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Winter Sports 2013-2014


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Winter Sports • December 2013


Winter Sports • December 2013

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Niles Boys Basketball

Vikings need to stay healthy this season By JASON LANDSTROM jason.landstrom@leaderpub.com As fall fades into a distant memory and winter’s chilly climate and inescapable snowfalls loom on the horizon, the Niles Vikings boys basketball program has been working diligently to heat up the hardwood when its 2013-14 campaign begins in Mattawan on Dec. 13. The Vikings have the tall task of replacing six players including all-state honorable mention player Alec Brown, who averaged 19 points per game for the Vikings and now plays at Lake Michigan College, from a team that finished last season with a 6-14 mark (3-11 in conference play). Head coach Todd Pawielski believes that — despite the losses of last year’s talented group of seniors like Brown, Jesse Jordan, Anthony Bice, Cole Clemens, Mitch Dehn and Gevonta Nichols — that his team has the makings of a terrific season, as well as the ability to win their league. “We have kids who come to practice every day and work hard,” Pawielski said. “They do everything that we ask of them. We have a lot of good kids who have been in the program since seventh grade and they get the job done. If we can stay healthy and do what we need to do, I expect a tremendous season.” Returners Tate Brawley, Matthew Miller and Gabe Stokes were Pawielski’s players to keep an eye on as the season progresses; as he expects those three to play an integral role in the Vikings’ successes this season. “Tate Brawley is the leader of this team and has a real chance to be the best player in our league. Matthew Miller is the heart and soul of this team and probably one of the best defenders we’ve ever had in my time here,” Pawielski said. “Between Tate (Brawley) and Gabe (Stokes) we have two guys that can legitimately take over games. The pieces are there. We just have to put them all together on the court.”

Leader photo/File

Niles’ Tate Brawley (right) will be counted on for leadership and scoring this season.

Niles Girls Basketball

Niles hoping to reverse fortunes

By JASON LANDSTROM jason.landstrom@leaderpub.com The beginning of basketball season is finally upon us. No one is more excited to get its 2013-14 campaign underway than the Niles girls basketball program that hopes to see great improvement over the course of the season from its still relatively young squad . The Lady Vikings have the unique opportunity to wash away the stigma of last season’s 0-21 record by returning every player from that team, as well as a few additions, to make a run at redemption for the program. Head coach Patrick Touhey said that, although his team’s ultimate goal is winning, the team putting forth its very best effort night in and night out will be the true scale with which he’ll measure their success. “We have a great group of girls who are all about team first,” Touhey said. “They work very hard Leader photos

See VIKINGS, page 5

Jazmin Brann (left) and Libby Moody are just two of eight Niles players who saw extensive playing time last season.


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Winter Sports • December 2013

Niles Wrestling

How will Vikings top last year’s performance? By JASON LANDSTROM jason.landstrom@leaderpub.com When looking at the long list of accomplishments that the Niles Vikings wrestling team was able to achieve during their 2012-2013 campaign, one has to wonder what they will do to follow up such a fantastic season. After a trip to the state semifinals, a 34-2 record, and an outright conference championship, Coach of the Year Todd Hesson will have the monumental task of attempting to repeat last year’s successes with only eight returners from the previous squad. The Vikings start ranked No. 5 in the preseason and will be relying heavily on experienced wrestlers such as Brendon Meek (112), who starts the season with the No. 3-ranking in his class Derek Bullock-Mills (140), who is ranked No. 9 in his division, and Noah Hall (130), who will start the season off with the No. 10 ranking, to contribute heavily to this year’s team’s success. Hesson also expects contributions from Sean Craig (171), Alex Bata (215), Josh Dayhuff (119) and Warren Smith (135) for his young team. Niles will run the gauntlet right out of the gate in December facing wrestling powerhouses Grand Rapid Catholic Central, Penn, Allegan and SMAC conference rival Lakeshore. “We are young and an inexperienced team and our December schedule is very tough,” Hesson said. “But December will be the key to our kids growing and to their wrestling ability. How they will respond to the challenges of our schedule early on will go a long way to see how they will respond to the challenges of wrestling in late season. I want us to be competitive and aggressive in accomplishing our ultimate goal of a return trip to state.” Vikings grapplers will get their season underway in Allegan at Southwest Classic Saturday.

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Niles coach Todd Hesson (right) has to figure out how his team is going to improve on last year’s effort.

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Winter Sports • December 2013

Niles Bowling

Niles counting on experience this year By JASON LANDSTROM jason.landstrom@leaderpub.com

It is rumored that in 300 AD there was a religious practice in medieval Germany where devout monks would set up pin-shaped stones, often referred to as “kegels,” in a triangular layout pattern. The kegels themselves were said to represent all of the sins of man. Any man seeking atonement for his sins, was instructed to stand sixty-feet away from the kegels and roll a round “cleansing rock” towards them. The more they knocked down, the lighter their conscience became. And thus the sport of bowling, at least the groundwork for today’s game, was born. Ask any member of the Niles bowling team if the intent of that old German ritual still remains intact in today’s day and age and they would undoubtedly tell you that it is most certainly true. The more pins you knock down, the better you feel. With that being the case, Niles coach Jim Jaynes said he expects both his boys and girls teams to be on cloud nine at season’s end. The Vikings’ varsity boys squad is comprised of several returning starters including juniors Stingray Jaynes and Grant Gourlay, both of

whom have started on the varsity team since they were freshman. They also have new younger talent coming in including Noah Frantz, who Jaynes expects to be a major contributor to the boys’ success this season. “We have some really hardworking boys on the team this year. A lot of these guys have been with us since they were freshmen; and they have the mechanical skills to do very well,” said Jaynes. “Because bowling is about 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical, the coaching staff and myself, will be mainly focused on preparing their minds.” “If we can get them in the right mental state, the sky’s the limit.” The Lady Vikings are set to begin their conference title defense this season with a few big starters from last season returning. Seniors Kelsey Medlin, Katy Wozniak, Jorrdan Welch, and sophomore Jessica Tompos are all back to try and help their team go back-to-back in the conference. “The girls are very smart bowlers; and we’re expecting some big things out of them. You never want to get anyone’s hopes up too far, but they look really good on paper,” Jaynes said. Niles will open up its season with matches against Coloma and Allegan at Coloma Lanes on Saturday.

