Getting in touch with Nick Little to let him know he had been chosen the Tri-City Herald’s male Athlete of the Year was not an easy task.
His cell phone wasn’t allowing him to hear the caller on the other end of the line. After a couple of text messages and the use of another phone, he finally got the news.
“That is awesome,” the recent Kamiakin graduate said. “That is pretty cool. It has been a wonderful senior year. I’m glad I stuck with both sports (football and wrestling). I think I did OK in both.”
Little shares the Athlete of the Year honor with Braydey Hodgins of Chiawana — the first Riverhawks female athlete to win the award.
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“My high school career was more than I expected it to be,” said Hodgins, who was a standout soccer and basketball player.
Even though football is his first love, Little had quite a presence on the wrestling mat.
He won the Class 3A district and regional titles before winning the 285-pound state title with a 6-3 victory over Antonio Corea of Auburn Mountainview.
Little went into state ranked No. 1 after knocking off top-ranked Rogers heavyweight Markus Robinson 1-0 in the regional championship match.
He deserves this. There will never be another Nick Little. No one will ever work that hard, have the desire and attitude that he has.
Kamiakin wrestling coach Jordan Anderson on Nick Little
“He deserves this,” Kamiakin wrestling coach Jordan Anderson said of Little’s award. “There will never be another Nick Little. No one will ever work that hard, have the desire and attitude that he has. He is a phenomenal football player, and I am excited to go up (to Whitworth) and watch him play.”
Little finished his senior wrestling season at 27-6 with 22 pins.
Little played guard on the Braves football team that led the Mid-Columbia Conference in rushing (2,333 yards) and average yards per game (386).
A co-captain, the 6-foot-2, 270-pound Little also was a first-team all-MCC offensive lineman, and drew high praise from his quarterback.
“Nick is the hardest worker I know,” said Zach Borisch, who threw for 1,490 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. “The linemen work the hardest on the team and don’t get any glory. Without guys like Nick, I wouldn’t have been able to pass for the yards I did, and Jethro (Questad) would have been able to run for the yards he did (1,241). I will miss him. He just gets the job done and never complains.”
The Braves came up short in the playoffs, negating a chance to play for a state title.
“To win a state title, everyone has to work together, and we did,” Little said. “Just didn’t happen.”
Little will continue his football career at Whitworth, where he also will study computer science.
“I’m not just a dumb jock,” he joked. “I’m really excited to play college football. I have gotten to know the coaches and some of the players. I got sent the big booklet of workouts to do. It will be fun. I will miss high school, but I’m excited for what the next chapter will bring. Make new friends and have new experiences.”
The Division III level doesn’t allow for a redshirt year unless you are injured, so Little will be thrown into the fray from Day 1.
“I’m just happy to be there,” Little said. “I never thought I’d get to play college football.”
End of the Hodgins era
Hodgins, who comes from a long line of standout basketball players, almost gave up soccer last fall to focus on her beloved sport. But as the season drew near, she put on her cleats and made one last run.
“I didn’t enjoy the season before and I was going to save my time and energy for basketball,” Hodgins said. “One of my Boise State coaches said I should play so I don’t get bored. I went to the second day of tryouts. I got to play with Summer (Yates) one more time.”
Chiawana coach Rich Zoller was elated when Hodgins showed up for tryouts.
“I was extremely happy,” Zoller said. “She brought so much to our team. She is such a competitor, and she will do anything to help the team win. She had one of the best seasons that we have ever had at Chiawana.”
The Riverhawks dropped a 1-0 game to Ferris in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs. They finished the season 12-7.
Hodgins, who had 26 goals this season, was a first-team all-MCC forward and an honorable mention all-state selection.
I hate losing her, I really do. The type of player she is, they don’t come around very often. She brings that extra dimension to the team. That rubs off on other players and makes them better.
Chiawana soccer coach Rich Zoller on Braydey Hodgins
“I hate losing her, I really do,” Zoller said. “The type of player she is, they don’t come around very often. She brings that extra dimension to the team. That rubs off on other players and makes them better.”
Once she got off the pitch, Hodgins was back in the gym, doing what she does best.
The 5-foot-7 guard led the Riverhawks to a 14-0 record in the MCC and averaged a conference-best 27.1 points per game.
