There were sports stories galore in the year 2010 in San Juan County.
State championships, both individual and team, all-state glories, academic all state awards, riveting contests, heartbreaking losses, compelling efforts, stellar coaching. Here are two of my personal favorite sport stories of the year.
Shumway was a four year starter for Coach Monty Lee and the San Juan Broncos football team. Shumway was probably the only freshman starting nose guard in the history of Utah football. No way to prove that, just an assumption of mine.
And from the beginning, Shumway was the workhorse for the Broncos, on the field, in the weight room, in the classroom, in the community.
Those four years of football were enormous for Bronco fans as they watched the success of each team, with Shumway a key cog in each one.
It all came to a head this season as the Broncos reached the semi-finals of what would be a highly anticipated, undefeated, repeat-championship season. On the very first series of convincing semifinal win over South Sevier, Shumway severely injured his knee, ending his senior season two games short of the state championship.
Devastating would be an understatement, although injuries are certainly a part of the game. Season ending injuries happen all the time, and no one wants to discount that fact.
But what makes this a favorite sports story is the reaction of Shumway to his injury, a reaction that is duplicated often on many teams by many players.
Said Coach Lee at the time, “You don’t and can’t replace a Stetler. But I can guarantee you this much, that young man never left the field. He may not have been there physically but he was in his teammates hearts. That is what championships are won on, HEART.”
Shumway did everything he could to get back on the field, but when he simply couldn’t play, he dramatically and enthusiastically cheered his teammates on to victory.
And guess who the Broncos carried onto the field on their shoulders when the state championship was secured... Stetler Shumway.
Said Lee, “Stetler will keep this experience in perspective. He knows that football is a game and that winning is the reward for hard work, but the journey is where winning really is experienced.
“He will be a great success in whatever he does because he understands that concept. Just watch. He will be an outstanding baseball player, and he will put on a uniform of some kind after high school.
“I have coached a lot of tremendous athletes in my time. Stetler is truly one of my heroes.”
Eldredge, one of Monticello High School's 73 wrestling state champions, is now in his senior season of wrestling at Utah Valley University.
What makes his story a favorite is his sacrifice for the good of his team. It occurred at a dual match last March against the Boise State Broncos, a regional wrestling power, ranked number eight in the nation and whom the Wolverines had never beaten.
The Wolverines sported two wrestlers at 184 pounds, but none at 285, heavyweight. To avoid the forfeit, Eldredge’s coach, Greg Williams asked him to wrestle at 285 pounds.
Eldredge readily agreed and, without telling his mom who was in the audience, walked out on the mat in front of 7,000 screaming fans in the last match of the night, only needing to avoid getting pinned for his Wolverine team to upset the dominant Broncos.
Casen’s mom, Cyndi, couldn’t believe what she was seeing and when he walked out on the mat, she feared for his life. “That [Boise State wrestler’s] arms are bigger than Casen’s legs,” she moaned. “I thought he would snap Casen in two! I just buried my head in my arms, I couldn’t watch.”
Giving up over 100 pounds to his opponent, and with the partisan crowd worked into a frenzy, Eldredge showed his dedication and selflessness. He actually led 3-1 at one point in the match, but the Boise guy used his weight advantage and in Mom’s words, “laid on him, not letting Casen even move.”
Eldredge succumbed 6-4, but avoided the pin and provided the emotional victory to his team 22-20, in what one Wolverine fan said was “the most exciting sporting event I have ever been to.”
Putting the team above one’s own desires. That’s always a favorite theme.
By the way, UVU will honor Eldredge this very weekend.
They posted the following press release. “Utah Valley University Athletics is honoring one of your own Hometown Heroes. On Friday, January 7 at 7 p.m., the UVU Wrestling team will host Northern Colorado.
“This dual will be Hometown Hero Night featuring Senior Wolverine, Casen Eldredge. Casen is a native of Monticello and a graduate of Monticello High School.
“Admission to the game will be FREE for anyone from Monticello. Posters featuring Casen will be given to the first 200 fans in attendance.
“Casen has played an important role in the growth of UVU Athletics, and we look forward to celebrating his accomplishments on January 7.”
There are hordes of more stories, but time and space allow only two this week. Thanks for the lessons.