Leader photo/File

The Niles bowling team will be counting on its experience this year when it hits the lanes.

VIKINGS Continued from page 3

and enjoy being around one another. Most every single girl has worked in the off-season, so I fully expect improvement from everyone on the roster.” Returning for the Vikings are juniors Kylee Myer, Jaiden Rolan, Elyse Zimmerman, Maya Brookins, Antonia Palmer, Kahlilah Abdulla, Libby Moody and Jazmin Brann. Top newcomers include Tatyanna Goodson, a transfer from Flint, Emily Gaines and Alicia Prescott. The road to redemption won’t come easy for the young Lady Vikings, as they will have to face perennial conference powerhouses Kalamazoo Central, Benton Harbor, Lakeshore and Portage Northern multiple times throughout the season. “We’ll concentrate on being our best and putting forth our best effort no matter who the opponent. These girls are committed to doing just that,” Touhey said.

Leader phoot/File

Niles’ Elyse Zimmerman will again the running the Vikings’ offense this season.

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Winter Sports • December 2013

Brandywine Girls Basketball

Despite injury, Brandywine goals still the same By AMELIO RODRIGUEZ amelio.rodriguez@leaderpub.com

Leader photos/File

Emily Erwin (left) and Tia Hullinger hope to help the Brandywine girls basketball team continue the success it has achieved over the past five seasons.

Josh Hood is 220-64 as a varsity basketball coach, but he is 95-7 in five years as the girls’ basketball coach at Brandywine including four consecutive regional championships. “Our expectations never vary in our program as we strive to play hard, play with class and win championships,” Hood said. This year may be one of his most challenging at Brandywine, having lost four-year starter Mackenzie Shelton, three-year player Rachael Ort and Victoria Knight all to graduation. To make things more challenging, the ‘Cats have also lost junior leader Brooke Smith for the season with a torn ACL. Returning for the ‘Cats (24-1 last season) are seniors Tammy Lee and Tia Hullinger and sophomores Emily Erwin, and twins Makenna and Michaela Hartline. Newcomers looking to contribute this year are seniors Maranda Smallmon and Victoria Ebersol, sophomores Alyssa Bolen, and Jaleesa Garner, as well as freshman Makenna Bowen. “With the loss of Brooke Smith for the year with a torn ACL, we are very small and will have to rebound well to have success,” Hood said. “We have to replace four starters and will be very young with five sophomores and a freshman playing significant minutes.” Despite the youth, the Bobcats will once again be the team to beat in the conference and their district as they look for a sixth consecutive district championship and possibly a fifth consecutive regional championship as well. “Our strength will be team speed and our perimeter shooting as we led the entire state last year in threepoint baskets made (190) and attempted (622),” Hood continued. “We will rely heavily on our pressure defense to create scoring opportunities.”

Brandywine Boys Basketball

Bobcats will use size, quickness to overcome their inexperience By SCOTT NOVAK scott.novak @leaderpub.com

Leader photo/File

Brandywine coach Nathan Knapp said his squad will play and up and down style this season.

Veteran Brandywine boys basketball coach Nathan Knapp has a big job ahead of him this season. Gone from last year’s squad, which posted a 4-17 record, are Michael Shelton, Pierce Gleason, Alex Ulrickson, Brian Kline, Courtlan Gordon and Evan Hartman. Knapp is hoping that the Bobcats’ size and speed will offset its lack of experience. Top returners for the Bobcats are Austin Knapp, Andrew Duckett and Zach Schmidt. Hoping to make an impact are newcomers Matt Vaughn, Isaac Davis, Seth Brown, Andrew Boocher, D r e w K r u e g e r, M a t t Kline, Kenny Laurita,

Blake Lerner and Collin Nichols. “We have size and quickness and will create a lot of mismatches,” Knapp said. “We are going to play an up and down tempo and this will be a really fun season. We have great ball handlers in Zach an Isaac and Auggie (Austin Knapp) can help out in the backcourt. Scorers are Andrew, Seth and Auggie. “Our bigs can mixit up

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inside and out. Kenny was a huge pick up with his athletic ability to score and play defense.” Knapp said that with four teams in the conference, his squad may get overlooked when it comes to playing for a championship. “Our goal is to compete every night and give it all we have,” Knapp said. “Bridgman is the favorite with Cassopolis and Buchanan right on their tail.”


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Winter Sports • December 2013

Brandywine Wrestling

Seniors leading the way for ‘Cats By AMELIO RODRIGUEZ amelio.rodriguez@leaderpub.com

The Brandywine wrestling team will be looking for its ninth consecutive District Championship this winter. Coach Rex Pomranka, 238-99 in his career at Brandywine, starts his 10th season leading the wrestling program and looks to improve on last season’s

27-5 record. The Bobcats will be without threetime all-state wrestler Chance Ravish (graduation), but will return nine wrestlers from last year’s squad including Aaron Wentz (103-112), Victor Moranchel (130), Jacob Juhasz (135), Brandon Earles (140-145), Paul Lochmondy (135), Vincent Sallee (160), Joe Monica (189), Charlie Rodriguez (215),

and Cory Katterheinrich (285). Lochmondy and Molica both qualified for state in 2013 with Molica finishing fifth. Top newcomers for the ‘Cats will be the freshmen trio of Michael Kachur (103), Sam Burge (160-171) and Noah Heiermann (152). “Our team is a nice core group that is senior dominate,” Pomranka said. “This

year’s expectations are pretty high, take in the factor that we did much better than expected with us being young last year.” The Bobcats will try to win the conference over Cassopolis, Buchanan and Bridgman. See BOBCATS, page 8

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Cory Katterheinrich is one of nine Brandywine returning wrestlers who are looking forward to another successful season.

