It was certainly an interesting year for sports in the High Country, to say the least. We saw two major coaching changes at Ashe County High School, a legendary college coach get forced out at Appalachian State, and the best soccer season in ACHS history. Here are the top five sports stories of 2012.
5. Brian Hampton returns to Ashe County
In December of 2011, Bill Strong announced his retirement from coaching Husky football, which left the door wide open for Ashe County native Brian Hampton to come and take over the ACHS football program.
Faced with the tough task of replacing some outstanding players, including defensive player of the year Josh Wineberg, starting quarterback Sam Gammons, conference leading receiver Matthew Sexton and starting tailback Kole Goss, Hampton was able to put the Huskies in the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season, and guided the junior varsity squad to the 2012 Mountain Valley Conference Championship.
4. ACHS soccer team has record-setting season
The Husky soccer team, led by MVAC Coach of the Year Wes Rousseau and MVAC Player of the Year Miguel Ramos, finished the best season in school history.
While the playoff run ended much sooner than anybody had expected, there is still no denying the tremendous season that ACHS put together. The Huskies finished the season with a record of 21-2-1, the best winning percentage and the highest win total in school history.
Ashe reeled off 19 consecutive wins before a tie with Forbush on Oct. 22. The Huskies finished the year without a single MVAC loss, which gave them the conference championship.
3. Josh Wineberg wins wrestling state championship
Anytime a team or athlete wins a state championship, it has to be considered one of the top sports moments of the year.
Wineberg did just that when he captured the 2A State Championship in the 285-pound division. Wineberg defeated East Davidson’s Josh White by a 2-0 decision to win the title.
In regional action, Wineberg had lost to White, but it would be the Husky grappler that won the top prize, the coveted state championship.
Wineberg signed to play football at Western Carolina, where he was a key part to the Catamounts’ offensive line this year.
2. Jerry Moore let go at Appalachian State
The most controversial event of the 2012 year had to be the recent termination of Coach Moore as Appalachian State University’s head football coach.
Moore was a legend at the school, winning more games than anybody in ASU history, and more games than any coach in Southern Conference history.
Moore finished with a record of 215-87 at ASU and a SoCon record of 146 wins against just 40 defeats in 24 years with the Mountaineers.
Coach Moore had wanted another year of coaching, but ASU Athletics Director Charlie Cobb would not grant him that wish. Instead, assistant head coach Scott Satterfield will take over a program that rose to prominence over the last eight years. During that span, ASU won three FCS National Championships, and won or shared the Southern Conference Championship in seven of those eight seasons.
1. Marc Payne retires
The top story of 2012 had to be the retirement of Ashe County head coach Marc Payne. Payne coached high school basketball for 37 years and picked up 574 victories along the way.
Even more important than the wins, 17 Coach of the Year awards, and the 13 conference championships Coach Payne won during his career, was the number of student athletes that he has influenced over nearly four decades of coaching. Former players and students never had a bad word to say about Payne, and were honored to have played for him at some point, or to have had him as a teacher.
Payne coached at Beaver Creek High School for 14 years, and then made the move to Watauga, where he coached for 13 years. In his final stop, Payne returned home to coach the Huskies for the previous 10 years.