Final stretch for senior
Wicklander and the Tigers want to lock up the league title tonight
Tyson Wicklander is on the verge of completing a goal he takes very seriously, and with a sense of pride.
He saw what La Grande basketball was supposed to be like the year before enrolling at the high school as a freshman. In 2008, the Tigers went to the state basketball tournament. They won the Greater Oregon League title, and finished second in state.
“It was great watching that team,” Wicklander said. “They had so many good players. I wanted to keep that tradition going.”
It didn’t happen. Wicklander made the varsity team as a freshman, but there was a big learning curve. It was a whole new team with a strong senior class leaving — led by Class 4A Player of the Year Kevin Attila.
The team went 6-20 overall and 3-6 in league play. That didn’t sit well for a competitive athlete like Wicklander. He grew up knowing nothing but sports. It was as much of a part of life as eating and breathing.
When Wicklander could first walk, his parents, Melissa and Bo, would take him out every night with the big orange Whiffle ball bat. He had success at that too. He often sent his parents down the street chasing the ball.
A minor setback like a losing season wouldn’t get Wicklander down. Not even three seasons of disappointing finishes could detour his focus.
It wasn’t just on the basketball court. The football team went 9-26 in his four seasons. The basketball team is 25-48 overall in his first three seasons.
“You just keep coming back for the love of the game,” Wicklander said. “You can’t always expect to win. There isn’t a day I want to take off from playing. I try not to. If I’m not out hunting on the weekend, I’m practicing or playing.”
Some success has been found on the baseball diamond. His team’s have finished the season with winning records all three years — 39-33 overall. And, shared a league title in his freshman year.
“I learned a lot from those teams, and the players along side me,” Wicklander said. “Guys like Carson Miller taught me what it means to be a leader.”
Stepping back into this season, the Tigers are off to one of the best starts in school history, 17-2. They have won 16 straight games. La Grande is ranked No. 7 in the OSAA state rankings. Unfortunately, there is no coach’s poll at for Class 4A boys basketball. All those things aside, Wicklander is only interested in one thing — an outright league championship.
“It’s really all I want,” Wicklander said. “A league championship is the thing I dream about. It’s was great to get that shared title in baseball, but I want school to have it, and not have to share.”
The La Grande basketball teams senior class already has a playoff win on its resume. The Tigers defeated Crook County 56-53 in a state playing game during the 2010-11 season. But, Wicklander wants the league title even more.
La Grande can accomplish that at 6:30 p.m. tonight against Ontario. It’s the final league game of the season. The Tigers defeated Ontario 65-50 at home Jan. 31. That doesn’t mean that La Grande will be taking will walk into the gym taking the game lightly.
“Ontario has some great athletes,” Wicklander said. “They know what we’re trying to do. And, no one wants to be the team that lets another team win a league title.”
Ontario sits a game and half behind La Grande in the league standings with another game against McLoughlin Saturday.
A win by La Grande tonight not only means a league title, but the top seed into the new postseason league tournament. That gives Wicklander and the senior class of Brandon Cederholm and Troy Williams a chance to do something the school has never done before — win the postseason league title.
“That would be pretty sweet.”