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Winter Sports • December 2013

Buchanan Girls Basketball

New coach, new attitude at Buchanan By JASON LANDSTROM jason.landstrom@leaderpub.com

With a new high school basketball season set to begin, the Buchanan girls basketball team is anxious to get their new campaign underway with first-year head coach Gabe Miller at the helm. The Bucks are coming off of a season in which they finished with a 4-17 record and a last-place finish in the Lakeland Conference. Madison Prillwitz, Maddy Vorrath and McKenzie Orphanidis are Buchanan’s three lone returners from last year’s squad. Miller said he expects the three veterans to play an integral part in the young Bucks’ suc-

cesses this season. “We’re a really young and inexperienced team. I expect that some of the toughest battles we will have this season won’t be against any particular opponent; but rather against ourselves,” Miller said. “From that aspect, having seasoned players like Madison, Maddy , and McKenzie will go a long way in the development of our team. Their experience and calmness with their surroundings will hopefully spread to our younger players.” Buchanan’s greenhorn squad will have to evolve in leaps-and-bounds as quickly as possible if it hopes to vie for a Lakeland Conference title. The biggest challenges the Lady Bucks will face come on Dec. 13

when they travel to Mendon to take on the always solid Hornets and Jan. 10 when they host the four-time defending regional and Lakeland champion Brandywine Bobcats for the first of two games on the year. “Obviously, we don’t want lose any game we play. That should almost go without saying. However, our schedule isn’t going to be doing us any favors. This season will be a steep learning curve for our girls. Our focus is going to be on our mental toughness and giving it our all every time our feet hit the court,” Miller said. “I expect some great things from these girls; and they expect from themselves as well. It’s a new day for us.”

High School Schedules Niles boys basketball 12-13 at Mattawan, 7:15 p.m. 12-17 Benton Harbor, 7:15 p.m. 12-20 Portage Northern, 7:15 p.m. 1-7 Dowagiac, 7:15 p.m. 1-10 at Kalamazoo Central, 7:15 p.m. 1-11 at Mishawaka, 7:15 p.m. 1-14 Lakeshore, 7:15 p.m. 1-17 at Portage Central, 7:15 p.m. 1-21 at South Bend Riley, 7:15 p.m. 1-24 St. Joseph, 7:15 p.m. 1-28 at Benton Harbor, 7:15 p.m. 1-31 Mattawan, 7:15 p.m. 2-4 Cassopolis, 7:15 p.m. 2-7 Kalamazoo Central, 7:15 p.m. 2-11 at Lakeshore, 7:15 p.m. 2-14 at Portage Northern, 7:15 p.m. 2-18 South Bend Clay, 7 p.m. 2-21 Portage Central, 7:15 p.m. 2-25 at St. Joseph, 7:15 p.m. 2-27 Buchanan, 7:15 p.m. Niles girls basketball 12-5 Buchanan, 7 p.m. 12-6 at St. Joseph, 7:15 p.m. 12-10 at Dowagiac, 7:15 p.m. 12-13 at Mattawan, 5:45 p.m. 12-17 at Benton Harbor, 7 p.m. 12-20 Portage Northern, 5:45 p.m. 12-26 at Coldwater Holiday Hoops, 1:30 p.m. 12-27 at Coldwater Holiday Hoops, 1:30 p.m. 1-10 at Kalamazoo Central, 5:45 p.m. 1-14 Lakeshore, 5:45 p.m. 1-17 at Portage Central, 5:45 p.m. 1-24 St. Joseph, 5:45 p.m. 1-28 Benton Harbor, 7:15 p.m.

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1-31 Mattawan, 5:45 p.m. 2-5 at Mishawaka Marian, 7:30 p.m. 2-7 Kalamazoo Central, 5:45 p.m. 2-11 at Lakeshore, 5:45 p.m. 2-14 at Portage Northern, 5:45 p.m. 2-19 at Cassopolis, 7:30 p.m. 2-21 Portage Central, 5:45 p.m. Niles wrestling 2-7 at Southwest Classic (Allegan), 9:30 a.m. 2-11 at Grand Rapids Catholic Central, 5:30 p.m. 2-14 at Airport Gibby Duals, 9 a.m. 2-19 SMAC meet, 5:30 p.m. 12-21 at Penn Super Duals, 9 a.m. 1-4 at Muskegon Orchard View, 9 a.m. 1-8 at SMAC meet, 5:30 p.m. 1-15 at SMAC meet, 5:30 p.m. 1-22 at Lakeshore, 5:30 p.m. 2-15 at Berrien County Invitational, 9:30 a.m. 1-29 Niles quad, 5:30 p.m. 2-1 at SMAC Tournament, 9 a.m. Brandywine boys basketball 12-10 at LMC, 7:30 p.m. 12-11 at Hartford, 7:30 p.m. 12-14 Benton Harbor Dream Academy, 6:30 p.m. 12-17 at River Valley, 7:30 p.m. 12-20 Bridgman, 6 p.m. 1-27 at White Pigeon Holiday Tournament, 5 p.m. 12-18 at White Pigeon Holiday Tournament, TBA 1-7 White Pigeon, 7:30 p.m. 1-10 at Eau Claire, 7:30 p.m.

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1-25 at LMC, 1 p.m. 1-31 at Bridgman, 6 p.m. 2-4 Dream Academy, 7:45 p.m. 2-7 Buchanan, 7:30 p.m. 2-11 Bronson, 6 p.m. 2-18 St. Joseph, 7:30 p.m. 2-20 Cassopolis, 7:30 p.m.

1-14 Bloomingdale, 7:30 p.m. 1-17 at Buchanan, 7:30 p.m. 1-21 at Mendon, 7:30 p.m. 1-24 at Cassopolis, 7:30 p.m. 1-28 New Buffalo, 7:30 p.m. 1-31 at Bridgman, 7:30 p.m. 2-3 River Valley, 7:30 p.m. 2-4 Dream Academy, 7:30 p.m. 2-7 Buchanan, 6 p.m. 2-11 Bronson, 7:30 p.m. 2-21 Cassopolis, 7:30 p.m. Brandywine girls basketball 12-11 at Berrien Springs, 6 p.m. 12-14 Benton Harbor Dream Academy, 5 p.m. 12-20 Bridgman, 7:30 p.m. 12-27 at Bangor Holiday Tournament, 5:30 p.m. 12-28 at Bangor Holiday Tournament, TBA 1-4 Bloomindale, 6 p.m. 1-7 at White Pigeon, 7:30 p.m. 1-10 at Buchanan, 7:30 p.m. 1-13 at Hartford, 7:30 p.m. 1-21 Edwardsburg, 6 p.m. 1-23 at Cassopolis, 7:30 p.m.