She also averaged 8.9 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 3.4 blocks per game and was named the MCC MVP and defensive player of the year.
“Basketball was exciting,” Hodgins said. “I didn’t know how that was going to go. It was very fun to go undefeated, and we got along really well, which was new for this team.”
Hodgins scored 30 points several times during her senior season, even reaching 40 a couple of times.
Hodgins, who has signed to play basketball at Boise State, is the last of the three Hodgins sisters to have played for Steve Davis at Pasco and Chiawana.
Hayley (2007-11) and Delaney (2009-13) forged the path that Braydey followed. But now that it’s time for college, she chose Boise State over Eastern Washington University, where Hayley finished as the school’s career scoring leader and Delaney will be the top returning scorer as a junior.
“I think I would have been successful at Eastern, but I wanted to go down my own path,” Hodgins said. “I’ve always been more independent. I have been ready to go since I committed so long ago.”
Basketball runs in the Hodgins family. Mom Karen (nee Murray) was a star for the Pasco Bulldogs and later for the University of Washington before playing professionally in Europe. Dad Mike has coached at various levels, including his daughters’ AAU teams.
Hodgins, who will report to BSU in a couple of weeks, made sure she would be close enough for mom and dad to come watch her play.
“It will be hard to leave home,” she said, “but I’m ready.”
Herald Athletes of the Year
2016 — Nick Little, Kamiakin; 2015 — Dre Dorton, Chiawana; 2014—Payton Radliff, Richland; 2013—Jalen DeVine, Hanford; 2012—Matt Hadley, Connell; 2011—Tyler Holle, Kamiakin; 2010—Will Hoppes, Tri-Cities Prep; 2009—Andrew Mendenhall, Southridge; 2008—Robbie Mitchell, Kennewick; 2007—Shayne Kelly, Pasco; 2006—Travis Mattair, Southridge; 2005—Tyler Cathey, Hanford; 2004—Roby Clyde, Pasco; 2003—Leon Jackson, Pasco; 2002—Travis Buck, Richland; 2001—Raul Vijil, Pasco; 2000—Luke Gailey, Hanford; 1999—Adam Tenforde, Hanford; 1998—Tyler Brayton, Pasco; 1997—Jared Mitchell, Richland; 1996—Trent Ady, Pasco; 1995—Andy Harris, Prosser; 1994—Mark Stottlemyre, Richland; 1993—Scott Surplus, Richland and Randy Carter, Prosser; 1992—Jason Shelt, Kennewick; 1991—Not awarded; 1990—Nate Holdren, Richland; 1989—Nate Holdren, Richland; 1988—Dustin Smith, Kamiakin; 1987—Brady Yount, Kennewick; 1986—Jay Covington, Pasco and Ron Ricard, Burbank.
2016 — Braydey Hodgins, Chiawana; 2015 — Lindsey Schauble, Kamiakin; 2014—Ellie Heiden, Kamiakin; 2013—Ellie Heiden, Kamiakin; 2012—Ellie Heiden, Kamiakin; 2011—Christine Kirkwood, Othello; 2010—Mary Barnett, Hermiston; 2009—Debbie Molsbarger, Connell; 2008—Brittany Quick, Hanford; 2007—Coriann Wood, Connell; 2006—Lyndsee Landon, Richland; 2005—Lori Conrad, Richland; 2004—Lauryn Koelzer, Connell; 2003—McKenzie Burgess, Kiona-Benton; 2002—McKenzie Burgess, Kiona-Benton; 2001—McKenzie Burgess, Kiona-Benton; 2000—Heather Thoelke, Kennewick; 1999—Emily Autrey, Kamiakin; 1998—Julie Vanni, Richland; 1997—Meotis Erikson, Kamiakin; 1996—Kami Koehler, Connell; 1995—Dana Riste, Kamiakin; 1994—Shari Quinton, Connell; 1993—Ari Skorpik, Kamiakin; 1992—Jenny Peterson, Hanford; 1991—Not awarded; 1990—Debbie Sporich, Pasco; 1989—Kelly Blair, Prosser; 1988—Kelly Blair, Prosser and Jo Shafer, Kamiakin; 1987—Kristi Reichert, Hanford; 1986—Tori Baker, Hanford.