WCIA — We’re counting down the Top 10 High School Sports Storylines for the WCIA 3 viewing area in 2021, starting with our Athlete of the Week. Last school year, we honored 28 boys and girls athletes across 13 different sports, and gave away two $500 scholarships to our athletes of the year Shae Littleford and Chris Brown.

Coming in at No. 9, the several area athletes who committed and signed to play at the Division I level. Springfield quarterback Rashad Rochelle signed to play at Rutgers, while Clayton Leonard, Hank Beatty, and Aidan Laughery are all staying home, signing with the Illini.

“Really putting the pen to the paper, that makes it really real,” Laughery said. “Our commit group chat in recent weeks has been poppin’. We got some things we can work on, and we’re impressed with what the staff has came in and done, so I think we’re all just super excited for the opportunity to come in and be a part of what Coach B is planning to do here.”

On the basketball front, Littleford signed with UT Martin, Erin Houpt heads to Mercer, and Jalen Quinn makes it official with Loyola.

Next on our countdown at No. 8, area wrestlers who took home hardware at the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association State Meet. The IHSA didn’t hold its state tournament due to COVID-19, so the IWCOA stepped up to give hundreds of athletes the chance to compete. Several area wrestlers made it to the final match, with Oakwood-Salt Fork’s Joe Lashuay winning a title.

“I don’t even know if it’s sunk yet but it’s great,” Lashuay said. “With COVID they were telling us we weren’t going to have a season so I didn’t think we were, I was just planning on next year but it’s surreal, it’s awesome.”

Our next stop on the countdown takes us to the pitch, where Sacred-Heart Griffin and Urbana brought home sectional titles. The Tigers had an undefeated season up until the super-sectional, where they lost in a penalty shootout to Triad.

“I’m so proud of those guys, they’re awesome,” Urbana head coach James Barkley said. “You lose in a shootout and it’s almost a coin toss so these guys don’t have anything to hang their head about, this is their first loss all year, and there’s only a couple teams that don’t end on a loss so unfortunately it didn’t bounce our way tonight.”

At No. 6, cross country. The Unity girls won first place as a team, with Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond taking home second in the Boys’ race. But winning it all was Paxton-Buckley-Loda’s Ryder James, who brought home his first state title.

“Being a State Champion, I’ve been waiting ever since 7th grade I just wanted to win a State Championship more than anything, and now that it’s and now that it’s happened I feel so good,” James said. “People were telling me ‘You got it’ but you can’t really trust anyone so I just kept pushing all the way through. but it’s absolutely great, I’m speechless.”