Brandywine wrestling 12-7 at Vicksburg, 9 a.m. 12-11 at Bronson, 6 p.m. 12-14 at Coldwater, 9 a.m. 12-18 at Buchanan, 6 p.m. 12-21 at Michigan Center, 9 a.m. 1-4 at Climax, 9 a.m. 1-8 at Climax, 6 p.m. 1-11 Bobcat Team Duals, 9 a.m. 1-15 at New Buffalo, 6 p.m. 1-18 at Athens, 9 a.m. 1-18 at Quincy, 9:30 a.m. 1-22 Cassopolis, 6 p.m. 1-25 at Berrien County Invitational, 9:30 a.m. 1-25 Bradywine Super 6, 9 a.m. 1-29 Lakeland Conference Invitational, 6 p.m. 2-1 BCS Coalition Tournament, 9 a.m.

BOBCATS Continued from page 7

“We have one of the toughest regionals in Division IV this year,” Pomranka said. “It’s safe to say our strength is the amount of returning quality starters we have, while our weakness is our middle

weights because we don’t have much varsity experience in those weight classes (152-171). But they are varsity ready based on the success they had on JV last season.”

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Winter Sports • December 2013

Buchanan Wrestling

Don’t count out Bucks just yet By JASON LANDSTROM jason.landstrom@leaderpub.com

From the outside looking in, it would be fair to assume that the Buchanan wrestling program would be going into their new season with somewhat of an uphill struggle. Yes, a layman may arrive at the conclusion that having to replace a two-time state champion (Gage Hutchison), a twotime state placer (Jeff Mucha) and four other seniors who all wrestled for four years of their high school careers would be too much for one program to overcome in a single season. However fair you find that assessment, don’t spout it anywhere near the direction of Buchanan coach Frank Mucha or his band of seasoned grapplers. “I think we’re going to have a good year. This is the first time in a great while we’ll be able to fill out all the weight classes; and that’s going to help us this year,” Mucha said. “The kids we’ve had return and the new guys we had comeout have been working incredibly hard in practice. In the very short amount of time we’ve practiced we’ve already seen some real improvement, which I think bodes well for us.” Mucha said he expected Alex Brown 116-32 (171), John Johnson 75-46 (119), Colin Wheetly 61-36 (130), Dylan Williamson 58-40 (140) and Matt Strozewski 31-21 (112) to lead the team on its charge toward a Lakeland Conference title. “We have quite a challenge before us. Brandywine returned a lot of nice kids from a team that won a championship last season. They beat us in the duels and in the tournament; so we have little bit of extra motivation here to go in and get things done,” said Mucha. “Our young kids will wrestle like young kids in December, but by February they have to be wrestling like seasoned veterans; and that’s really our goal. We know there will be some growing pains, but we feel like we’ve got the tools we need to succeed in February.”

Leader photo/File

Jeff Mucha is one of several key wrestler that the Buchanan Bucks will need to find a replacement for this

High School Schedules Buchanan wrestling 12-7 at Kelloggsville Invitational, 9 a.m. 12-11 at Comstock Quad, 5:30 p.m. 12-14 at Allendale Invitational, 9 a.m. 12-18 at Buchanan Quad, 9 a.m. 12-21 at Bangor Invitational, 10 a.m. 12-28 at Comstock Individual Tournament, 9:30 a.m. 1-8 at Bangor, 5:30 p.m. 1-11 Buchanan Super Dual I, 9 a.m. 1-15 at Unity Christian high School, 6 p.m. 1-18 Buchanan Super Dual II, 9 a.m. 1-22 at Bangor, 5:30 p.m. 1-24 JV at Berrien County Invitational, 5 p.m. 1-25 Varsity at Berrien County Invitational, 9:30 a.m. 12-1 at Brandywine Invitational, 9 a.m.

Buchanan girls basketball 12-10 at South Haven, 7:15 12-13 at Mendon, 7 p.m. 12-14 LaVille, 2:30 p.m. 12-17 White Pigeon, 7:30 p.m. 12-19 at Cassopolis, 7:30 p.m. 1-3 at Coloma, 5:30 p.m. 1-6 at Lake Michigan Catholic, 7:30 p.m. 1-8 Berrien Springs, 7:30 p.m. 1-10 Brandywine, 7:30 p.m. 1-16 Michigan Lutheran, 7:30 p.m. 1-21 Comstock, 7:30 p.m. 1-23 at Bridgman, 7:30 p.m. 1-30 Cassopolis, 7:30 p.m. 2-6 at Brandywine, 7:30

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Winter Sports • December 2013

Dowagiac Boys Basketball

Chieftains eady for another title run By SCOTT NOVAK scott.novak@leaderpub.com

Dowagiac won’t have to look too far to help replace all-time leading scorer Dontel Highsmith. Veteran Chieftain coach Danum Hunt will turn to Dontel’s brother, Davion Highsmith, to help fill that void. Also gone from last year’s 18-3 Wolverine Conference West Division champion squad are D.J. Hunt, Brendon Murray, Tyler Clark and Joey Pasternak. Top returners are starter Kyle Solloway and Bryce Dodd, who saw significant playing time last season. Both Davion Highsmith and Dodd are coming off of football injuries. Hunt expects both of them to be ready to go when the season kicks off. Newcomers include Brandon Winchester-Jones, Keonte Blackamore and Harry Reid. Also expected to contribute is Matt Smith, who played on the varsity as a freshman, but spent last season on the JV in order to get more playing time. Dowagiac will once again rely on its quickness because of a lack of size. “We are not very big, but the quickness, athleticism and speed are still there,” Hunt said. “That will allow us to continue to play at that fast pace we have been doing. “We are going to be young, which means that we are going to have to be consistent in what we do. We Leader photo/File

See CHIEFTAINS, page 11

Davion Highsmith (Ieft) and Kyle Solloway are two of three returning regulars for the Dowagiac basketball team.


