For better or for worse, West Hancock senior Tate Hagen had an unforgettable senior year.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, causing schools across Iowa to shut their doors for the year, Hagen was having a senior year for the ages. On the football field, Hagen finished as the state’s leading rusher with 2,352 yards, with 32 touchdowns.
In the state title game, Hagen rushed for 230 yards and scored three touchdowns as the Eagles beat Grundy Center, 21-17, with longtime West Hancock coach Bob Sanger, who died just a few months later, watching from the stands.
“It was a great way to end,” Hagen said. “Easily the best way it could’ve gone. It was kind of a close game, and everybody was on the edge of their seat until the last play. We were doing it for the whole town. They all knew what we were after, and who we were doing it for.”
After the season, Hagen was named Captain of the Class A All-State football team, and the IFCA Class A Player of the Year.
Soon after that emotional state title win, wrestling season started. Hagen dominated that as well, going a perfect 44-0 and clinching the Eagles’ first state title since West Hancock head coach Mark Sanger won it all back in 2001.
“It was excellent,” Sanger said. “It is extra special when a kid ends up successful. They’ve given you everything they’ve got, and you feel like you’ve given them everything as a coach.”
Spring sports season was officially canceled in April, which gave a disappointing ending to the high school careers of many athletes, such as West Hancock shot putter Amanda Chizek and state champion long jumper Josef Smith.
Hagen made it to the state track meet last season as a member of the Eagles' 4X100 meter relay team, and was hoping to run one more time on the blue oval at Drake University.
“Track isn’t really my favorite sport, but it was still disheartening to see it canceled,” Hagen said. “Guys like Joe Smith, who really enjoy track, to have that taken away from them is kind of a crappy way to end.”
As for summer, Hagen is staying by busy earning money for college, and doing workouts to get ready for his freshman football season at Central College.
Before he leaves Britt for Pella in August, Hagen’s plan is to work his pair of summer jobs, and end his career as a West Hancock athlete by playing baseball.
“It is definitely beneficial mentally, staying busy through the summer rather than just being lazy at your house,” Hagen said. “Baseball is always fun, whether you are losing or winning. I’ve always had a great time doing that.”
For Hagen, this spring has been a strange finish to a fantastic senior year. From raising a title trophy on the turf of the UNI-Dome, to leaping into Sanger’s arms on the floor of Wells Fargo Arena and running up into the stands to hug his parents, it has been full of unforgettable moments.
“He has had some heartbreaks in wrestling over the last couple of years, and didn’t reach the goals he wanted to reach,” Sanger said. “To go out with a bang like he did, I don’t think he could write a better story for his senior year.”
Shane Lantz covers sports for the Globe Gazette. You can reach him at Shane.Lantz@GlobeGazette.com, or by phone at 641-421-0526. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneMLantz.