Crim: Telling stories of those impacting local sports then and now made 2022 special

Year in Review

QUINCY — This week marks one year since joining Muddy River Sports, and what a year it has been.

As we begin 2023 and start the countdown to Matt Schuckman’s 50th birthday celebration, let’s look back at some of my favorite columns of 2022.

Steve Rothert, right, and his son, David, at the ancient Greek city of Hieropolis in Turkey. The site has the Tomb of Philip the Apostle. | Submitted photo

From Warsaw to West Point to the world, Rothert’s journey is fascinating tale

Steve Rothert worked diligently to turn himself into an all-state basketball player at Warsaw High School in the mid-1980s, but that was only the beginning of his accomplishments.

He earned an appointment to West Point, where he played against the likes of David Robinson, Lionel Simmons and Christian Laettner — all future first-round NBA draft selections — during his four seasons at Army. After spending three years as a field artillery officer, he left the Army and went back to school for eight years to simultaneously earn law and medical degrees from Southern Illinois University.

After spending 13 years as a physician at Saint Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau, Mo., Rothert joined the U.S. Department of State in 2017. He has been stationed in Mexico, the Republic of Djibouti, Turkey and now Paris, France.

“I always wanted to travel the world, to see things,” he told me.

An incredible, adventurous life by one of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet, and someone who could serve as an inspiration for every small high school student wondering what they can achieve.

Click here to read the full column.

Pittsfield product Chandler Hayden competes in the weight throw for the University of Tennessee in the 53rd Tennessee Relays at Tom Black Track At LaPorte Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. | Photo courtesy Tennessee Athletics

Signing with WWE’s ‘Next In Line’ program helps Pittsfield’s Hayden conquer more stereotypes

Chandler Hayden, a 2019 Pittsfield High School graduate, has spent most of her life shattering stereotypes. Perhaps the boldest move by the University of Tennessee track and field thrower was signing a name, image and likeness (NIL) agreement with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

College athletes are now able to accept money from businesses in exchange for allowing a business to feature them in advertisements or products. Athletes also can use their status to promote their own public appearances or companies.

Hayden has taken advantage of those opportunities to ink deals with the likes of JCPenney, Sports Illustrated, the clothing line UGG and energy drink companies. She has made her biggest impact on social media. At the time we talked in July, she had nearly 54,000 followers on Instagram and more than 224,000 followers on TikTok, and has used those platforms to develop name recognition and speak out on issues important to her.

Hayden ranks third all-time in Tennessee history in the weight throw and fifth in the hammer throw and will have opportunities to build on her athletic resume. Her agreement with WWE runs through the final two years of her college eligibility and she is “open-minded” about what career opportunities it could potentially offer.

An amazing young lady with a bright future and an uplifting story to tell.

Click here to read the full column.

Tim Fischer was the centerpiece of one of the Pittsfield boys basketball program’s top teams. | Submitted photo

If life is about making memories, Pittsfield’s Fischer is truly living the good life

Tim Fischer was the centerpiece on a talented 1984-85 Pittsfield basketball team that won a then-school record 28 games, rose to as high as third in the Illinois Class A state poll and came within a whisker of reaching the final four of the state tournament.

Standing 6-foot-7 he played college basketball at the U.S. Air Force Academy and Culver-Stockton College. “I knew I wasn’t going to play in the NBA, so I wanted to use basketball to get a good education so I could have success in life,” he told me.

He certainly has made his mark in the business world, where he has been hugely successful. He has worked for firms in Colorado, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, New York City and Atlanta. He has rung the closing bell on the Nasdaq. He currently is president of Jackson & Coker, the third-largest healthcare staffing company in the U.S., which shuttled medical personnel to hot spots nationally during the Covid pandemic.

Along the way he has made a lifetime of memories, which he shared. And like Rothert, he remains one of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet and serves as an example others could follow. It’s fitting that he has been chosen for induction into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame this year.