Page 11

Winter Sports • December 2013

Dowagiac Girls Basketball

Dowagiac needs to play as a team By SCOTT NOVAK scott.novak@leaderpub.com

Second-year Dowagiac girls basketball coach Floyd Foston has spent the past few months trying to create chemistry, which he hopes will help the Chieftains usher in a new era and help erase the memory of an 0-21 season. “We have to be a team first,” Foston said. “We have to play for one another and we have to have unity and chemistry. We have to be a family.” Gone from last year’s team are Amanda Craft, Kylee Williams, Kristyn Turner, Jessica Herthoge and Alex Carey. Returning for the Chieftains are Ciera Smith, Rayven Brown, Crieona Rodgers, Jenesis Green, Angel Parker and Riley Daly. Rodgers is the team’s only senior. Being a year older will be one of the keys for Dowagiac this season. “The difference is the sophomores have a year’s experience and hopefully they will have gained from leadership,” Foston said. “They know the system better than last year and we have had a year together as players and coaches. Hopefully all those things, and the work they put in over the summer, will pay off.” Top newcomers for the Chieftains will be freshmen Taylor Hulett, Zaccyah Bacon and Mara Nelson. Rebounding and turnovers will be the other keys to turning the program around. “We have to play defense and cut down on the mistakes,” Foston said. “If we cut down on our turnovers, rebound and play as a team, we can be successful.” Foston said defending West Division champion Three Rivers is once again the team to beat. After that, the division could be wide open.

Leader photos/File

Crieona Rodgers (left) and Ciera Smith are hoping to help Dowagiac turn around its basketball fortunes this season.

CHIEFTAINS Continued from page 10

have to box out and rebound well because we are actually smaller than we were last year. If we want to get out and get it up the court, we are going to have to work on our rebounding position.” While the Chieftains may be a

bit smaller, Hunt feels his team will be better on the defensive end thanks to the addition of several JV players. “Our JV was 18-2 last year and won most of their games because of their defense,” he said.

Dowagiac will be one of the teams to beat in the West Division again this year. Hunt anticipates South Haven and Edwardsburg challenging for the title as well. “Edwardsburg has a solid program and South Haven is always

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Winter Sports • December 2013

Dowagiac Wrestling

Dowagiac program keeps moving forward By SCOTT NOVAK scott.novak@leaderpub.com There are signs that the Dowagiac wrestling program is starting to turn the corner. Now in his fourth year, Chieftain coach Matt Alward is starting to see kids return to the program. Dowagiac will be trying to build on its third-place finish in the Wolverine Conference West Division last year. Gone from that team is two-time regional qualifier Matt Lyle. Among those returning for the Chieftains are juniors Tristan Howard, Caleb Sands, Aubrey Huston, Scott Hassle and tom Smith. Howard was a state qualifier last year, but could not compete due to illness. “Caleb Sands went to the Michigan Extreme and was at all our summer stuff and has shown a lot of promise,” Alward said. Top newcomers are Zac Checkly, Tyler

W

Westendorp, who did not wrestle as a junior last year, Cody Jenkins, who did not wrestle his freshman and sophomore years, Shawn Sirk, Caleb Zimmerman and Kenny Cremeans, who is returning to wrestling after a year away from the program. “Some of these kids are starting to show some promise,” Alward said. “They have taken their lumps, but stuck with the program. We also have some kids who are coming back to the program after missing a year or two.” Alward has 24 wrestlers with a lot of freshmen and a lot of question marks. “Overall, I am really happy with the work ethic and the attitude I have seen so far in practice,” he said. Alward picks Edwardsburg at the favorite in the West Divisoin, but notes that South Haven has several outstanding wrestling, Coloma is usually very competitive and Berrien Springs has been on the rise the past couple of years.

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Tristan Howard was Dowagiac’s lone state qualifier last season.

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Winter Sports • December 2013

Page 13

High School Schedules Dowagiac wrestling 12-11 at Otsego, 6 p.m. 12-14 at Delton-Kellogg, 9 a.m. 12-18 Edwardsburg, 6 p.m. 1-8 at Otsego, 6 p.m. 1-11 at Gladwin, 10 a.m. 1-15 Otsego, 6 p.m. 1-18 at Quincy, 9:30 a.m. 1-22 at Coloma, 6 p.m. 1-25 at Berrien County Invitational, 9:30 a.m. 1-29 Berrien Springs, 6 p.m. 2-1 at Wolverine Meet (Three Rivers), 9 a.m. Dowagiac girls basketball 12-6 Berrien Springs, 7:15 p.m. 12-10 Niles, 7:15 p.m. 12-13 Coloma, 6 p.m. 12-17 at Vicksburg, 7:15 p.m. 12-20 at South Haven, 6 p.m. 1-7 Cassopolis, 7:15 p.m. 1-10 Three Rivers, 6 p.m. 1-14 at Comstock, 7:15 p.m. 1-17 at Edwardsburg, 7:15 p.m. 1-21 Plainwell, 7:15 p.m. 1-24 at Berrien Springs, 7:15 p.m. 1-28 at Otsego, 7:15 p.m. 1-31 at Coloma, 6 p.m. 2-4 at Allegan, 7:15 p.m. 2-7 South Haven, 6 p.m. 2-11 Paw Paw, 7:15 p.m. 2-14 at Three Rivers, 6 p.m. 2-18 Edwardsburg, 7:15 p.m. 2-20 Wolverine crossovear, 7:15 p.m.

