* Editor's Note: The following is the second of a three-part series comparing the NICL and WaMaC Conferences. Waterloo Columbus Catholic school competed in the WaMaC during the 2012-13 school year, but will be in the NICL during 2013-14.
Are smaller schools really less competitive or less talented than larger schools? Or is it a myth?
Comparing schools in different classes is a tough task. Schools change every year with graduation, incoming freshmen, transfers, participation numbers and other factors that help determine the level of success a school is going to have in athletics. A team can be among the state's best one season and among the worst the following year.
For this article, the North Iowa Cedar League and WaMaC conferences were compared based on their 2012-13 teams. Not every match or game was reviewed, but instead how did each conference do at the state level in each sport. Of course, the conferences will be compared to how they competed against South Tama County during last year.
Both conferences competed well at the state level throughout the 2012-13 school year. Both brought home many state medals and placings, even some championship teams. The NICL won a pair of team state championships, while the WaMaC won four state titles last year. Waterloo Columbus Catholic won a pair of state championships while competing in the WaMaC last year, but it will be in the NICL during the 2013-14 school year.
Since fall sports are about to start competition, let's start with the fall teams. In football, neither conference brought home a state title. The WaMaC had a pair of schools reach the state semifinals in Beckman Catholic (Class 2A) and Williamsburg (Class 3A), who lost to the eventual champion. Meanwhile, Dike-New Hartford represented the NICL in the 1A state semifinals, but lost to the eventual champion.
The NICL had two teams reach the 1A and 2A state quarterfinals, one reach the 2A second round and two schools lose in the 1A first round. Meanwhile, the WaMaC had a a team bow out in the 3A quarterfinals and another in the 3A second round.
In cross country, the NICL led the conference with seven teams qualifying for the state meet. Denver sent both teams as its boys' squad finished second in 1A and its girls' team placed sixth at state. Dike-New Hartford also finished high in the 1A girls standings with fifth. Hudson and Dike-New Hartford placed in the top 10 of the 1A boys race, too. They finished sixth and eight, respectively. BCLUW and East Marshall also sent teams to the 1A and 2A state meets.
Center Point-Urbana was the only WaMaC school to send a team to the 2A meet. CP-A finished sixth, which was six spots higher than East Marshall. The other four schools qualified for the 3A state meet. In the boys race, Mount Vernon finished tenth and Vinton-Shellsburg placed 13th. Meanwhile, Solon's girls finished fourth and Williamsburg placed 12th.
Both conferences were quite competitive in volleyball a year ago. All three NICL schools that qualified for state finished first or second, while two of the three WaMaC schools that went to state made it to at least the semifinals.
Dike-New Hartford led the way with the 2A state championship. Grundy Center and Union both finished second in 1A and 3A, respectively. Union and the WaMaC's Mount Vernon, who knocked out South Tama in the regional round, lost to 3A state champ MOC-Floyd Valley. Union lost a tough five-set match for the state title after Mount Vernon took MOC-Floyd Valley to four sets in the semifinals.
"It's definitely going to be an awakening," STC volleyball coach Michelle Bradley said. "I feel that the NICL competition is really good. Not knowing too much about the WaMaC, I'm hoping the competition level is the same, because this is a strong conference volleyball-wise. I think we will hold our own in the WaMaC. We won't be the best and we won't be the worst."
The winter season was dominated by strong wrestling programs. Neither conference faired too well in basketball. Although the conferences combined to send five teams to state, only one team (Aplington-Parkersburg girls) advanced past the first-round quarterfinals.
Wrestling was the highlight winter sport for both conferences last year. The WaMaC's West Delaware finished runner-up at the 2A state dual team meet, while Union placed fifth in the same tournament. The NICL's West Marshall finished seventh in the 1A state dual team meet.
All three of those schools led the way in the team standings at the individual state tournament, too. West Delaware won the 2A state championship at the meet. In doing so, it beat out Union (fourth), NICL's Denver (ninth), Williamsburg (23rd), East Marshall (25th), Independence (29th) and South Tama (29th). West Marshall and Aplington-Parkersburg also placed fifth and 15th, respectively, in the 1A tournament.