Moreover, when Muddy River News Editor David Adam texted to inform Fischer I would be contacting him for the Muddy River Sports “50 After 50” series, he responded: “It will be like old times. Coach (Dave) Bennett told me not to talk to anyone except Mr. Crim 37 years ago.”

That comment made my year.

Click here to read the full column.

Rod Walton spent nine years in Colorado after his coaching and administrative career was over. | Submitted photo

Walton’s journey brings him home, where teaching and coaching made for a fulfilling career

Rod Walton was a successful high school and college basketball coach who, judging from the online comments when the story appeared, also left a lasting impression on students he taught and advised on their careers.

Payson fashioned a 128-29 record during Walton’s six seasons there in the 1970s, winning the Pike County Conference title outright twice and sharing it three other times. Nine of those losses came in his first season.

He used his high school connections in the 1980s to recruit area players to Culver-Stockton College. The Wildcats went 23-7 in 1984-85 to finish second in the Heart of America Athletic Conference and upset Missouri-Kansas City in the first round of the NAIA District 16 playoffs.

Walton walked away from coaching basketball at the age of 43 but remained involved by coaching golf for 11 years and stepping in to serve as athletic director for seven more after a tornado ripped through the Culver-Stockton campus in 2003. He also became a fixture in the school’s psychology department, rising to chairman, during his 30-year association with the school.

After retiring, he spent the next nine years from April to October working at the YMCA of the Rockies, spread out over 800 acres in northern Colorado near Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. He moved back to Canton, Mo., last year.

Walton always considered himself a teacher first, on and off the court. Case in point: When he learned our oldest granddaughter wanted to major in psychology, he spent time with her on the phone and in-person to answer questions and offer advice. He also gave her his phone number and told her to call any time.

Perhaps that’s why so many former students continue to speak highly of him.

Click here to read the full column.

Mike Siebers, left, works for the largest private sector coal company in the world, based in St. Louis. | Submitted photo

Time doesn’t change Siebers’ approach to doing things all out, all the time

Mike Siebers remains one of the best multi-sport athletes in Quincy Notre Dame history. And the seemingly endless energy he displayed in athletics has served him well in the business world.

He helped the Raiders reach the single-class soccer state tournament for the first time as a senior in 1981, earning both all-state and McDonald’s All-American honors. That winter, he was named to both the Associated Press and Chicago Sun-Times all-state first teams after averaging 18.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game for a 25-win QND basketball team that was ranked as high as second in the state.

He went on to play basketball at Quincy University during the final four seasons of Sherrill Hanks’ coaching career, which included two NAIA tournament bids.

Today, Siebers is the senior vice president for sales and marketing for Peabody Energy, the largest private sector coal company in the world, based in St. Louis. He has spent more than 35 years with the company and manages U.S. sales for the 106 million tons of coal it produces annually.

“Nothing sexy about it,” he said. “We get coal out of the ground, we sell it to utilities and they make cheap electricity.”

I covered those QND teams in the 1980s, so it was enjoyable to reconnect with him over a couple of days. Always talkative, he shared stories and insights about games and teammates from four decades ago, his parents and four brothers, his wife and their five children, and the coal industry.

Click here to read the full column.

There were other stories I enjoyed telling, of course.

As he approaches his 70th birthday, D.A. Weibring remains a civic treasure for the money he helped raise for local charity and for how he conducted himself during a successful career on the PGA and Champions tours.

Doug Elledge is “giving back” to high school athletics by continuing to officiate football, basketball and baseball games at an age when most have retired. Andrew Rupcich still harbors dreams of making the jump from Culver-Stockton College to the NFL.

Rusty Miller enjoys talking about scoring 30 points in a single quarter in a postseason basketball game nearly 40 years ago, the late Paul Kreke’s influence on the longstanding success of the Liberty basketball program remains evident, and conversations with Kathy Turpin and Dean Cappel are always special.

Here’s to many more in 2023.

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