starting to use words I didn’t know were there, and that’s saying somethin’ from me. “Spin, sit out, loop him….. or Grab his face! Punch him! BITE HIM!

That’s all against the rules and why I played basketball. I’m glad I had a mask on.

Talking with these boys at the end is always heartbreaking… except when they win. That makes it all worth the trip. I always offer encouragement to these boys of the life that’s ahead of them and looking back on these memories.

They have to remember that. Because we never forget.

My family built a memory of our own Saturday night.

We had a big day as my brother became the first coach in West Burlington history to take a 5-on-5 team to the state tournament. He got a personal note prior to tip off from legendary West Burlington football coach Bill Nelson who knows a little about how hard it is to get to these state tournaments.

I thought that would be his motivation on this night.

But it apparently came from a 20-year-old girl who died one year ago Saturday night.

Throughout the post season my brother John, who’s Class 3A No. 5 Lady Falcons pulled off a crazy, and maybe just a little miraculous, 4th quarter rally to beat No. 9 West Liberty 47-45 in the Class 3A Region 8 final, had been having private pre-game conversations with my daughter we lost to a heart condition on Feb. 20, 2020.

He was in the room with us when we told her it was okay to let go.

After firing off about 1,000 pictures I turned around to find him just looking at me. All this mayhem and wonderment – and he’s looking at me. We grabbed each other and he said to me with tears in his eyes, “That was all your daughter. She was with me the whole time.”

My niece Natalie, a senior guard for the Falcons that you’ve all read about here a couple times, hit a big 3-ball in a the midst of a frenzied fourth quarter rally to cut West Liberty’s lead to two, and bring the Falcon crazies to their feet.

After the win, she came out of a storm of people and jumped on me and told me she was playing for Kelsey and we held each other and wept.

This 17-year-old kid was also in the room when we told Kelsey it was okay to let go. She insisted on it.

I didn’t even notice when we let go of each other, her mother had a hold of me. Susan said she asked Kelsey for help on this one.

Message received.

Kelsey…we’re going to Des Moines. If you’re not too busy, sweetheart…

Today… nothing is Beside the Point.

Chuck Vandenberg is the editor of Pen City Current and can be reached at editor@pencitycurrent.com

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