David Adam

No titles, but no regrets in remarkable year for Haley

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Dec. 31, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Jan. 1, 2018 1:00 am

High school sports are an opportunity for a very small percentage of athletes to develop into college players.

For everybody else, those days are opportunities to create memories to share with their children as they get older, as well as to brag about and embellish when they get together with teammates decades later.

Did anybody create more unforgettable memories last year than Zach Haley?

The four-sport standout from Quincy Notre Dame missed the 2015-16 wrestling season because of an injury, but he started 2017 by carrying a 41-1 record into the Class 1A state wrestling tournament. He then became the first wrestler in program history to earn a spot in a state championship match.

Haley wrestled Morrison's Joe Eads on Feb. 18 for the 138-pound title. The score was 0-0 after two periods, and when Haley was in the down position to start the third period, he figured to get an escape to take the lead.

"If you would have asked me before the match started, I would have taken that situation in a heartbeat," QND coach Adam Steinkamp said.

Instead, Eads got Haley on his back for a three-point near fall, and Haley never caught him to regain the points in a 4-2 loss.

"Considering I wasn't able to wrestle last year, I'm pretty proud of it," Haley said. "But I'm not done. I'm going to get the title next year."

He played baseball in the spring. On April 13, he learned that his brother, Tim, had died. Two days later, he rejoined his team and created a moment that won't soon be forgotten by those in attendance.

In the fourth inning of the second game of a doubleheader against St. Joseph-Ogden, Haley hit his first varsity home run, a grand slam. As he rounded first base, he momentarily stopped his home run trot.

"I broke down," he said afterward. "It was unbelievable. I mean, you see things like that on TV or on Facebook. I completely think that my brother was the reason I hit that home run.

"I just wish (Tim) could have been here to see it. He would have walked out there and given me a hug. He loved me so much, and he just wanted the best for me."

Haley started the fall running for the cross country team, but he decided to play football as well. He didn't get in enough practices until the season's fourth game, and he figured to be an excellent addition to the defense.

However, he suffered two broken fingers on his right hand in the only game he played against St. Charles Lutheran. The placekicker kicked Haley as he tried to block an extra point, and he had surgery three days later to have nine screws and two plates inserted into his hand.

That ended his football career, and it stopped him from running cross country for a while. When the regional was held in Quincy's South Park on Oct. 21, Haley was in the lineup, wearing a splint on his right hand.

At the 2-mile marker, he decided enough was enough.

"The splint made it worse," he said. "I saw my dad (along the course route), and I just took it off and threw it to him. It's just a bother."

Haley's seventh-place finish helped the Raiders take third as a team.

"For the circumstances I've dealt with, right now I'm happy," he said afterward.

No championships, but no regrets and no remorse.

Simply a year never to be forgotten.

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