Dowagiac boys basketball 12-13 Coloma, 7:15 p.m. 12-17 Vicksburg, 7:15 p.m. 12-20 at South Haven, 7:15 p.m. 12-27 at Benton Harbor Holiday Tournament, 6 p.m. 12-28 at Benton Harbor Holiday Tournament, TBA 1-7 at Niles, 7:15 p.m. 1-10 Three Rivers, 7:15 p.m. 1-14 Comstock, 7:15 p.m. 1-17 Edwardsburg, 7:15 p.m. 1-21 at Plainwell, 7:15 p.m. 1-24 Berrien Springs, 7:15 p.m. 1-28 Otsego, 7:15 p.m. 1-31 at Coloma, 7:15 p.m. 2-4 Allegan, 7:15 p.m. 2-7 South Haven, 7:15 p.m. 2-11 at Paw Paw, 7:15 p.m. 2-14 at Three Rivers, 7:15 p.m. 2-18 at Edwardsburg, 7:15 p.m. 2-21 at Berrien Springs,7:15 p.m. 2-27 Wolverine crossover, 7:15 p.m. Cassopolis wrestling 12-7 Cassopolis Colossal Duals, 9 a.m. 12-11 at River Valley, 6 p.m. 12-14 at Eau Claire, 9 a.m. 12-18 Niles B/Edwardsburg B, 6 p.m. 12-21 at Colon, 9 a.m. 1-4 at Berrien Springs, 9 a.m. 1-8 Cassopolis Quad, 6 p.m. 1-11 at Buchanan Duals, 9 a.m. 1-15 at New Buffalo, 6 p.m. 1-18 at Paw Paw, 6 p.m. 1-22 at Brandywine, 6 p.m.

1-25 at Berrien County Invitational, 9:30 a.m. 1-19 at Lakeland Conference Invitational, 6 p.m. at BCS Coalition Tournament, 9 a.m. Cassopolis boys basketball 12-9 at Hartford, 7 p.m. 12-12 at White Pigeon, 7:30 p.m. 12-13 New Buffalo, 7:30 p.m. 12-16 LMC, 7:30 p.m. 12-20 at Buchanan, 7:30 p.m. 12-27 at Loy Norrix, TBA 12-28 at Loy Norrix, TBA 1-7 at River Valley, 7:30 p.m. 1-10 at Bridgman, 7:30 p.m. 1-14 Bronson, 7:30 p.m. 1-24 Brandywine, 7:30 p.m. 1-28 Countryside, 7:30 p.m. 2-4 at Niles, 7:30 p.m. 2-5 at Eau Claire, 7:30 p.m. 2-7 Bridgman, 7:30 p.m. 2-11 at Mendon, 7:30 p.m. 2-14 Buchanan, 7:30 p.m. 2-19 Lawton, 7:30 p.m. 2-21 at Brandywine, 7:30 p.m. 2-27 Mendon, 7:30 p.m. Cassopolis girls basketball 12-6 Countryside, 7:30 p.m. 12-10 at River Valley, 7:30 p.m. 12-13 at Bronson, 7:30 p.m. 12-17 LMC, 7:30 p.m. 12-19 Buchanan, 7:30 p.m. 12-27 at Bangor Holiday Tournament, TBA

12-28 at Bangor Holiday Tournament, TBA 1-7 at Dowagiac, 7:15 p.m. 1-9 Bridgman, 7:30 p.m. 1-17 at Howardsville Christian, 7:30 p.m. 1-21 New Buffalo, 7:30 p.m. 1-23 at Brandywine, 7:30 p.m. 1-28 at White Pigeon, 7:30 p.m. 1-30 at Buchanan, 7:30 p.m. 2-4 at Schoolcraft, 7:30 p.m. 2-6 at Bridgman, 7:30 p.m. 2-11 at Mendon, 7:30 p.m. 2-18 Niles, 7:30 p.m. 2-20 Brandywine, 7:30 p.m. Edwardsburg wrestling 12-7 at Southwest Classic (Allegan), 9:30 a.m. 12-11 at Paw Paw, 5:30 p.m. 12-14 South Haven, TBA 12-18 Dowagiac/Otsego, 5:30 p.m. 12-21 at Penn Super Duals, 9 a.m. 1-4 at Parma West, TBA 1-8 at Allegan, 5:30 p.m. 1-11 at Grand Rapids West Catholic, 9 a.m. 1-15 at Paw Paw, 5:30 p.m. 1-18 at Hudson, 9 a.m. 1-22 at Plainwell, 5:30 p.m. 1-25 at Berrien County Invitational, 9:30 a.m. 1-29 Three Rivers/Vicksburg, 5:30 p.m. 2-1 Wolverine Conference Tournament See SCHEDULES, page 19


Page 14

Winter Sports • December 2013

Edwardsburg Boys Basketball

Wright takes over Eddies’ program By BOB OPPENHEIM bob.oppenheim@leaderpub.com

First-year Edwardsburg boys basketball coach Steve Wright has big shoes to fill on and off the court. Wright replaces Dan Gunn, who led the Eddies to four straight winning seasons including a 15-6 mark last year. When it comes to players, Wright must replace five starters including Central Michigan University recruit Josh Kozinski. “Dan (Gunn) established a program a system and a hard-nosed defensive philosophy,” said Wright, who led the Edwardsburg junior varsity boys basketball team to a 74-45 record over the last six years. “I want to carry those things over. The guys are working hard in practice.” Players that got varsity minutes last year and must contribute more this season are junior center Jackson Gaideski, sophomore guard-forward Dante Razzano, senior guard Dylan Hulett, junior center Joe Queener and senior guard-forward Grant Szalewski. “Razzano brings athleticism and a nice frame,” Wright said. “He’s pretty versatile. He’s a great kid, student and teammate. He’s the kind of guy that players and coaches like to be around.” Junior varsity players from last year who have the opportunity to make an impact on the varsity are junior guard Isaac Vite, junior guard Derrick Pierce, junior guard Drew Conley, junior forward-center Dalton Raymond and senior guard Jordan Douglas. “Pierce had a great sophomore year on the junior varsity,” Wright said. “He has a good mind for the game. He’s one of those quiet kids that leads by example. “Douglas is a kid that just seems to get better every year.” Wright doesn’t mention record when asked what would make this season a successful year. “I just want the guys to work hard, play together and enjoy the game,” Wright said. “Certainly, we want to be near the top at the end in the Wolverine Conference and make noise in March.”

Leader photo

Dante Razzano returns for Edwardsburg, which has a new coach in Steve Wright.

Edwardsburg Girls Basketball

Edwardsburg wants more than six wins By BOB OPPENHEIM bob.oppenheim@leaderpub.com

Leader photo/File

Olivia Hack averaged 8.2 points per game last season for the Eddies.

