Look back at Carson Country Athletic Millennium
Had the Bob Fitzsimmons-Jim Corbett world championship boxing match been held a scant three years later, there would be little argument as to what was the century’s most memorable athletic headline in the Carson City area.
But that bout, won in the 14th round by Fitzsimmons over “Gentleman Jim” in the first heavyweight title fight captured on film, was held on March 17, 1897, leaving that bout designated as the “event of the 19th century.”
As for the 20th century, there were no world championship boxing matches (although Stewart hosted the U.S. western regional Olympic Trials in the 70s). Nor did any Olympic Games or World Cup circuits travel through the city. (Stateline in Douglas County has played host to many title bouts and World Cup alpine ski races this century.)
Don’t forget that for the better part of the century, Carson City was a small agricultural town of 2,000-3,000 people. Only after the 2000 census will Carson City officially become an “urban” area of more than 50,000 persons.
But that almost makes this athletic history discussion more interesting. Was it something that no one really remembers – like when Douglas High’s Jim Summers scored a state prep record 70 points in one basketball game on Feb. 23, 1952 in Gardnerville against Stewart – or was it something more recent, perhaps the renovation of the Carson Aquatic Club’s swim center into a world-class facility just this year?
At the conclusion of the century, here are a few stories, athletes and events which highlighted the century in Carson Country. We’ll let you decide, maybe even argue, about which event was the most memorable and who was the best athlete
— The “Lunch-time League” team from Carson High School wins the 1975 state basketball championship. After losing to Wooster in the 1975 Class 3A zone tournamant, few believed the Senators would have a chance in the state tournament, held in Reno at Centennial Coliseum.
Especially after Carson had prepped itself for the tournament all season by playing in the “lunch-time” league – a derogatory term used by one Southern coach to describe the familiarity of play between the Northern large school teams, which at the time consisted of just six schools.
But Carson, coached by Tom Andreasen, put together its best run of the season during the state tourney and defeated Gorman 71-39 in the first round, Las Vegas 60-55 in the second, and then Clark 68-67 in the final to become the first Northern school since Reno High in 1963 to win the state’s large-school basketball title.
It was Carson’s first state basketball title since 1938, when the Senators defeated cross-town rivals Stewart 22-12 for the 1A championship.
Mike Longero, who would go on to become a starter for Nevada, had 15 points and 20 rebounds against Gorman, 17 points and 16 rebounds against Las Vegas, and 21 points and 20 rebounds against Clark. For the season, Longero averaged 20.8 points and 19.3 rebounds.
Longero remains closely associated with the Carson High basketball team, serving as the Senators’ assistant coach, and he’s the father of current Carson star forward Cody Longero.
The other Senator star during the tournament was Paul Gray, who had 19 points against Clark in the final. He’s currently the head basketball coach at Reed High in Sparks. Jim Salazar also had a big game for Carson against the Clark Chargers with 14 points.
Andreasen, after stepping aside as Carson’s basketball coach in 1980, returned to the bench for the ’98-’99 season. An assistant on the ’75 team was Paul Croghan, the current Senators’ girls varsity coach.
The other players on the team were: Bill Nagel, Don Crossley, Rob Young (10 points against Clark), Morey Tresnit, Mark Amodei, Dana Winkelman, Jerry Schroeder, Steve Rasmussen and Reese Bostwick. The managers were Mark Peterson and Todd Young.
Amodei is now a Nevada state senator, and Crossley is a computer consultant in Oregon.
“It was a great group of kids, it really was – they all turned out great,” said John Crossley, the father of Don Crossley, who helped organize a reunion of the team on June 14, 1997. “The players all liked each other, and that helped out. They were great athletes, but more importantly are great people.”
Except for South Tahoe in 1987 and 1992, no Northern large school has won state tournament since Carson in ’75.
— From Washoe Valley to Champs Elysees: Greg LeMond is named Sports Illustrated’s Athlete of the Year in 1989. A Wooster High student, LeMond lived in the Washoe Valley for most of his formative years, beginning his cycling at age 14. He and his father would often ride the mountain passes in the area, many times going over Spooner Pass to Incline Village.
LeMond showed promise from the beginning, placing second to Olympian John Howard in the 1977 Tour of Fresno at the precocious age of 15. Two years later, he won the junior world championship road race in Argentina.
After the 1980 U.S. Olympic boycott cost LeMond his opportunity for Olympic gold, he turned pro with Renault in 1981 and began competing in the Tour de France in 1984.
In 1986, LeMond brought unprecedented attention to the sport of cycling by becoming the first American to win the Tour de France, beating French legend Bernard Hinault in the process.