"In wrestling, both conferences have some quality teamsm," STC wrestling coach Nate Van Dyke said. "The difference for us entering the WaMaC will be the consistency of quality competition. We will see good, challenging competition at each meet. I feel that this type of competition will better prepare us for post season success."
During the spring season, track and field and golf were the highlights of both conferences, although soccer and tennis teams were also successful. Columbus Catholic led the way with a 1A girls tennis state title for the WaMaC, but will be bringing that talent to the NICL this spring.
Beckman Catholic led the way in soccer with a state runner-up in 2A boys soccer. Columbus Catholic was the only other school to qualify for the1A boys soccer state tournament. Center Point-Urbana and Denver both went to the 1A girls soccer tournament but lost in the quarterfinals.
The NICL and WaMaC combined to have 14 schools place in the top 15 in the 1A, 2A and 3A state boys and girls track meet. Nine of those 14 came from the WaMaC and five of those nine competed in 3A, along with South Tama.
The STC boys track team had one of its best state meets ever and just tied for 14th place in the 3A team standings. However, the WaMaC's Solon and Clear Creek-Amana finished higher in the standings as they placed fifth and 12th. Marion tied the Trojans at 14th. Solon and Anamosa also finished runner-up and seventh in 3A girls track.
In the 2A state meet, Beckman Catholic placed third and Mount Vernon finished 15th on the boys' side. In the girls' team standings, the NICL's Hudson led the way with a fifth-place finish. Mount Vernon and Beckman Catholic placed high again, finishing 10th and 14th, respectively. Aplington-Parkersburg and South Hardin represented the NICL by placing 16th and 18th in the meet. The NICL also had a strong showing in the 1A boys meet, with Wapsie Valley finishing second and AGWSR taking third.
Shortly after the track and field season finished, the state golf tournaments were held in late May. Each conference had a state champion team and a few others who qualified. The NICL will have two defending champion golf teams this spring. Grundy Center will return as the defending 1A girls champ, while Columbus Catholic will enter as the defending 2A boys champion.
Dike-New Hartford earned second place in the 2A girls tournament for the NICL. Mount Vernon and Williamsburg finished fourth in the 2A boys and 3A girls state golf meets.
In the summer, the WaMaC dominated the conference battle in baseball, but the NICL had a better state showing in softball. Beckman Catholic won the 2A baseball state title after beating Columbus Catholic in the quarterfinals. Mount Vernon also qualified for the 2A tournament. Williamsburg advanced out of South Tama's district and went to 3A state.
"The baseball in the WaMaC conference will be much tougher than the NICL," STC baseball coach Seth Koch said. "The biggest difference is there are no 1A and 2A schools in the WaMaC and each of those schools simply have more athletes participating in baseball.
"The WaMaC has many more baseball tradition rich schools in it compared to the NICL," he added. "Teams like Dyersville-Beckman, Western Dubuque, West Delaware, Benton Community, Marion and Vinton have all participated in the state tournament at one time in the last 10 years. That percentage is bit better than the NICL. We will have a much bigger challenge ahead of us from a baseball standpoint in the WaMaC compared with the NICL."
In softball, the NICL sent three teams to state. AGWSR finished third in 2A, while Jesup and East Marshall lose in the quarterfinals of the 2A and 3A tournaments. Solon was the WaMaC's lone state qualifier and it lost in the 4A state quarterfinal round.
"I do not think one conference is better than the other," STC softball coach Chelsea Ahrens said. "However, the NICL did have two state qualifiers for state softball this year, East Marshall and AGWSR, while the WaMac had one - Solon. I just think the NICL is a better fit for us if you look at participation numbers and travel-wise. In softball, our numbers were very similar to the NICL, while Vinton had four teams- ninth grade, sophomore, junior varsity and varsity, while we only had two teams JV & Varsity."
This year might bring different results for both conferences as the class of 2013 had an impact on every team. The addition of Columbus Catholic will help the NICL on the state level in several sports and hurt the WaMaC in those same sports.
South Tama has fared well in the NICL for two years. The Trojans have finished in the top half of the NICL West in many sports both years. They've even won a few conference crowns, including boys and girls track this spring.
Will South Tama win a WaMaC conference title in the years to come? Only time will tell