Think warm thoughts

We’ve reached the dog days of winter. Well past Christmas, but not close enough to spring. Depressing weather forecasts. Exorbitant heating bills.

In need of a pick-me-up? Check out our area sports scene in the days and weeks to come. The gateway to spring fever is right here in our own backyard.

The Fort Dodge wrestling team is rated third heading into the postseason, with six individuals in the Top-10 at their respective weights. Freshman Brody Teske (106 pounds) just completed the program’s first unbeaten regular season since Chase Holmgaard in 2004, and joins junior Sam Cook (195) as a top-ranked contender. Teske, Cook, sophomore Triston Lara (No. 4 at 113), senior Erik Birnbaum (No. 3 at 120), freshman Cayd Lara (No. 10 at 132) and junior Jonah Egli (No. 6 at 160) have a combined record of 212-17 heading into Saturday’s district competition at the Dodger gym.

FDSH senior Rob Leigh and his teammates are also hitting the big stage tomorrow, as the Dodgers head to the state swim meet. Leigh recorded the second-fastest 100-yard butterfly time in Iowa during last week’s district competition, shattering his own school record by nearly two full seconds.

Leigh, a three-year state regular, will participate in four events at the Marshalltown YMCA. The 100 fly is his bread and butter, though; seeded second, Leigh will try to become the first Dodger to reach the podium since Taylor Getting in 2008. He is flanked by fellow state swim veterans Caleb Asay, Cole Davis and Mitchell Emery, along with newcomer Landon Getting.

Both Fort Dodge bowling squads remain unbeaten at 11-0 overall. The Dodger boys will attempt to reach the state tournament for the fifth time in the last six years, and the girls haven’t lost a single dual in two full seasons.

Seniors Drew Hansen, Jim Springer, Chase Messerly and Alex Markov all carry a 200-plus game average on the boys side. Hansen even rolled a 300 in a meet last month. Junior Shelby Jacobson and senior Ciara Sturm are pacing the girls.

Fort Dodge will host a co-ed regional bowling meet at Ridgewood Lanes on Tuesday.

The St. Edmond girls just put the finishing touches on a fourth consecutive North Central Conference basketball championship, thanks in large part to their late-season road upset of No. 5 (Class 3A) Hampton-Dumont. Head coach Scott Messerly’s program is now 110-20 overall in the last five years, and 63-5 in NCC play during their four-year title run.

Senior Anna Yung is 16 points away from dethroning Jennifer Perkins atop the school’s all-time scoring charts, and classmate Jaci Stumpf ranks sixth on the same list. The duo has combined to put nearly 2,100 points on the board during their time wearing green and white.

Area-wise, our four Top-10 Twin Lakes Conference girls basketball teams – No. 2 (3A) Pocahontas Area, sixth-rated (2A) South Central Calhoun, eighth-ranked (2A) Manson Northwest Webster and No. 7 (1A) Newell-Fonda – are done beating up on each other in league play and ready to take their respective shows into tournament action.

Indian star Elle Ruffridge leads the entire state in scoring with 570 points (27.1 per game), giving her a 5-on-5 sophomore record 1,182 points in less than two full years on the hardwood. Ruffridge has also dished out 320 assists in 46 career contests – No. 1 in all classes during that period of time as well.

On the mat, second-rated Clarion-Goldfield returns to defend its 1A state duals championship and should be a serious contender on the traditional side as well. Twins Justin and Josh Portillo are No. 1 at 106 and 120 pounds, respectively, and senior Joel Haberman (132) is a defending runner-up. Junior Brady Brott (No. 4 at 145) should also contend.

There you have it: storylines galore. By the time we close the books on the area’s respective accomplishments, spring will – should? Better go with should – be right around the corner.

Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at sports@messengernews.net