In 1987, LeMond was almost killed in a turkey hunting mishap, in which he was shot accidentally by his brother-in-law. Forty-six shotgun pellets were removed from his body after the accident; more than 40 remained in his body.
LeMond resumed his training, and entering the 27-kilometer (15.2-mile) final stage of the 1989 Tour, a time trial, he trailed France’s Laurent Fignon by 50 seconds.
Choosing to go against conventional cycling wisdom, LeMond refused to take reports from his crew regarding his split times on the course, instead choosing to ride all-out for the entirety of the race. At the finish, LeMond beat Fignon’s time by 58 seconds to win the Tour by eight seconds.
In December 1989, he was named Sports Illustrated’s Athlete of the Year for the complete comeback from his hunting accident.
LeMond went on to win the Tour once again in 1990. He was also won the World road race championship twice.
LeMond, who also dabbled in auto racing, retired from competitive cycling on Dec. 3, 1994, after being diagnosed with mitochondrial myopathy, a condition which limits his body’s ability to process oxygen.
— Matt Williams headed for Cooperstown? Williams, often referred to as the Carson Crusher, appears destined to become the first Carson City native to be enshrined in a major sport’s Hall of Fame.
The former Carson Capitol just completed an MVP-type season in 1999, where he batted .303 with 35 homers and 142 RBIs. For his career, Williams has 334 homers and 1,050 RBIs.
Williams, the grandson of former Brooklyn Dodger and Washington Senator Bart Griffith (from 1922-24), begain his major league career with the San Francisco Giants, playing 10 seasons there between 1987 and 1996. With the Giants, he built a reputation as a power hitter with a dependable glove at third base, and he had a chance to play in the 1989 World Series against the Oakland Athletics.
Williams was traded to Cleveland before the 1997 season in a controversial move that brought second baseman Jeff Kent to San Francisco. After ’97, Williams landed in Arizona, where he plays for the Diamondbacks.
Although Williams made the big leagues with the Giants, he was initially drafted in 1983 by the New York Mets in the 27th round, but he didn’t sign. He had a standout career at UNLV, culminating with a selection to the Sporting News college All-America team in 1986. That year, the Giants drafted him in the first round with the third overall pick.
Williams was one of the first sluggers in the 1990s to make a serious run at Roger Maris’ record of 61 homers in a season. In 112 games, Williams hit 43 homers in the strike-shortened season of 1994. It was the last threat to Maris until Mark McGwire, who broke the record in 1998.
— Nicky Walker fights for the world championship. Although the city didn’t host a boxing championship during this century, Nicky Walker became the first resident of Carson City to fight for a world title on June 3, 1988.
The Carson High grad, sponsored by the Nevada National Guard, challenged champion Graciano Rocchigiani for the IBF Super Middleweight (168-pound) title at Deutschland Halle in West Berlin, West Germany, in the second-to-last 15-round championship fight ever held (titles bouts were shortened to 12 rounds shortly thereafter).
In a close decision, Rocchigiani, who is still a competitive boxer, fended off the challenge from Walker.
Walker would finish his boxing career with more than 40 wins, but he would never receive another title shot. He can still be found in Carson City, where he currently works for the Nevada Department of Corrections.
— Stewart Indian School dominates early century athletics. Although its doors have been closed for nearly two decades now, the “other” high school in Carson – the Stewart Indian School Braves – provided many of the athletic highlights in this area between 1890, when the school first opened, and 1980, the school’s final year.
As the Roaring Twenties approached, Stewart had the dominant football team in the state – better even than Nevada’s college-boy team from up the road in Reno. The 1916 squad beat Nevada’s second-team 12-0 and Reno High 20-0 and was declared the state champion by the Nevada Daily Appeal “on account of the University (first) team refusing to play the Indians, claiming their season had ended.”
On Oct. 1, 1917, the Braves hosted St. Mary’s College – the California collegiate champions in “The Great Game” – and Stewart came up with yet another huge upset.
The Braves came back to spank Nevada again in another sport – basketball this time – during the 1918-19 season. That team included Dewey Sampson, Knute Christensen, Dandrew George, Pugmore Ike and Dave Moore.
In 1946, Earl Dunn had an incredible game against Fallon, scoring 46 points against the Greenwave during an era when scoring in the 40s was a rare occurrence. The ’46 team won the state consolation game and finished with a 16-7 record.
Stewart defeated Douglas 44-0 in football in 1970, but the Braves soon fell on hard times on gridiron, losing 49 straight games before finally breaking the streak in 1976 against Incline High.