The good news for the Edwardsburg girls basketball team last year was that the Eddies finished second in the Wolverine Conference West Division with a 6-4 record. The bad news for Edwardsburg is that in the other games the Eddies were 0-10. Edwardsburg coach Nicole Cartwright is confident that her squad can capture more wins this season. “I’m excited about the season,” said the sixth-year coach of the Eddies. “We have a lot of kids returning and I’m very excited about the dynamic of the team and the potential to do well in the conference.” Cause for optimism is based on the

return of three returning starters and some talented newcomers. Starters back for the Eddies are senior center Alexis Blake (9.9 ppg, 8.4 rpg.), senior guard-forward Oliva Hack (8.2 ppg) and junior guard Katelynn Rogers (5.9 ppg). “(Rogers) will definitely have a bigger role when it comes to scoring this year,” Cartwight said. Other Edwardsburg veterans are junior guard-forward Gabby Golba, who got some minutes as a starter last year, sophomore Anna Roberts and junior Rachel Boyles. Newcomers to watch are freshman guard Savannah Dixon, junior guard Alise Markel, junior guard Nikki Bolich, junior forward Haley Stanton and See EDDIES, page 15


Winter Sports • December 2013

Page 15

Edwardsburg Wrestling

Edwardsburg looking to win West Division By BOB OPPENHEIM bob.oppenheim@leaderpub.com

Edwardsburg wrestling coach Mike Higley doesn’t mind attaching high expectations to his team this year. “I think we have a really good chance to win the (Wolverine Conference West) division again and finish second or third overall (in the conference),” said Higley, whose squad finished third overall in the league last year. Higley is optimistic because he knows what kind of talent and character his kids bring to the mat. Many of his wrestlers he has known since they were seven years old and competing in the Edwardsburg Youth Wrestling Club. “I think this is the most talented and hardest working group I’ve had at Edwardsburg,” Higley said. “I’m excited. It’s a good group. I have some dedicated wrestlers. They have worked on wrestling fundamentals over the last eight years.” Heading the list of talented Eddie wrestlers is Michael Higley, who is the coach’s son. The 103-pound sophomore finished 48-6 last year and ended up seventh in the state. The Michigan grappler web site has Higley ranked third in the state at 103 pounds. “He worked really hard over the summer,” the elder Higley said about his son. Regional qualifers from last year that return are sophomore Hunter Vargo (119-125), junior Dustin Vires (125-130) and sophomore Blake Parsons (189). Parsons was one win Leader photo/File

See WRESTLING, page 16

Michael Higley finished seventh in the state last season as a freshman for the Eddies.

EDDIES

Continued from page 14 sophomore forward Breanna Baushke. “(Dixon) will help Katelynn when it comes to bringing the ball up the court and distributing the ball,” Cartwright said. “That will relieve some of the pressure on Katelynn and help us have fewer turnovers.

“I think (Baushke) will have an immediate impact. She gives us a post presence and she provides solid defense and good instincts.” Taking care of the basketball was an Edwardsburg weakness last year that needs to improve this season.

MK CONSTRUCTION

“That’s our No. 1 focus every year,” Cartwright said about limiting turnovers. “If you win the turnover battle you come out with wins.” When it comes to the competition in the Wolverine Conference West Division, Cartwright is very im-

pressed with Three Rivers. “On our side, Three Rivers is strong,” the Eddies coach said. “Everyone else is better in the division. I think we’ll have a much better season. We’re going to play at a faster pace and defend much better.”

Visit ECS at www.edwardsburgsportscomplex.org


Page 16

Winter Sports • December 2013

COACH

Continued from page 15 away last year from making it to the state finals. “(Parsons) had a little bit too much inexperience,” Higley said. “He’s a great athlete.” Higley is also expecting big things from 112-119 pound senior Dylan Dixon, who missed time the last two years because of a shoulder injury, and 152-pound senior Brett Bowman, who got hurt in January last season. “(Dixon) appears to be healthy,” Higley said. “He has an opportunity to have a really good year. Barring an injury, (Bowman) should have a pretty good year.”  Freshmen who have a good chance to see varsity competition are 125-pounder Patrick Snyder, 145-pounder Austin Cline and 152-pounder Joey Hess. “I think they can help us on the varsity,” Higley said. “We’re going to try to put together two varsity teams and get 22 to 25 matches for our younger guys.” Higley thinks he knows what must happen for Edwardsburg to improve upon last year. “Health is a huge issue,” the Eddies coach said. “We’re not deep in a couple spots. Some of our wrestlers have to take the next step and be state qualifiers. They have to be hungry and not be satisfied. Some of our young kids have to mature quickly and gain confidence.” 

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Winter Sports • December 2013

Cassopolis Girls Basketball

‘Believe to achieve’ is new motto By BOB OPPENHEIM bob.oppenheim@leaderpub.com

Cassopolis girls basketball coach Nat Pittman has created a slogan for his team to follow. “We must believe to achieve,” said the second-year coach of the Rangers. Helping Cassopolis take a step in the right direction and improve on last year’s 7-15 record is better chemistry between coaches and players. “In my first year, the girls weren’t sure about how I wanted to do things,” Pittman said. “I also was learning about the girls. They know now what to expect from me and I know them better now. You have to buy into each other and learn from each other.” Veteran players who have a strong understanding of Pittman’s coaching philosophy are lone senior Logan Leader photo/File

See RANGERS, page 18

Brittney Prestly and the Cassopolis girls basketball team is looking to improve on last year’s 7-15 record.

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Winter Sports • December 2013

Cassopolis Boys Basketball

Evans makes changes to Cass system By BOB OPPENHEIM bob.oppenheim@leaderpub.com

Cassopolis boys basketball coach Ricky Evans wasn’t happy with his team’s 9-12 record last year. Because of that disappointment, the second-year coach is making changes. “We’re going to have a more uptempo offense and use our speed to our advantage,” said Evans. “Defensively, we’re going to press more and, hopefully, create more turnovers. We need to get better on defense. I love coaching defense. That’s the main thing we’re working on.” Six players return from last year’s team, including three starters. Starters back are senior forward Lynell Ballard (11 ppg, 6 rpg. last year), senior guard VaShaun Morgan (8 ppg, 3 apg.) and junior guard Brandon Glover (8 ppg., 4 apg.). Other players back with varsity experience are senior guard J.J. Smith, senior forward Trevon Brown and junior forward Noah Woods. “I need my seniors to step up and lead the team,” Evans said. A newcomer who could provide a spark for the Rangers is 6-foot-3 junior Kiante Brown. He played on the junior varsity last year. “I expect a lot from him,” Evans said. “Inside he should help us a lot. He has a big body and he should be able to get some rebounds.” Evans sees Buchanan and Bridgman as the top teams in the Lakeland Conference. But Evans isn’t counting his team out when it comes to the top spot in the league. “I have very high expectations,” Evans said. “I expect a lot better season this year. We have more experience, height and speed. I think we can be near the top in the conference.”

