While the start of the 2014 high school football season is getting everyone back into the sports mode, there are a number of other sports topics that are taking center stage this week.
Bye in Hall of Fame
River Falls native Karyn Bye Dietz was announced as a member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame on Wednesday. Bye, who now lives in Hudson, helped the United States win its first Olympic gold medal in women’s hockey in 1998. She led that team with six goals. In 2002, Bye was part of the United States team that earned the silver medal in the Olympics.
Bye is part of a Hall of Fame class that has many Wisconsin ties. Former University of Wisconsin men’s hockey coach Craig Sauer is also an inductee. Sauer led the Badgers to two NCAA men’s hockey national championships.
Brian Rafalski is also an inductee. Rafalski was a standout defenseman for the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team. That was followed by a lengthy NHL career, mainly with the New Jersey Devils.
Lou Vairo, a longtime coach and a scout for the 1980 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team, is the fourth inductee. The induction ceremony will be held on Dec. 4 in the Twin Cities.
MBC coaching changes
Two significant coaching changes around the Middle Border Conference occurred in recent days.
Former Ellsworth wrestling standout Mark Matzek is coming home. Matzek will take over as the Ellsworth wrestling coach, leaving his position as the Augsburg College head wrestling coach. Matzek has been Augsburg’s coach the past six years. In that time, he has maintained Augsburg’s reputation as one of the finest Division III wrestling programs in the country. Matzek was an assistant coach for the Auggies for three years before becoming head coach.
As a wrestler for the Auggies, Matzek won two national championships and he was accorded with All-American honors three times in his college wrestling career.
Matzek also has been hired as a middle school mathematics teacher in Ellsworth.
While Matzek is making the move from the college to the high school ranks, Somerset boys basketball coach Brent Larson is making the opposite move. Larson resigned late last week after accepting an offer to become an assistant coach in the UW-Eau Claire men’s basketball program.
It’s easy to argue that Larson has been the most successful boys basketball coach in Somerset history. In his six years leading the Spartans, Larson took his team to the sectional tournament three times. The Spartans were MBC co-champions in 2013-14, when the team set a school record with 21 wins in the season.
Two offensive linemen from St. Croix County started the 2014 NFL season in training camp. One of them is flourishing as an NFL starter, but one has already seen his NFL season come to an end.
Hudson native Kraig Urbik returns as the starting right guard for the Buffalo Bills. Urbik moved into the Bills’ starting lineup in 2011 and has become one of the mainstays of the team’s offense. He signed a $15 million contract extension in December, 2012 that carries through the 2016 season.
Urbik grabbed some attention in one of the first Bills practices of the 2014 training camp. Because the Bills have several injuries at tight end, Urbik lined up at tight end for the team’s short-yardage blocking packages. Urbik, listed at 328 pounds, fulfilled every lineman’s dream in the series of eight plays. On the fifth play, Urbik was sent out on a pass pattern, catching a pass from quarterback E.J. Manuel in the end zone. Knowing it might be his only chance to do such a celebration, Urbik spiked the ball quite vigorously to cap his moment in the sun.
Somerset native Bryan Witzmann has apparently seen his first NFL season come to an early end. While the Houston Texans aren’t releasing many details, Witzmann has suffered an injury that caused him to be put on injured reserve for the 2014 season. The injury reportedly occurred during a collision in practice, where Witzmann suffered a right arm/shoulder injury.
There had been several reports that Witzmann had been impressing Houston coaches with his work in the early practices. Some reports had Witzmann in contention for playing time at right tackle, which was considered the weakest of the Texans’ offensive line positions.
Hopefully, Witzmann can make a full recovery and be back competing for a position on the Texans’ line in 2015.