Daily News winter sports ‘Spark Plug’ Players of the Year

By Ryan Schlehuber "Scoop" • Last Updated 7:32 pm on Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Hunter VeltKamp, left, not only was the named the Toughest Player on Central Montcalm’s boys basketball team this year, he is also one of The Daily News’ winter sports Spark Plug players of the year. (File photo)


What a winter full of great high school sports.

We’ve had our Daily News All-Area award winners, and now we recognize those players who might not fill up the stats book, but their team may not be as successful or enjoy the sport as much without them.

A Daily News “Spark Plug” player is one who charges up the team, gets them revved up when things are down and refocuses his or her teammates during times of confusion; someone who can always be counted on to rally the team and bring his or her best each and every play.

Lakeview junior wrestler Ryan Saxton

Here are your Daily News winter sports Spark Plug Players of the Year:


Chase Robinson

Senior, wrestling

Coach’s quote: “Chase is one of the hardest working kids in the room. I can always cont on his effort and he always keep our room lively.” — Coach Art Ward


Emily Byrne

Senior, girls basketball

Coach’s quote: “Honorable mention all-conference. Was always undersized player at the five-spot for us. She was fearless and really had a nice stretch to the end of the season in scoring for us.” — Coach Connor Hoke



Darren Lillie

Junior, wrestling

Montabella girls basketball senior Lexi McQueen

Coach’s quote: “Wrestled selflessly at 215 to help his team be competitive for half his season matches.” — Coach Greg Pilkinton


Hunter VeltKamp

Senior, boys basketball

Coach’s quote: “Voted team’s Toughest Player (as voted on by teammates), Senior Scholar-Athlete Award (3.58 GPA), team leader in assists and captain. Hunter was our starting point guard. He is a coach on the floor and an excellent example of what being a CM basketball player is all about.” — Coach Dan Basom


Bree Brasington

Senior, girls basketball

Coach’s quote: “Bree is very competitive and really pushes her teammates in practice and games. Her stats don’t jump at you but she will have something in every column of the stat sheet every game. She does all the little things to make our team better.” — Coach Rob Putnam

Greenville boys basketball sophomore Gavin Cossou



Travis VanWagner

Junior, wrestling

Coach’s quote: “Travis added energy and enthusiasm to our wrestling room. A very hard working wrestler he brought a level of intensity everyday to practice.” — Coach Shaun Balhorn


Lexi McQueen

Senior, girls basketball

Coach’s quote: “A Mustang Horseshoe Award winner this year, Lexi was always the one to pump everyone up before and during the game. Her excitement for the game was worn on her sleeve and she showed it always. Without her, excitement the team would not have gotten up to play as well as they did. She started every game this year and was a valuable spark plug for us.” — Coach Terry Larsen


Greenville girls basketball junior Emma Fowler

Wyatt Sackett

Junior, boys basketball

Coach’s quote: “Wyatt was the motor of the Mustangs all year. He brought great energy not only to games, but practices as well. Although his offensive skill is not overwhelming, you will not find a player who plays with more energy and heart, on both ends of the court. As a result of this, he was able to average nearly 10 rebounds per game while only being 6-1. Wyatt was always willing to make the ‘tough’ play by taking a charge, or diving on the floor for a loose ball.” — Coach Jared Simon



Dren Bartrum

Senior, wrestling

Coach’s quote: “He drills with everyone from 103- to 285-pound (weight class). He shows kids how to improve their technique.” — Coach Paul Johnson


Gavin Cossou

Sophomore, boys basketball

Coach’s quote: “Our Most Improved Player, Gavin was our top energy creator. On the bench he kept the team intense and then on the court he always brought defensive energy. His energy is what got this team through adversity many times. Positive attitude was very important to others on the team.” — Coach Mark Haist


Emma Fowler

Junior, girls basketball

Coach’s quote: “One of our best practice players who gave us all she had when we needed it game in and game out.” — Coach Eric Nichols



Ryan Saxton

Junior, wrestling

Coach’s quote: “Team captain, great leader.” — Coach Todd Barton

Alleigh Lint

Senior, girls basketball

Coach’s quote: “CSAA Silver All-Conference Honorable Mention, Lint was our team captain, and she took the title very seriously. She policed the girls from a player standpoint, when she spoke, they listened. She never let us have a bad practice, she always got us going when things were sluggish in a game or practice. She didn’t run the fastest, shoot the best, jump the highest, but she set an example that hard work, not matter what your talent and skill level, can make you a productive player. She did what we needed her to do, be tough, in order for us to improve and be successful.” — Coach Chad Gould


Andrew Nummer

Sophomore, boys basketball

Coach’s quote: “I brought him up as a sophomore from the JV halfway through the year and his presence was felt immediately. Played great in his first two games vs. Morley(-Stanwood) and Newaygo. Also came off the bench to score nine points and played great ‘D’ vs. Morley in a big district win for us. We don’t win that game without him. He was immediately the most determined, outspoken player on our team when he came up. Will do anything he can to win. Great strength with the ball, court awareness, and IQ. I look forward to coaching him the next two years.” — Coach Pete Wurm

Tri County wrestling senior Parker Martin



Parker Martin

Senior, wrestling

Coach’s quote: “Parker was a team captain. He finished the season 33-16, and had 105 career wins. He was always a fiery competitor.” — Coach Corey Renner


Julia Bice 

Junior, girls basketball

Coach’s quote: “Julia tore her ACL, MCL (partial), and meniscus (partial) on Dec. 16 and has missed most the season. She went in for her second surgery recently as the first one was not completely successful. Through all this, she comes to everything and has done everything we’ve asked. The other girls can’t help be positive, because she’s been the face of positivity in the face of adversity. I truly admire how she’s handled this terrible thing that happened to her.” — Coach Chris Overbeek



Cade Fleisher

Freshman, wrestling

Coach’s quote: “At our 103-pound weight division, he went 11-6 this year. For the team, gets everyone fired up.” — Coach Kacy Datema

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