Leader photo/File

VaShaun Morgan and the Cassopolis basketball team will be learning a new system this season.

Cassopolis wrestling on the rise

Cassopolis Wrestling

By BOB OPPENHEIM bob.oppenheim@leaderpub.com

Wrestling is gaining in popularity at Cassopolis High School. “I had kids all through football season asking me when wrestling practice starts,” said third-year Rangers wrestling coach Josh Rinehart. “More kids about talking about coming out now. In my first year that was not the case. We’re moving in the right direction.” Rinehart is looking to build up the depth on a very young wrestling team. Khalil Brown, who wrestles at 130 pounds, is the lone senior on the team. “We have seven wrestlers who are either a freshman or sophomore,” Rinehart said. “We’re still trying to find a heavyweight. “With our numbers down, the thing I stress is for our kids to be at their best at the end of the year. We’ll use Leader photo

Khalil Brown is the lone senior on the Cassopolis wrestling team this season.

See CASS, page 18


Winter Sports • December 2013

SCHEDULES

CASS

Continued from page 13

Continued from page 18 most of the year preparing for individual state tournaments.” Cassopolis appears to be in good shape at 160 and 189 pounds. Junior 160-pounder Zach Newton qualified for the state finals last year and finished 2814. Junior 189-pounder Tymari Brown finished fourth at districts last year after beating the No. 1 and 5 seeds. “(Brown) came on strong at the end of last year,” Rinehart said. “He’s a big, strong, athletic kid who listens and wants to learn how to get better as a wrestler.” Sophomore 103-pounder Collin Kelley

RANGERS Continued from page 17

Lawson, who scored 40 points last year playing center and forward, junior guard-forward Janye Butts, who scored 76 points last year, and sophomore guard and forward Brittney Prestly, who totaled 76 points last season. “She has the make-up to be a very, very good ball player,” Pittman said about Prestly. “We need her to be a scorer. Teammates believe in her and are looking for her to score. I need to get her pumped and have her believe in herself.” Newcomers who will see varsity minutes are junior center-forward Nakiela Sinclair, junior guard Kortenei Suggs, sophomore guard Kaylyn Forrest, junior center-forward Madeline Ruff and junior center-forward Rachelle Williams.

Page 19

has also prepared himself to be a better wrestler this season. “He’s physically bigger and stronger,” Rinehart said about Kelley. Rinehart isn’t stressing to his own team competing for a Lakeland Conference title where he expects defending conference champion Brandywine be strong again. “The biggest thing for us is filling out a lineup to compete,” Rinehart said. “I think we can get two kids to the state finals. Everyone will contribute to that. Being a good workout partner can help a kid do well.”

(Three Rivers), 9 a.m.

2-27 Wolverine crossover, 7:15 p.m.

Edwardsburg girls basketball Edwardsburg boys basketball 2-6 at South Haven, 7:15 p.m. 12-10 White Pigeon, 7:15 p.m. 2-10 Comstock, 6 p.m. 12-13 at Three Rivers, 7:15 p.m. 2-13 at Three Rivers, 6 p.m. 12-14 at Elkhart Central, 7:30 p.m. 2-17 Otsego, 7:15 p.m. 12-17 at Otsego, 7:15 p.m. 2-19 Coloma, 6 p.m. 12-19 Coloma, 7:15 p.m. 1-10 at Berrien Springs, 6 p.m. 1-7 at Buchanan, 7:15 p.m. 1-15 at Vicksburg, 7:15 p.m. 1-10 at Berrien Springs, 7:15 p.m. 1-17 Dowagiac, 7:15 p.m. 1-15 Vicksburg, 7:15 p.m. 1-21 at Brandywine, 7:15 p.m. 1-17 at Dowagiac, 7:15 p.m. 1-24 South Haven, 7:15 p.m. 1-21 at Comstock, 7:15 p.m. 1-28 at Paw Paw, 7:15 p.m. 1-24 at South Haven, 7:15 p.m. 1-31 Three Rivers, 6 p.m. 1-28 Paw Paw, 7:15 p.m. 2-4 Plainwell, 7:15 p.m. 1-31 Three Rivers, 7:15 p.m. 2-7 at Coloma, 6 p.m. 2-4 Plainwell, 7:15 p.m. 2-11 Allegan, 7:15 p.m. 2-7 at Coloma, 7:15 p.m. 2-14 Berrien Springs, 6 p.m. 2-11 at Allegan, 7:15 p.m. 2-15 Buchanan, 3 p.m. 2-14 Berrien Springs, 7:15 p.m. “We don’t have a tall team, but we 2-18 Dowagiac, 7:15 p.m. 2-18 at Dowagiac, 7:15 p.m. should have some quickness,” Pittman 2-21 South Haven 2-18 Wolverine crossover, 7:15 p.m. said. “We need to play an up-tempo game. Our defense has got to be better. I’m a defensive coach. Defense is our No. 1 priority.” Pittman wants to see an improved record and success in the postseason. “It would be great to win the Lakeland Conference, but I’ve stressed winning a district championship,” Pi ttman said. “We were a district runner-up last year. I want to win it this year. “We’ve got a long ways to be and lot of work to do, but I’m excited. We’re 720 S. 11th Street Niles, MI 49120 going to try to improve each game and that will help us achieve our goals. We (269) 684-2722 have to prove to ourselves that we can Martins-Supermarkets.com play with anybody.”

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Winter Sports • December 2013


Winter Sports 2013 - 2014