While the football team wasn’t a winner during the school’s final decade, the cross country team was unbeatable. In 1979, the school’s final fall season, the Braves won their seventh consecutive state 2A title.
— Virginia City basketball streak goes on, and on, and on. During a span of 4 seasons between 1982 and ’86, the Virginia City High School varsity boys basketball team never lost a game. Todd Hess, the current head coach at Virginia City, was part of that incredible run and never played in a losing game during his four high school seasons.
“That was a pretty unique time frame for a lot of people involved,” Hess recalled. “There were a lot of ingredients that came to fruition at the same time. The coaches (head coach Fred Gladding was born and raised in Virginia City) and players, all of us had grown up in Virginia City, and I’d say the nucleus of players (involved in the win streak) had known each other since preschool. We probably played 100,000 hours of basketball together every day.”
That nucleus included Greg Hess (Todd’s brother and now a Storey County commissioner), David Childers, Jim Herman, Hector Buchianeri, Tyler Clarke, Mike Connors, Chris O’Brien, Todd Hess, Ted Martinez (now coaching at V.C.) and Mark Hess (Todd and Greg’s cousin).
Virginia City had developed a basketball tradition dating back to the early 1960s – the Muckers won 99 of 100 games (losing only to Fernley) during one stretch – and that tradition gave this group a target to shoot at.
“The winning streak, I always felt was more a product of us trying to win state championships,” Hess said. “It was actually a gigantic albatross on our back in some ways. We saw stalls, we saw people trying to start fights with certain players, and it seemed like every gym we walked into was packed to the rafters because people wanted to see if this was going to be the night Virginia City was going to lose.”
Ken Fuji, would had coached the Reno High girls program to 76 straight victories between 1979 and ’83, offered some advice to the Muckers.
“Ken said for us to play to win, don’t play not to lose,” Hess recalled. “I’d say that made us reassess what our goals were. After that we seemed to agree that we were going to play our way – if we win, that’s fine; if we don’t, that’s fine, too.”
There were some close calls along the way. The closest was the night at Pyramid Lake when the Muckers won on Mark Hess’ buzzer-beating halfcourt shot. Another memory was coming from behind to beat Colfax, Calif., as Greg Hess scored 24 of his 38 points in the second half.
The streak finally ended in December of 1986 when the Muckers lost to a Pyramid Lake team that went on to become a state champion.
“Nobody was sure the sun was going to come up the next morning,” Todd Hess recalled.
It did. And Virginia City’s basketball tradition lives on.
“There’s not a person in that school who isn’t aware of the basketball tradition of the past,” Hess said. “There’s very high expectations to live up to from the townsfolk, the kids, even the little kids. I think that’s good because I know it makes my kids realize they’re playing for a lot more than themselves.”
Can such a streak ever happen again? Maybe
“I’m not going to say it won’t happen again. I don’t know where, it could be in Austin or somewhere in Reno or even right here in Virginia City, but there’s a group of kids playing ball and there’s going to come a time when everything is going to be right and they’re going to rip a few off,” said Hess, who along with wife Sherri are expecting their first child in another two months.
Hess says he appreciates the streak today more than ever.
“It’s something to look back on not with individual pride but with team pride,” Hess said. “It’s something I feel fortunate to have participated in.”
— McNutt’s a hitWith his career record of 537-202 (72 percent winning percentage) since becoming Carson High’s baseball coach in 1976, Ron McNutt makes scholastic sports history every time the Senators win a game.
Already the winningest high school baseball coach in Nevada, McNutt’s currently tied for 28th place in all-time coaching wins, according to the National Federation of State High School sports record book. (The all-time record is 1,172 wins.)
In addition, McNutt has led Carson to two state titles (1979, 1992) and has coached numerous future professionals, including major-leaguers Matt Williams, Charley Kerfeld, Bob Ayrault, Donovan Osborne and David Lundquist. McNutt’s also donated a tremendous amount of his own personal resources to make Carson High baseball facility – aptly named Ron McNutt Field – one of the nation’s best, complete with luxury boxes.
— Glenn Jobe shoots for the Olympics – and makes itWhile many have have moved to this area to train for the Olympics, few “home grown” athletes born and raised in this area have reached that goal.
One athlete who did beat the odds was University of Nevada grad Glenn Jobe, who founded the cross country center and trained in the sport of biathlon at Kirkwood Ski Area in the 1970s. In 1979, he placed 14th at a World Cup pre-Olympic biathlon event – the highest American placing up to that time – and he went on to compete in the 1980 Olympic Games in Lake Placid, N.Y., where he finished 27th.
Jobe currently lives in Truckee, Calif., and is a coach for the Far West Nordic cross country skiing youth team.