Memorable, eventful year of sports moments

Dec 31, 2017 By Scott Akanewich, Sports Editor

A football floated majestically through the crisp, autumn air, sailing straight down the middle of the uprights at Wolverine Field on the evening of Sept. 29, landing well over 50 yards away from where it had been launched, setting off an eruption of emotions on both sidelines, as well as in the grandstands.

Kicked through a steady rain, Maurice Gartenschlaeger's monumentally massive 48-yard field goal provided the winning points in a 30-27 Riverton victory over the rival Lander Valley Tigers.

It provided the kind of drama which is one of the many reasons we love sports as a society -- and I love to witness and cover as a writer.

So, as we look back on the year 2017 from a Fremont County sports perspective, we tend to focus on big-picture happenings, such as team titles which span the canvas of entire seasons and rightfully so.

However, one must consider each season -- each game -- is broken down into countless moments.

Some are happy, others are sad, and everything in between good and bad, but they all provide memories.

Another for us was on the same field as the above-described event (and just about as chilly), only about four months earlier when another football match of a different variety between the same two opponents was also decided by a single kick.

Riverton's boys' soccer squad hosted Lander in what many thought was a preview of the Class 3-A state championship game and the sides played to a 1-1 draw through 80 minutes of regulation and another 20 of extra time.

According to rules, the Class 3-A nonconference game went into the history books as a draw.

However, with the Keeper of the Gold trophy at stake, the coaches decided to stage an unofficial penalty shootout to determine a winner.

All five Tigers shooters were successful in hitting the net with their attempts, as well as the first four Wolverines to step up to the spot.

However, Kevin Patrzek -- ironically, another German exchange student, like his countryman Gartenschlaeger -- beat Lander goalkeeper Abe Lowham with a laser to the top corner, but couldn't beat the frame, as the ball crashed off the bar.

Just as a single kick on the same ground would set off similar celebrations only a few months later between Red and Green on the gridiron, so the same took place on the pitch on this night.

Who would've thought two of the most dramatic moments of the entire sports calendar year would be provided by a pair of lads from Deutschland here in the heart of Wyoming with their respective kicks of a ball.

Can't make this stuff up.

Before the championship match of the 182-pound division at the Ron Thon Memorial wrestling meet at Wolverine Gym on Feb. 4, Wolverines sophomore Hayden Wempen and Laramie's Carless Looney shook hands -- like sporting gentlemen -- as is the custom, right before the referee blew his whistle to begin the proceedings.

However, what occurred as soon as the shrill sound pierced the air of the packed building was anything but civil.

In fact, it was downright primal.

After Looney had illegally slammed Wempen in the third period with the score even at 3-3, momentarily stunning the hometown hero, he recovered and defeated his nemesis, whom he had lost a pair of one-point decisions to earlier in the season by a 5-3 score, with the two-point penalty the soon-to-be-Cowboy was assessed for his violent transgression moments earlier the difference.

As soon as the whistle again went, signaling the end of the battle, Wempen lept to his feet and let out a scream a dinosaur would've been proud of as the crowd exploded and nearly brought down the rafters.

The energy was unlike anything I've experienced during my time here and won't be replicated again any time soon as it felt as if an entire town had come together for one single moment in time to back one of it own.

Memories, people, memories.

It's one of the few things in life which can't be taken away from us and sports provides plenty of them for us to enjoy and cherish.

Very cool, indeed.

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