1. Colten Unzicker
FISHER — Encouragement is what Colten Unzicker received throughout his star-studded high school athletic career at Fisher.
"All the coaches promoted other sports," Unzicker said. "At a small school, that's how it has to be done."
It's not always done, however, with the three-sport legacy that Unzicker left behind.
By the time he graduated in 2009, he was a state champion wrestler, a state-medalist in track and field and the all-time career and single-season rushing leader in football. He headlines the all-time list of Fisher High School athletes.
"Growing up, I learned that anything is possible," Unzicker said. "I took it day by day."
Enough of those days added together produced an impressive athletic resume.
In football, his assortment of career records included rushing (4,570 yards), touchdowns (56) and points scored (338). He earned All-Area first-team honors as a senior after rushing for a school-record 1,663 yards for a 7-3 playoff team.
In wrestling, Unzicker was the Class 1A 160-pound state champion as a senior (40-2 record), finishing with a career record of 150-17.
In track and field, he was a state-placer with the 1,600-meter relay as both a junior and a senior. He qualified individually in the 800 meters and had a personal-best 2:01.08 as a junior. He ran legs on three relays which hold school records: 400, 800 and 1,600.
He was part of a senior class that was special for its closeness as well as for its success.
"A lot of people are ready to get out of school, we were ready to stay," Unzicker said. "I was fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of people who helped me make the right decisions, my mom and dad and my brother."
He recognized that his notoriety in both football and track wouldn't have been possible had he not been surrounded by a strong supporting cast.
"My senior class was outstanding as a group," Unzicker said. "In football, we had big guys up front who were aggressive and scrappy and there were kids who were juniors and sophomores who stepped up."
Track offered an opportunity to reunite with many of those who weren't teammates during the winter.
"A majority of my friends played basketball, so when we got back to track, we had fun with it," Unzicker said.
After graduating from high school, Unzicker wrestled for a year at Lindenwood University, in Missouri, then transferred to Loras College, in Iowa, for a semester. He returned closer to home this spring, enrolling at Parkland College in the personal training program. He'll need another year to complete all requirements for his associate's degree and then he plans to either return to Loras or attend the University of Illinois.
Either way, he may be ready to return to competition.
"When I left Loras, I was done (wrestling)," Unzicker said, "but as time has gone on, I've missed it more and more."
Rest of the best
Mike Brehm, 1973
A three-year letter winner in both cross-country and track and field. Still holds school records for the 1,600 (4:24.2) and the 3,200 (9:43.6). The 1,600 time ranks 32nd on the all-time News-Gazette Honor Roll. Was the team's track MVP as both a junior and a senior. Ran collegiately at Eastern Illinois University.
Troy Burgess, 1982
Two-time All-Area selection in football as a quarterback, passed for 1,370 yards as a junior and 1,263 as a senior, earning Sun-Times All-State special mention laurels; shooting guard in basketball who scored 1,095 points as a three-year starter, helping team to back-to-back regional titles as a junior and senior when he was twice an All-Area pick; four-year track letterman, finishing eighth in state in long jump as a senior. Played baseball two years and football one year at North Central College.
Bob Ems, 1949
Helped six-man football team to 18-3 three-year record; led basketball teams to cumulative 81-11 three-year record; Sangamon Valley Conference track champion in the 100- and 220-yard dashes and the shot put, leading Bunnies to the team title his senior year. Went on to earn eight letters at Southern Illinois University, four each in football and baseball.
Dick Ems, 1948
Helped basketball teams to an 86-11 three-year record, earning all-state honorable mention recognition as a senior; also lettered twice each in football and track and field. Later participated in basketball and football at the University of Illinois.
Gene Heap, 1976
A three-year letter winner in football and a two-time All-Area first-team selection as a lineman or linebacker. As a senior, led the area in tackling, amassing 157 solos. A special mention pick on the Chicago Daily News All-State team. A three-year wrestling letterman who was 56-9-1 his final two years. As a 167-pound senior, placed fourth at state.
Clyde Ingold, 1955
Placed second at state in the long jump as a senior (still-standing school-record 22-3), the same year he set the Sangamon Valley Conference record with a 21-7 3/4 leap. His SVC mark stood for nearly a quarter of a century. A multi-sport star, he was all-conference in football as a sophomore and junior and all-conference in basketball as a senior. In junior high, was the IESA state champion in both the 100-yard dash and the pole vault.
Guy Kirby, 2010
All-Area second-team as a senior after rushing for 1,417 yards, passing for 356 and scoring 22 TDs. A two-time state finalist in wrestling, placing second at 135 pounds in Class 1A as a junior and winning at 140 as a senior with a 44-0 record. Four-year career record of 158-18 with 63 pins. Also a state-placer in track as a junior with the fifth-place 1,600-meter relay.
Jerry Hewerdine, 1967
Earned 10 varsity letters, four in track and three in football and basketball. Was chosen as Athlete of the year as a senior, when he was the team MVP in football and track. Averaged more than 100 yards rushing per game and is in the IHSA record books (tied for sixth) for a four-interception game against LeRoy. The Eastern Illinois graduate has coached track and cross-country at St. Joseph-Ogden for more than 30 years.
Jennifer Nigg, 1984
Earned 11 varsity letters, four in basketball and track, three in volleyball. Was the school's first female 1,000-point scorer, now ranks third all-time on the girls' scoring charts, but still holds the single-game record with 40 points. Set school record in the discus (115-4). As a senior, helped school to the sectional finals in volleyball and a league crown in basketball, averaging 19.9 points and 11.4 rebounds while earning All-Area first-team honors. Played basketball and softball at Parkland College.